First Quarter

When you have a unique tattoo in a super-visible spot, people have a tendency to approach you about it in public. Strangers at Whole Foods, on the subway platform, hell even strangers in the office frequently approach me, usually with some variation of “I love your tattoo! What does it mean?” Some people are offended by these questions, as tattoos are next-level personal, but I don’t mind that much. I explain it’s the phases of the moon (“Oh! I thought that was the moon!”), and it represents the yoga journey I’ve been on in the past almost-two years. I don’t get into the nitty-gritty of how the phases represent the larger journey of life, that everything comes in waves if you know what to expect and when; that preparing yourself to face life head-on based on where the tides are currently turning helps put the hard days in perspective, blah blah hippie stuff, etc. Usually just saying “it’s the phases of the moon for yoga” is enough for most people to move on.

This week leads up to the first quarter moon, halfway between the new moon and the full moon, and this is the week where challenges present themselves. The new moon is a time to sit, reflect, set hopes and intentions for the moon cycle and look ahead to possibilities; the first quarter is where obstacles manifest and your goal, leading into the full moon, is to find ways to handle them. Once I started tracking the moon, I noticed that the second week of the cycle, one of two things would happen: there would be a number of tiny frustrations (bad commute, long day at work, can’t find my favorite yoga leggings, etc.), or something would happen that triggered a strong emotional reaction. Honestly, I prefer the former of those two things. It’s easier to breathe through a number of small frustrations, especially when you know everything will be okay. It’s harder to breathe through a cold, hard truth staring directly at you, and it’s even harder to stay focused on the fact that everything is going to be okay.

On Monday, my boss/friend stopped by my desk to download on my life, asking pointed questions about my weekend and teasing me lightly about this crazy 2016 life plan of mine. We had a silly, easy conversation, but in his teasing, he said something that’s been on repeat for me ever since. Essentially, he made me realize that for the past month, I’ve been living in a really comfortable bubble of denial that I’ve been purposely ignoring for fear of it popping too soon; and he made me realize that I’m holding onto my comfortable denial, because I’m afraid if I confront the situation head-on, everything will not, in fact, be okay.

Sometimes it’s hard to reconcile with the fact that things won’t always go our way. This is a lesson I learn weekly in NFL regular season as a Jets fan, this is a lesson I learn daily as a New Yorker forced to ride the subway, and this is just a lesson we all learn in life over time; but just because we know and understand this lesson doesn’t mean it sticks with us. I found myself trying to bargain with the moon this week, like maybe if I hope hard enough my challenges won’t be related to a conversation I don’t want to have that is rapidly approaching. Hope is deceptive; it’s wonderful but after an eventful few years I have a tendency to distrust hope and optimism in favor of “preparing for the worst.” Now I find myself in a situation where I’m finally feeling hopeful and optimistic for the first time in years, and I feel like I’m sitting on a ticking time bomb, with no way of seeing the clock. It could be two months or twelve hours or ten seconds from exploding all around me.

Again this morning someone approached me at the office to ask about my latest tattoo, what does it mean, it’s beautiful. I started joking about it being the first quarter this weekend, so if work is crazy to blame it on the moon. I suppose to an extent when anything gets crazy, my instinct lately is to check the moon, and map out a plan for when the issue could be resolved; but not this one. Maybe in theory I know in time, this will all work out, but for now? Nah. It feels like enough to know the challenge is there and start planning how to move past it. I’ve got the ink on my arm to remind me that I’ll have to deal with it eventually. But for now, nah. I’m going to enjoy the little bubble of denial and keep a close eye on the explosives under me, waiting to fight back when that clock finally ticks all the way down.

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Reassess//Adjust

The other day, I was sitting at my desk at work, furiously blowing on my forearm and tapping certain areas in a desperate bid to make the itching stop. This is the part of the tattoo process that I hate the most. I don’t mind getting tattoos themselves, I don’t mind the aftermath where people stare and ask to touch your tattoo like it might smudge if they try hard enough. But there’s a point in the healing process where the whole thing scabs and starts to fall off, so your skin is basically peeling off in colors, but you can’t pick at any of the peeling or scabby parts lest you want to ruin all that hard work of the artist. Basically this part sucks, and I’ve hated it for every single tattoo I have. I have to admit, though; this one is a little different.

I’ve spoken to a few friends about this, but feel like I need to say it here too: I’m having a really hard time connecting to my new tattoo. I don’t know what it is exactly: the design is exactly what I wanted, down to the sacred geometry and the extremely minimal use of color. The placement is exactly what I wanted, fitting perfectly with the rest of my tattoos, which are strategically placed so that if I’m standing in front of you, arms down in a bikini, you wouldn’t be able to see a single one. My artist told me when we were texting a bit after the fact that it’s one of his favorites he’s done in a long time, and every person who sees it stares in awe and tells me how much they love it. So why is it that every time I look down at this beautiful design on my forearm, I don’t really feel anything?

In the past week, as I’ve struggled to connect and love the new tattoo the way I did near immediately with all the others, I’ve been journaling a lot to try and work through what might be happening in my head to make connecting with this so difficult. Last night I sat curled up on my couch, pen in hand and journal on my lap, and started writing in a furious stream of thought. “What is wrong with me,” it started, “why can’t I appreciate something when it’s exactly what I wanted?” I suppose that speaks volume about my life in general – but on the forearm front, I started thinking about the tattoo itself and what’s evolved in my thought process in the past week.

Something I’ve learned in the past few years is that tattoos are powerful, whether you mean them to be or not. They invoke strong opinions from the people around you, strangers or not, and depending on the visibility, people will ask you intrusive questions about them. Frequently the questions are innocent, “what does it mean?,” “what made you decide to get that?,” etc., but sometimes they’re harsher, “why would you do that to yourself?,” “what were you thinking?” One of the reasons I chose my forearm for this tattoo is because I wanted it to be visible; I wanted to make a statement that yes, I have quite a few tattoos and no, they don’t make me a bad person. I wanted people to ask me about the moon phases so I can give them my elevator speech about how they’re connected to yoga and how yoga has transformed my life. Maybe I wasn’t prepared for the one-two punch of power in this tattoo – the near-constant visibility and the power of the meaning behind those globes in a line down my arm.

Much of this contemplation centers around six months ago, as I had this idea in my head, and how I started tracking the moon and trying to understand the power of the tides in life. Part of me wonders if there was a higher power of sorts, Gaia or God or gods or grilled cheesus, that’s been watching over this process and wanted to give me a bit of a wake-up call to the statement I’m really making with this tattoo. It’s not just a fluff piece about yoga, and it’s not just a way to rebel a little bit, finally having a super-visible tattoo like I’ve always wanted. Looking at the events surrounding the most recent full moon – weddings and loss and tattoos and more – it all feels like a reminder that there is a lot of power in the statement I’m making, and I need to respect and understand that. And honestly? I know it sounds like hippie mumbo-jumbo, but with everything that’s happened, the idea of this powerful energy around my right forearm is pretty fucking scary.

Anyway. I was hoping that in the past few days of drafting this post, I would have a happy conclusion, like “And then I woke up and looked at my arm and everything felt right.” Unfortunately, not the case here. It’s still difficult sometimes looking down and trying to reconcile that this is an image on me forever. It’s perfect, it’s exactly what I wanted, and I do love it – it’s just a lot more to absorb than I’d anticipated. Maybe that’s the final lesson in all of this, especially with the direction of my life in the next 12 months: you can plan and prepare and truly love something, but don’t be surprised if it takes longer than you’d expect to adjust.

Cycling

There’s nothing worse than being unhappy: it drains your energy, makes you moody, and generally affects your home life. To avoid this situation, learn to be grateful for, and enjoy the things that surround you every day. Doing so will ensure that your life will be a happy one.

The above sentiment is beautiful, isn’t it. There is nothing worse than being unhappy, nothing worse than feeling like you hate everything and everyone and you can’t even define why sometimes; there is no feeling quite like stewing in anger and negativity, desperate to lift yourself out of it but staying firmly rooted in anger or anything else. When I read that for the first time, it really struck me, and I read it over and over until finally pasting it into a draft blog post, both because I wanted to remember those words on the days where they would come in handy, and because I could feel the slow bubble of inspiration forming, not because I knew what I was going to write about them quite yet, but because I knew someday that slow percolation of inspiration would eventually boil over into words I couldn’t wait to share.

So it will probably surprise you to know that the above sentiment is actually just my horoscope from a few weeks ago.

I read my horoscope every day. I don’t live and die by the words, and I don’t take them as fact, but I think they’re silly, and fun, and every once in a while mine will be scarily accurate. I think a common misconception about horoscopes is that they’re supposed to tell your future, like a daily fortune cookie, feeding into our constant desire to have someone else make the decisions, a disillusion with the random nature of reality. Things like horoscopes are meant to inspire your day, provide that little bit of motivation, yes I actually was feeling a little unhappy today and you know what, it is really taxing to feel that way. I’ve always been interested in astrology on a fun yet serious level, because shit really does get screwy when Mercury is in retrograde and I have found a sense of calm on the eve of a new moon, the signal that a new cycle in the random acts of life is about to begin. And for reasons that will become clear in November, I’ve been tracking the lunar phases lately to try and understand how the different phases play into the moving pieces of our lives.

This is the part where you tell me that astrology is bullshit and made-up, like a psychic hotline that promises to tell you when you’ll fine twue wuv for the simple price of $14.99 a minute. And I’d agree that anyone professing to see and know the future is probably out for quick cash. But step away from the hooey for a minute and there’s actually some logic to the argument that these planetary movements affect our lives. The moon controls the rise and fall of the tides; these timings can change when the sun rises and sets and in that, when we feel it’s time for bed. It pulls the earth along an axis that spins around in the same pattern, random and beautiful, just like the moving pieces of our lives. There’s a chaos in the order of the calm, steady nature of a cyclical change.

There’s not much to this post, no lesson learned, no life experience to compare to reading horoscopes and waiting for the next new moon, which conveniently happens right around the time that everything in my life might change completely or stay exactly the same. I suppose I could watch my horoscope to determine which way those winds may blow, live and die by the words by a skeptical psychic making money peddling moon signs to strangers. But no – instead I’ll keep watching for words like the ones above and save them for when I need a little burst of inspiration, keeping in mind that no matter what happens at the crux of the next full moon, to stay unhappy and to put your future in someone, or something, else’s hands, is the surest way to drive back to the unhappiness that started this whole stream of thought.

Update: I have no idea what’s going on with the font here………