image by Thomas Kelly
Mid-life crises are so cliche. Men buy cars. Women run off with the UPS guy. I want a tattoo. And not because I am having a mid-life crisis, though I may be, but because I finished a novel. A huge milestone all by itself, but the idea for this tattoo came from my protagonist. A 14ish year old girl who discovers she carries an ancient truth in her flesh. Mysterious markings, very much like tattoos but impermanent, appear and disappear until the climax of the story when all the puzzle pieces begin to fall into place.
Okay. So what? Why does the author need to go and get inky all of the sudden?
I posed the question on my facebook wall and the overwhelming response was NO! “Are you serious?” or “This will pass.” Or, “If you have to ask, you don’t have any business getting a tattoo.”
Of course, the strong sentiments made me even more curious. Both about my own sudden interest and the emphatic points of view. So I did what I do, and started asking more questions of those in the know and digging up some history on tattoos. And like everything with this novel I’ve written, art imitates life. Tattoos are older than recorded history. I remember on my visit to Urumchi, China a few years back, we saw the Lou Lan Beauty and other Taklamakan mummies from the deserts of NW China. Several of them had tattoos. I wondered what they meant. What did they signify? If we understood tattoos, we could understand these people.
What are tattoos?
The generally accepted definition is as symbolic, subjective art. A friend of mine did her thesis on the history and art of tattoos and told me that they used to tell the person’s story, or the story of the tribe they belonged to. It was a ritualistic rite of passage. Many people would earn or gain their tattoos as they matured so that by old age, their bodies are covered. In our modern culture, it has gone from carnival side show attraction to mainstreet where hipsters, bikers, drunk college grads and edgy moms all order some ink to represent something.
Why Tattoos are Sacred.
For me, it may be one of the most poignant expressions of meaning a human can share. Imagine. Whether you are a 4,000 year old tribeswoman or a 20-something Marine, there has been an event or a moment so tremendous, that you are willing to forever document it on your flesh. A common perception is that people who tattoo are fringe-y types who hang out in bars (strip clubs) and enjoy freaking everyone out with their extravagant displays. But the truth is, from what I’ve heard, it hurts to get a tattoo. Being high or drunk may well be helpful to getting a tattoo, but really, I would wager most people put alot of thought (a lot) into the meaning and placement of their tattoos. There must be a tremendous amount of emotion, creative energy and meditation on the significance. To create a tattoo, you are telling a story about you. You are basically broadcasting your truth, your experience, your belief, your unique human perspective for the rest of your Earthly life. And that, to me, takes courage.
A tattoo makes the unknown known and the unseen seen. A tattoo is contextual art and tells a story like writing. It is the symbolic bare honesty of one heroic human within the span of humanity’s search for meaning and purpose. It erupts from your blood and billions of cells screaming an ancient truth that only your being can express.
I think I feared or loathed tattoos for most of my life because I didn’t know what my truth was. I sat on the fence, comfortable with the gray area and happy to rationalize all the reasons permanently marking the skin was foul, unsightly or stupid. I could tell you forever who I didn’t agree with. The trouble was, I had no tribe, no conviction, no passion for anything but walking curiously, the invisible line. How many of us are curled up on our comfort zones, ignoring the pesky melody echoing in our hearts long neglected chamber?
Writing my novel changed that for me. I understand so much more the power of the human being, the human soul. We have so many illusions and delusions between us and our blissful truth. I know more about how much is unseen and unknown. We each have a chance to express it in some way, even when we are completely unconscious of it. Kudos to those who have heard the whispers and had the courage to carve it, carry it and remind others that we are miracles in flesh.
I’m sorta embarrassed it took me so long to get it. But I’m also excited that for the first time in my life I feel passionate conviction and alignment.
What does my soul wish to tattoo? The unseen shifts and swirls in my imagination. The images are taking shape. It’s very exciting to see my protagonist discover her power and truth as I stand cheering her on. I know for sure, that her journey is mine as well. I believe in her. I believe in humanity. I know we are more powerful than we imagine. That is something I’m willing to carry on my flesh the way poets carry our hearts to the threshold of awakening.
History of Tattoos via Smithsonian
My Tattoo Collection on Pinterest
FREYA on Pinterest (just inspirations)