Monday, August 31, 2009

Memory Scars and Other Markings


One of the reasons that I began this new blog is because I want to write some chapters of my life down. If there is such a thing as scars of memory, I guess I have a few, but then who does not?

This year the awful anniversary of Hurricane Katrina was Friday. I did not write anything, not for lack of want. One must see Katrina post is Grandmere Mimi's. She posts this annually and it was one of the first posts of hers that I read in 2007, when I was a but a baby blogger. The photo of Our Lady, whose head had come off and was then placed back onto her body is from New Orleans; read Mimi to learn more.

Recently I read an article about a sports related injury in Sports Illustrated. (Hey, my husband gets the magazine and this cover story caught my eye.)

The power of memory, scars physical, emotional and spiritual have all been swirling around my brain of late and I keep seeing reminders of how these things are played out in life.

So I was astounded to read this post about Katrina Day. The blog is written by Brother Patrick who is a Catholic brother. He has ties to New Orleans via his order.

His blog has recently become familiar to me via my Catholic blogging circles, but I share it without hesitation here. His reflections are thought provoking in every way and I am grateful to have him on my reading list.

Here is an excerpt from his post about Katrina:
Today is the 4th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina making lives interesting in Louisiana, and as it so happens, I’ve been reading for a class on how religions institutionalize memory. What particularly interests me is how we make wounds into sacred wounds to memorialize trauma. There is actually a show on MTV called Scarred (or something like that), which is mostly about extreme athletes telling stories of hurting themselves really badly and showing off the resulting scars while videos of their accidents replay over and over. (Seriously, I only watched it for about 3 minutes…really.) I remember seeing the news from Halloween in New Orleans in 2005, and a lot of people made costumes that poked fun at our collective plight – wearing the spray-painted markings that the National Guard put on houses they searched, for example. Some people have deliberately kept those markings on their houses, or kept the waterlines on their outer walls, as a way of remembering what happened here. People who go through initiation rites often receive some kind of permanent marking (scar, tattoo, wound, lost tooth, branding, whatever) as a way of marking them as initiated men or women and reminding them of their own mortality.


His words really resonate for me as I reflect upon my own "scars." For me some visible signs of where I have come from are my weight and my ragged nails and cuticles. I would like to be thinner and have pretty hands, but that may not be as straightforward as it would appear and maybe I should not be in such a hurry, health concerns noted, about "being rid of them."

There is so much more that I would like to say, but time is short. I will post this and perhaps add to it at another time.

I wonder what your memory scars are? Do you wear them with wisdom or pride or do you hide them and wish them away like I do sometimes?

15 comments:

  1. I have to go to the hands. You know I have a "hand fetish." I look at people's hands more than their eyes.

    Do NOT be ashamed of your hands. Although I've never seen them, I bet they wear their own "survivor beauty." I'm betting you "talk with them," and in their movement, they are beautiful birds or butterflies. So what if they have scars. They are marks of survival and renewal.

    Maybe it's similar to why the beauty industry would go belly up if they had to depend on me. I don't think I've put on makeup in 25 years. I sort of just refuse. If people don't appreciate me for the beauty inside me, they can just go to hell. I spent so many years being the reflection of what other people wanted, I decided if they don't like what they see, if they don't like what they are, they can just move on. I'll be fine without them. If they can't take the time to see into my heart, they can move on.

    Oh, it's not that I don't get hurt now and then. Terribly. But this is the life I was given and I plan to extract every wonderful moment in it I can, on God's terms. I just continue to pray that my will becomes his.

    So in that, I will continue to pray that you will find the birds that probably live in those hands of yours!

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  2. I have port scars from my two rounds of chemo, One on each breast. I jokingly told my surgeon to make sure they matched. He didn't quite get the second one level with the first, and one is thinner, but then my eyebrows aren't quite in line or the same size either.

    Every time I see them in the mirror, I am reminded to be thankful... to God, for the Surgeon, the Oncologist, and for all the people who still pray for me.

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  3. Ahhhh -hell. I look like a train ran right over me. Cut hip to hip more times than I like to remember (six times actually) because of ectopic pregnancies, and then bilateral mastectomy..... and that's just the beginning.... yep, and like Susan, grateful for every one of them.

    but they have also become like prayers.... if that makes any sense....

    wish them away? --Nope. I intend to be one well-used butt-ugly corpse, ya know what I mean!?

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  4. My memory scars are mostly internal: scars from the mother who annually disowned me, the brother who physically (but not sexually) abused me, the boy I loved who developed schizophrenia, the church that told me I was bad at the age of four. I don't think a day goes by without my having to fight the messages of worthlessness. I know I'm not particularly unique or special in this. But it's the only skin I have to live in.

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  5. Aching tales. Margaret, my mother had a double mastectomy long before I came along (I am adopted) and she lived many years more. More power to you and to all who comment or visit here.

    My external scars are inconsequential ones from childhood, though I recall how four of them came about. My scars are the internalized negative judgments - the twisted voice that says I can never be an independent, competent, responsible adult. The absolute dictum that I have no right my own needs, my own opinions, and most of all my own anger. Now you know why I let the anger rip on my blog; I am claiming my selfhood and owning my feelings at long last.

    Prayers for the transformation of our scars! We are all wounded healers.

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  6. Thank you all, I am honored by your presence on this blog and with your comments.

    We are all wounded healers and we all know our own kind, don't we?

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  7. Oh, scars--all internal, meaning in a strangely curious and vain way, I have nothing to show for my suffering. The details aren't necessary, but let's just say I grew up as a gay kid in a Pentecostal pastor's home in the late Sixties/early Seventies when everything went crazy and our brand of Christianity rose up with unprecedented legalist fervor.

    What's more, we were told over and over the "signs of the times" indicated Jesus was due to step out on the clouds any second. And here I was this teenage kid who prayed constantly to be "delivered" but got no answers. I lived in perpetual fear of not being taken in the Rapture for sins I hadn't yet committed. The worst of it was I was going to be outed by the Second Coming--possibly the worst coming-out scenario a kid like me could imagine.

    Wow, the memories are rushing back--but thanks be to God, they've lost their sting and look really silly!

    Thanks, as always, Fran!

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  8. Does this bring things home for me!

    The adoption caused by a masectomy (people were sterilized as a social punishment those days), the negative expectations (always the hardest to live up to - and as a child one tries, oh, one tries at least internally).

    Yes, scars and a very strange life - but the one I'm settled with. Love to you all!

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  9. You and I have similar scars I guess - and I found I was chewing hard on my cuticle just as I was reading your post.

    My physical scars are only from medical procedures...but mental scars are probably due to my relationship with my father, which was always problematic. And of course in high school when I was new in town and suffered what was probably a normal amount of torment by the kids who thought they were cool. For me it took a long time to recover from that as well. Talk about low self-esteem...

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  10. Fran, I've never even noticed your hands. You're beautiful to me, hands and all.

    Brother Patrick words struck me:

    People who go through initiation rites often receive some kind of permanent marking (scar, tattoo, wound, lost tooth, branding, whatever) as a way of marking them as initiated men or women and reminding them of their own mortality.

    I had thought about a tattoo for years, not really knowing what I wanted, but it was after Katrina that I had the fleur-de-lis tattooed on my ankle. Suddenly, I knew what I wanted, a symbol of my dearly beloved drowned and destroyed home city - a scar, if you like.

    My memory scars are many, and they have changed my life, for worse in some ways, but very much for the better in other ways.

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  11. About three feet of physical scars at this point, from several surgeries and occasional carelessness. I find the visible ones matter the least.

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  12. Scars? Yep, got 'em ... like all the rest of you.
    I'm kinda proud of the external ones, for they remind me of what I've survived (and sometimes, of how stupid I was).
    The internal ones? Well ... we Foxes don't talk about those. My sister and I (in our 5th decade) are just beginning to do so ... and only occasionally. Thank God for her!

    You're doing good, brave stuff here, Fran. I've read every word, though I think this is my first time to comment.

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  13. My niece (the one who is being treated for breast cancer) and I had a long talk last night about the scars inflicted by family members. I'm the only one left having certain information (my two younger sisters having passed on), and she asked me questions that she was never able to ask her mother. It was a bittersweet moment, but a talk that we both agreed it was good to have.

    She will have a double mastectomy, which I think is a bit drastic for her situation, but I did not try to dissuade her. It's her decision.

    Johnieb, the visible scars are probably those that do the least damage.

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