Today in a discussion about the definition of graffiti and whether it is ever justified, I learned that I think of tattoos as graffiti. And furthermore, that I think tattoos (as graffiti) are justified when they convey a positive message which everyone can understand.
I have two tattoos: one that I never see and one (which remains unfinished) that I see every day. I’ve spent many hours trying to analyze why I went to the trouble and distress of getting them and have finally reached a conclusion–I needed to convey an outward message to the world about what was going on inside of me.
My first tattoo–a dragonfly between my shoulder blades–signifies flight, an open book (this is one name for a type of dragonfly whose wings look so much like an open book, it’s name is Libella, Latin for ‘pages’), and a crucifix. I survived the tattoo process by myself, surprised a few people (including myself) and then forgot about the whole thing. This tattoo marks the beginning of a long, painful process of surviving the loss of love. My husband of 15 years and I were growing apart and I didn’t know what to do about it. Nothing I tried seemed to work. The dragonfly symbolized the most sacred aspects of myself; how I wanted to live my life.
My second tattoo–a fern frond unfurling as it grows across the top of my foot–signifies growth. It’s ironic that the tattoo remains unfinished (no one told me how incredibly painful it is to experience tiny needle points on your foot where there is no flesh, only skin and bone) because my growth is also unfinished. Some days, my friend and I say we are taking a sabbatical from personal growth, but that’s a joke of course–that would be impossible! The pain of getting this tattoo matches the extreme pain of personal growth sometimes. This one marks my decision to live a more authentic life that honors what I hold most sacred and gives it ample space in my life; a life that was being overcrowded with external values and demands.
This graffiti on my body acts as a message to me: remember who you are Jaqui, because you are valuable and, in fact, sacred. Hopefully the tattoos are a positive message that can be conveyed to others, especially when people around me ask about them. I am always happy to talk about them, even though they remind me of challenging times in my life.