how to be a scarface

Updated: Jan 23


“There is a slight chance that you might lose feeling in half of your forehead.”

“As in...for the rest of my life?”

“Yes.”

“Huh.”

“You will also probably have a black eye for about a week.”

“Well, I start a new job on Monday. So that’s fantastic.”

“And no exercise for the next few weeks.”

“Yup, I know. Just gentle yoga and stretching."

“Really, try to avoid anything that raises your heart rate, especially this next week. We usually tell patients, ‘Walk no more than five blocks.’”

“Huh. Wow. Okay...Umm...What about...intimacy?”

“Again, try to avoid anything that raises your heart rate...So...probably best to wait a week. And we’ll give you antibiotics for five days.”

“Woah there, sailor. Wait a minute: No banging and no booze?!”

“You can have a drink this weekend, but hold off for the next few days. Also, stick with soft foods, at least today and tomorrow. Because even chewing uses those muscles and moves the stiches.”

About two inches worth of stitches to be exact--right on my face. Okay, to their credit, they stitched beautifully and kept it right near my hairline. So, as soon as I don’t have to wear this behemoth-sized Band-Aid, I should be able to hide it with my hair.

That said, the stitches look pretty cool. And I don’t mind yet one more scar. Scars are kind of old hat by now.

The smallest one is about ¼ of an inch in diameter. The largest one runs from just below my shoulder to past my elbow. Only two of them stem from at least somewhat interesting stories. How many people do you know with a sesamoidectomy? How many people even know what that is? Fun fact: You have two sesamoid bones under the pad of each big toe. As “floating bones”, they don’t connect to any others, and they are each about the size of a pea. But they absorb the weight of every step you take, and they help you flex and point your big toe. Luckily, you really only need one. So, when mine refused to heal, they just removed it.

But I digress. Plus, who notices foot scars anyway?

The Big Guy is the arm scar: The result of my first and only time arm wrestling. But that’s a story for another time.

Last week, I went to my follow-up dermatology appointment, prepared for a 15-minute or so “surgery”, aka mole removal. Having had my first one at the age of seven (thanks, Mom, for for the awesome genetic hand-me-down of abnormal moles, which is such a sexy fact to share with others), I knew the drill.

Or so I thought.

Turns out that this go-around was a step up from all the others, as evidenced by the opening exchange [above]. Turns out, this mole was, more or less (apparently it’s a “gray area”), one step below MAYDAY status. Therefore, the surgery lasted more like an hour and a half.

But did I think twice about it? No, no I did not. Did I think to tell my new husband about it? No, no I did not. I’m used to being independent, to getting shit done that needs getting done, and to erring on the side of caution when it comes to health. I’m also used to focusing on the big picture: A two-inch scar near my hairline? Small potatoes. A possibly half-numb forehead? Bah. A positive mindset helped me regain full nerve function after that arm wrestling incident--an outcome whose odds were, apparently, quite slim. So a black eye on the first day of my new job? Talk about a way to make my mark! I thought it pretty damn funny.

Fear played a role, as it almost always does for all of us, whether you admit it or not. Life is short, and I would rather have a small scar near my hairline (and a possible numb spot on my forehead for the rest of my life) if it means dodging something much worse.

Yet, as a result of what I considered a "big picture", values-based, positive reaction when faced with unexpected adversity, wrath ensued. Okay, okay, not wrath per se. However, it did serve as a key learning experience in the early stages of marriage:

  1. Recognize that your partner doesn’t always take things as lightly as you do. Sometimes it is a big deal to him--the possible risks, the way they “cut into” your face, the way you didn’t even ask for a second opinion before said face-cutting, and the fact that you didn’t even think to tell him beforehand.

  2. Always call your partner beforehand, and maybe consider asking for a second opinion. Even if you pragmatically weigh all factors and choose optimism in the end--in this case, "Avoid melanoma: Check. Yup, stitches sound a-okay." Granted, you might not err on the side of "question everyone", as he does, but at least entertain the idea.

  3. Always consider your partner’s perspective. You are a team now, for better or for worse. In many ways, the “I” has become a “we”. He gets anxious about your health, he wants to have a say, and he needs to mentally prepare for any and all risks. He also loves you more than you love him. (Just kidding about that last one. You both think that you got the better end of the deal.)

  4. Always, in the end, after way too much passionate discussion and beating of dead horses, trust that you will find a resolution.

As my own worst critic, I begged him to let it go. I understood his feelings, and I understood my blunder as a wife in not going there to begin with. I saw the light. I recognized the new “we” in “I”--which, as a very independent and headstrong woman, requires a learning curve.

In short, I know that his reaction was based in love.

And, no, contrary to his suggestion, I am not addicted to scars.

Onward and upward.

I just listened to a great podcast, at the advice of a great friend, called How to Be a Good Mate.

Bottom Line: In the end, it’s not about right and wrong. It’s about learning--and we’re still learning.

Bottom Line: Love is always an option, so keep choosing love. Choose love when it’s most challenging. Love your face off. And, remember, as my man says, “Always go back to the fact that I love you.”

Bottom line: Drop all expectations except that they be there for you to love.

Sometimes that doesn’t feel like enough somehow.

“If you loved me, then you wouldn’t ______________!!!!!”

But, you know, that’s not fair. We are all works in progress, and that’s what keeps it interesting. None of us are easy to live with, and it’s absurd to think otherwise. We all have our ways of being, and we miss opportunities to love who our partner is when we try to change him or her.

Some relationship food for thought right there, my friends.

Cheers to love.

Until soon ~

#relationships #marriage #love #medicine #health #optimism #mindset

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