Not many weeks ago, I found myself writing about the classic Frankenstein film from the 1930s in one of the chapters of the book I’m working on. In this chapter, I express my early empathy for monsters and outsiders, never thinking I would soon resemble a mad scientist’s creation. Yet, today, this is more or less what I look like…..a long set of stitches on the right side of my neck where an early-stage melanoma was removed just a day ago.
It’s interesting…..this rather gruesome womb I’m currently wearing. It’s interesting……because I love it. It’s also interesting because of the reactions I’m seeing in others. Many express empathy and care, while others laugh with me as I joke about it. Others, still, keep their distance…..perhaps horrified by my appearance.
I suspect, however, that’s it’s not actually my appearance that is scary. Even with the stitches, it’s not like I’m hideous or anything. More likely, it’s scary for an entirely different reason. It’s scary because people fear the loss of their own beauty and they fear their own mortality. Life can be fragile and my Frankenstein stitches are a reminder. They are a threat to the security one may find in his/her own physical appearance and good health.
This is my take on it, anyhow. I’m sure there are those like my husband, as well, who would be and are completely “turned off” by my new skin ornament. I’m pretty sure if he were here, in fact, he would say that I’ve been “mutilated.” I’m equally sure he’s not the only one who might see it this way.
Yet, I suppose I see such things quite differently. I do recognize my own and other people’s mortality…..but to me, it is a beautiful thing. Our lives are both precious and temporary and the experiences we live through, along with the scars of such experiences, are reminders of this. Maybe this is scary to some because it can most definitely dredge up an innate fear of death. However, life is so very precious BECAUSE it is temporary. Without impermanence, we may take our lives and the lives of others for granted. Without vulnerability, we may never see the true beauty in all of us. In fact, we so often are concerned with some self-made or societal idea of perfection that we’re blinded by the miracle and beauty of all existence.
Artists have long known this. It’s why there are paintings of small children and aging grandparents. The innocence of youth and the wisdom and return to innocence of old age do not go unnoticed by photographers and portrait artists. Sure, there have also been many focused on the ideal male or female form….but the ideal changes through the centuries. This is because the ideal isn’t, by definition, REAL at all. It’s a dream…..and we all can get far too caught up in it, in the fantasy.
My stitches, by contrast, may be considered the stuff of nightmares. If they’re a dream, they’re not the good kind. But seeing them this way is to be blind to the truth of who we are. We are not our bodies in the way that we think. Our bodies are only expressions of something else much more beautiful and any one of us (or all of us) has (have) the ability to express this.
So, yes, I love my stitches and will love the resulting scar after I heal. I love the experience I have so far survived and will not fear any new experience that I don’t. Furthermore, if others see me as somehow less desirable (as a result,) then I’m happy enough if they stay away. In fact, my new look is probably quite fortunate for weeding out those who aren’t a good match. This includes both platonic and romantic connections. I want to inspire and be inspired in all of my interactions. Although beauty has a way of shining through in the most challenging situations, we have to have the eyes to see it.
Without the eyes, we’re all just monsters. We’re all great white sharks or any number of other deadly predators to which our fear blinds us from seeing…..the true miracle of life.
When Dr. Frankenstein says “It’s alive” at the beginning of the famed monster flick, we learn the true motivation behind his work…..which is to achieve power over death. Not only is he blinded by his own thirst for power, he is blinded to the fear that hides behind it….and his words are foreshadowing. The monster isn’t a “he”…..but an “it.” He is blind, therefore, to the miracle that he sees as a technological advancement. To him, life is a “thing” to possess and control. It is nothing in and of itself. And the town mob? These people, too, see the doctor’s “creation” as something to fear and destroy. This is how they exert their own control, while others (still) retreat into their homes. Running away and avoidance is, after all, just as effective as any other tactic when it comes to encountering our fears and worst nightmares.
Yet, I’m not running. I’m not avoiding. A surgeon utilized his talent and skill to cut cancerous tissue out of the skin on my neck, but I know who is really in control. It’s not him. It’s not me. We do what we can, but life will do what it will. To accept this is to see the beauty of it…..to see that there is nothing to fear. We are not separate from life. We are life. We are powerful as nature is powerful and we are vulnerable as nature is vulnerable.
If there is a monster at all, it’s the ego’s need to control…..and the illusion it presents to us that we even can. Desiring power over truth, the ego hides behind a beautiful facade of lies and deceit. Like any monster, the ego preys on our fears…..making us blind to love, life, and beauty. The ego controls…..even the self.
Which is why, I suppose, I find it so important to wear my stitches, scar, and experiences for everyone to see. It’s not that I don’t value some sense of “privacy” and it’s not some narcissistic need for external affirmation. It’s because I want to help you (and others) face your fears. I want to help you (and others) remove the blinders. The world is beautiful, we are all beautiful, and I want to share it all. I want it to shine through…..breaking through barriers wherever it can.
Look at me and tell me what you see. Do you see a friend? A lover? Or do you see your own fear? If it’s your own fear, keep looking. Keep looking until something else in you begins to recognize……itself. Keep looking until you feel like you’re about to lose yourself……
And that’s when you’ll see what I’m talking about. But, be ready. Once the blinders come off, nothing is ever going to look the same again. It’s going to be bright. Everything is going to shine. At first, you might think it’s just me, but then you’re going to look in the mirror and see your own beautiful and radiant face beaming back at you. You’re going to see beauty and energy all around you.
But first, you’re going to have to look at me. You’re going to have to face your own monster……with as much open vulnerability as it takes. Don’t be afraid. I’m not. Show me what you’ve got.