i got a tattoo (my first. only?) last week
and though i did not expect it
the experience changed me
all the fear of needles
all the fear of blood throughout my life
the fainting at doctor's offices, passing out during violent movies
(i still have not seen the needle to the heart scene in Pulp Fiction without hands covering my eyes)
all the fear of judgement
the concern about what others think of me (the tattoo placed in just the spot where i may be possibly-judged daily so I can learn to let it go)
i embraced that fear and i owned it, if only for a day
the day of the first tattoo
and what the poem, its title now inked, means to me
its title and its rally cry now permanently part of me
what it means to me in terms of living
in terms of making this life mean something
in terms of standing up for myself
for those who are not given the same freedoms i enjoy
in terms of shedding all the judgement from my mother
all the fear she instilled in me
in terms of celebrating all those i've lost in my life
the examples they set for me of a better way to live, unencumbered by fear
where it happened also mattered
though i had planned to get the tattoo weeks later in another city entirely
oh the power of place
the power of place as character in my life
getting the tattoo at that shop, in that place, and all the memories tied up for me in san diego
the shedding of what i once was, finally, becoming someone i truly am and not being afraid of someone not liking it, no longer afraid of someone deeming me somehow not enough (or too much)
it felt like the best kind of fuck you
it felt like the best kind of here i am
it felt like the best kind of "it's okay to be happy after everything you've been through"
it felt like the years of not rocking the boat, of avoiding confrontation, of holding together a family of alcoholics had come to an end
it felt like home
and joe, the artist who would mark me
and his galway accent and all we discussed within moments of meeting each other
all the connections to Ireland, to the bar I met my husband in, to the long lost Irish belonging I felt moments off the plane in Dublin
and the solar eclipse, so auspicious on the day of our meeting, of his suggestion, only hours into knowing me, that i might be someone who'd over-think their tattoo and mind-fake themselves into not getting it (oh, really? you don't say...)
appointment for late june cancelled
appointment for two days later noted in the books
joe would mark me on a tuesday
watching that first line of the h
feeling it burn my skin
watching the curve of the s, the arc of the a
then all that excitement and all that fear and all that adrenaline crashing down
upon me, around me, inside me
dizzy a bit
i had to look away
i had planned to go in there and be a champ
for everyone in the room
that's how i saw it going down in my mind
but i faltered
i was not a champ, but i had wanted to be
and i was there, in that chair
and it was happening
and i had made it happen
there was an inevitability to it that was beautiful
and wasn't that something?
the way he distracted me during the tense moments
reminding me to breathe
asked me about a conversation my brother and i had two days before
during my brother's tattoo
joe was the old lady you don't think is listening, but he is oh he is
he remembered about the wine. i was touched.
had i finally told my brother which bottle it was i forgot to bring?
and what did my brother think of that, joe asked.
i looked at my brother.
he said it was an amazing bottle i'd left behind. he was sad we could not drink it.
(the 2001 Chateau d'Yquem awaits)
i know, i said. but at least it exists in this world.
and joe repeated it with a laugh and a smile.
at least it exists in this world.
and we were all there in the moment of my undoing and remaking
we were there to witness it together and each of them in the room had a sense of how big it was for me
they had an idea
but they could not possibly have known how big
i didn't even know until the drilling stopped
until i felt that swipe of the glove and the vaseline applied (that i had seen so many times on my friend's tattoos or on any reality tattoo show, you pick) and i realized the tattoo - and the experience of getting my first - was over.
and i was exhilarated and proud of myself.
i had not wanted this moment of personal triumph to be over so soon.
i wanted to luxuriate in it. extend it.
i asked questions. too many.
about tattoo care.
about the next time.
didn't want it to end.
didn't want to break the spell.
he said he was honored to be the first to mark me.
i, as an open wound (literally), took that in and owned it. instead of the usual inner voice that would say "ah, he says that to everyone", i just took it. believed it.
was honored right back.
out on the street, the sun shining, we're in search of a guinness
in search of a way to celebrate
to seal the deal that was already permanently ink-sealed
to celebrate that i had done it
to celebrate that my brother could not believe it
to celebrate all that had come before in san diego
to celebrate and honor all that i was leaving behind, shedding, saying goodbye to
so as to make room for all that lies ahead
and we drank
and we toasted
to san diego
to fucked up families
to all that lies ahead
it's been a week since i got my tattoo
i don't want this spell to end
this experience - this minor tattoo - holds more in it for me than any gift of any monetary value i could give myself
the gift? permission
to be me, unapologetically
to be imperfect
to be vulnerable
to accept i deserve happiness on my own terms
to know those terms will change and to be fine with it
i'm emboldened now in ways i never had been before
don't like me? fine
don't like this permanent mark on my wrist? also fine
getting to "fine"
getting to "take me as i am and all i'm trying to become"
may sound simple to you, though it is everything to me
i have finally become, in part, the person i'd hoped i would be
this mark on my body may seem like a cliche to you
or misguided or something to future-regret
to me, it ushers in an entirely new era of possibilities
if i can do this thing i never thought i'd be brave enough to do
what else will i accomplish with my newly found nerve?