June 30, 2010

How Can You Tattoo Your Body

Last week, I celebrated my 31st birthday by getting my second tattoo. I got my first tattoo on my 26th birthday and I liked the symmetry of getting the second one 5 years to the day. I also waited five years because I am very particular about permanent additions to my body. I used that time to find an image that meant something to me and to consider if I really wanted it on my body. The five year gap led to some interesting comments, though, from the older members of my tribe including, “I thought you got over that!”

Admittedly, tattoos hit primo fad stage during my college years. You couldn’t sneeze without hitting a classmate’s tribal armband or a sorority girl’s butterfly. Tattoos became as ubiquitous to youthful rebellion as trash can punch and loud music. Let’s face it, everybody who wanted to assert their individuality was doing it. Add that to the fact that to one generation previous, tattoos were something only a certain type of people (tacky people) had, it’s no wonder that the parents of the world consider tattoos to be an unfortunate trend they hope we’ll get over quickly.

And I suppose many of my age group did. Post-motherhood, a friend no longer finds the lone star above her ass in quite the same shape, nor quite so endearing. Another acquaintance only admits she has a tattoo when directly asked. “I was drunk in Hawaii,” she says as explanation of the three-line drawing of a quarter-sized flower on her ankle. Then there’s the coworker who claims to love her tattoo, but made sure to order special make-up to cover it up so it wouldn’t show as she walked down the aisle at her wedding. Like any good impulsive gesture of youth, tattoos are often treated with good-natured embarrassment. For some, they rank alongside prom pictures that feature mullets: that’s just something that we did once.

But then there are people like me. There are a few of us who didn’t get their tattoos because all the cool kids were getting one, and not all of us regret the decision. (At least, we haven’t gotten around to regretting them yet.) One friend still buys shirts based on whether they show off her artwork. Another, upon seeing my new tattoo, fell to classic tat-envy and went a got another piece that afternoon. As I admired her new sea turtle the following day she told me that her next will probably be a bird. “You don’t expect me to stop at 11 do you,” she laughed. I wonder if I ever hit 11 tattoos if my Mom will stop sounding so shocked over the phone.

I don’t expect to hit 11 tattoos (Mom and others who may frown upon such activities), but I love my tattoos. To me, I’m surprised that it is a surprise to anyone. I love artwork. I’ve studied art, I seek out art, I surround myself with art. I receive frequent comments from anyone who visits my workspace or my home on how much I seem to need to cover everything with art. It just seems like a logical next step to me. If I find something beautiful enough and meaningful enough that I want to carry it with me, why shouldn’t I?

No, it doesn’t hurt that much. Yes, there is a chance of infection but if I’m smart enough to find a good dentist then I’m smart enough to find a good artist. Oh yes, it might be a little tacky but it’s my kind of tacky. No, nobody’s every exploded in a CAT scan. And yes, I might regret it someday. Or, if I don’t ever regret it, I might at least be good-naturedly embarrassed by how I spent my 31st birthday. I might even cover it up when I walk down the aisle someday.

Right now, though, I want to show my tattoos off. I love them. The first is the Chartres labyrinth. I love that its four sections represent the seasons. I love that you have to give up control to walk a labyrinth and just trust that it will take you to the right place. I love the implication that just because you don’t know where you are going doesn’t mean you are lost. I love my new tattoo also. It’s based on a design from Mimbres pottery called “Night.” To me it’s like my own little universe swirling on my back. It’s unique, it’s southwestern, it’s pretty, and it’s mine. Both of them have become enough mine to make part of me. I get to become part of the art I love. Why get over that?

June 4, 2010

It’s All In Your Mind

I read an article on the Weight Watchers® site yesterday that discussed the connection between a cluttered home and putting on a few pounds around a waistline. The upshot was that the two are symptoms of the same problem: a need for instant gratification. We see something we want so we get it. Who cares if we don’t have space for it or don’t really need it. We wants it. (Especially if it has sprinkles.) In the need to feed our instant gratification we clutter our lives with junk and dust collectors and love handles.

Clutter is also the physical evidence of a scatterbrain. I say this, because I am one. Though my powers of concentration are flat out amazing when I have them turned on, they need to be—well—turned on. I have to make myself sit down and focus on a task in order to be able to—well—focus on a task. I listen to music at work so I’ll actually proofread at work rather than just snigger at the conversations the sales reps are having on the other side of cubicle wall. I schedule which nights I do certain chores around the house or they’ll never get done. I have to put time and effort into not being a scatterbrain because, I’m pretty sure, it’s my natural brain setting.

Seriously, I was slightly alarmed one night when the commercial for the treatment of adult ADD featured a woman named Anne. (“Oh crap, what was the first half of that commercial about, because somehow I think it might pertain to me?!”) I have also picked up, thumbed through, and put down dozens of books on feng shui. I always see an entry in those books that says something like, “Put things away. A cluttered home makes for a cluttered mind.” I figure if I ever get the clutter under control, I’ll go back, buy the book, and commence with the rest of the feng shui.

My extra poundage is a very similar story. When I pay attention to what I’m eating, I eat well. When I concentrate on being healthy, I’m a pretty healthy person. When I schedule the damn workouts, I exercise on a regular basis. When I give something my complete focus, I’m generally pretty good at it. So, why do I have trouble focusing? I have a cluttered mind.

No really! There’s a lot I want to do, there’s a lot I don’t want to do, there are a few stories I want to write, there is a lot of trivia to be memorized, there are countless song lyrics learned through osmosis, there are some fears, there are some doubts, there are at least three dirty jokes to be broken out at parties, and there is a whole bunch of other stuff sitting in piles in the metaphorical back room of my head. Much like there are un-hung pictures, piles of scrapbooking supplies, and loose “important” documents cluttering the actual back room of my duplex.

Luckily there is a cure for a cluttered mind, and it is not featured in TV commercials about adult ADD. (“Anne, what do you think? Anne?”) I have tried it and I recommend it to everyone: yoga. True yoga incorporates meditation. If you are just trying yoga-like exercises, or just meditating without any of the physical stuff, that’s fine, but you’re not getting that wonderful double-whammy of a good set followed by a deep meditation. It feels wonderful and it really does minimize the head clutter, which makes it a little easier to tackle the instant gratification-related clutter. I know this to be true because when I practiced yoga regularly I had a more peaceful mind. When I stopped practicing regularly, I had a noisier mind. Now that I’ve returned to regular practice—well—practice is the cure for everything.