I let my kids examine my naked body yesterday.
I was getting ready to take a shower, and with three girls in the house, you're bound to have an audience.
My middle daughter noted the marks across my belly as she settled from jumping about on my bed.
"What's that, Mom?" she asked, pointing to the four-inch long indent that suspends the right side of my abdomen.
"That was from a surgery, Honey."
"Because some of my organs didn't want to be in my body anymore, so I had to have surgery to get them out."
I sighed. "Several, Honey."
She kept her eyes locked on mine, patient and silent. The muscles around her eyes quivered, then contracted and released.
"Well, the first one was the appendix. That was this one right here." I pointed to the suspended scar.
"What are all these?" my oldest asked, dragging her finger across the white and deep pink raised marks lining my lower gut.
"Those are from having children."
Her brow furrowed dramatically. "Ugh. I don't think I want children."
"Thanks, Honey." I laughed.
"Mommy," the middle daughter asked: "What's wrong with your belly button?"
"Yeah," the oldest said. "Why does it look like a funky pancake?"
"Oh, thank you, Sweetheart," I chuckled. "Your sensitivity is so nice to have present."
Why I'm still sarcastic with children is beyond me.
"Well," I began, "I've had a lot of surgeries. Lots of doctors like to use robots now to help them with surgery. And most of the time they like to go in through the belly button and here, here, and here," I said pointing to each scar spanning North, East, and West of my belly button.
"That's so cool," the oldest said. "I want to see the robots."
"I'd rather not." I laughed.
"All right, girls, I'm going to take a shower now, okay?"
"Wait!" the middle one poked her small, slim finger into my belly button. "Why does it look like that?"
"Like a 'funky pancake'?"
"Well, remember when I used to exercise on the mat in the living room?"
"After all the surgeries and the doctors going through my belly button to take the organs that were hurting me, I was exercising and..." I paused.
How do you explain to a child that your stomach basically exploded. And that's the last time you ever intentionally exercised..?
"Well, we all have skin which is the biggest organ on our bodies. Right under the skin are tissues that keep all the organs and blood vessels and bones and everything that keep your body alive and moving inside your body."
Pausing again, the middle was entranced by the words, but the oldest was beginning to drift into thought over the next thing she wanted to say.
"The tissues that keep the organs snug and in place behind the skin broke apart because of all the surgeries and having kids, exercising, and so on, and some of my organs started to poke through. Does that make sense?"
The oldest's eyes widened. "Eww."
"So now I have a big mesh thing in my stomach to hold everything back. That's why my belly button looks like a pancake."
"I love you, Mom," the oldest said.
"I love you too, Honey." She left the bedroom.
The middle one traced her finger across my scars and looked up at me. "I want to be a mom one day," she said. "I want to be a mom when I get big like you."
"I love you, Sweetie."
"I love you, too, Mommy."
'How's your business going?'
'Fine.' I hate it.
My fingers are crossed, but I'm not sure if that's enough anymore.
They always end up letting you down.
It always happens in droves.
She caught me with the knife when I was sixteen, maybe seventeen.
There's no winning with blame.
Every time I think I'm getting better at this whole life thing, I do something wrong and set it back.
I like getting older.
There's something about with age and experience comes wisdom that's exhilarating.
I'll see this one through, I tell myself. I'll finish it.
After this, I'll put it to bed. After this, I'll move forward.
Something I learned as a visual artist and writer is that some of the best healing comes from expression.
There's something surreal about standing in front of a crowd of strangers—writers who all want the same thing.
At the end of the Writers In Paradise sessions, everyone got a chance to present a refined version of their submitted work, or a new story they were working on.
I was the only teenager at Writers in Paradise with Dennis Lehane, Sterling Watson and other well-known authors back in 2006.