One minute I held the carving knife firmly in my left hand, scrubbing it vigorously with the brush in my right. The next minute it was somehow airborne and swooping across my index finger, just under the nail. As it clattered into the sink I looked in horror at the newly formed inch-long, too-deep-to-believe, gash.
I am generally a very careful person. Sometimes too careful. However, in the kitchen I tend to release all care. It's where I'm the most comfortable and confident. I don't always follow the rules because I know how far I can push things. Usually. That said, I've cut myself before and have a couple of decent scars on my hands to show for it. Potato peeler against thumb, glass breaking and slicing a knuckle with too much pressure applied in dishwater, knife piercing a hand used as a cutting board.
None of those wounds compared to this one. It scared me into considering a visit to the emergency room and stitches - my possible first ever. A consideration I pushed away in exchange for applied pressure, a couple of prayers, and a we'll-wait-and-see.
Much later in the day, when I got up the courage to really look at the cut, it was bad. No pain. Not a lot of bleeding. Just long and deep. When I finally let Walt look, after making him promise not to tell me I needed stitches, his face and silence scared me almost as much as the gash itself.
I decided to give it a day: gauzed and taped my finger; held it protectively away from whatever I was doing; cradled my hand gently when at rest. Even though I'm left-handed and the wound was to my right index finger, I actually use my right hand for a lot. Like brushing my teeth, peeling an orange, zipping my jeans. All activities nearly impossible to do with an extended index finger.
And so what I got from my decision to let my body take care of itself was a week of focused awareness. I helped her in every way possible - keeping the wound clean and dry and protected. I was careful with that hand - mindful without distraction.
The healing process was nothing short of miraculous. By the next morning the canyon was filled with tender red flesh. The skin around the cut was puffy but not inflamed. I could look at my finger without feeling too woozy. One more day saw the wound getting smaller as the ends of the cut began to close. Each successive day revealed more healing and allowed the return of more freedom.
Healing is a theme of my life. There has been much to heal, both from without and from within. But like my finger, the true healing had to start from the deepest place of the wound and work its way out. It couldn't happen without help. If I'd ignored my cut finger and not cared for it at all, the process would have taken much longer, with some possible bad detours into infection and pain.
Healing has its own timeline, even under the best of conditions. It won't be rushed. It also doesn't allow skipping around or avoiding the icky parts. Inside out, deepest first, or nothing sticks.
One small cut has a huge impact on the rest of the system. All those years of insisting the emotional wounds of childhood, adolescence, young adulthood weren't important did nothing to diminish their impact on my ability to be a whole human being. The toxicity of those untended wounds made everything harder, brought me to the edge of death more than once, kept me imprisoned in the very walls I built to keep them hidden.
Even healed, wounds remain tender for a long time and require gentle attention for much longer than seems should be necessary. My finger no longer needs bandaging, but it cannot endure much pressure before it hurts. There's an interesting dent and some bruising and the promise of an interesting scar to come.
It's amazing how one simple cut can be a metaphor for one complicated life. But it's all there. The major wounds of my life, after years of hard work under the skilled and loving tutelage of a gifted counselor, are healed. (I reread this sentence several times, testing it for truth, finding just that. Truth.)
What remains is tender, interesting, uniquely me. What remains is a new appreciation for the deep wisdom of my body, and gratitude for the gentle lessons she offers. What remains is a sense of wonder at the gifts born from pain and the hard work of mindful healing.
picture from Flickr