Most people don’t know this but…
I’ve been stung by a jellyfish.
I was just looking myself over in the mirror, as one does from time to time (squeezing spots, checking if my moustache has re-grown, etc.) and the light fell in such a way across my shoulder that it highlighted my tiny scar. I had three torturous strips but sadly I don’t have a striking three-striped scar to flaunt in the summer months.
I never even saw the perpetrator…. Translucent beast. Apparently they were teeny little sprogs my Dad casually batted away with his hand. Why was I oblivious to the danger floating on the surface of the deep? I was probably too busy worrying about what was deeper down in the deep…
Here’s the story:
I was 14. We were on a family holiday in Ibiza. Unconventional family destination, you might say. We were in the most beautiful villa out in the sticks, away from all the clubs and 18-30 depravity. My strongest memory was bickering constantly with my siblings. Aged 16, 14 and eleven, we were. A volatile combination. My brother was the youngest and most often the target. Naturally, we felt it was OK – nay, enjoyed by all – if we pulled down his trunks by the pool and then ran off. However, when he returned the favour it was completely and unspeakably inappropriate, to say the least.
For some reason, my parents didn’t find our antics relaxing.
Anyway, we went to this gorgeous little beach and I was rather enjoying myself lounging on a sun bed, taking the occasional dip, when a shadow appeared over me. It was Dad.
Let’s go snorkelling, Jen!
No, Dad. Just, no.
Oh, come on!!
No. I don’t like to know what’s swimming beneath me, Dad. Why do you? Please explain.
I really don’t want to.
(My Dad didn’t give up easy when it came to us experiencing things)
Besides, I did spend every Tuesday evening for six months of my middle-school existence going to ‘Snorkelling Club’ at a local pool. That was alright though because there were no fish. I figured I needed to make having my head held under water whilst I tried to breathe through a snorkel a worthwhile experience (not just the stuff of sweaty nightmares).
I grabbed the gear and followed him down the beach to the water. I can’t even remember what I saw but I know that I know that I know –
It wasn’t worth it.
We were floating along, holding hands, when I felt the sting on my shoulder. I shot upright and Dad came up too.
Something stung me!
It’s just the salt water, it stings a bit.
At that moment I felt a less intense sting on my upper arm and became slightly frantic. I bolted for the shore as fast as my flippers could flip. It was rather unfortunate that the pain had removed access to my rational brain because I drew rather a lot of attention trying to move across the sand, hysterically crying, whilst still wearing the flippers.
It hurt, a lot. The rumours are true. For an introvert, I was surprisingly content with being stared out by the patrons of the beach cafe not too far from us as I bawled my eyes out. I’m not sure I was that expressive in labour.
Just in case you were wondering, no one urinated on me. We used western medicine in the form of antihistamine cream. Or something for stings. You know, wasp stings… nettle stings. I don’t think it was cut out for JELLYFISH stings.
So, this is where I say I shouldn’t have ‘given in’. I should have stuck to my guns and not done something I really didn’t want to do. Well, maybe. Sometimes in life you take a punt. This one went awfully wide. Yet you don’t know you won’t enjoy it unless you try it and sometimes it’s ok to make someone else happy at your own expense.
What strikes me most about this event is my sense of pride over my scar and my story. You can bank on it that in a room of about a dozen people in my little town on the south coast of England where the most offensive thing in the sea is seaweed, no one else will have been stung by a jelly duuuude.
There is something fascinating about ‘war wounds’. They are impressive and, at times, awe-inspiring. Wow, you really went through that and you’re still here? Your body put itself back together? Incredible. Some scars can even become a thing of beauty.
Here’s the thing though, what has hurt me the most has left scars on the inside.
It’s hard to see those. What you might see is my anger. What you might see is anxiety or depression. They aren’t all that impressive or awe-inspiring. My body can heal itself, perhaps with a little help. But my heart needs love, empathy and connection to heal in a way that leaves the smallest scar.
Perhaps, next time you’re hit with someone’s anger, blame or rejection, consider what scars they have that you can’t see.
I know I need to learn to have pride in my scars and in my story – instead of shame.
Perhaps you do, too.