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The Stories Our Visible and Invisible Scars Tell

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When I first started dating my husband Luke, I covered my mouth anytime joy tried to sneak out of its corners. This was something I didn’t realize I had learned to do over the years. But Luke caught onto it right away.

A few weeks into knowing each other, I received the first-ever coveted “Goodnight, beautiful,” text from him. My heartbeat quickened and, unknowingly, I covered my shy smile with my left hand. Seconds later, he sent a second text saying,
“Let me guess, you’re covering your smile and your green eyes are twinkling. Right?”

What. The. What?

Puzzled, I glanced around my apartment wondering how in the world he would have known something about me I didn’t even know about myself (also wondering if this incredible, seemingly normal man I had already known would be my husband was somehow in my apartment creepily staring at me…). Thankfully, the latter was false.

The next time I saw him, I noticed he had put a green heart emoji alongside the monkey covering its mouth emoji next to my name in his phone. To this day, my name is still listed the same way. The monkey and myself, however, are no longer as similar as we used to be.

Not even a month after my spinal tumor resection spinal fusion surgery in November of 2017, one of my family members offered to buy Mederma for my still bloodied and stitched scar, so I could use it as soon as the scar had closed up completely. God love them, they were really trying to be helpful. But to both of our shock, I abhorrently rejected the offer.

“What?! No. I don’t ever want to lose this. This is part of my story now. I want it with me. Forever. Wedding day and all.”

The scar that snatched me out of my “normal” life forever, the one that caused pains I still cannot begin to wrap my head around, the one that left a big question mark on what the future will look like for the rest of my life, I was suddenly very protective of.

Six months later, Our Wedding Day arrived. I had lost the majority of my muscle mass since the surgery. The body I worked hard for (and, might I add, did not appreciate nearly as much as I wish I would have…) the body that tried my wedding gown on pre-tumor and looked womanly and bridal… was no longer there. Needless to say, things fit differently. My seamstress had to adjust everything quite a bit — so much so that the low back I adored so much had to be taken in, now covering my scar. I was heartbroken. After my final fitting, I called the family member who so lovingly offered to pick up some Mederma and expressed my sadness. I carry what she said with me every day.

“Kel. It’s still there. Forever. With you always. Wedding dress and all.”

Sorry, monkey emoji, but I don’t cover my mouth when I laugh anymore. And y’all, sometimes, I really should. A cackle meets a goose meets a 5-year-old giggle, and you have my all-consuming laugh. In our journey together, Luke slowly but surely healed that “scar.” I now laugh freely, always a bit too loud, but nonetheless unapologetic, and smile all the more freely. To me, the scar of someone from my past shaming me for my smile and laugh, teaching me to hide it from the world, has now evolved into my free-flowing laugh and grin. It’s not gone. It’s still here. Forever. With me always. But it has very much evolved.

The scar on my spine is just like all of our visible and invisible scars: it tells a story. But it is ever-evolving.

Our scars, physical, mental, and emotional, are always with us. But if we allow them to evolve, they can begin to tell a far more hopeful story. And maybe, actually, certainly, that hope will be felt and heard by someone whose scar may still be tender to the touch, covered up and shamed away unknowingly. Maybe their scar has been calloused over so much they don’t even believe it is there. Who knows. What I do know is, everyone you interact with, even the most difficult ones of all, are scar(r)ed. And when we try to hide it and shame ourselves/others around us about it, we are only causing more of them; to ourselves and those around us.

I don’t know much. But what I do know is, being scared of our scars is prohibiting their evolution into a really badass story.

Rock. Your. Scars. You have been through some horrible physical, emotional, and/or mental things to earn those scars, but you are here nonetheless. Whaaat? Work it. And think on it. And decide to be OK about it. And I promise, that scar will turn into something you strut, not something you are scared of. Forever. With you always. Ever-evolving story and all.

This story originally appeared on Aperture Expanding.

Photo: Creative Imaginations Photography

Originally published: April 5, 2022
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