My trip took me from Hawaii to Singapore then Bali and Japan. I can honestly tell you after many years of commercial airline travel across the pacific, I experienced a plane ride I was sure I would not live through complete with screaming passengers and a snack cart serving Cup-o-Noodles. For weeks I was in Indonesia. At first it was great. I read and cruised around and was so ready to volunteer at the school. The volunteering fell through at the last minute and they kept my money. You usually pay in some way to travel and volunteer. In a way it worked out, I met a driver who had a friend who had an english tutoring school. I was able to accomplish a small part of my mission. I had time to walk, a lot and read, a lot. There was more trash than I had seen on beaches and piled on street corners. There were large packs of dogs, “Balinese tigers”, that lounged and ate the trash. Bali has beautiful temples and a ceremony everyday depending where you are on the island. There are some things I had never seen. Trees with skirts because they have spirits. Lot’s of honking when going over bridges, to let the spirits know people are driving over them. Beauty that took my breath away. Delicious vegetarian food. And more people on a single moped that you can imagine. I saw a family of five on one moped. Amazing. I read and walked. For 21 days, it was just me. I went to yoga and a documentary about bees. I spoke with strangers from all around the world.
I was disappointed about the volunteering. I was getting lonely in this place. I was wondering why I would travel so far from home to do things I could do at home. I had beaches. I had trash I could pick up. I knew students I could help. I also had a little boy that I was missing terribly. But something bigger was happening that I didn’t realize yet.
I got my first tattoo as soon as I was legally able. I have had many tattoos since then. All but one from different women artists. There was something about that. Each had a specific meaning to me and most were easy to cover up. That was important. Inside though, I had always wanted a sleeve of tattoos. But that is not what a (insert self-defining role here) would do. For me the roles that I would no longer be good at due to my ink were: mothering, teaching, success, business savvy and being well-educated. The voice calling the shots was very vocal about my goodness directly related to how people perceive me and people with tattoos are not perceived well (all in my own mind). I have met smart, happy people who are also great parents and have tattoos. But I’ve got my crazy. As the voice got louder, the more I thought about the sleeve. Then something in my growth at the time allowed a different train of thought and it asked why? Why would you not be a good person if you choose to adorn yourself with permanent body art? Why does what other people think of you matter so much? Why can’t you allow yourself to do what you want? Why would your mothering skills change if you had an arm of tattoos?
While in Bali, I read an article in a local magazine about the tradition of tattoos. This article stated a cultural belief “a man without tattoos is invisible to the gods” an Iban proverb, Sarawak, Malaysia. Knowing the depth of my own belief system, ultimately I want to know the gods and be known to the gods. This was a subconscious factor that drove me so far away from home. To know thyself. And in two sentences it all became very concious.
I am owning my crazy. I am owning my self-doubt and self-judgement with slight narcissistic tendencies.
I was going through a challenging spot in my life and I gave myself permission. I allowed myself to get a half sleeve. I had multiple consultations and the half sleeve was done in two parts and took HOURS. And it hurt. I sat or laid there for hundreds of minutes accepting my choice in this. I could still wear many things and no one would ever know it was there. I could pretend I didn’t have it.
I went to Bali with this half sleeve. It is pretty. Big red poppies because I woke up from a sleep, not for a drug reference but for a reminder. On this island in SEA, it was humid and no one knew me so I had no reason not to let my flag fly. A lot of people stared at me, tried to touch my arm, asked if I wanted more. I would keep walking. But I did want more, I wanted the whole arm.
We float in the world. Like a dandelion that just had a gust of wind scatter it around. If we don’t tether ourselves to someone or someplace, where will the gust take us? How far can you go when you just let yourself float? This idea used to scare me. I tried to gather up all the false securities and creature comforts I possibly could because I didn’t want to look at the impermanence of life head-on. Then I had no choice but to face it. And now I make that choice to face it. And my arm of tattoos reminds to take a hard look at all that I have and how quickly it can change. And I float like the seed caught in a breeze. I do my best to appreciate and share all the love that is out there for all of us.
My tattoos are just that, mine. They have meaning to me and when I try to hide them I am not being true to myself and my nature. People may love them or hate them or care less about them. Ultimately, we are all just floating on our own breeze. And we need to make our own choice of how we want to be.