I mentioned a newly acquired scar on my face in my first post and feel the need to write about it because…
So here it goes. I knew going into it that the Cabo trip was going to be hard for me. I wasn’t looking forward to it, dreading it a bit actually. I was out of shape, fifteen pounds heavier than I wanted to be. My clothes didn’t fit right and it was very early May. I feel that’s an awfully ambitious time of year to be asked to be in a bathing suit. August is one thing, but May 1st? Come on. It’s practically still winter. We were going with two other couples. The women are fit, fashionable, beautiful and great moms. They laugh in the face of early May, looking effortlessly great all year around. Sometimes I get inspired by my time with these women, thankful for the proof that perhaps it is possible to “have it all.” In my current state, however, I knew time with them was only going to bum me out more, shining copious amounts of sunlight on just how off the wagon I had fallen.
The trip was quickly approaching and I did something I haven’t done in twenty plus years: I bought and took diet pills. A graying sixteen year old, trying to keep up with the cool kids. All I’d had to eat the day we arrived was coffee and half a breakfast burrito at the airport early that morning. One set of friends had arrived a day earlier than us, the other a couple of hours earlier so we felt we had some catching up to do. Margarita orders were placed, we enjoyed one in the the pool, another in the jacuzzi. The golden hour descended on us and the pink, orange swirl of a sunset was just too perfect. We weren’t content viewing it. We wanted to be in it. We rented boards and headed out into the surf.
I didn’t catch the first wave I went for but another one was starting to break right behind it so I went for it. I must have been too far inside the break because I wiped out. A powerful washing machine churned me over and over again until I didn’t know which way was up and which was down. I put my arm above my head as I was surfacing (what you do so you don’t get hit by the board) but it was too late. All I saw was white when I surfaced, bright, bright white and nothing else. I waited for things to come into focus. Waited some more… Ok, there. There was the the bright blue ocean, the white sand, the board rental shop with its beachy thatched roof. I felt fine so I turned the board around and stared paddling back out. Water was pouring down my face so I kept wiping it away. But it kept coming down. The amount wasn’t adding up. It should have stopped by now. That’s when I realized it wasn’t water. Blood was on my hands and down my bathing suit top and in the water around me. I made my way to the shore and out of the water. I pointed to my face and asked the first person I saw, “Excuse me, how bad is this?” His eyes got wide and he said, “You’re bleeding!” Yes. Thank you.
One of the three fins on the board had sliced me on the bridge of my nose right between my eyes. The board was down to two fins. I was there with three ER doctors, one of them, our good friend Keith came out of the water when he realized something was up. I showed him my face and asked him how bad it was. He took one look at me and said, “You need stitches.” Nooooooo. Not on vacation, not in Mexico, not within the first hour we’re here. Please, just no. I remember thinking two things, Can we just go back to two minutes ago when everything was dreamy? And Maybe I’ll get lucky and just a couple of butterfly strips will do the trick.
I shook the sand out of one of the beach towels and used it to hold pressure like Keith instructed. I motioned for Mark to get out of the water. He’s a top notch ER physician, this husband of mine. Anyone who walks into the ER when he is on a shift (quite often, trust me) is a lucky, lucky soul. I’m so proud of the incredible doctor he is. He is cool, calm, collected, and compassionate. When his own family experiences medical emergencies however, he promptly loses his stuff. He freaked out when I removed the beach towel to show him my face. He paced in the sand saying things like our trip was ruined, we might as well just go home now and that I’m going to have a huge scar on my face. I was already scared. I needed a strong presence, tender words, told it was going to be okay. Holding me would have been nice. I also needed medical attention. I suggested we go ahead and get on that and we made our way to the hotel lobby.
The hotel called us a car and a driver took us to “la clinica.” I remember asking him, while still holding pressure on the wound, how long the drive would be. He answered, “Walmart.” Mark and I looked at each other in horror. Was I going to get my face stitched up at a Mexican Walmart? A couple of minutes later when he took a right at Walmart and kept driving we realized he was simply using the establishment as a landmark. Phew. Mark and I used the car ride to make a plan. We’d let the doctor start sewing me up but if Mark wasn’t happy with the job he was doing, he’d politely ask him for the materials so he could take over.
La clinica was a pleasant surprise, clean and nice and air conditioned. It was Cabo after all. No one was in the waiting room so they lead me right into the exam room. The doctor spoke perfect english. We told him what happened and he listened intently. Mark told him he was an ER doctor and that he can sew me up if need be, he’d just need some materials since he didn’t bring any. The doctor said, “Ok, you’re welcome to do that, but I am a surgeon.” What?! I couldn’t believe it. Relief rushed over me. Beautiful words to hear when it’s your face that needs sewn up. He got out a “portfolio” of sorts and showed us the nose and boob jobs he’d done. I thought about getting a lift while I was there. Just kidding. I knew I was in good hands and I was so thankful. He gave me shots of novocaine and got to work. He took his time, meticulously sewing me up as Mark watched over us closely; very pleased with his work. I left with a bandage on my face and instructions that stitches were to come out in 5-7 days. We paid $333 in cash.
I’ve been trying to put my finger on why this whole thing has hit me so hard (no pun intended) and I think it comes down to this:
I was already dealing with fading beauty.
A new wrinkle here, another gray hair there. A scale that was refusing to budge no matter how many meals I skipped or how many calories I burned. A slow goodbye. I’m no bombshell but it was fun and maybe a little bit exciting and powerful knowing I could turn a head or two in my day. I’m 36 next month, a mother of two, and I felt that slowly slipping through my fingers like sand.
Everyone knows beauty fades. There’s a Bible verses about it. Proverbs 31:30 says,
And a (hilarious) quote about it by the great philosopher, Judge Judy,
But what happens when it doesn’t fade as much as a chunk of it is swiped away in one fell swoop? Tears. Tears happen. They first started falling while I was poolside in a lounge chair. It was like I was finally over the trauma of the accident and now the result I was going to be left with, a scar on my face, was hitting me like a ton of bricks. It felt like the last shred of beauty I was already white knuckling got ripped away from me. It felt cruel. I tried to take my tears to the hotel room but housekeeping was there so I returned to my chair at the pool. My friends stroked me on the shoulder and told me that I was beautiful on the inside and out and assured me that a scar wasn’t going to change that. My husband did too. After awhile when the tears refused to stop falling they left me with them. I like that in a friend. And in a husband. I silently cried through an hour massage I had booked earlier, before the floodgates had opened. I think the massage therapist knew. She was extra gentle and tender with me.
This whole thing might seem petty to some people. It’s a one inch scar after all. It could have been so much worse. The fin could have easily taken out an eye, the cut stops just short of both of them. People often get paralyzed by shore breaks. My brother just visited his best friend in the hospital who broke his neck surfing. I’m following another family’s story on Facebook; the dad was playing with his son in the surf while on a trip to Cancun and became paralyzed. Now that’s an accident to speak of, to write about, to mourn. We all recently heard about the poor family whose two year old son got taken away and killed by an aligator in Florida in front of the entire family. Arriving with three kids and leaving with two. That’s a ruined vacation. A family’s life changed forever. My head knows all these things but my heart still aches just a bit whenever I look in the mirror. I’m a firm believer that the only way through any kind of pain is through it. Trying to sneak around it never works. So I’m acknowledging it. Facing it head on.
Mostly though I’m thankful for how beautifully my face is healing. Our bodies are incredible. And for how God protected me from further harm and how He has my heart. How I can trust him with my life. And do. I was really calm when it happened. Strangers who’d watched the whole thing from the shore told me so later in the hotel lobby. But they didn’t have to tell me. I knew. I felt it. I had an overwhelming sense of peace. Juxtaposed by my husband’s harsh response to the same situation. He apologized for his words the night of the accident but explained further on the last night of the trip, after our friends had gone home and it was just us at the resort, that he has a really hard time when one of us is hurt because he feels like he failed to protect us. He sees that as his job and he feels helpless and frustrated when he isn’t able to prevent bad things from happening to us. I never knew that. Important apologies, understanding and forgiveness all around. I knew God had me then and I know He has me now. Increasing wrinkles, stray gray hairs, stubborn extra pounds, facial scar and all.