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.