I have always imagined my grandmother as a bird. She died when I was 5 years old from breast cancer. My mother said she was always looking down on us; I didn’t understand much about angels, but angels had wings and birds had wings, and I liked the idea of Grandma sitting in the trees, silently guarding, then spreading her wings and flying away. I often wanted to spread my wings and fly away, too. What I wouldn’t give to transform into a bird and fly away with my grandmother.
When I was 22 years old, I was lost and confused and unsure where my life was headed. I still yearned to sprout feathers and take flight, so that I might find my grandmother and she could tell me what to do. Instead, I tattooed a bird on my back so that I wouldn’t have to look for her in the sky anymore. I would always have her with me.
I have always had deception in my life. My father told me he’d do anything for me, but he wouldn’t stop drinking. My mother told me women could do anything, but she didn’t believe she could. I told everyone that I was fine, but I wasn’t. My first real relationship consisted of lies, secrets, manipulation, and even illegal activity.
When I was 23 years old, I lived in Italy for a summer. I started to learn who I truly was. Then I finally met a man who was honest, and I learned the power and the value of truth. I inscribed the Italian word “veritas”–“truth”–in red ink on my ankle, as a promise to myself that I would always speak the truth and demand the truth from others, a promise that continues to be difficult, but all the more important, to uphold.
I have always believed in living each day as if it were my last, but I never understood how to do that until I met my mortality head-on. Now I know balance is the best way to suck the marrow from life; balance reminds me to take opportunities as they arise, but to take care of myself so I have more days to seize. Balance gets me off the couch and out in the world, living and breathing deeply, giving thanks for each day I get to live, even if it turns out to be my last.
Now I’m 33 years old. The next tattoo that I scratch into my skin will remind me of this message of balance, that life is short but it can be longer and more enjoyable if we just take the initiative to make it so.
These tattoos do not define me but they do make up significant parts of who I am. I wear them proudly so that others may see my life journey, know the hardships I have faced and the challenges I survived, and in turn, perhaps have courage to face their own.
!(/content/images/2017/09/tattoo.jpg)*What tattoos do you have? Why did you get them? If you get a tattoo, what would it be and why? Set your timer and write.*