I flipped the switch on the Vitamix with my right hand and immediately started screaming. I was making butternut squash soup and the recipe called for a quick blending the warmed liquid before serving. Something went terribly awry and the steaming chunks of winter squash went flying across the kitchen.
Before I could even process what had happened, my boyfriend was wiping blistering-hot baby food off my face and arms. My left hand was throbbing, my right eye was swollen shut and I began sobbing because it was 7 pm and our dinner was plastered to the faded brown cabinets.
My boyfriend held me close and reassured me that I was okay. He made some Monty Python joke about losing a hand and insisted I would laugh about it tomorrow. I cried even harder, completely unconvinced. He cleaned up the kitchen before I had a chance to assess the mess and determine whether the incident had been a mechanical failure or human error.
I typically fall into the 99th percentile when it comes to self-deprecating humor. I am the butt of nearly every one of my jokes, but this event happened over a week ago and I still can’t bring myself to laugh. I have mild first-degree burns on my face and hands, along with several, larger second-degree burns across my chest and arms–the mark of the vegetable.
If I wear shirts exposing the wounds, people ask questions I’m not ready to answer. If I cover them up, the pus forms a glue between flesh and fabric, leading to a painful disrobing at the end of each day. Neither option alleviates the dull and constant throbbing. The raw scars scattered across my body serve as a badge of dishonor, a tangible reminder that I’m not quite okay.
I know that one day I’ll tell this story with fondness and glee. “Of that? The flying soup monster got me!” But right now, the story doesn’t feel lighthearted and humorous. Rather, it carries the weight of incompetence, the burden of merely being. While my boyfriend dotes, parents offer support and doctors run more promising tests, I can’t help but notice the inefficiencies. My brain, liver, legs, ovaries and adrenals are all struggling tremendously. And my loved ones are, often literally, standing around to help prop me up.
Every time I look in the mirror and see the blistering red continents spread out across the pale ocean of my chest, I try to joke with myself–I try so hard to laugh. The gradient shades, ranging from guillotine red to baby pink, mirror a topographic map. Right over my heart is branded an image depicting my highest peaks and deepest valleys.
Last night, my boyfriend chopped off what felt like huge chucks of my hair to send in for analysis. Preliminary testing strongly suggests I have heavy metal poisoning. While I don’t yet know what the validation or detoxification processes will entail, I feel hopeful that soon I’ll be able to recognize these scars as the beginning of the end.
While I’m not yet laughing about the second-degree burns sprawling across my chest, I am beginning to understand that, just maybe, pain is the prerequisite to radical recovery. Whatever is going on within my body is creating space–cavernous crannies in which I have the opportunity to plant flowers. Will I choose to nurture the depleted soil? Will I exercise patience until small shoots eventually begin to emerge from the soil?
I hope that the answer is yes. My hope is that, one day, I’ll be able to look back on this fiasco and laugh, recognizing it as just one more small hill on the journey of life–a small hill that offered a new perspective and, ultimately, shifted the trajectory of life.