Up until yesterday, I thought that life as I knew it might never be the same. I brought it on myself. I’ve even paid nearly $200 for it. But yesterday I was really concerned. You see, I was brought up within 200 yards of a beach in a time when no one knew that being in a lot of sunshine was bad for you. We all laid out in it and tried to get tan, and there was always the first burn of the season we needed to toughen up our skin. Wrong!
Being fair skinned, I’ve paid the price by having actinic keratoses periodically frozen (feels like burning) off of my face. Actinic keratoses are rough flaky things that are potentially precancerous and it’s best to have them removed. But this time it was recommended by my medical consultant that I try Fluorouracil. It’s a topical cream that is spread all over the face and attacks those keratoses, but only those keratoses. The rest of the skin is untouched … sort of.
My brother had just used it. He sent me a picture of his face while using it. It looked like hamburger. But he likes his results now. OK. It couldn’t be that bad for me. He was a red head and had actually spent more time in the sun than I and had less upkeep done. I had a small window of time between a long-term substitute teacher job and a trip to the Mainland that I figured would work.
The first few days were a breeze, no symptom. I thought I might have been right. But on the fifth day, it looked like I had a light case of measles. By the eighth I had to wear makeup to go out, and by the 10th, makeup wouldn’t work over the crusted patches.
It burned badly. When I’d get emails or read “Feel the Bern,” I’d groan, and I like a lot of what Bernie Sanders has to say. It itched. I wanted to scratch it, but was afraid of risking infection.
I had to get out sometimes and my normally outgoing personality morphed into the person who looked the other direction when people walked by. I chose dark or black clothes when I went out, and wore a baseball cap low on my forehead and sunglasses as if trying to hide. I was afraid I’d scare people and I was right. Most people would double take when they saw me. At least two opened their eyes in fright. It wasn’t me they were seeing, just my “special” skin.
I have spent a great percentage of my life working with “special needs” children, whether they were born with different genetics, were damaged by others, or made their own bad choices. I’ve loved them all, and have always wanted them to know that I didn’t “see” their disabilities. I saw their bright souls, created equal with everyone else’s.
Now I was on the other side of that. I had the experience of people being appalled for no reason at all. I was still loving and witty. I wasn’t contagious. But I did look bad. I mean the way the UNICEF ads portrayed children with diseases in the 50s. Scary bad.
I did go to classes and homes where the people knew me and I’d just say, “I’m not contagious, just undergoing a skin treatment.” Amazingly when I showed up to babysit my grandkids, they didn’t seem to notice, and when I made a comment to my daughter about how bad it felt and how I was beginning to worry that I might end up scarred, she just said, “Oh Mom, I really didn’t notice.” That’s seeing beyond. She saw me, felt me.
I stopped the applications after two weeks, as directed, and returned for the doc to make a check, and to see if I needed to continue applications, but I’d decided that I wasn’t going to apply any more. I confess. In my mind I was projecting my anger and concern about the effects of the medicine onto her. Had she ever tried this? Did she know what it felt like? Was I going to be scarred for life?
She walked into the room, and smiled. Smiled! “Well it’s done its job now. You can stop.” Right! “Now I’m going to prescribe a special ointment that will cause the topical burning and itching to stop while the medicine continues its work beneath the skin. It’ll be about 10 days to two weeks before it back to a more normal state.”
I asked her if she’d ever tried this.
“Oh yes, 20 years ago. I’d had about eight actinic keratoses burned off, and then used this. I haven’t had any more burned off since. And you’ll thank me. The skin that will grow back will have fewer wrinkles.”
She had amazingly beautiful skin.
She was seeing beyond the crusty red hamburger dotted face. She was seeing me with healthy lovely skin. I’ve had to get out a few times, since, but I’ve decided to be me. I’m wearing turquoise again. And my face looks worse because the ointment has a petroleum jelly base, and is greasy. But I’m reaching out, smiling and people smile back, and chat, relating to the friendliness and not the face.
My favorite experience was with a bank teller at the Bank of Hawaii at the Lihue Safeway. She helped me with my transaction and smiled, right into my eyes. She saw me. I believe I felt her love for me. Thank you! I hoped that the wonderful folks I’ve worked with saw me smile and love them.
I think seeing beyond is what religions try to teach when they teach us to forgive. Jesus tried teaching his followers that they were gods, and sons of the Most High, but they couldn’t see past their own thinking. To see oneself as a God, one needs God’s help, and also must be able to see others as gods as well. It’s not our egos that are gods, but that loving soul or source of life, light, joy, love and peace within.
Jesus saw beyond. When He was on the cross, He saw beyond his mockers’ appearances. He remembered their holiness when they couldn’t remember for themselves, and He let God know He remembered. “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
Maybe this week a grievance, or grudge will reveal itself to you to be something that you are tired of carrying. Put that cross down, and see beyond the appearances. Some day that very person you have a grudge against will be a grown up Holy Child of God. So will you. The more you can see it in others, the easier it is to see it in yourself.
Happy holidays to you, and let’s all try to see beyond the lowly body and frazzled minds that make mistakes into the beautiful depth of spirit that we all are. We can start with ourselves and you don’t have to feel the burn to do it! Wear sunscreen!
Hale ‘Opio Kauai convened a support group of adults in our Kauai community to “step into the corner” for our teens, to answer questions and give support to youth and their families on a wide variety of issues. Please email your questions or concerns facing our youth and families today to Annaleah Atkinson at firstname.lastname@example.org For more information about Hale ‘Opio Kauai, please go to www.haleopio.org