Thursday, May 17, 2012


I have a tattoo on my wrist that I got when I was 20.8625 years old. This is fairly obvious to anyone and everyone who has ever met me. It's not anything I really hide nor flaunt. It's just there.

Most people seem to like it, save for my father, but I think it's in a father's job description to be opposed to these sorts of things. And for those who mention that they like it there are usually two follow-up questions: 1) what does that mean? and 2) do you have any others?

The first question "What does that mean?" is a rather loaded one....What did it mean to me when I got it? (Probably had to do with a boy.....) What does it mean to me now? (Absolutely nothing to do with a boy, I mean come on. I'm an independent woman...)* Oh! You mean what does the symbol mean?  Answer: Borromean Rings. As for THAT meaning? Let's just say I haven't had much luck explaining Borromean Rings to the drive-thru cashier or that drunk old man at the bar who keeps offering me Swedish fish and poking my wrist like a button.

The second question "Do you have any others?" should be an easy answer, but to me, this question is a bit of an iceberg.  See, over the years I have often wanted another tattoo...or 2 or 3.  I've contemplated another on my wrist  - a Fleur de Lis with "KY" and "'77" to show my Louisville, Kentucky hometown pride. Or a ring around my finger -- just four words in script "You. Can. Know. Hope."  Or the one I contemplated and planned for years....a knot on my back.

On the first couple of "big" anniversaries of my accident (1-year, 5-year) I really wanted a large "knot" design tattooed on my lower back to commemorate my recovery...survival, really...and to celebrate the strength of my back as it was "tied" back together, in a way. At the time though, my ex-husband (then boyfriend and then husband) talked me out of it. He said he didn't feel the accident was ever something to "celebrate."  I tried to explain the difference in what I was trying to celebrate (survival/recovery vs death/paralysis), but I guess he was convincing at the time, as the anniversaries came and went without any commemorative ink.

On the 10th anniversary of my accident on Jan 2nd this year, I contemplated the idea again.  This time around there wasn't anyone there to talk me out of it. But this time around I talked me out of it. I thought about it on many occasions leading up to that day.  However, one morning I realized I didn't need it anymore.

As I was showering one morning, I looked down at my side, and a light bulb went off.  I noticed something that I often forget is there -- the 16" surgical scar down the side of my torso.  The superficial girl in me will always be thankful they brought in a plastic surgeon, on account my age at the time (24) and my sex, so I wouldn't be left with an ugly back surgery scar.  The doctor did such a good job that I can wear 2-piece swimsuits and people barely notice.  (Now... if I could just get my abs looking like they did at 24 again, I'd be set to show off the plastic surgeon's handiwork more often!)

It wasn't just the scar that I realized, nor the quality of the surgeon's work, but I realized instead that I already had a tattoo that both commemorated the accident and celebrated my survival. My scar was my tattoo.

At that point in the shower I reached over to my right arm and traced along another scar -- the 12" scar from my two elbow surgeries from years of playing piano. Like the scar from my accident, the elbow scar celebrates both a victory over years of pain and commemorates what was in essence the collapse of my love of the piano.

These scars, like tattoos, serve as markers --  on my body and my life -- of pieces of my history.  They illustrate in an abstract, rudimentary way "something happened here, and it left a mark."  I look at it and remember, or I don't see it at all.  One day they mean one thing, and the next they mean something else.  Sometimes I find them ugly, and other days beautiful. Though, the latter is few and far between. They elicit the same contrasting feelings of pride and regret that I can only imagine most people feel when looking at their own tattoos.

But the difference with these tattoos is that they were chosen for me by circumstance, as opposed to me choosing them to fit my circumstance. They're mine to accept. And they're mine to give meaning versus the other way around.

So yes, I do have another tattoo. I have three of them. And like the three rings on my wrist, they're all connected.


Anonymous said...

nice opinion.. thanks for sharing.

Dana Lisa Young said...

Love this! And can completely relate. I have scars from my laparoscopic surgery to remove my gallbladder. For most people, this would be no big deal, but it symbolizes my first foray into health consciousness/wellness, because after that, I had take more responsibility for my health.

But my most important scar is my c-section scar. It of course symbolizes my daughter's birth, but also my survival since I almost died from a postpartum hemorrhage. Every day I am reminded of how strong I am and the blessings I have.

Zac said...

Nice, ks. Thanks for sharing. Stay strong.