One summer when I was a kid, while staying a week with my cousins, I skinned my knee in such a hideous way that I could not even bear to look at it. My aunt Helen took me into the kitchen, propped me up on a counter, and began to care for the wound. Although I was in horrible pain, her care healed a place in me that I did not even know was hurting. With her gentle gesture of compassion, she touched a place far below the skin that was thirsty for just this type of love and attention. She applied a thick cooling salve and then the largest Band-Aid I had ever seen. My aunt was a nurse and Band-Aids were her business. In our home when a wound arrived, we were pretty much on our own. It was “brush it off and move along” or for severe cases there was always rolled up toilet tissue held under the faucet. Nothing wrong with these rustic modes of healing, it was all I had known and it worked pretty well.
But under the careful care of my aunt Helen I learned many lessons from the over-sized Band-Aid. First off, I loved it. I did not know you could love a Band-Aid, but I did. I loved how it looked. I loved the way it felt. I loved the care it represented.
But all good things must end. The day came when the Band-Aid was no longer my friend. It had grown uglier then the wound itself, with dirt and lint and sand and it was time to pull it off. Again my aunt was there. She sat by me as I slowly peeled the edges from my skin, each attempt bringing a way of pain and fear.
“You just have to rip it off fast,” she said gently, “It will be less painful.” “I can’t,” I admitted. “Come here,” she said. And as I moved to her side she reached down with one clean and powerful gesture, she separated me from the Band-Aid. It was quick and painful and then it was done. I felt sideswiped, “Where had that kind and gentle care gone?” Tears welled up in my eyes as we both looked down at the scabbed mess of my knee. “Now it needs air and sunlight,” she said. “Now the real healing begins.” I looked up at her. No more Band-Aid? But it was so cool and it was working so well! “No,” she said. “No more Band-Aid, it needs sunlight and air. Exposure to the elements will work miracles.” I looked at her confused. Exposure seemed so wrong.
Last night in class a woman shared about an experience in her youth that had been extremely wounding, but she no longer wore her Band-Aid about it. She stood up and exposed the wound to the whole class and what happened was amazing. There were tears, and nodding of heads and an outpouring of appreciation for her. In her vulnerability she ripped the ugly Band-Aid from our skin and in her strength she informed us that it would be OK, that we could handle it.
We will still get hurt, we still acquire wounds, we will need Band-Aids to protect and cover our tender vulnerabilities. But the protection has an expiration date. Eventually to fully heal, we need to rip off the Band-Aid and trust the “elements” to assist the healing.
This exposure not only heals the one who is inflicted, but the exposure of the wound strengthen our compassion and gives the rest of us the courage to rip our own “Band-Aids” off as well.
How old are your Band-Aids? Is it time for you to expose your wounds and accept help from the elements? There are 12-step programs, practitioners, and beautiful aunts waiting to assist you. When the Band-Aids work is done, a little exposure to the elements can work miracles.
Copyright © 2013 Maureen Muldoon , All rights reserved.