My Scratched Up Face: How My Scar Taught Me Vulnerability
My good friend, Laura Cook, is compiling a book of stories from a handful of people who used what once was their biggest insecurity as a reminder to understanding vulnerability. It was a cool project that I had the privilege of being apart of earlier this year. I shared with her the story of the scar across my face, the scar that has been with me since the day I was born, and my struggle to find the meaning of it. Not to give a spoiler to Laura's book, but it was once my biggest insecurities and is slowly working itself to becoming a physical form of my ability to be vulnerable.
"The doctors did a really good job. I can hardly tell you ever had a cleft lip."
This is the typical response from those who hear the beginning half of my story. To keep you up to speed: I was born with a cleft lip, repaired by an unknown doctor who left town shortly after my surgery, and have spent 22 years in various surgical procedures to try to normalize it as I age.
It's heartening to know that people say they don't notice anything at first, but once you've been told, you'll always notice. The scar becomes just as much Becky as the sound of my laugh or the monotone delivery in my voice. No matter what surgery I have in the future I will always have a slightly crooked face and a noticeable scar under my nose. My face, the typical place that someone bases a first impression, is an open door to vulnerability.
We all long for connectedness. For a long time, I blamed the scar across my face for the reason why I wasn't connected. I will never be pretty like the other girls, I will never know the feeling of real front teeth, or life without a lazy eye created by all the early skin graphs. I was an outsider and everyone knew it because I wore it on my face. (Literally.)
We're all outsiders. If you ever meet anyone who seems to be on the inside call me and let me know and I'll append this blog. We all have deep cuts in us - physical, internal, self-inflicted, born-with, created by others - we're all pretty banged up. Some of us have gotten really good at smothering the redness with concealer so we never have to allow ourselves to feel weak. We never want to appear weak.
Try walking around with a scar across your face (how many more times do you think I can use that phrase in this blog?) and it'll teach you quickly that there is nothing you can do but surrender your weakness and allow for something beautiful to happen.
My scar reminds me of the fragility of life. It reminds me that society will never look on me with a smile, but I'm still in precious hands. My scar showed me the real meaning of healing. Healing repairs the wound, but leaves a scar. The scar serves as a reminder of the story of victory. There is power in our scars.
I was lucky enough to have a physical scar, a very obvious physical scar, to teach me how to open up to people. As much as my physical scar became apart of my character, so do my internal ones, the ones that no one sees. We lose the ability to connect with people the longer we hide our scars. By uncovering all of these hidden parts of us we finally experience redemption. Redemption is not starting over, but reclaiming what was already there for good. Vulnerability allows our scars to serve as stories and reclaim the shame they once served us.
The only way for skin to scar is for a gentle cleansing and skilled surgeon to stitch closed the open wound. It's a process and it might take 22 years of surgeries, but each stitch is unique to the new creature. I think my scar helped me see the scars of others. There's a broken victory in all of us that can be purged and renewed if we only allowed healing to happen. If we start to talk about our scars people will feel seen in their wounds. There is power in connection.
Sometimes I can't drink out of water bottles correctly and water splashes down the side of my face; and my slurred speech will show up the longer you get to know me, but battle wounds are where the stories are -- and I'm all about a good story.