Wednesday, 5 October 2011

My life mapped in scars...


Scars interest me. Fate’s branding of the body.  Skin torn open, the wound exposing the flesh beneath; then closed but a fissure still remaining where the defences were breached.  A line.  Sometimes criss-crossed with stitches; sometimes knot.  Yes, scars interest me. They change a body forever; they mark it; shift it; alter it.  Tattoos?  Studs and bolts? Implants? Nah. Not so much. Because those alterations are man-made, voluntary, decided, chosen.  A tattoo says ‘This is me!’ but a scar says ‘This is what happened to me’. Scars are the mythic debris of archetypal wounds, rites of passage, life drawing on your skin. The gods scribbling. Yes, your choice maybe - but at a far deeper, unconscious level.  
When I was young I craved a ‘proper’ scar – one that zig-zagged down my face. Why? No idea. I thought it was romantic.  I had a strange idea of romance. *smile*  And there are scars and scars, of course, and some  make us shy away, as if we know the person who received them has been in a perilous place, one we fear we might visit by association. Foolish us...
My scars, however, are not seen by the world.  They are private wounds. Sometimes I look over my body and I examine them – to see if any have faded away, have integrated, been taken back inside.  And, for those that haven’t, I ride the memory-horse back to when they happened.  Can you map your life by scars?  Funny little snapshots of those moments when Fate (often combined with stupidity, has to be said) poked you in the…wherever…
Here are mine…
1.      It’s barely there now, the burn on my hand, my adult hand; that happened to my two-year old hand, pulling down a hot pan. Remembering my mother telling me of how guilty she had felt that she’d let it happen. A tiny link to her vast love, still here now she is gone.
2.      A small scar on the underside of my heel.  Dancing wildly in our front room, aged seven.  Treading on a needle which snapped off inside my heel. ‘It’ll work its way out,’ said the doctor. It didn’t. Instead it buried itself deep and had to be dug out. My Achilles’ heel. 
3.      The rose scars on my inner thighs.  Only the faintest traces of one or two remain, slim silver scythes.  Seventeen and vaulting over the rose bushes at school when a rogue bramble caught me and I fell into the thorny heart of the rose.  Taken to the school nurse with blood pouring down my thighs to have 33 thorns plucked out of my flesh – the virgin deflowered. J 
4.      The deep puncture wound on my finger joint where a dog bit me during a school holiday stint as a kennel maid.  Artemis bitten by her hound (in the shape of a miniature poodle).  I nearly lost the joint… Lesson: never trust a small dog.
5.      The deep ‘tick’ on my left forearm.  Drunk (again) as a student in Manchester, having an argument with my friend Mike. I swung a punch: he swung the door. The one with the glass panel.  Lesson: don’t punch when drunk.  *puzzled* why did I punch with my left hand when I’m right-handed?
6.      The scars of conflict that pucker my belly.  Thin skin stretched beyond its endurance by the growing life within. No matter how taut my muscles, no matter how much I work out and stretch and tone, my stomach will always remain a battleground. I struggled with the idea of motherhood, shrank from pregnancy (my tarot card was always the High Priestess, never The Empress) and my body reflected my fear and reticence.  It’s the part of me I love the least; that still makes me wince to look at, to touch.  But it is what it is…the outward sign of an old battle, of my mind at war with my body.
7.      The long slash across my pubic bone.  Not a C…a line, an El. Where once again, I shied away from motherhood, couldn’t embrace the birthing. Fourteen hours of labour and we got into dangerous waters, my boy and I.  We were nearly lost, nearly ran away together back to the void.  So they cut me open and realised, too late, that ours had been the impossible battle.  A 12.8lb baby was never going to fit through that narrow bony gate. 
Sooo….can you map your life through scars? Or are there other ways?  Inner scars, you say?  Ah, those are something entirely different…

19 comments:

Thinking said...

hmmm...a very nice touching post....

Ren Warom said...

I have the silvery remnants of my pregnancies on my belly but I'm a midget and my children were all strong and healthy so, whilst I hate them, I'll suffer them till I can afford microdermabrasion :P

My other scars are equally silvery and numerous. They're the scars I'll always wear with pride, that people will always judge me by (wrongly as it happens). My cuts. I was given SSRIs in my early 30s to combat a very bad drift back into the depression that's had me since I was 9. Turns out SSRIs can provoke hidden mood disorders and I have one. I cut myself up rather a lot before I managed to get proper help and switched to Depakote and MAOIs. I'm not on any meds now. I used psycho therapy to learn ways to help myself. Meds are poison and I would urge anyone to avoid using them for too long.

They're not deep, my scars, nor as bad as some, but people judge me by them and they have no right to. I needed help, I fought for it, I now have control of my head 95% of the time and that'll do. I'm proud of those scars because they represent the second time I've said 'fuck this shit, I'm fighting back' to a bout of depression that's tried to end me. Gives me hope, lets me know that I'm never going to let whatever caused my depression to win. It's won too much from my family already.

TMI I know, but I figure it needs saying. Cuts are often cries for help and need to be listened to, not judged. And certainly not labelled or ignored. Not everyone has the wherewithal to help themselves, nor the will.

Zoë said...

Ah - now I could write war and peace on scars - body is littered with them - so I wont go through them all. I have 3 tiny tattoes too - they weren't voluntary, they are related to some of the scars and inflicted upon me in a hospital too.

But here's one that effects me every time I see it and that is often as its on the back of my right hand wrist. It was inflicted by my so called best friend in a fit of spite that I had once again beaten her to the ball. She played goal attack, I was goal defence, and we were supposed to be practising for an up coming match. She forgot I wasnt the enemy (or at least I like to think she did) and rather than launch for the ball, she launched at my arm with her long nails. 40 years on I still bear her scar, but I have no idea what became of her.

Exmoorjane said...

I knew there would be stories, amazing stories..

Thinking...hmmm :)

Ren - I didn't mention my self-inflicted scars as they have faded..and I have talked about them before.. And yes, people judge, people always judge :( We do what we have to do...and there is a strange logic to fighting pain with pain...
I too have lost family and friends to depression (and nearly lost myself too) - so I hear you. And thank you for your beautiful honesty.

Zoe - my Zoe...I knew you would get this... I wish you would write war and peace on scars...you know I wish you would write the growlery...again. xxx

Internet Geek said...

James was how big? Ye gods, I thought my three kidlets (all over 10lbs) were huge! Funny, I was always the Empress, embraced the idea of motherhood, knew my body was built was birthin' babies, couldn't wait to share stories of labor battles fought and won... and all three were born via planned C.

It took many years before I was comfortable even touching the thrice-split line. I excused myself, saying it was because the nerves had been severed and it felt bizarre, but truth is I felt my body betrayed me, and I'm still not sure I've forgiven it. Working on it, though.

Leave it to you, dear lady, to write something like scars (typically seen as ugly) in such a beautiful and lyrical way.

Scar said...

Interesting take on it. I like your comments about scars being involuntary and exposing more - what do you think about scarification? (i.e. deliberate scarring, a bit like a tattoo pattern)?

Naturally with a name like mine I'm very interested in scars ;)

Jenny Woolf said...

I never thought of my scars. I checked a few and they seem to have faded away. I still remember them, the sandfly bites that got infected when I was kid in Australia, the time I chased my sister in Germany and put a hnd through the glass door...

Ellie said...

Lovely thoughtful post, Jane.

My scars are hidden. There are a few from childhood concealed in my hair, including the one at the back of my skull where 7 year old me slipped on ice as she stepped out of a door and hit her head on the step. The people looking after me sent me home with the hood of my coat filling with blood, when what I needed was an x-ray and stitches...

There's a small white scar between the middle and ring fingers of my left hand, where 10 year old me was bitten by a friend's dog, unprovoked. Her parents told us he'd been sent away to be a police dog. It was a year or two before I figured out what that really meant.

The others are surgical: a long incision to remove an abscess that has forever altered the shape of the cleft of my bottom, and the four purple lines on my abdomen where my gallbladder was removed, that look like a child's pecks with a felt-tip pen.

These scars are rarely seen. The ones that changed me, the signposts where my life took a different turn, are all on the inside.

T.L Tyson said...

I love scars and have a few friends who are covered in them. Some to the point where, if people see them, a very sharp, "What happened to you?" rings out.

I don't usually ask, because some people are sensitive, but there's something about a scar that I find beautiful. It's a reminder of a time and place you are most likely not going to forget.

I know where all my scars came from, invisible and not. They aren't anything special, but they set me apart. And they remind me of what I went through to get them.

That said, scars on men...so sexy. In my opinion.

Tattie Weasle said...

I can't stop thinking about this post. It has haunted me all day...

Northern Snippet said...

Definitely.Twins:)

jontybabe said...

What a great post. I have a tiny scar on my little finger which I got when a dog bit me as a child. You were right about never trusting a small dog! I have a huge scar across my belly. My first pregnancy was ectopic & I therefore lost a much longed for baby but also an ovary & tube. Was told I'd never get pregnant again as my insides wrecked. That scar reminds me that the docs were wrong! I've been pregnant a further 3 times which has resulted in 2 beautiful children! I have also gained 2 stepchildren!

Ashen said...

Thanks for the post, a great memory line to follow. Quite a number of scary scar moments spring vividly to live when brought into focus, skin deep and heart deep battle scars. I also remember my teen infatuation with an actor who had a remarkably feature enhancing fencing scar down his cheek, which made him very sexy.

zenandtheartoftightropewalking said...

Love (1)

Love wounds us.
Like tribal scars,
Love marks us,
Shows us as new
Initiated beings.
Parallel slashes
Of raised scar tissue
Label us as different.
Love hurts us:
The brief bold cut
Dripping hot blood
Shows us changed,
Reinvented daily.
Only those who share
Our pattern of scarring
Can see and know
The person we have become,
Or see the beauty and power
Of those indelible wounds,
Invisible to those untouched
By Love's kind blade.

Rosi D said...

Fascinating post. One of those synchronicitous things: discovered a scar on my right hand this morning - an old one by the look of it but don't remember where I got it. I've others... recall all their origins!

Love In The Nest said...

I really like this post, I have scars. Some I don't mind, some I eally don't like but as you say there is a story to them.
The one I have the strangest relationship is my C section scar. I've had 2 and what I'm left with isn't all that nice but it's there because my babies needed to make the move from my belly to my arms :)

Calico Kate said...

Beautifully written.
I envy women with birth scars as the biggest scar I have is in my heart, Cut to the quick at the thought I cannot and will not ever have a baby.

I wanted to tattoo a snake on the scar on my foot, due to a bone straightening operation. the surgeon cut it 'on the line of beauty', just looks like a wiggly line to me!
CKx

elizabethm said...

Ah yes I have scars and I love them all, even the huge scary one from my tumour op. It's all me. It's all written on the body. I would no more wish them away then wish my life away or even different.

Becky Goddard-Hill said...

Have featured this over at the tots 100 as one of the top ten posts this week. not read your blog before. You write beautifully. this really touched me