Many years ago, Brandi Carlile wrote and sang a song called ‘The Story.’ The song is an internal monologue of a woman singing about who everyone thinks she is versus who she actually is. This song speaks to me. See, all the lines across my face and scars on my body tell the story of who I am and where I have been. I am sure it is the same for you as well. As hard as some people try to cover them, their efforts just become another part of their story, too. Scars, lines, stretch marks, tattoos, sun spots, age spots, they all have a sentence or paragraph behind them. If we could read the lines like the lyrics of a song, would we be kinder to each other? Would we give strangers more grace if we could read the hardship, struggle, or simple bad day on their skin like a story on a page?
“All of these lines across my face…they tell the story of who I am.”
The eleven marks between my eyes are from sadness in my childhood and the habit of frowning when I am thinking hard about something. The crinkles around my eyes are from a happy marriage and loving husband. The brackets around my mouth are from the laughter that comes from watching my children play and grow.
The scar between my eyes is the result of being hit with a bat playing softball; the one on my chin, a lesson on not running on ice with my hands in my pockets; the scar on the side of my mouth, a high stick in hockey. Sports and activities, things that have been a part of my life for as long as I can remember marked permanently on my body.
“So many stories of where I’ve been…”
I was in the Sahel region of the Sahara desert when I noticed my first wrinkles around my eyes at 23 years old. There is not enough moisturizer in the world to keep the Sahara from leaving its mark. The piercings of my upper ears were a gift from West African women.
The scars at my right shoulder, a result of a rotator cuff repair after catching a falling ladder on the fire ground as a firefighter. The ones at my right knee marking the time in my life when I took up soccer with my children and tore my ACL and needed surgery.
The dark mark in my belly button was a cancer scare; the dark marks on my shoulders from no sunscreen as a child; the freckles on my face are not angel kisses, but sun damage from a love of outdoors. A Pictish symbol of fire and peace tattooed on my back and an homage to my children marked in ink on my wrist portraying the most important accomplishments of my life.
“But these stories don’t mean anything, when you’ve got no one to tell them to”
We cannot walk around oversharing about the pain, accomplishments, history of our lives without scaring people away. It is only with loved ones or trusted friends that we can bare the most private moments of our lives. But what if we could just see these things through the lines and scars? What if we allowed ourselves to be more open and form relationships of love and support that every human being — regardless of race, color, or creed — desperately needs?
“You see the smile that’s on my mouth? It’s hiding the words that don’t come out. And all of my friends who think that I’m blessed; they don’t know my head is a mess. No, they don’t know who I really am and they don’t know what I’ve been through”
If we could see the marks of childbirth and breastfeeding as marks of nurturing and love, the prominence of veins and callouses on hand as evidence of hard work, the downturned mouth as someone who needs a kind word or a smile, would we be kinder, gentler in the world? Would we be kinder to ourselves and appreciate our bodies and their stories instead of feeling dissatisfied or ashamed?
I like to think so…or maybe, just thinking about the past or path of another can lead to positive change.