“better to be a scarred and living dog than to be a dead lion”

by WildChild

I have loads of scars; and have always been glad of their landing.  My knee’s are scarred from when I refused to wear knee pads during sports, above my eye is marked from a head injury, my shins and foot from surgery, my hands through everyday life, my arm from a car accident, and a mark I chose: lyrics to my favorite song in Hungarian swirled down my side.

One would think I was rebelling as child and teen when I refused to put scar treatment on after surgeries, or a hard fall; except the fact is that I have remained adamant.  I do not go looking for scars, but I do not wish them away when they come.  My recent injury a couple months ago left me refusing stitches above my eye and only putting on neosporin and some butterfly bandages. I now like to wear headbands once in a while to see it, it builds character on my face.

Before my double fasciotomy my doctor was speaking of the ways to fade the long 6 inch scars on both my legs before they were even there.  I said there was no need to worry about that, I wanted them.  I did not want to forget what I had been through to get to this point.  There I was, marked with pen down my legs, a small blonde athlete refusing a way to make myself closer to perfect.  He looked at me in an odd sort of way but I suppose he understood because he left me with my two biggest.  Scars show a map of what we have been through and who we are.  They tell a story: hard times and good times, times we cannot remember and times we will not forget, who we were and who we are now, child and adult, irrational and rational.  My scars can do most of the talking, for I usually have little that I feel the need to share.

I realize this may seem a bit darty & twisty, all the better.

I had a dream, possibly a nightmare about surgery last night and woke up with a burning in my foot (the one that has a screw in my fourth metatarsal).  I began to search the interweb for the sentiment of others. The word scar brings a negative connotation, sometimes it is the name for a person’s bad mood (possibly rising from the Scar character in Lion King).  Most articles are about beauty and how to remove these marks from our skin.  Finally, I landed on the New York Times article by Dana Jennings, “Our Scars Tell the Stories of Our Lives”.

Scars, perhaps, were the primal tattoos, marks of distinction that showed you had been tried and had survived the test. And like tattoos, they also fade, though the one from my surgery last summer is still a fierce and deep purple.

There’s also something talismanic about them. I rub my scars the way other people fret a rabbit’s foot or burnish a lucky penny. Scars feel smooth and dry, the same way the scales of a snake feel smooth and dry.

I find my abdominal scars to be the most profound. They vividly remind me that skilled surgeons unlocked me with their scalpels, took out what had to be taken, sewed me back up and saved my life. It’s almost as if they left their life-giving signatures on my flawed flesh.

The scars remind me, too, that in this vain culture our vanity sometimes needs to be punctured and deflated — and that’s not such a bad thing. To paraphrase Ecclesiastes, better to be a scarred and living dog than to be a dead lion.

It’s not that I’m proud of my scars — they are what they are, born of accident and necessity — but I’m not embarrassed by them, either. More than anything, I relish the stories they tell. Then again, I’ve always believed in the power of stories, and I certainly believe in the power of scars.