Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seared with scars.
― Khalil Gibran
I have two scars on my face. On my upper lip to be precise. One is a little half-round mark that intersects my philtrum. That one is from the dog that lived down the street from me in Prairie Village, Kansas. I was leaning in for a deep conversation with the pooch and he took the opportunity to chomp down on my lip. I was less than five years old at the time. I’m told I ran home, blood streaming down my face, mixing with the tears, both liquids dripping off my chin. It looked worse than it was, apparently. A friend of the family was visiting that day and scooped me up in his arms, put me in his truck and drove to the hospital, my mother watching as we drove away, helplessly confused: “Uh, shouldn’t I come along?” I like to think I remember that day, sitting on the exam table, getting cleaned up, while a doctor with one of those old fashioned silver reflectors strapped to his forehead applied a special little butterfly bandage to my lip. Maybe I was given ice cream after, but I don’t remember.
Scars have the strange power to remind us that our past is real.
― Cormac McCarthy, All the Pretty Horses
The other scar on my lip is a slash on the other side of the philtrum. I believe it involved one of those weighted tennis ball trainers, a spectacular back hand and a goofy little girl who thought it was a good idea to squeeze between an ace tennis student and the garage. Thwack. Tennis racket to the face. I took a poetry class while I was an undergrad at the University of Iowa and my professor stopped me after class one day to discuss the poem I chose to read out loud for an assignment. It was “Still I Rise” by Maya Angelou. He complimented me on the performance and then paused for a moment. He pointed to the two scars on my lip and said: “These scars on your lip, they are the source of your power. Use them.” Which was a little weird, but not surprising; he was a poetry professor after all.
I don’t want to die without any scars.
― Chuck Palahniuk, Fight Club
Now I have another scar. It is 7″ long, originating at the base of my sternum, ending in a curl around my belly button. Plus a little mark off to the side where my JP drain was. It is slightly less gruesome than Derek’s scar due in large part to the fact that I did not have metal staples on the surface, but rather steri-strips, keeping the incision together while it healed. Sometimes I forget it’s there. I get out of the shower, dry my hair and then look in the mirror, slightly surprised to see the scar running nearly the length of my abdomen. It’s a millisecond of surprise; I remember the origin story of this scar vividly. I am often eager to show this scar to people, to show them the proof that I did this. That it’s possible to have 60% of your liver removed and be just fine a few weeks later. Each day the scar fades a little more, but it will always be there, serving as a physical reminder of the surgery on April 14th, the overwhelming desire to help. Mostly it reminds me of how far I’ve come, how far we’ve both come. If two little marks on my lip were the source of my power 20 years ago, imagine how powerful I must be now.
Plus, scars are bad ass.