Saturday, June 15, 2013

The real thing

“Wear your heart on your skin in this life.”

-- Sylvia Plath, Johnny Panic and the Bible of Dreams

Self portrait 6-15-13

 “Tattoos are a right of passage. 
They're a marker of bravery, of maturity, of cultural acceptance. 
The tattoo represents not only a willingness to accept pain -- to endure it -- 
but a need to actively embrace it. 
Because life is painful - beautiful but painful."

-- Nicola Barker, The Yips

I've done a handful of self portraits with faux/temporary tattoos:

A swallow.
A panther.
Paper dolls.
Japanese lettering.
A gecko.

The tattoo in today's portrait is the real deal.

I have been thinking about this tattoo for a long time. For about 2 years, in fact. I did a self portrait in 2011 with these same words, in removable stickers, pressed onto my neck.

This time the words are permanent. Inked indelibly on my arm.


Today's face is kind of a continuation of yesterday's post, the one about self-destructive tendencies.

I know the words "don't let me get me" are just lyrics from a pop song. But that doesn't mean they can't be deeply meaningful. That doesn't mean they aren't powerful. That doesn't mean they can't be the cry of my soul, or that they aren't necessary and relevant to my everyday existence.

I am not much of a pray-er. Never have been. Though I have tried it in the past, I never really took to it. It always felt weirdly formal and forced and awkward. It's much easier, more natural, more honest for me, to repeat the catchy lyrics of a song -- to let them replay in my mind, over and over.

You might call it an ear worm. I prefer to think of it more like praying without ceasing. Because these words do function for me as a sort of prayer. Or maybe they're less like a prayer, and more like a mantra.

A plea.

A cry.

A petition.

A request.

An appeal.

Whichever, to whoever, or whatever is out there to please hear me and please help me and please heal me so that I don't wreck myself.

Voices can be silenced. But these printed words, embedded into my skin via needle and ink, say what they say no matter what anyone says. Even if I cover them, they'll never stop speaking into the atmosphere.

They're always there.

So even when I'm too tired, too broken, too afraid, too discouraged to utter them ... these word will say and say and say what they say, every day, for the rest of my life.


(Thanks a million to my genius tattooer, Robin H.M., at Tattoo 546. This one's not my first, and definitely not my last.)