I’ve replayed it over in my mind hundreds of times. Even though I was only nine or ten when it happened, I can still vividly remember the siren, the lights, the confusion…
I loved to swim. Still do. I was a lifeguard during my teens and some of my fondest memories were at the local swimming pool hanging out with friends. But during the 70’s our small town didn’t have a public swimming pool. Therefore we resorted to driving, like many families, to the large public pool at a state park the next town over. My mom was determined that my sister and I learn how to swim. So regardless of how much we protested, every morning we were plunged into the cold water and forced to practice our strokes. Ugh. It was torture. (Mom, I hated it then but I’m very thankful now, like so many things you insisted we learn.)
But what mesmerized me the most was their high diving board. I was determined to jump off of that thing. My poor mom must have walked down to the diving area ten times or more, waiting to watch me take the big plunge, only to see me tip toe to the very end, look waaaay down at the water, and then chicken out. Ever so slowly I’d grip the handles of the ladder and ease back down in total embarrassment. It was awful. I just could not seem to muster up the courage to conquer my fear.
I assured my mother that THIS TIME WAS IT. I was ready. I’m not sure my mom was convinced, however, as she stayed in the shallow end with my little sister. It’s amazing that my heart still races to this day, as I recall the sequence of events through this computer keyboard.
As I stood in line with the other brave jumpers, I felt more and more convinced of my pending feat. I could already imagine my Mom giving me a high five as I climbed out of the pool victorious. But as I neared the top of the ladder something terrible happened: I lost my grip on the ladder, as it was slick with suntan oil. Almost in slow motion, I fell off the top step of the high dive—-backwards—-onto the unforgiving concrete.
I can still remember the kids standing around in a circle staring, my mom screaming, and me being loaded into the ambulance. Yes, I was a scared, but more than anything, I was embarrassed. “How could you do something so stupid, Angie?” I asked myself.
Angels had to have been watching over me, as I had no broken bones and could have easily been paralyzed. The only thing I walked away with was a terrible headache and cut up elbows which caught the brunt of my fall. Luckily, my middle-age wrinkly elbows help cover up the scars. These are one set of wrinkles I’m quite thankful for.
Unfortunately, all of us also suffer scars of a different sort: Invisible scars. Perhaps it was a romance that went south and you thought your heart might never recover; an accident that you can’t seem to shake from your childhood memory; a friend’s betrayal that you refuse to get past; or worse, the death of a family member which left a scar so deep it’s kept you from walking forward again.
Yes, scars are usually associated with pain, but they’re just that: scars. They’re not fresh bloody wounds that fester and ooze puss. It may feel as if it just happened but we have to remind ourselves that it’s in the past. They’re war wounds. Life’s battle scars proving that we endured. Yes, we may have made it by the skin of our teeth, but we pushed through with His strength.
Every night when I get undressed I have to look at a scar that wraps around my right side. Sure it’s paled somewhat after 25 years, but it’s still very visible. Due to kidney complications before and during my first pregnancy, I ended up having my right kidney removed. It was a terrifying ordeal that involved almost miscarrying my daughter as well as lengthy stays in the hospital. But thanks be to God, we both survived.
I used to be embarrassed to wear a two-piece swimsuit because of that scar, but then I finally wised up. I began to see my scar as a gratitude mark. It symbolizes all that I overcame to bring a beautiful little girl into the world. I’m convinced that’s how we must look at these marks we carry around. Call them what you want: survival marks, learning lesions, badges of honor. But we must learn from them, whether they’re visible or not, and grow stronger.
And then there’s those ever lovin’ splinters…
Oh, how they are of a different variety. As I was digging a tiny sliver of wood mulch from my thumb recently, I was reminded of one of the funniest things I’ve ever experienced. Many years ago, my husband and I had saved and saved and visited what is still my favorite place in the world: Venice, Italy. As an art historian, I loved walking around St. Marks Square, imagining all of the famous artists and world leaders that had strolled along that very same path. I’d studied Renoir’s rendition of St. Mark’s Cathedral in Carolyn’s high school art class and could barely believe I was about to walk inside the incredible church I’d only seen in books. The first time I turned the corner and saw it before me, I truly wept. I feel apart in front of hundreds of people and Steve cried because I was so overjoyed. Yes, I love this man.
After being emotionally spent the first day, all I wanted to do was go to the Hotel Danieli and rest. My only goal was to gaze out the window of our suite and take in the beauty of the Grand Canal. I was so incredibly thankful to be staying there, to watch gondolas glide by, to hear the gondolier singing and couples kissing. Belissimo.
And then suddenly I heard a loud THUD.
While Steve was putting up the luggage and I was gleefully intent on just taking in the view, the large heavy door of the sitting room slammed behind me, locking solid. It. would. not. budge. Steve totally went into panic mode, turning the knob frantically, tying to force open a door built at the end of the 14th century. And what did I do?
I just couldn’t help it. I was fine. I was in a beautiful suite with fruit, champagne and a view that had inspired artists for years. But what tickled my funny bone was hearing my sweet husband on the phone, trying to communicate with the Italian receptionist downstairs. He truly thought that by adding an “O” to every word he was obviously sounding like an Italian. “Uh, help-o, help-o, my wifey-o, has locked herself-o, into the suite-o. Can you please-o, help us-o? Buongiorno! Buongiorno!” (which is good morning, NOT thank you.)
I’m telling ya, tears are running down my face right now as I laugh and type this. It was like something the Griswolds would do in one of those vacation movies. Of course it didn’t get funny after I’d drank a glass off champagne and needed to go to the bathroom—-on the other side of the door. Then it got serious. To make a long story short, they couldn’t find the 500 year-old key and ended up having to take a crow bar and pry open the door. Then Steve, who’d suddenly become dedicated to Italian door preservation, freaked out again: “Don’t destroy this door! It’s priceless! Please! There’s got to be some other way! Save this door! ”
I was beginning to think he was more worried about that crazy door than his wife! The door was eventually forced open, with a few wooden splinters of it scattered on the floor. And yes, we STILL have those wooden pieces tucked away in a little box. Little splinters of love, as Steve calls them. Oh brother, he’s such a sap. But I suppose he is correct. That’s one splinter I want to hold on to.
But isn’t there another variety of splinters in our life? Things that REALLY get under our skin and drive us bonkers? Below are just a few of mine:
Slow drivers in the left lane. Yes, I admit it. I drive too fast. But grannies that go 40 mph, need to scoot it over to the right side. Grrrr. Can I get an amen?
People on their phones at the movie theatre. Do you in the guilty party pay attention to the infomercial about this very thing? No, because you’re always on your phone. Sheesh.
Young men that do not act like gentlemen. Perhaps it’s because I have daughters that this bugs me so much. But there are some guys out there that wouldn’t open a door for a female if their life depended on it. I see it all the time. Good grief. And to be fair, I realize the whole “I am woman hear me roar” thing has confused many a guy, and actually, I kinda feel sorry for them. Perhaps they’re caught between a rock and a hard spot? Some of you gals (not all) sorta ruined it for us women who are confident enough that we don’t mind a man doing nice things for us. Get over yourself already. Men, chivalry had better not be dead if you’re around me or my daughters. And I am happy to say we have three grandsons that are gonna someday make three ladies very happy. These boys are gentlemen already. Okay, okay, I’m off of my soapbox:)
But there are also those splinters that get under our skin and cause pain so severe that it’s almost incapacitating, Or what about those invisible splinters like verbal or emotional abuse which can stick around long past an apology? Sounding very much like scars, huh? Can you relate? If only our tweezers could pluck those from our hearts and minds.
It’s a work in progress for sure. Yours truly has a few shards that still want to lie just beneath the surface: anger over words spoken by know-it-alls who now find they should have taken their own advice; health fears in knowing you have a pain disorder that will worsen over time; worries as a wife and mother than never seem to lessen, regardless of how hard you pray.
So what’s a woman to do?
Pray and pray some more. For sharper tweezers? No, for sharper wisdom when reading God’s word. He never said things would be easy and that we wouldn’t worry or hurt. In fact, He tells us just the opposite. As Christians, we know we’ll be tested, tempted, and tried. And it’s in those situations we can grovel, groan or better yet, grow. For example, I think when we pray for patience, God doesn’t necessarily grant us patience, but the opportunity to learn patience. When we ask for the ability to forgive, He provides us instances to show forgiveness to others.
I don’t know about you, but as I sit here in my garden and write, I’m determined, dear readers, to groan less and grow more. Are you with me on this?
Good. Now let’s get growing……
(Oh, and thanks for sharing this with others. It means a lot to this weary writer.)
Peace and Love to You,