“Happiness can exist only in acceptance” – George Orwell
You know, I never much contemplated getting older when I was younger. Mostly because I couldn’t really imagine what it was like, aside from cultural stereotypes that I was so sure I’d never conform to. So now that I am getting older, many things have taken me by surprise, such as two things, which, taken generally, actually seem in conflict with one another: caring more about the world, and caring less about the world.
Caring more about the world, to me, means looking beyond my immediate life, my day-to-day, and looking at the things that matter to me the most. Not just for myself, but for the people I love in all of their various lives, as well as those people and creatures who don’t necessarily have a voice for themselves. But this post isn’t really about that.
This is about some things about me that I used to care about tremendously; things that made me self-conscious and I made efforts to hide or disguise from the world. However, these are now things that I have learned to accept, and even embrace. Most notably of these “things” is a large scar. In my 20’s, I dislocated my shoulder a bunch, due to my own klutziness and some sports-related injuries. Eventually, the ligaments became so loose that I couldn’t even reach into the backseat of my car without my shoulder popping out. Those of you who may remember the Mel Gibson shoulder dislocation scene from Lethal Weapon 2…yeah, I could do that and I did that. Go ahead, shudder, and then keep reading.
I put it off as long as I could, but eventually, I needed to have surgery. The surgery is called a Bankhart Repair, and as it was explained to me by the surgeon, my ligaments were like a loose rubber band, and he was going to double them up to make them tight again, much like how you would a…loose rubber band.
The surgery was invasive, and because some extra work needed to be done, I was left with a scar that is about ½ inch in width and 8 inches in length, from above my collarbone to past my armpit. There is a metal staple somewhere in my shoulder, kind of holding it all together. When some doctor years later suggested I go endure the uplifting sensation of being buried alive by having an MRI done on that shoulder, I assumed she knew what was best and went along. I ended up kicking myself for enduring those moments of sheer terror in that machine when I was told, “Well, the metal in your shoulder interfered with the MRI, so it was inconclusive.” In case you don’t know, MRI = Magnetic Resonance Imaging. Insert a huge eye roll and much cursing in the car after that particular appointment.
For so long, I tried so hard to hide this scar. I didn’t wear sleeveless tops or even a bathing suit for years. I even picked out a wedding dress design and had it customized to change the sleeves from sheer to satin, to hide the scar. When I went for my final fitting and could see that about an inch of the scar was visible, I was horrified. I didn’t tell anyone at the time, but I did spill some tears over it. It didn’t spoil my wedding day at all (just ask anyone who was at that epic party), but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t self-conscious about it.
And then I had two kids. And got older. And learned to accept certain things about my body. I’m not sure if it was the kids, or aging, or just realizing that there are other parts of my body that I should be more concerned with.
For instance, my feet are a size 11.5…yes, you heard me correctly. I gained a shoe size and a half over the course of two pregnancies. I have one foot that is going to need some surgical attention at some point. My feet are also totally flat and I overpronate. But you are completely mistaken if you think I hide these puppies in sensible shoes. I love tall, open toe shoes and wear them, or no shoes at all, as much as possible.
And of course there are other markings of womanhood and aging and just life that I carry. My lower belly is a roadmap of what happens when a woman gains and (mostly) loses more than 50 lbs over two pregnancies. But you know what? I earned these tiger stripes by carrying two big, beautiful babies. Other scars? I have a few. One below my lower lip from a childhood accident. One on my elbow from a rollerblading mishap. And this one on my shoulder, which I am now only aware of when the arthritis beneath that scar (another super awesome side effect of aging and repetitive injury) causes me pain. I’m much more focused on building and maintaining the muscles in that shoulder to help with stability, as well as incorporating stretching in my exercise routine to help with mobility.
As for bathing suits and sleeveless tops? YES I wear them! Because now, because of all I described above, how the rest of the world perceives this bit of ugliness that I carry on my shoulder matters to me not at all. After all, there are so many other things that are much more worthy of my attention and care.