Recently, I leaned a water color that I painted in 1978 against a stack of books. I had no idea what the image in the picture meant but was open to finding out. Over a few days’ time, the meaning unfolded. Yellow is fear; breathing is frightening. The lungs are on alert. My scar—the horizontal lines between the lungs—are bars holding me tight. My eyes are red with pain. Red also represents anger, a fire inside. My trachea is blue, lacking oxygen, yet it is also a hopeful color somehow, a sky kind of blue.
I still deal with fears around breathing. If only I could breathe fully and fearlessly……. I would explode, is what I heard myself say before my fingers typed. This is the message I learned as an infant. The surgeon had told my mother that if I burst my stitches, I would die. Being quiet was a matter of life or death. Expression was on hold. Presently, however, the opposite is true: Breathing fully and fearlessly brings healing and wholeness. Breathing fully lets know that my body is safe and can be trusted.
Last night at a gathering of professionals interested in medical humanities, I was telling someone about my blog and my early stomach surgery. “One would think the impact would long be over,” I said to the host as he set out the pot luck dishes, “since physically I recovered perfectly, but this is not the case. My incision is still an issue.” He nodded and replied, “Incision for life.” His words astonished me. He got it. I am inscribed forever by my experience. Which is why I strive to understand its impact on my life, share what I learn and, in turn, learn from others–a perfect circle, reminding me of the turquoise in the painting. A circle is created when a line reunites with itself.