I wear my art on my skin — it’s the ink of my heart

“Our bodies were printed as blank pages to be filled with the ink of our hearts” 
― 
Michael Biondi

“Wear your heart on your skin in this life.” 
― 
Sylvia Plath

The study found that people who had three or more tattoos were likely to have low self-esteem.  “The findings of this study suggest that tattoos are not just fashion accessories but driven by a wide range of motivational factors that are significantly associated with self-esteem.”

Interestingly, Truman Capote agreed, “There’s something really the matter with most people who wear tattoos. There’s at least some terrible story. I know from experience that there’s always something terribly flawed about people who are tattooed, above some little something that Johnny had done in the Navy, even though that’s a bad sign…It’s terrible. Psychologically it’s crazy. Most people who are tattooed, it’s the sign of some feeling of inferiority, they’re trying to establish some macho identification for themselves.”

Reading these viewpoints, I wondered if I got my recent tattoos because my self-esteem was low.  Marie Randle, from Liverpool Hope University, who carried out the study mentioned above, added that “not everyone who had a tattoo had poor self-esteem.” I reflected back to when I got my other tattoos, more than 20 years ago, and while I couldn’t pinpoint the exact reasoning I believe the motivation was likely starkly different to my recent desire to ink my skin.

Other reasons people get tattoos include attention seeking, self-expression, artistic expression, rebellion, addiction, identification with a group, sentimental reasons or even impulsiveness.  In the past, tattooing was linked to psychological conditions and considered self mutilatory behaviour.

Was I seeking attention? I don’t think so. There are easier, cheaper and less painful ways to do that, right? I’m not trying to identify with a group, far from it. I am not recording any sentimental beliefs on my skin, it wasn’t an impulsive action.  I thought deliberately about them and took considerable time to discern the right size, image and placement. I shopped around for the right artist as well.

I was surprised to realise that I could see a leaning to self-mutilation but, again, there are other ways to do that too so, no, that wasn’t my motive. It might have been an act of defiance, for sure. The new tattoos are visible to the world. Part of me wants to stick it to the rules, the labels and the expectations of how I should show up in the world. I want to break free of repressiveness. To challenge expectations.

Johnny Depp said, “My body is my journal and my tattoos are my story.”  I guess, in some way, a story is unfolding.  My earlier tattoos were images I liked that symbolise freedom, joy and inner strength. The tattoo I got last year is a simple word that speaks for itself – free. It’s a reminder that I am now free to choose anything – but mostly to be fully and unapologetically me.  This year, to date, I have two more etchings. A Latin phrase that translates to “she flies with her own wings” on the inside of my right bicep and a small snake on my left foot a symbol of transformation. I thought I would get the Phoenix tattoo I have been considering for the last 14 months before ever getting a snake. So many snakes crossed my path in the last several months, whether real snakes, images of snakes, sculptures, paintings or stories of snakes. Snakes showed up in tarot readings and in oracle cards and messages from friends. There were so many occurrences that I simply couldn’t ignore that the universe was sending me a message. The message was to do with the power of snake medicine linked to transformation, life changes, healing and primal energy. Hence, I now wear a reminder that the universe has my back.

There are several other tattoos I am drawn to and will, over time, probably have them inked on my body.  They are symbols that signify who I am becoming and who I have always been at heart. My tattoos are a statement and a way to express myself though more than that, they are badges of honour. They are emblems of my strength and courage, of change and a time of moving forward, of breaking free, of creating a new identity.  These new tattoos have raised my confidence and are reminders to me of what I have been through and survived. They are reminders that I am strong, that I am brave, that I am a survivor and that I should be here in this world.  I may well be judged by my tattoos but, you know what? I don’t actually care, because my skin art, my ink, is a celebration of life and of me and I wear it proudly.

 

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Good fences make good neighbours

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There, by the starlit fences the wanderer halts and hears my soul that lingers sighing about the glimmering weirs.       A.E Housman

I wasn’t keen on a new fence and I wasn’t on board with the design or the height. Though I lament I can’t fault the workmanship or the expediency with which it was built. I have no quarrel there. Now this fence has been constructed I recall thoughts I had in Berlin where I started thinking about the concept of walls and barriers; to segregate and mark territory, to keep some within and some out. I recall too when I stood on the Great Wall of China and traipsed along Hadrian’s Wall and had similar thoughts. I realise, these structures are walls and not to be confused with fences which are made of lighter weight materials and usually for different purposes.  Nevertheless, a fence is a barrier. Plain and simple.

I’ve mix feelings about this new wall of ours. I can’t help agreeing with Frost who, communicates in his poem Mending Wall that a fence is unnecessary and unfriendly.  Though others would no doubt side with his neighbour who believes “Good fences make good neighbours.”  I can’t see my neighbours anymore. I like them. I’d have been glad not to see the previous neighbours but alas no fence would have stopped their repugnant reverberations from drifting across the top in the wee hours.

“A good neighbour is a fellow who smiles at you over the back fence, but doesn’t climb over it.”  Oh, Baer, too true. Though if I can’t see them I can’t smile at them. Our old, decrepit fence was low enough for me to hurdle which was fortuitous on a number of occasions:  one night to check on the elderly lady adjacent to my property during an electrical blackout and on another, leaping the fence enabled me to help a neighbour after she fell in her garden.  There are times jumping fences is acceptable.

“To be fenced in is to be withheld.” – Kurt Tippett I hear you. I feel hemmed in. I liked the openness between yards, the view to the forest unimpeded by barriers or blockades. Now this timber wall confronts me each and everyday and I immediately feel enclosed.

Fences are not new. We humans have a long history of fence building and of erecting barriers for all manner and purposes. The moat was a type of fence.  I could just about live with a moat, I think, though I’d have to brush up on my long jumping skills.  As I become accustomed to the new boundary around my home I’ll leave you with some interesting fence trivia.

  • Hedge fencing and topiary fencing is one of the earliest forms of fencing ever recorded and were first used for enclosing cereal crops.
  • Military areas, zoos and industrial plants are required by law to have appropriate fencing.
  • In 1873, barbed wire fencing was invented at the De Kalb County Fair in Illinois.
  • Strangely, Marilyn Monroe was quoted as saying ‘A women’s dress should be like a barbed wire fence: serving it’s purpose without obstructing the view’. (The analogy is a harsh one in my mind.)
  • The ‘Rabbit Proof Fence’ in Western Australia was more than 3000 kilometres long.
  • The ‘Dingo Fence’, also in Australia, is the longest fence on earth at 5,600 kilometres.
  • A fence hidden in a ditch is called a Ha-ha.
  • There is a tiny town called Fence in Aurora County in Wisconsin, USA.

Tortured by the shadow. Released by the light.

The brightest flame casts the darkest shadow.
                       George R R Martin.
Purge yourself gnawing goblinimage
Begone you great twisted, tainted, torturer of doom.
Cleanse my mind, my body, my being of this engulfing creature of destruction
Remove your befouled and corrupt tendrils of fear and loathing
Take your troubled, torturous tokens and dissipate; evaporate.
Be gone!
Be gone!
 Be gone!
Release me.
Unchain me.
 Set me free from the deep demented agony your yoke yields.
Unburden my soul; I beg of thee!
Let your light shine so brightly that others can see their way out of the dark.
                                                               Author unknown

Blessed by your loving embrace the predawn stillness stirs my soul.image

I move freely; unencumbered, unbridled Rediscovering joy, unveiled by a chorus of songbirds.

My eyes delight in the dancing colours of the earth’s essence.

I am light.
I am free.

I have returned … and give thanks.

A life without labels

In the last little while I have been unsure how to answer that question asked at social gatherings -“What do you do?” I realise in the past I used to name my job by means of explanation. This served two purposes – it quickly gave people an idea of my work but it also labeled me, with what I believed some status.

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Slowly, over time and as I left that exact role I have been less interested in using a label. I’m no longer comfortable with pigeon holing myself and I no longer feel a label adequately sums me up.

I’ve never been one to choose clothes, accessories, products of any kind merely for the label. Having some consumer label emblazoned across my chest, on my handbag, on my sunglasses has never interested me. So I wonder why I was so quick to label myself in terms of my work.

On refection, I realise I have done this self labelling quite a bit. First I was a mother. Boy, when my son left home and that label was no longer valid on a daily basis I was lost, then I sunk into the comforts of being a wife, and a job description.

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Now that I’m more aware and conscious, I flounder for a label and I’m not unhappy with that. I’m more willing to sit in the the vastness of that empty space. Labels of all sorts come with judgments and assumptions. Labels are convenient because without our labels and without our story; who are we?

Eckhart Tolle encourages us to “find our true nature beyond name and form”. This isn’t an easy task, it challenges us to delve deeply into who we are and what we stand for. It is, at times, confronting especially when we dive into our shadow side. Above all, living life without a label is exhilarating, it is liberating and it is full of possibilities.

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I continue to unveil and discover my true nature without name and form.

Shannyn