When it comes to trauma, recovery is measured in months, not weeks. It has been six weeks since the initial fall, and five weeks since my facial reconstruction surgery. If you could assign a percentage to my healing process, the doctors would say that my face is about 50% healed.
If you could assign a percentage to my emotional healing, I’d say that’s about 10% healed. Getting back to work this week was a true testament of how far I have come, and how far I have not.
Since my return to Minneapolis, everyone has reacted as expected. “You can’t even see the scar!” “You look beautiful as ever!” “You look great!” “You don’t look any different than before!”
My initial reaction is to jump into a dramatic episode called MTV True Life: I Shattered My Face. “You think you know, but you have no idea.”
My cheek is still swollen and puffy. I have four metal plates in my face – including one supporting my eye ball that the doctor compared to a Lay’s potato chip. My eyelid has a scar across it that makes me look like I got in a knife fight in prison. The stitches in my mouth haven’t dissolved. The feeling has yet to return across my cheek and scalp – making for awkward meal times, brushing my hair, and applying lip gloss.
My left leg is one giant mass of hardened blood. It’s gross to touch.
My shoulder is as good as a limp noodle.
I can walk. I can type. I can see. I can drive. I no longer need narcotics for the pain. I am able to use a treadmill. I can still sing. I am still fully able to live alone in my adorable Uptown apartment. I can cook meals for myself. And I can still think. Some days are better than others, but my brain still works.
And so does my heart.
The accident has caused me to think a lot about the kind of person I am, and the kind of person I want to be. It’s caused me to think a lot about identity, and beauty, and what criteria is important in the concept of “self.” It has caused me to think about what is important in my life. And by what, I really mean “who”.
And by important, I mean the idea of placing someone else’s needs entirely above your own. No strings attached. No hidden agenda. No Catch 22. Just putting someone else first. Maybe for a good reason (like an accident), or maybe for no reason at all beyond “Just Because.”
So many people have put my needs first, over their own, time and time again over this recovery. And I believe the greatest thing I will learn from this experience is how to fully love.
I’m not necessarily talking about romantic love either – just loving people because. Not needing a reason, or a fact sheet, or a give and gets checklist. Just loving others because loving others feels good. And sometimes there doesn’t need to be much more to it. Sometimes there doesn’t need to be a reason.
My mother and father dropped everything to be there for my surgery. Jobs, clients, trips, vacation plans – everything. I mean, you could argue that parents really forfeit their lives entirely the day they bring children into the world. My parents have put their kids before their own lives every moment of every day since we were born. This accident was no exception. And I wasn’t the easiest patient to deal with. Immediately upon waking up after the anesthesia, I told the nurse “Don’t let my mom touch my face. She’s a kisser. Don’t let her touch me.”
My mom was standing right there.
That night I may have sworn a time or two (or twenty) from the pain. My mother’s response was to rub my feet.
Matt made the drive to Madison countless times to help take care of me and attend to my every need. It was only recently I learned that he was supposed to be on a house boat during the majority of his one-month summer vacation from school. I am sure there are MANY things that would have been a lot more enjoyable than preparing my breakfast yogurt and watching Pretty Little Liars. But he never complained once.
Am I the kind of friend that would give up a house boat vacation to take care of someone just because they needed it?
I don’t know if I am. But I want to be.
Will I be the kind of parent that will alter all my life goals for the sake of helping my children attain their goals?
I don’t know if I will be. But I have the best examples that a daughter could ever ask for. My dad has always said “My dream is for my kids to chase their dreams.”
I hope to be that kind of parent.
My brother Steven opened up his house to friends, family, and strangers alike for more than a month – never even thinking twice about it. Talk about having your life completely disrupted and all your privacy invaded. My little sister got coffee and lunch with me every day – and let me crash any social engagement she had, even if it was weird to have your older sibling tag along like a lost puppy…
Am I the kind of person that is willing to feel uncomfortable for the sake of helping someone else be comfortable?
I don’t know. But I hope I can be.
I’ve lived most of my life believing the phrase “Everything happens for a reason.” I’m not sure I can find a reason for breaking your face. But I can find a reason for needing love and devotion, like the kind I received from everyone the last several weeks. The reason is to send that love right back into the world. And be the kind of person that people were for me when I needed them most. To be like my parents, my siblings, Matt, Jenn, Janelle, Bailey, Mickey, and Jake – and countless others.
People have always said “You don’t know how strong you are until you have to be.” I always thought this phrase pertained to an individual’s struggle and trials. But I am beginning to think it has nothing to do with the individual. You don’t know how strong and capable you are, until you have to be for someone else.
Saving Face is beginning to feel a lot more like Saving Heart.