Earlier this summer I had knee surgery. To an orthopedic surgeon it was fairly routine: replace a torn ACL, clean up and put a few stitches in some torn meniscus, and tap a pin into a stress fracture that wasn’t healing on its own. To me, well, the surgery was monumental, and it represented a lot of different “things” (for lack of a better word) that seemed to be coming to an emotional head in my life.
I now have a noticeable scar on my leg, that elicits a myriad of comments from people. Scars don’t usually bother me that much. I think they are rather interesting, and can lead to illuminating conversations at times. The thing about scars is we all have them. Some are very visible, and others, particularly the emotional kind, can only be seen with the intuitive version of night vision goggles.
Anyone who has been through a divorce or a bad breakup has scars – perhaps both the visible and the invisible kind. What I am learning as I navigate my way through the dark, mossy, shadows of the bad break-up forest, is that our scars can either fortify us as badges of strength, or weaken us as Achilles’ unwashed heel.
For the past several weeks I was looking at the scar running down my shin and ruminating about all the “what ifs” and “woulda-coulda-shoulda” memories that landed me in the operating room. The day of accident that tore my ligaments was one of the best days I had in a long time. Even the fall itself was “a good fall” and the ensuing trip in the toboggan a slightly humorous event. Then there was the initial recovery and rehab, the funny notes and kind gestures, the early morning text telling me I had to fix my knee so the subsequent ski season would be epic.
Months later, in the churning wake of a break-up, the days leading up to and immediately following the surgery were emotionally intense, vacillating between angst and an Oxycontin induced haze. Then the pain kicked in. Physical pain. Emotional pain. The scar was raw, and ugly, and bruised, like my wounded spirit, and then it began to itch, a constant reminder that I was injured. I began to resent my scar and the people and events who were associated with everything having to do with how I got the scar in the first place. I felt like I would never heal, never return to the self that I knew.
Several years ago I got a tattoo, which could be defined as a scar of sorts. Not prominent or visible to the public in general, my tattoo carries a great deal of meaning for me. When I got it, it was because of a certain person, but even at the time I considered how I would feel about this permanent ink if “things didn’t work out.” While it was symbolic of the relationship at the time, it was and is also a reminder to me of that which I am capable. Things “didn’t work out,” at least not the way I wanted them to, but now I glance at my tat and feel empowered. The visual cue reminds me that I am strong, and resilient, and capable of great things. It makes me feel good.
Last week in PT, I completed an exercise that made the therapist and me laugh. You see, until July, both my knees had torn ACLs, but I only elected to have one repaired. The difference in strength and stability in the repaired knee – the knee with the scar – is significant, and I said aloud, “…wow, maybe I’ll get the other knee fixed next summer!…”
Suddenly my scar became a symbol of fortitude. It is a reminder that there is strength and resilience within, and that with time I will be stronger, more stable, more flexible – more capable – than I was or have been. Someday, maybe, the scar will fade, like other physical and emotional scars of the past, but there will always be a faint reminder of the events and people that made the person I will become.