I recently went for my annual medical checkup and my doctor, a thorough gentleman, had run me through his battery of tests including blood work and x-rays. In his office at the end of our session he pronounced me to be in generally favorable health. Don’t we all want to hear that?
I consider myself particularly fortunate in that I was a stuntman many years back, worked as a brakeman on the railroad for a few years, and have had plenty of physically demanding jobs including construction and masonry work. In short, I’ve brutalized my body and have a fair amount of scar tissue to prove it. So it’s always a treat to hear a medical professional tell me that, despite the many hard miles, I’m still in good shape.
As my doctor reviewed my health, my gaze landed on his wall. Clipped to a light board over his desk was an x-ray of a pair of hands. I was struck by how delicate was the arrangement of these slender skeletal digits. Suddenly I was drawn in to this beautifully neat little arrangement of wrist bones, phalanges and cartilage. Perhaps these were the hands of a young concert pianist, dancer or artist. I snapped a photo because there was something so graceful about the image. Then the doctor said, “They’re yours.”
Not possible. My hands are scarred, rough, weatherworn sandpaper; the nails thin and brittle, always torn or breaking and not at all sturdy. I have the reedy wrists and fingers of an adolescent rather than those of a grown up. What I know to be true of these gangly things I see and use daily cannot be compared favorably to the bluish-gray image on the doctor’s light board. And yet, there they are.
Is this the way we see ourselves? Every image of our visible being always carrying the litany of mistakes our body has borne? Do we really color the thing in front of us with an accumulation of failings that brought us to this point? Wouldn’t it be nice to see beneath the ugly reminders of where we went wrong? Skin deep will always be the biggest mistake we can make. Yet knowing this we keep on making it. Wouldn’t it be lovely to lose our obsession with surfaces and learn to observe more deeply the value of that beyond our gaze?
I wonder sometimes if I am hard to love or if the part worth loving is simply hard to see.