I have a confession to make. I just got my second tattoo. It’s the symbol of a lotus flower with it’s roots deep in the mud. I chose that symbol based on the Buddhist belief that without mud you will not get a lotus flower. In other words, the beauty of our life is grown out of the proverbial mud we must slog through to find what is truly important in our lives.
As a younger person I never thought I would be one to get a tattoo. Tattoo’s have certain stigmas attached to them. The person who decides to get one must be wild and even a little dangerous. There are actually some tattoos that scare the heck out of me and I would never want to meet that person in a dark alley. For some reason the tattoo says more about the person then any other attribute. But mostly it is the fact that those with tattoos agree to have a small needle jab ink into our skin to create some amazing works of art that seems to set those without tattoos apart.
Tattoos have been around since the beginning of the human existence or at least for several millennia and possibly longer. Mummified skin has been found in countries spanning the globe and in almost all societies. Tattoos could be status symbols, amulets against evil or for safe childbirth, the product of religious ceremony and culture or the result of the drunken longing of a homesick sailor for his mom. They can also be a symbol of personal rebellion against the status quo or maybe a badge of honor after a life changing experience. If life’s battle scars make one a warrior then maybe getting a tattoo to mark that battle is like a signpost on the road of that person’s life. I have seen tattoos that illustrate the struggles and triumphs that person must have experienced. Of course I have seen just as many butterflies, flowers, skull heads and hearts, random symbols that can only have personal meaning to the one wearing them.
Our family faced a crisis when my son was in high school and it was news that devastated us and thrust us into an alternate reality where the norm was long hospital stays, endless drug therapies and days on end when family members resided in different cities as we fought off that specter. We had just begun to recover from that year long event when I was diagnosed with breast cancer. We faced another year similar to the one before but this time I was angry and determined to avoid the disruption we had previously experienced. That was easier said than done. Halfway through the 8 month treatment, I was not so defiant as I fought just to stay above water day to day. My son had moved on to college by that time and carpe diem was the philosophy I watched him follow. So I was not surprised when he called to tell us he was getting a tattoo. Nor was I concerned. In my mind, we had just had the very hard lesson for the past
two years not to sweat the small stuff and getting a tattoo was definitely in that category. My daughter started her tattoo journey by celebrating her high school graduation and then again for her college graduation.
I got my first tattoo the year after I finished breast cancer treatment. It is the Celtic symbol for healing and that’s just what I wanted for myself and my family. I often forget that I have it because it is located in a place I only see in a mirror. But I recall the prayer I offered up when that ink was being needled into my skin. And I think of the prayer I offered up when the lotus was being tattooed on me as well. Now that is in a place I can see daily so that I can remind myself on those tough days that at the end of it I am likely to find a lotus blooming. Or at least have the faith that there will be one.
Everyone has scars, the worst of which are often hidden. Perhaps tattoos are a way for some to reflect the focus, the work, the energy it takes to move beyond those scars to continue on that long and winding road of life. Tattoos are not for everyone, no doubt. There are many other ways to mark the signposts of our lives or symbolize the fights we have survived. Or to celebrate life’s beauty or the birth of a child or yes, to honor your mom. My family has chosen to wear tattoos and we all have at least one. Maybe that does make us rebellious or wild. I am okay with that if some get that impression. I see it more as my children marking the signposts of the life they have lived and are living, including that time we all traveled together to the edge of the abyss. Thankfully, there was a gloriously blooming lotus flower waiting for us there.