"Say what you have to say, and not what you ought."
~ Henry David Thoreau

Friday, April 3, 2015

Battle Scars

Original sketch by Gillian Chapman
My daughter, who is a talented artist, has been practicing drawing nudes. She showed me some of her drawings the other day and told me that when her teenage peers see them they have one of four reactions. The most common is shock that she drew pictures of naked people! The second is to ask if she's into girls, because why else would she draw naked women? The third (from high school boys of course) is to say the females she drew have hot bodies. The last, and least common, is to actually look at the pictures as art and mention the skill involved in drawing a human body. We laughed together at the small-mindedness of people and talked about the many famous pieces of art that are nudes. We also talked about how the human body really is a beautiful thing to behold. It's also not an easy thing to draw, sculpt or paint well, so it's fun to see Gillian taking her skill to a new level as she attempts to master the art of nudes. 

Last night as I got out of the tub and ready for bed I studied myself in the mirror, thinking about our conversation. Our bodies really are an amazing thing. Most of the time I only look at mine from a critical point of view, constantly monitoring the incremental signs of aging, wear and tear, and the results of exercise, or lately, my lack of exercise. Living with a 16-year old mini version of myself is a constant reminder of how much my body has changed over the years. My daughter is in her prime as I'm slipping into middle age. Our bodies change as we age. Like it or not, they're physical manifestations of our life experiences and choices.

Pregnancy and breastfeeding changed my body dramatically. Any woman who has nursed a baby knows what I'm talking about! Sure, I could have restored some parts to their former glory with plastic surgery, but I love my body. I'm comfortable in my own skin, even if it is saggy in some spots now. I literally sacrificed my body for my daughter, and I'd do it again. It was a small price to pay for the gift of carrying her, feeding her and being a mom. 

The small scar on my lower back is new. It's still red and very visible, a bright reminder of the pain I experienced last year and the surgery I had to fix my damaged disc and nerve. I'm still working on regaining the strength and flexibility in my back. It's a gradual process, just like the gradual way my scar is lessening and fading. 

My legs. My poor legs. I used to love looking at the muscles in my legs, reminders of the hard work I'd done, the result of hours and hours of running and working out. Those muscles aren't what they used to be, especially in my right leg. It too shows the evidence of the challenges I faced last year. My calf muscle is shrunken and small. I don't know if it will ever again be symmetrical with my other leg. The nerve damage in it may be permanent. 

My left knee has faint scars around the kneecap, the result of knee scope surgery years ago. They remind me of the pain that was once so bad I could hardly walk or sleep without discomfort. The pain still bothers me when I run, but I've learned to manage it over the years. I decided I wouldn't let it be an excuse to stop me from doing the things I want to, like running.

My belly button has two small scars, reminders of the brief period in my life when I had a belly piercing. Yes, I once thought that was cool! I was on vacation in Brazil and it seemed like the perfect souvenir from an amazing trip. The belly button ring is long gone, but the happy memories of the experience remain. 

On my front, left torso is my tattoo with the Latin saying Hinc Ilae Lacrimae surrounded by daffodils. The words mean Hence These Tears. They are a literal representation of the pain, loss and tears I suffered after Julie's death--with me always just like the pain of her loss will be. 

And then there's my face, especially my eyes. When I look at my eyes in the mirror I see how drastically the challenges I've faced the last five years have aged me. My eyes reflect it all, every last bit of pain and suffering. Some days it's more obvious than others. I'm always a little shocked at how old I look around my eyes now. 

As I scrutinized myself last night I realized that although my body will never again be what it was when I was 16, 25 or even 40, I'm completely okay with my body and what it represents. When I look in the mirror I'm reminded of the many very hard things I've endured in my life. The marks and changes some of them have left on my body are like battle scars, reminders of things that have challenged me, changed me, and in most cases made me stronger. 

"Scars have the strange power to remind us that our past is real." 

~ Cormac McCarthy, All the Pretty Horses


  1. I love this post for so many reasons, Keicha. It is brave and it's honest. And it shows a life that has been lived for so many of the reasons -- childbearing, the journey through grief, the day to day world of living. Just life. It takes courage to be honest and a keen eye to be analytical, and finally a strong sense of self to be just fine with it -- because you know what it means. It means you survive.

    Your daughter's work is quite skilled. She has a great talent, I think!

    1. Thank you Jeanie. I so appreciate your always thoughtful and kind words.

      I think Gillian has great talent, but I might be a little biased!

      I have so much catching up to do on blog reading, so I'm out of touch with my blog friend's lives right now. I hope you are doing well and have a great Easter!

  2. Gillian's talent amazes me. The comments from her friends are somewhat expected. That is how kids are. She will know which ones admire her talent and understand it by the responses she gets.

    As for you: I think that mostly I am grateful so see your healthy body image and acceptance of your body for what it is and where it is. In truth, if you ever struggled in a worrisome way about body image, I wasn't aware of it. I think all women do at one time or another, but acceptance is so important for mental health.

    Scars can be beautiful. They remind us of healing has taken place. They remind us that we overcame that thing we wondered if we would overcome. They are signposts that speak to us of the past. They can remind us of choices we have made that we might wish to never make again. They remind us of the miracle of modern medicine.

    As your mom, I wish I could have protected you from every scar so that your body was completely perfect as it was when you were first placed in my arms. Since life has left its mark on your body, as it has for us all, I am grateful to know: You are an overcomer. You are a survivor. You are also a gifted writer. Thank you for this. XO

  3. Good for Gilliam to find a passion at such a young age. I, too, am sometimes surprised by my body as I age. It seems that overnight I got old lady hands.


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