Sunday, April 14, 2013

Saving my own skin

I came back from Puerto Rico sunburned beyond recognition. It was that serious. I am still questioning the quality of the sunscreen lotion I used, but I know I am guilty of not using an umbrella while walking in Old San Juan, and wearing a dress that left my shoulders and back bare. Debbie warned me against both, holding on to her umbrella in the process and fixing her long sleeved dress. I did not take her seriously. This was last Monday.

By Tuesday morning, I woke up with at least two of the many symptoms of an inflammatory response, rubor (redness) and dolor (pain). My skin felt hot, and I was in acute pain. My clothes hurt me, and so did the strap of my bag as well as the sealbelt of the car. Back home, I applied everything I could find- lacto calamine lotion, aloe vera gel, cucumber slices. I took a day off work in fear of aggravating it further, can’t really show up for work dressed like Tarzan and Jane. I had never suffered from anything like this before.

The pain somewhat subsided eventually. While backpacking Europe a few summers ago, I had developed a deep, dark tan that has lightened up in a few weeks. I thought this is what would happen. But this morning, something strange happened. The dry skin on my shoulders started to peel off, slowly, but surely, revealing new, light, fresh, pinkish skin beneath. Now I am aware of the workings of the body, the biological mechanisms by which new skin replaces dead old skin, but given the way a huge area had burned off, this seemed like a miracle to me. The new skin looks like grafted skin. So I took some time and let myself be amazed at the fact that the body exactly knows where to repair, how to repair, and does it even on a weekend.

Bodily healing is not any different from the way emotional healing occurs. There is no escaping the pain, but once we live through the pain and embrace it, healing is bound to happen, peeling off layers of conditioning, ideologies about right and wrong, and teaching us to look at things in new ways without judgment. Perhaps this is how we evolve and become more mature with time.

As I thought of all this, I looked outside the window. Spring is here, and the tree right outside my room is sprouting new, baby green leaves. It is getting warmer, I hear the chirping of birds all the more, the daffodils and the tulips outside are in bloom, and it seems like the world is done hibernating and is ready to spring back to life again. I am definitely excited about summer.


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