Category Archives: culture

Tattoo

Image

20170613_192600I 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

IMG_1491 (1) 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.

waterlily-2234539_1920

Photo by vibrantskys via Pixabay

 

Confessions of a Baby Boomer Mom – Connections

Image

strike-51212__340What did we do before social media? Well I know what we did, of course and what we didn’t do. We didn’t know our friends and acquaintances every move, thought, or action punctuated by a thumbs up or a heart emoji. We never saw thousands of photos capturing life in real time, sharing public and private moments that our friend circle and beyond have shared and shared and shared yet again. Snapchats and Instagram exposes life in instant time. And yet the great irony is that with all of this isolating technology, we do feel connected.

I do know what we did back then although I cringe to hear myself refer to the past as if I were withered with age. Life was just a bit quieter and moved at a slower pace although that just seems so in hindsight. At the time, I felt like life was fast. But one could wait for days or weeks for a phone call from a friend. We took so much on faith. No news was good news so our loved ones were fine. And then we had so much to tell each other once we did connect. We spent hours over dinner and drinks talking face to face, catching up on each other’s lives.

fractal-19-1169242

Fractal 19 by Florin Florea

As much as one of my major pet peeves is the practice of staring at one’s cell phone at the same time someone is sitting across from them, waiting for their attention, I must confess I love social media. And it is mostly because I have been allowed to glimpse into my children’s and friends and family’s lives without having to waiting for the phone to ring. Social media lets me see things they like without them having to tell me. I can see what they are passionate about or angry about or events they might attend and even hear their voice in the world as they express their views. Social media is a helicopter parent’s dream!

But as with all seemingly magical gifts, there is a downside. There is a certain level of voyeurism in social media. Friends, family and acquaintances “friend” you and allow you to peek into their lives for better or for worse. Conversely they can peek into yours. It is up to me what I put out into the social media but sometimes more can be exposed then I might want it to be. What need does being a presence on social media fulfill for me? I find it ironic that I feel connection with the most disconnected medium there is.

This is truly a brave new world. We open ourselves up to others in ways never seen before. Sometimes our lives get opened up without our consent. Hacking is a sport, it seems. The goal is to see who can score the biggest revelation about a person or an organization or even a government. Conversely a person can hide who they truly are behind an attractive persona. They can reinvent themselves, be someone completely new. We could all live in an alternative universe with alternative facts. The truth can hide behind the many facades of social media or it can become something entirely different. That certainly seems to be the reality that we find ourselves in now. The irony. How ironic. How I love that word.

social-connection-1624773-640x325

Social Connection by Appanna

But going back to my original question: how did we get along without social media? I can’t even say because we have now lived so long with it.  Social media allows a person to follow another person into places they may not have realized. I am happy to see glimpses of my children as they move through life. A Snap here, an Instagram there. A book that has a face, complete with eyes and ears and a loud loud voice.  A post with a photo worth a thousand words. A Tweet that can uplift or shred a person in just 140 characters.

It’s odd to have an online presence. I can actually Google myself. Social media has allowed me to be a writer. It allows my writing to reach readers from around the globe. I love checking my WordPress analytics to see in which country today’s readers reside. What is more social than having your thoughts and words, your story reach someone thousands of miles away. It is a small world indeed. I relish being able to watch my nieces and nephews and siblings and friends and my children fumble and navigate their way through life.
Yet I must I confess this both excites me and scares the heck out of me. We all open ourselves up in a way that is both brave and reckless. Yet that is the world today and we must keep pace. Which brings me, as always, back to my children. How I love this tenuous thread that keeps us connected. I can still keep them close as I let them go. The irony of that is not lost on me. But I don’t care. I will selfishly and joyfully keep whatever connection to them they  will allow me to. It’s not the only connection and it is most certainly not the most important one. But it is one I am grateful for. 

Confessions of a Baby Boomer Mom – Hearts

Image
heart-1450302_1280

photo by Congerdesign

In so many different ways, February is considered heart month. The month opens with a burst of red on calendars and in stores as we celebrate the health of the human heart and that grand emotion of the human heart, love. We are encouraged to bestow flowers and candies upon our loved ones at the same time being admonished to take of one’s heart with a healthy diet and exercise. I sense the irony here. Heart health this month is especially focused on women’s hearts as denoted by the floating red dress symbol. It’s a month to see red.

If one is in the initial bloom of a love relationship, February and specifically Valentine’s Day is the day to show your lover what they mean to you. Typically this appears to be done by giving the aforementioned candy, cards and flowers but jewelry is a common gift as are marriage proposals, trips abroad and champagne dinners by candlelight.  As the blush of first love wears off, especially if one is in a very long term relationship, that bloom of ardor has cooled and more often than not, in lieu of gifts is the complaint that the holiday has just been created by card companies and jewelry stores for the profit that it brings. Nothing cools passion faster than that particular sentiment.

It is usually then that the other heart of February is focused on. Heart health is a serious issue and for women it can mask as another illness sometimes until it is too late to get help. As a woman, I know that there are times when I think that a certain pain is just in my imagination or maybe it’s a pulled muscle or maybe even just gas. Women often think they are just too busy or it really isn’t serious or they have other people to care for. All of that mental negotiation can temporarily soothe one’s concern until the heart actually stops because it really wasn’t gas after all.

When you think of it, the heart is a pretty amazing organ. Not only does it pump about 100,000 times per day which keeps the human body up and running, it skips a beat when one meets that special someone, it can freeze when one is in shock or fear and it can break when sorrow hits it. From the heart come sonnets and songs and it can actually go out to someone when feeling compassionate. It can also grow hard with hate or anger or be soft in the person considered a push over. One famous song even claimed that the heart would go on even after the person had stopped! Yes that heart is a busy little thing.

Because of all of that I wonder that as humans we take this relatively tiny organ for granted. It does so much for us and to us and yet we can forget about it for months at a time, at least until February rolls around again. We use it and abuse it to the point where I am astounded that it can handle all that it does. When we consider how essential it is to life itself one would think we would be more careful with it. But no. We eat our decadent food and drink. We stay up late and party. We hurt other people’s hearts by playing with them when we are not being honest. It is said that some of us have no heart but of course that could not be true.

pexels-photo-104721

photo by Mariette de Villiers

I also believe we all have different hearts in our one heart. I have a daughter’s heart, and a sister’s heart. I have a wife’s heart and a mother’s heart and a friend’s heart. My heart changes a bit with each role I step into. They often overlap. Sometimes my heart is bursting and sometimes it feels as though it has shriveled up and hidden behind a rib somewhere. I can usually coax it out with music, a beat that finds a rhythm with the beat of my heart. a song I can sing at the top of my lungs until that heart fills itself in again. Sometimes I just have to take the pain that has scarred that hearty heart and move away from it until it stops hurting.

166738237We use the heart to describe so many things in our lives. We have heartbreak and heartthrobs. We have bleeding hearts and blackhearts and we can be faint of heart. Sometimes we need to get to the heart of the matter and sometimes two hearts are better than one. And so it seems fitting that this wonderful organ, this suppository of love and emotion vastly beyond its tiny size should have its own month of the year to wax poetic. There are definitely worse things we can glorify. Even for those cynics who refuse to buy flowers or cards, the heart will go on until it no longer can. The next step is just a heartbeat away.