Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The Long Version

It's a little more complicated to explain the 3"x4" tattoo I have on the top of my left foot. A black outline of a fully blossomed Lotus flower. When people ask why I got the piercing by my mouth my answer is simple, "Well I was drunk one night with a friend..." When people ask why I tattooed a chocolate-dipped strawberry to my right hip I say, "It was my 18Th birthday and I was just discovering my sexuality." Even though I actually prefer my room mates philosophy on strawberries which she divulged one night during a smoke session; "Dude strawberries are so weird....there's like, nothing else even like a strawberry. Think about it!"

The Lotus flower (which for some reason I'm realizing I capitalize unintentionally) comes with many meanings and metaphors. In Buddhism the Lotus flower is one of the symbols on the path to enlightenment and Buddha himself was said to have been born on a Lotus flower.Taoist artists use the Lotus to symbolize beauty and light and the Goddess Laxmi is depicted as standing on a Lotus with a Lotus in two of her four hands. And of course the Lotus is most commonly depicted as having a direct connection with the coming and going of the Sun. The Blue Lotus, which opens at day break and closes at night fall is said to symbolize the beginning of creation.

When I was a little girl my world revolved around my mother. Her moods, her ups and downs, when she cried, when she laughed and how boisterous. I adored her in every light, but especially when she was happy. She and my father had, for lack of a better word, a rough marriage. My very first memory in life is being four years old and having Sesame Street interrupted by my parents loud argument upstairs. My father stormed out without a word or his usual request for a cheek to kiss. A few minutes later my mother emerged from the staircase and offered us (my older sister and I) each a huge black garbage bag. "Put all the toys you want to bring in this bag. We're leaving." I remember asking the whole way there where Daddy was. Would he be meeting us in Columbus? My mother didn't have any answers for me, she just kept telling me to look outside the window and enjoy the view. It was one of the many times she left him, and so permanence has always been a concept I've had trouble with.

When I was 13, my parents divorced. As a consequence to some of my father's actions he was sent away to Folsom Prison for a few years. At that point I wasn't allowed to love my father anymore. I was supposed to hate him and so I did. The reasons why were beyond my ability to comprehend. All I knew was that I wasn't the important one, I wasn't the victim or the convicted. I was just the one who got leaned on.

When I was 19 I moved in with my boyfriend of two years. He had just come out of jail for a credit card scam he did in Georgia. I was in love with him. He and I were like best friends. Eventually I got pregnant and we had a reason to ignore our problems. Until my hormones got the best of me one day. I didn't want him to leave, I protested and threw a tantrum. I knew where he was going, I was no fool even in my humbling state. My hand flew from my side and across his face. The next thing I knew I was looking up from the floor at him, both of us in total shock. He'd knocked my 5'4" pregnant body to the floor in one blow. It wasn't the last time, or the worst. Eventually my baby went to God. And that year I tried to commit suicide.

At 23 things were different. I was older and somewhat wiser. I was with a man nothing like my ex, and nothing like my father. He didn't fight me to be right but he was somehow never wrong. But I was battling my demons. I didn't want to admit it, but I felt like the product of my past. I felt like an abandoned child, a battered woman and a confused little girl all at the same time. It was so hard to see all the good in front of me.

I always saw Lotus flowers on TV or in the pond behind our apartment (a Chinese garden was tucked away near the creek), but wondered where they came from. So I read up on them and realized that what they represent is almost as beautiful as how the appear. In a sense they represent rebirth, an eternal cleansing. Shedding the past and allowing your self to be renewed. They represented progress to me as well, persevering through a "muddy" past and coming out clean on the other side. I knew it would take time, but I wanted to identify with myself suddenly instead of where I came from or what I'd been through. It was a point in my life when I finally started to think about what I wanted. I let go of certain friends, and certain habits. I even got a therapist for a little while, someone to talk it out with as taboo as the concept may seem.

So saying all that when someone asks, "Why did you get that tattoo on your foot?" would probably seduce them into a nap or at least a good eye rolling. Instead I tell them that I just think it's pretty and "No it didn't hurt much." Two lies I always forgive myself for.