Two days ago I decided to make another batch of butternut squash soup. The batch I made two weeks ago was really good and although the weather doesn’t suggest it’s time for soup, the leaves and calendar do, so I wanted more.
Peeling and cutting squash is the worst part of the whole process. It’s hard and takes forever – welcome to life, Anne. I made one wrong move and instead of cutting the squash, I cut my finger. From what I could tell, I sliced the whole front of my left pointer finger leaving a big flap and lots of blood. I didn’t look for long because I was starting to feel queasy about the whole thing. I immediately put on two band aids and continued with the work because I didn’t know what else to do, so I did what was in front of me.
I really thought I had sliced off my fingerprint and for some reason this really bothered me. Will my fingerprint be altered now? How does my finger know how to grow back in just the same spot as before? Brad didn’t understand my obsession about my fingerprint. Honestly, I didn’t understand it either.
The next morning I knew I had to remove those band aids and see what was there. Together Brad and I removed them – there was a lot of gasping and pulling back and more queasiness. Eventually the band aids were gone and I could see my finger. It turns out that the cut was more on the side and not on the front. There was a large cut, but it wasn’t as big as I thought. I was the first and only eyewitness to this event and still I got it wrong – eyewitnesses, even our own eyes, are hard to trust.
As I went for a walk later on I began to ponder about this story. My initial response was this:
“See Anne, you always make everything into a bigger deal that it really is. You didn’t cut your fingerprint off. Your finger will heal just fine. All you had to do was remove the band aid, look a little closer and see what was really there. And what was there was NOT a missing fingerprint. Calm down. Once again you made something bigger than it really is.”
Brené Brown would call this a shitty first draft (or SFD, read Rising Strong for more on this). I recognized the signs that this story I was telling was far from the truth: you always…all you had to do…calm down…once again. I was talking to myself in a way that was neither helpful nor loving. So, I took the rest of my walk to figure out the real story.
The truth is I did cut my finger. No, my fingerprint is not gone, but there is a decent size slash on the side of my finger. The truth is it really hurt, after the adrenaline dissipated. The truth is I don’t ALWAYS make things bigger than they are. I didn’t rush to the ER or show my band aid to everyone I encountered. I didn’t play “woe is me” and get out of what I needed to do. I took care of it. I bandaged my finger by myself. I finished cutting the squash and made a delicious pot of soup. The truth is I was really calm. If it was as bad as I originally thought it was, I might have even been a little too calm. SFD, I’m done with you.
That cut will leave a scar. For a while it will be external, others might notice it. Over time it won’t be seen by anyone other than me. But the scar will still be there. I’ll still remember where I was when I made one wrong move with that knife. I’ll remember the queasy feeling and the tears I was trying to fight. There will be moments when I use my finger in a certain way and all the memories and feelings come flooding back. My finger will never be the same again.
To others it may seem miniscule. I mean, I didn’t lose my finger or my hand. I didn’t even cut off my fingerprint for goodness sake! It’s just a little cut that will heal. Others have it much harder. That’s true. It’s all true. But…it’s not my truth. My truth says this hurts. My truth says before that moment my finger was whole and now it’s not.
Some people may tell me to pray about it more. Or to focus on all the good things – all the other fingers that aren’t cut. Some people might suggest I do something to keep my mind off of it. Some people will say everything will work out the way it’s supposed to. However, “some people” aren’t me. “Some people” aren’t reminded of that cut every.single.day. “Some people” don’t have to live with it, breathe it, think it all.the.time.
There moments when I do forget – when I get into a book or a TV show or a conversation with Brad – when I forget that there’s a cut on my finger. Then something, anything happens – I breathe – and then I remember, oh yeah, that didn’t go away. I live for those moments – when I can forget, when I can be Anne-before-the-cut. Unfortunately, I will never be her again. Yes, I will heal, the band aid will come off, life might seem to return to normal. But, my life will now always be divided into “before the cut” and “after the cut.”
We all have “before” and “after” selves. I know my “after” will be just as strong, if not stronger, than my “before.” However, right now I’m neither one – I’m not “before” or “after.” I’m in the hardest place, it seems – right smack in the middle – still noticing every nerve, still wearing a band aid. I really, really want to get to “after” – really, I want to be there now. But I can’t get there yet. So, I’m just sitting in the middle, letting myself be here however long it takes. And, however long that is, will be exactly how long it needed to be.