I was half bent over myself, tugging at the soles of my tightly-laced tennis shoes. The scent of disinfectant and sweat accosted my senses as I locked my jaw against the ache and burn running the length of my outstretched leg. I’m not much of a gym rat, and much less so at 7:15 in the morning.
I curled one leg inward, and bent again, making all the geometric shapes they taught me to in high school gym class. I switched legs, pulling my other ankle to meet my thigh, and bent again. And that’s when I saw it: unnoticed for years, forgotten and faded, my skin pinkened in the tiniest scar on the back of my ankle. I looked it over, pulled at the now-healed skin, and wondered about the miniscule shape. It had been ages since I thought about the injury that caused it. Ha, I thought almost aloud, I bet my husband doesn’t even know that story.
And so I sat there, analyzing my sweaty legs. Like an archeologist, I searched my skin to find other artifacts of my history. There was a tight line down the center of my left middle finger, stitched neatly by the surgeon who removed a benign tumor in college that gave me quite a scare. There was the oval shaped scar on my shin, from the time I cut myself shaving in college. I noted the scar on my thumb knuckle, evidence that you should use great caution when peeling carrots with one hand and holding the carrots in the other.
I searched my feet, hands, elbows, and arms. Some of these markings I noticed every day, like the scary mole on my inner arm that they removed, the one that never healed quite right. But there were others – a gash on my knee, in particular – that I couldn’t recall their cause. Some made me laugh because they were caused from funny events or stupid things I did as a child, and some of them forced a deep breath, because they reminded me of realities that I had not yet made peace with. But that didn’t matter. Irrespective of my own clamoring about them, there it was: my life as told by scars. All of them – yes, all of them – reminded me of a time, a place, an instance, that has made me who I am today.
And the tragedy would be to forget them, would it not? It would be a grievous loss to have gone through the pain, the bleeding, perhaps the operation, only to not be left with some mark, some reminder, of how I was changed by it all.
I left the gym that day with a better big-picture view of myself. I remembered the little stories that I hadn’t called to mind in a decade; I remembered the fear and severity of some of the more poignant moments of my life. More than anything, I remembered the necessity of not forgetting my marks, and the scars that have chiseled me into the person I am today.
I know that I’m not alone. We all have scars. All of us. But a woman who knows her scars, and has also made peace with them, is a marvelously fearsome thing to behold. May it be true of us.