I have just enjoyed a big week of celebration. Every few years my siblings and I get together with our partners, and this time was extra-special, as we celebrated the 60 years since our parents and we started our life in Australia.
Some of our Dutch cousins joined us for this occasion. So on April 30 we marked the Dutch Queen’s Birthday holiday with typical Aussie touches: we had a delightful dinner at the Noosa Beach backpackers’ hostel, where some very switched-on guests wished us a “happy Queen’s birthday” when they recognised that each of our group of 12 was wearing something orange; the young English-tourist-receptionist and the Aussie cook added to the fun by having grated carrot enhance every plate and a sachet of orange jam embellish every dessert! (If you don’t get the point, orange is the Dutch national colour because the Netherlands’ royal family are descendants of the “House of Orange-Nassau” – which has played a significant role in the political development of Europe over at least five centuries.)
So Oz gave us its best that evening. As if this wasn’t enough, we were able to rent a very roomy and agreeable waterfront house just three minutes’ walk from Noosa’s boutique shops and restaurants and five minutes from an idyllic ocean beach sheltered from unwelcome southerly winds by a headland national park. After a day of rain, the mid-autumn sun returned to give us ideal weather for walking, swimming and easy outdoor evenings by the pool.
Another bonus: Queenslanders were enjoying a long weekend. Coming straight after the Easter break, our Dutch cousins wondered whether Australia ever works. So the beach was comfortably busy, the swimmers, body-surfers and surfboarders were out in numbers, and everybody else was slopping on the UV protection and soaking up a friendly sun in readiness for winter.
I noticed that it’s a somewhat select company that enjoys Australia’s beaches: Noosa’s appeal was obviously for the young and the sleek! What a joy to mingle and enjoy myself with people of all ages whose bodies present so well – and I write that without any sexual connotations. To me that beach crowd was as much part of what God intended and gave for our enjoyment as the beautiful location, the celebratory meal, the goodness of family time the waterbirds and the flowering bougainvillea.
Regular readers of my blogs will recall that I love the beach and the sea, but that for too much of my life I could enjoy these only together with the anxiety of “covering-up”. Such was the shame I felt because of the realtively small but prominent scarring left by my infant surgery for pyloric stenosis that from an early age until recent years I kept my shirt on or my arms folded whenever I was at a beach. The deep and mysterious effects of the trauma of that operation at 10 days in 1945 left a deep emotional mark on my parents and me, and the result was that until I worked to overcome this issue, “flight” rather than “fight” was the only way I could deal with feeling horribly exposed at the beach.
Total healing rarely happens after trauma, but my feeling of both liberation and freedom at the beach continually assures me that my healing has reached a high degree.
Here are some reminders I have picked up from the internet that express the kind of discoveries and feelings I have now –
- Scars are like tattoos – but with better stories.
- Scars show that you are a survivor.
- Scars are souvenirs you never lose.
- The scar on your belly will never define you. (Casey McDonald)
- If God had meant for today to be perfect, he wouldn’t have invented tomorrow.
- Beauty has many faces. Our most important one is within us and it’s much more under our control than our body’s stories. Our scars may disqualify us from a modeling career, but they will never define us. I am a survivor with a story.
- I do not regret the times when I suffered [and carry] my scars as if they were medals. I know that freedom has a high price, as high as that of slavery. The only difference is that you pay with pleasure, and with a smile – even when that smile is wet with tears. ( Paulo Coelho)
- The scar is a dash on my belly — always reminding me of whom I love in this world the most. To read a line on one’s palm is to know the future. To read a line on one’s body is to know the past. (Jimmy Chen)