I came across a Huffington post about a woman who posted pictures of herself on her Facebook wall that caused a collapse in her social circle. The headline said “When Beth Posted These Images on Facebook, 103 People Unfriended Her”.
The headline effectively grabbed my attention, but what the story really did was zero in on the heart of one of my own deepest fears. It cut to a deep vulnerability that even I don’t fully understand, but it’s one that has held me back from engaging as fully in life as I possibly could. I can’t do that until I can somehow get to a place of true peace about it.
The pictures that Beth Whaanga, the woman in the Huffington piece, posted were semi-nude images of herself featuring her scars from a double mastectomy and a hysterectomy. They were taken by a photographer leading a project called, “Under the Red Dress”. It endeavors to share a pictorial story to inform and support anyone who has or may be affected by breast cancer.
I found the project a beautiful and amazing effort and I applaud Beth’s astonishing courage. It was those 103 friends though, that stayed with me longer than the point of her story. They represented the maybe 103 reasons I have an issue of my own. Like Beth, my body has been criss–crossed with several large and deep scars, not from cancer, but another serious chronic issue. I find despite my confidence in life generally, I haven’t yet been able to re-gain confidence about this new reality of my own image.
I know some of my friends might be surprised to hear this, but maybe not a few who knew me from long ago when I was more carefree in my pre-health issue, pre-pregnancy and pre-surgical body. I received plenty of positive attention back then, and I am sure that, despite all equality efforts to move past this, I won some business benefits because of my appearance. Looks matter.
In seeming contradiction to what I’m saying so far, I do have a full life, in large part because of those scars. My priorities absolutely honed in on family, community, purpose(s), and I do live to serve as best as I am able, but. But.
- But now there are tremendous differences in my body and there’s not much I can do about it without the resources that I might employ if I had them.
- But now I don’t know how to dress in ways that are really about highlighting my best, and not hiding the changed stage starring scars that come through the fabric.
- But I have no idea how many more scars will be added.
- But I don’t want anyone to see them. Hey, when even your loved ones grimace….
- But what if I really like someone and then….? How many of the 103 are on my path?
- But what if I’m not enough for someone to see past them?
- But, what kind of person would be attracted to this? Ugh! What kind of person would be attracted to this?
Cripes, I didn’t even want to tell anyone I had them, and now that I have, it’s still safe to say that there will be no pole-dancing in my future.
Yes, I know I am not my scars. That, on the surface of it, considering that I have been able to claim at least 4 of my 9 lives, this shouldn’t even be a factor in my world. I’ve been told to wear my scars proudly, as the badges of (literal & figurative) survival. Truth be told, I would say the same to someone else. So then, why aren’t I able to do that for me? Why can I stand up for Beth, but not me?
I’m one of those people who believe that there are no real coincidences and that I was meant to see this story. It compelled me to review myself again and honestly and directly confront the part of me that holds me back from feeling whole again. I believe in my whole spirit, but I haven’t yet worked out how to truly infuse that into my life experience. I know that next to that, one new step is allowing me to entertain the idea of another relationship. (Yes, girlfriends and parents, I know you think the time for a new man is overdue, but…).
In the end, I have to live with myself, and I find that hard enough in some of the ways I’ve shown. I’m not sure if I will ever live with someone else again, but if I decide that’s for me, I’m pretty sure I’m going to have to get to that place of peace first.
So there, I’ve said it out loud. Sort of. Maybe this note is about just getting to honest acknowledgement that this is real for me and the real me. Perhaps the scars are a step in my overall purpose. Maybe someday I will be as brave as Beth – not for pictures, but in her confident acceptance. I don’t have the answers yet, but I hope to one day. This is a story written mid-struggle. For now, the only thing about life that I’m certain about is it’s uncertainty, – and how much I love my boy.