Note: Originally posted on Boston Blooming.
I got my first tattoo on 7/12/13. It’s an infinity sign on my wrist, modeled after the halo on the STRENGTH card in the Rider-Waite tarot deck. The tattoo was triply significant to me. First, I’d wanted an infinity sign on my wrist or ankle since I was a preteen. Then, when I got the tattoo last year, life as I knew it had just exploded ten days beforehand, and I wanted a symbol of strength to help me through. Lastly, both the symbol and its placement (left wrist) are significant in my novel, The Hanged Man.
After my first tattoo, I decided to get a small symbol to represent each book I complete to submission condition, like the infinity sign represents The Hanged Man. The symbols will be tattooed up my left forearm, and eventually, on my right wrist and forearm. If/when each book is published, I’ll add a date to the symbol. They were the only tattoos I was planning to get, these little novel representations of mine.
Then, as I was driving home from my last write-in, I had the sudden urge to get another one, unrelated to my writing. I knew exactly what I wanted, and I wanted it before we left for Boston.
“No one knows the battles we survive.” These words, pulled from the lyrics of Artful Dodging by Umbrella Brigade, have been my mantra for years. The line is only sung once – previous choruses say “all the battles we survive” – and the very first time I heard it (circa 2006), I just sort of adopted it as part of me, as part of my strength and life’s direction. I love what it refers to, those unseen struggles that we all face. No one is as happy as they appear on Facebook, yeah? And I…have many, many scars.
I wanted these words etched into my skin, and chose my upper left shoulder blade as a palate. For a time, I toyed with possible artwork to go with the tattoo, but eventually rejected this. The artwork was too new – I couldn’t tell if I’d still love it in ten years – but the words were permanent, so it would just be them. Then, I spent some time trying to design how I wanted them to look, seeking out the right fonts and such. I know that the tattoo artist can help design, but this was personal, and I wanted to do it myself! After some discussion with my friend Stephanie, who was planning to accompany me while I had the work done, I decided to instead write the words in my own handwriting.
The infinity sign on my wrist was done at Arc Angel Tattoo, and they did a good job, so I decided to go back to them. Stephanie and I drove there the next evening with the intention to talk to an artist and set up an appointment for the following Tuesday afternoon. When we got there, however, they asked me if I wanted to do it right then, as they had an artist free. !!! Hey, it was Saturday, and we had time to kill, so I said sure, and Stephanie helped distract me through the more painful bits as I got my second tattoo on 7/19/14.
I love it. Really love it. I especially love the fact that it’s in my own handwriting – imperfect and slightly messy, sure, but unique and personal at the same time. The scrawl fits the words, and what those words have come to represent for me: strength and fragility and imperfection and scars, all mixed up. Words written on my heart, now etched into my skin as well, just in time for this upcoming adventure.