By Rabbi Julie Wolkoff
I was rushing out of my house on the way to the gym a few weeks ago when – I still don’t know. Did my foot slip out of my shoe? My shoe catch on the edge of the steps? My shoe get tangled in the cuff of my pants? Whatever happened, I know the result. I took a tumble down my side stairs. My leg hit the edge of one of the stone steps and my time in the gym was replaced by a visit to the emergency room.
As the doctor finished stitching up my leg (5 stitches in the “mattress stitch“) we talked about when the stitches would come out. They were going to stay in a few days longer than she recommended, as I was going out of town. “Not a problem,” she said, “except it will probably leave a bigger scar.” “I’m 56,” I replied. “I don’t care about a scar.”
It seems to me that when you reach my age, everyone has scars. Some of them are from unexpected, inadvertent happenings (like falling down the stairs.) Some are accidental. Some are from medical procedures. Some scars are major ones that we can’t avoid seeing. Some are so faint that we barely remember how we got them. Some represent victories or joyous moments while others reflect times of fear and challenge. And these are just the scars we can see.
Most of us carry hidden scars. The scar may be from lost love. Unfulfilled dreams. Jobs lost or never offered. Adventures we were to fearful to try. Risks we took that did not turn out the way we expected them to. Our hidden scars may reflect the expectations we had of how our life was going to unfold in contrast to the way it did. These are the scars that we don’t see; the ones that don’t reveal themselves to others.
Both the obvious scars and the hidden ones may be sensitive. We don’t always want to tell our stories. We may have told them enough times. We may have moved on and don’t want to pull the metaphorical scabs off. Even old wounds can continue to be painful if we poke or pry at them. They can reflect the best or the worst of us – and sometimes both at the same time.
Some people define themselves by the scars they carry. Others barely pay attention to them. They may not be as noticeable as the one on my leg is right now, but we all have them.
My new scar and the soreness that is still there from the bruising are pretty much the grown-up equivalent of having a skinned knee. I know that it could have been much worse. I feel blessed that my fall resulted in such a minor injury. I am grateful to have health insurance, so the choice to go to the ER for treatment was not one that carried major financial implications. And despite the jokes that some of my friends have made about my accident being “proof that exercise is unhealthy,” I am thankful to be back in the gym.
My doctor may have been concerned about my scar, but I know that this is not a scar I will carry in my soul. And I realize that my words to her were not quite right. There are scars I care about. But this scar is not one of them.
Rabbi Julie Wolkoff, D.Min, CT, is a hospice chaplain in Massachusetts. Find her at: http://fabricfiber.wordpress.com/