I’ve heard that “bald is beautiful,” and I tend to agree. Yet when I look in the mirror, I critically examine the bald patches on my head, shrug and laugh at how ridiculous I appear. When I had brain surgery, my neurosurgeon, despite the fact that I begged him to just shave it all off, only snipped a little of my hair when he cut into my skull.
Now, daily, as I comb my hair gently over the huge scabs still clinging to my incision that runs from the top of my head down the right side of my head and ending at my ear, clumps of hair fall out and leave a widening arc of baldness.
I look hideous. But I have to laugh: I survived brain surgery; no way am I going to cry over some scabby baldness. Plus, looks can be deceiving. In real life, I’m a cutie! Besides, who cares if I’m ugly, really? I might care, a little, so I put a lid on my feelings of amused awkwardness and a lid – usually a ball cap – on to cover my head and its scabby, patchy baldness, as well.
It’s been two months since my surgery, and I feel impatient with my slow progress. Pain visits daily, and sometimes it stomps on me like I’m a bug. I can’t walk (as in exercise), work or even read for long stretches of time, because to focus and think through my headaches exhausts me and stabs my brain until it screams. I loathe these limitations.
It’s more difficult to keep a lid on these frustrations because they’re not superficial or cosmetic ugly things, but a deeper self-worth feeling of ugliness. Feelings escape no matter how much I try to squash them back in, especially when I feel I can’t give or do more for the people who count on me.
I visit one of my favorite places, the Lima Public Library, two evenings a week to tutor a preteen in reading for an hour. Although I love working with this girl, the measly hour I work with her challenges me more than I feel it should, and I often leave the library feeling like a wrecking ball has demolished me. It baffles and bothers me that it takes so little to push me to my limits. I try to push back, to go just a little farther. And that’s when I end up on the floor, knocked down by a brain that says, “No. Enough.”
I tell myself that no matter how much I push myself, my healing and my ability to do more are not solely up to me – they lie within God’s will and timing.
God provided perfectly for every detail of my care and survival of this surgery, so why would He not have a plan for my recovery? Yet I complain that I can’t do this or that, or that I still have pain here, here, and there. What is wrong with me? My brain is slow in its healing, but still smart enough to know it’s wiser to choose a prayer of gratitude over a complaint.
I try to put a lid on my disappointment, my anger that pops up from nowhere and smashes my hope, and my aching weariness that feels like it goes soul deep. But my flimsy lids can’t keep my heartache hidden from God. It’s possible that it was Him who tucked this idea into my brain: Being able to do less doesn’t mean I am worth less.
Knowing that God sees and knows everything about me doesn’t prevent me from getting discouraged, but it does keep me going. He’s blown the lid off the ugly truth that I am simply a scared, hurting human being who wants to do more than what I’m capable of doing. Maybe it’s time to celebrate what I CAN do. Maybe it’s time to forget the lids and be brave enough to be myself – ugliness and all.
Dawn Kessinger lives in Lima.