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Chosen Scars

My ears are pierced three times, one in my left and two in my right. These are the only way my body is modified where it was my choice. However, eight years ago, I was in an accident where I was pinned between two cars. I broke my pelvis, tibia, and femur in my left leg. As a result, I have scars going down the side of my leg, a scar on my side, puncture wounds by both of my knees, and a scar on my right temple. My body was transformed, but I did not have a choice in this.

In the fall of 2004, I started a graduate program in visual studies in Rochester, NY and began exploring the idea of choosing your own scars. Through research, I learned about cultures in Africa where scarification is a way of life and the more scars you have, the more beautiful you are. An idea of taping a scarification procedure grew into a documentary I am continuing to work on and add to, and also introduced me to the CNY Suspension Team. I was invited to see a suspension gathering by them while searching for scarification. That night allowed me to meet a wonderful, knowledgeable group of people and has been a main part of my project to this point.

While working on this piece, learning more about these practices, and getting to know some professionals in these fields, I started thinking about getting something done, particularly doing a suspension. Something to symbolize a new start for me, and that would not symbolize a time in my life I rather not remember. I did not want to experience more physical pain, but I wanted scars that were my choice and in order to do this I knew there would have to be some pain. I was hoping that the outcome from suspending would transcend the pain and instead of traumatic memories that are associated with the scars I have from my accident, I would have good, happy memories of my experience.

So, on October 24, 2005, I planned to suspend. I was going to do the suicide suspension, with four hooks in the back. I was on edge all day, a nervous wreck...I wanted to do this so badly, but I also had doubts in myself if I could even go through with it. I had one of my friends tape my suspension...just because. I still do not know what I will do with the footage, but I am glad I have it, if only for me to realize that I actually did it. Having the process done to myself made me almost forget the details of what would happen. The hooks being put in, was the most painful part of the process, but was not as bad as I thought it was going to be. I first started with pulling and stretching it out...I was confused when the constant tug on my back would not go away, it was not necessarily painful, but a new and unusual feeling...I felt like I was in a dream. Sarah was talking to me, trying to take my mind off of the situation, while we walked back and forth. I did not realize, at first, that the rope was being pulled little by little...and then I was up for a couple of seconds. It was too much. I was thinking too much about the hooks in my back. There was one that gave me a little problem, my left outside. It was not so much pain, maybe a little, but I knew it was there. I could feel it. I forgot about the others, they became part of my back. But I did not want a few seconds to be it; I wanted to/needed to try again. And when I did, I got up but couldn't stay. I tried again, pulling, stretching out at first, and then Dan had me try to pull myself up. That was it, maybe I needed to feel I had some control over the situation, besides the fact that it was my choice...I made the choice to do this, no one else, but this was about pushing myself and I would not give up easily. Watching the video, I look like I am praying while I try to pull myself up...I can't remember what exactly I was thinking at that moment. But I do remember, it was too much, too intense, but I refused not to try...give me strength I thought...who was I asking it from? I don't know, maybe myself. And then I stopped, handed over the rope to Noah and said, "I can't pull myself up, but I'm ready."

Next is unclear in my head, this is where I'm really glad I have the video. I think if I didn't, I would have thought I dreamt it. I got up and I instinctively reached for my prayer wheel on my chain around my neck. I forgot I had worn it until that point...but I had worn it on purpose. I knew I would need strength. With my right hand, I held it, spun the wheel, and silently asked for strength. Dan took my other hand, lightly, barely touching it, and gently moved me...side to side, almost rocking me. I was not there. I was physically...but mentally and emotionally; I don't know where I was. I felt my body go limp...like I was melting. I wanted to speak, to say I can swing on my own, and that, you don't need to hold my hand, I'll swing myself. But I could not speak and I feel that if Dan was not rocking me back and forth, I would not have moved. I thought it was only 30 seconds or so, but watching the video, I found out it was about 4 minutes.

When I finally was up, it (suspending) was not painful, it was relaxing, and I feel that every part of my body was at rest. After a few minutes, I looked up and the spell was broken. I came down. When my feet touched the ground, I was told I did amazing, but I did not realize how much I did, how long I was up and I was in such a daze I could not even ask these questions, so I wanted to try again...I wanted to be free, have fun, remember being up, swing around like people I videotaped did. And I tried again, but I could not even make it up this time, my back was too sore at that point.

At the end of the night, I was a little disappointed in myself. I do not know why, I should not be, the fact that I went to do this, is more than what some people do, but I always think I don't do enough, no matter what it is. I was told I should not have expectations going into suspending, and then I would not be disappointed. I did not think I did, but I think deep down I wanted to be changed in ways that were impossible and I wanted it to be like the one's I documented, where they are so happy and free...maybe I thought it would be like a magic pill that somehow gave me more confidence, that would release me from problems in my life, make me more outspoken...I know suspending has changed me, not in such a dramatic way, but the fact that I actually did it, is a wonderful feeling. At first I did not see it like this, but thinking about it and watching my video, I saw that I did more than I realized and now I have these 8 tiny marks on my back, that will fade in time, but they were my choice. I like just knowing they are there, I don't have to see them. Sometimes I put my hand behind me, and touch my back, move my hand over my skin and feel where a hook was put in...though now it is getting harder and harder to know exactly where they are, but I know they are there. It has been a few months since I suspended, I think it has taken me this long to really understand what I did and gather my thoughts about that night. I did not think I would want to do suspension again after trying it, I thought once would be enough...but it's not. I will do it again.

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submitted by: Anonymous
on: 18 Jan. 2006
in Ritual

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Artist: CNY+Suspension+Team
Studio: Extreme+Graphix
Location: Geneva%2C+NY

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