Rites of Passage

Damn it’s a cold day in Central Texas today.  We have a saying around here: if you don’t like the weather, wait five minutes.  Two nights ago, it was 39F.  Last night it was 51F.  Tonight it will be 24F: right now it’s 39F at 1:30pm while yesterday it was in the 60s.  Yay Texas!  O_o  As I sat here in shorts, a t-shirt, fingerless gloves, socks, and a scarf (later I’ll add sandals to complete the true Austin look) bemoaning my house’s lack of decent insulation (houses here are built to shed heat, not hold onto it), for some unfathomable reason my long-standing desire for a tattoo came to mind.

I think it’s very important for people to mark the important events of their lives, whether they were positive or negative.  Those events are the kinks that make us into multi-faceted personalities.  Otherwise we’d be straight, boring lines of people who never did anything interesting.  Some people mark those events with yet another event, like a party or a really fancy evening out on the town.  Some people buy something special for themselves, as a reward or possibly a salve (who hasn’t gone shopping to alleviate some sort of personal distress?).  Others decide to mark their physical bodies in the form of tattoos, piercings, branding, or other forms of body modification.  I live in a city extremely accepting of the latter form of passage marking, so I see a lot of body modification.  Some of it really extreme (The Enigma lives here, or someone who looks a lot like him: I’ve shopped at the grocery store next to him and seen him in the park with his dogs, he’s a pretty nice guy).

My own parents had tattoos.  I remember going to the tattoo studio with my mom and stepdad when she got one of the two butterflies she had on each of her hips.  The artist gave me my own “tattoo” by putting a stencil on me.  My biological father also had a tattoo: he was a Marine and proudly displayed his forearm tattoo.  Then I got older and most of my friends had tattoos, including my husband.  Some of them were incredibly astonishing pieces of artwork and I admired them greatly.  I’ve wanted to get one of my own for some time but an early experience with nose piercing made me puncture shy.  I realize a nose piercing isn’t quite the same as a tattoo, but the psychological damage was done (damn thing never healed: I gave up after almost a year).

Not only that, I could never come up with a design that I really liked and felt like I would want on my body, forever.  Being a mehndi artist was helpful in this endeavour because it showed me that oftentimes, even if I absolutely adored a design I had done, I was sick of it after two or three weeks.  To be fair, mehndi is not tattooing.  A piece of mehndi art will look very different after a couple of weeks than it does after a couple of days, usually being much less attractive.  Nevertheless, I took that as a warning signal about my own potential fickleness regarding body art.  I relented somewhat when I did develop a few pieces of art that I found myself repeatedly applying, or redrawing to keep fresh.  I couldn’t help but notice that they were all bits of spiritual imagery: a yin-yang, an OM, and images of the Buddha or other deities.

One day I was recalling an old design I had kicked around of something phoenix-like.  I’m quite enamored with the imagery of the phoenix, a mythical bird that dies and then rises again from its own ashes.  I really couldn’t think of a more appropriate image to go with the course of my life, which has tried to kill me more than once, if not physically, then certainly emotionally.  Each time, albeit slowly sometimes, I would come back, usually stronger (Nietszche was right about that anyway!).  I was suddenly struck Muse-like by the image of what I wanted.

Wings.  Big ones.  Big, flaming phoenix wings with green, blue, and purple metallic scaly highlights.  A pile of ash beneath them, still glowing with fire.  I can visualize my own back in just the way I want it all to look.

Fantasies aside, that’s a shitload of ink to load into the skin and would probably take many, many hours (not to mention dollars) to fulfill.  Pieces like that are done in several sessions. While I will have my wings someday, I would like to have something to mark my growth over the last year or so a little sooner.  I still want a phoenix though.  Something like one of the following:

Just, smaller so it will fit on an arm or a leg.  I think it’s a remarkable accomplishment that I have made it to the age of not-quite-40 and bear very little resemblance to the highly disturbed people I had to grow up around.  My only major addiction was cigarettes (emphasis on the *was*), I still have all of my own teeth and of those have very few cavities, I have an amazing circle of friends without which I would surely have shuffled myself off the coil long ago, I have a husband who adores me and without whom I would have suffered a fate similar to having no friends, I have a daughter who tells me just about every day how awesome I am and how much she loves me, I have a home that I have been in for over twelve years (astonishing after moving an average of once for every year of my life until the age of 27), I have a small herd of cats that I have nurtured into old age and who provide me with a lot of joy and company, and I seem to have the ability to examine myself closely in the proverbial mirror and not only identify my flaws, but actually work on them.  I have a well-functioning bullshit meter, I know when someone’s trying to screw me over, I know where my boundaries are and aren’t afraid to point them out when others fail to notice (as politely as possible), and I am in general so different from my parents that I feel I give myself short shrift by not appropriately acknowledging those things.  By all psychological and hereditary indicators I should be a complete basketcase, and I’m not.  I really feel I ought to mark that.  I deserve that ackowledgement.

So that’s one of my goals this year.  To give myself an indelible reminder of how far I have come and how truly remarkable it is that I’m not dead, crazy, or suffering an extremely dysfunctional life of some form.

Now, my Texan fingers are cold.  I bid you adieu for the day.

2 thoughts on “Rites of Passage”

  1. What you describe in this beautiful post about realizing about yourself is exactly what I felt when I knew you well enough to have you tell me the Readers’ Digest version of your childhood and early adulthood. I always knew I liked you; you have a certain aura about you that I connected with (intellectual, intrepid, creative, and spiritual in ways I am not). When I realized what you went through and came out of to become the Antares I met, I grokked what a major accomplishment that was. This is why I have been telling you for a long time how much I admire you and that you should be proud of who you are even if you don’t have the degree or career you feel like you should have yet. Who you are is REALLY FSCKING AMAZING and awesome all by itself.


  2. There’s so much to relate to in this post. Isn’t it amazing how we grow from our circumstances? When life gets stressful I still have dreams about having to pack up all of my shit because we’re moving *again*.

    I have also never committed to ink, but figured if I did, it’d be a phoenix. Incorporating either the Pluto or Scorpio symbol (or both). After what I’ve been through, I think I will have earned it. Not yet, and I’m not sure yet how I’ll know when I’m ready, but I can almost see it from here.


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