by Laura Hankins Rand

Carly Simon wrote a song about her own breast cancer experience called “Scar.” This blog’s title is taken from a phrase in that song. I heard the song several years ago – and wondered: What does she mean? Follow your scar? I had no clue – but I liked it.

Since that time, I have gone back to graduate school and completed a degree in counseling. Along the way, I began to read Carl Jung, his idea of archetypes and shadows. I believe our lives are full of archetypes, both universal and personal. What this means to me is that everything can teach us something, can take us deeper into our understanding of our own inner worlds. Our natural tendency is to hide our scars, right? We want others to see our best side, not our flaws. Jung believed that integrating our darker side was the key to personal development and growth. Rather than ignoring what those of us who have gone through cancer surgeries have – scars – what if we accepted them and learned from them? Where would that lead us?

What is a scar, in fact? It is a mark signifying some kind of wound, often from a battle. We even say we are “fighting cancer” and “battling the disease.” But a scar is not only a wound. It is a wound that has healed and left its mark. It says to us and others: I have fought and won. I’m still here.

Every civilization has stories of battles and heroes. Our society is rather short on heroes, it seems. But there does seem to be some sort of universal respect for cancer survivors. If you are like me, you don’t feel like a hero. Not at all. I got sick. I did what I felt was right to get better. So far, it has worked. That’s how I look at it.

But the world needs heroes, and surviving cancer may be what provides that to some degree in our time. I am no paragon of virtue. I get discouraged and tired. I even find myself ashamed of how my body looks now. But I hear what I think Carly Simon is saying in her song. I am “following” my scar. I am exploring its meaning in my life. And I am learning not to cringe when I look at myself in the mirror. I am following my scar to a larger understanding of its presence and its meaning. And, with Carly Simon’s admonition, I am learning to “lead with my spirit.”

Scar ~ written by Carly Simon

A grey day in February

Some flecks of white, but mostly brown

Purple surprises riding in on a nerve

Begins to excite you before it settles down

It’s after the knives and the sutures and needles

I’m left with an arrow that points at my heart

I call it the seat of my sentimental sorrow

Gone seems to be one of the sum of my parts

And the night is cold

As the coldest nights are

There’s a wise woman

She comes from an evening star

She says: Look for the signs

You won’t have to look far

Lead with your spirit and follow

Follow your scar

A man I knew once said he wanted to see me

I said I’d been sick but was on the mend

I told him a few of the overall details

He said: That’s too bad And he’s never called me again

What a gift in disguise that poor little puppy

So scared of misfortune and always on guard

A big man will love you Even more when you’re hurtin’

And a really big man

Loves a really good scar

Cause the dawn breaks

And it’s breaking your heart

There’s a wise woman

She sits at the end of the bar

She says: Look for the signs

You won’t have to look far

Lead with your spirit and follow

Follow your scar

A grey day in February

Some flecks of white, but mostly brown

The world has tilted but

The world has expanded

And the world has turned

My world upside down

Cause the night is warm and all full of stars

There’s a wise woman

She’s moved right into my heart

She says: Look for the signs

You won’t have to look far

Lead with your spirit and follow

Follow

Follow your scar

 

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