I have a large scar on my left knee. It has black lines of grit in it, and smooth patches of scar tissue that catch the light on an otherwise rough patch of skin.
My scar is 30 years old and I don’t think about it very often anymore. It doesn’t hurt, even when I poke it, and the wound that caused it healed long ago.
But if I think back to the day I got my scar, all the memories and the pain come flooding back. I remember the bike accident. I remember riding through the trees on a gorgeous sunny day, laughing with my friends and flirting with a boy I liked. I remember trying to get his attention and catching my front wheel on his back tire. I don’t recall sailing through the air, but I must have done, because I do remember skidding along the trail, trading bits of knee for bits of trail.
I remember sitting in the bath at home and crying as my mum tried to clean the wound. And I remember my older brother—a bit of an expert on injuries and scars—gently coaxing me to scrub out the grit or be left with a terrible scar.
I also have a vague recollection of a discussion among adults (not my parents) about plastic surgery and what a shame it would be if a “pretty girl” was disfigured by an ugly scar.
It all happened so long ago, but dredging up these memories can bring back all that pain, my embarrassment, the tenderness of my brother, the feeling that my scar would make me “less than” I could have been. I can feel all of it again as if it had happened in more recent memory.
I feel this way about my infertility and childlessness, too. Most days, I don’t think about it anymore. But lately I’ve been writing about grief and loss, and some of those awful feelings of sadness, anger, and deep, deep loss have been coming back to me.
It’s taught me that the healing process for emotional scars is much the same as for physical scars.
You have to suffer some terrible pain to clean the wound. You have to struggle through the initial all-consuming grief. You have to ask for support from people who might not know how to give it. You have to walk again, even if every step is agony. You’ll meet people who will see you as damaged and less than you could have been, because you no longer fit into their ideal of perfect.
But over time the healing begins. You’ll knock your healing wound a few times and break it open again. In one particularly unfortunate incident, you’ll fall on the same wound and end up with a double scar. But you’ll remember how much you loved riding a bike and you’ll take it up again. And you’ll meet new people, who don’t care whether you have one ugly knee, because they’re more interested in some other facet of who you are. And you’ll realize that being a “pretty girl” wasn’t what you were destined to be anyway, and you’re happy being an outdoorsy girl who’s accumulated a multitude of scars since then.
And when you’re shaving your legs (which is trickier because of the scar) you might sometimes recall how you got the scar and the pain you went through. But most days, you won’t even think about.
Having a big scar on my knee means I never got the opportunity to be a leg model, but I got to be so many other things instead, things that have made my life journey quite interesting. My infertility scar is much newer than my knee scar, but it is healing in ways I couldn’t have imagined when it was new and raw. And the things I never got to do or be have left room for so many other opportunities.