[Disclaimer: The essay below is in no way meant to show disrespect for individuals with physical anomalies. It simply describes my own tendency to initially focus on the negative until I remind myself how inconsequential that perceived negative truly is.]
My husband recently had a spot on his ear diagnosed as basal cell carcinoma, and he underwent a procedure to have the malignant tissue removed. The dermatologist cut out the lesion, tested it, came back and removed more tissue, tested that, and then came back to remove even more. That last removal, fortunately, got rid of all the cancerous cells. It also left a quarter-size hole through the upper portion of the ear, creating the need for reconstruction. That involved a cartilage graft and a skin graft over the course of two separate surgeries. Considering the extent of the work that was done, the surgeon produced a great result. Hopefully, no one – my husband included – will dwell on the fact that his ears are no longer an exact match.
Witnessing all of that not only brought home the importance of regular skin cancer screenings, but it made me super aware of ears in general. I mean, have you ever paid attention to ears? They’re sort of weird. Or weird looking, anyway.
Don’t get me wrong…I have great respect for the function of ears. But I wonder, why do they have to look the way they do? I have a vague recollection of a school assignment – it might’ve been for middle school health class – in which we had to draw a diagram of the ear. It involved canals and stirrups and all sorts of whatnot. While I clearly don’t remember the specifics, it seems the ear is strategically designed to bring in sounds that reverberate and help us hear. Without a doubt, an ear’s shape is very important, hence the reason for its appearance. So, in thinking that through, I guess I pretty much answered my own question.
My newfound interest in ears has nothing to do with hearing, though. I just seem to notice them more now than I ever did before…like the other day when I was binge-watching a week’s worth of my soap.
Unrelated Side Note: Have you ever noticed that the majority of actors on soap operas are ridiculously good-looking, appear to be super fit and have flawless complexions? It begs the question, are those characteristics prerequisites for the job?
Anyway, I was watching an episode in which this drop-dead gorgeous woman’s silky black hair was slicked back into a perfect ponytail. Much like her skin, it was flawless. She was super deep in a serious conversation, but I was distracted from whatever earthshaking dialogue was taking place because all I could focus on were her ears. With her hair pulled back the way it was, the ears of this model-perfect specimen reminded me of Alfred E. Neuman. Physically, she’s an absolute beauty, but it was the wingspan of her ears that caught my attention that day.
Initially, I found the whole thing a little off-putting. It was like those ears didn’t belong on that woman. But the more I looked at them, and then looked at her as a whole, the more I realized her protruding ears didn’t seem so out of place after all. Before I knew it, I’d forgotten the distraction, I was back in the dramatic groove of the moment, and nobody’s ears ever became the topic of discussion. Nor should they. They were just…you know…ears. We all have them.
So, you might ask, what does all that have to do with anything? Well, for me at least, it’s a reminder that dwelling on a few imperfections has no place in a well-lived life. Not one among us is physically perfect, nor can we be, so perfection should never be the goal. Striving for perfection is a fool’s game, and my mama didn’t raise any fools.
I have, though – for most of my life – suffered from a severe lack of respect for my physical self. The mirror has always felt more like an enemy than a friend and rising above my brain’s negative chatter is a daily struggle. But it’s a fight worth fighting and, on some days, I can almost convince myself I’ve come out the victor.
While it’s not easy to look past our flaws, when we manage to do it, we find out we’re just like everyone else. We’re not the crooked nose, or the overbite, or the Dumbo ears. We’re not the round tummy, the crepey skin, or the big feet. We’re the sum of our parts and, in the end, they all work together beautifully in our favor. We might not always see it in ourselves, but our family and friends do. The trick is to learn to view ourselves as lovingly as they view us (and as we view them).
And, as far as ears go, I’ve decided it’s a good thing they’re shaped the way they are. Otherwise, we’d have to find some other place to dangle our earrings, and that’s a challenge I don’t think any of us wants to take on.