Tattoos, Scrapes & Scars.

Via on Feb 5, 2012

I have a tattoo.

Just the one. When I was 21, getting a butterfly tattooed on my lower back seemed like a totally unique idea in the way that everything you think seems unique and magical when you are young and foolish. I hadn’t heard the term “tramp stamp” yet. A friend bet me I wouldn’t do it. (And telling me I won’t be able to do something is generally the fastest way to get me to do it.)

I don’t dislike tattoos in general. I’d actually like to get a few more. Sometimes, though, I feel like this one was a mistake. I’ve joked about getting some words inked in around it, “It seemed like a good idea at the time!” I wish I had thought it through more. What you want at 21 isn’t always who you are or what you need at 31 and beyond. We grow, we change, we awaken.

It isn’t a huge deal. I’ll have that little three-second twinge of regret, and then shrug, and move on.

I have that impulse, though. We all do, right? We have that impulse to erase everything that no longer fits. To have a do-over, a clean slate. I want all my mistakes washed away so whatever comes next isn’t colored by them.

(Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

I want to shake up my life

like an Etch-a-Sketch

and get to start again

without all the little bits of past mistakes

cluttering everything up.

 

But I can’t. Deep down I wouldn’t really want to. That lump in my throat, the knot in my stomach, that wishing for a magic eraser doesn’t make me grow. If I could erase my mistakes, I might forget them.

I might forget not to make them all over again.

So I’ll keep my tattoo, and all my scrapes and scars. It’s okay that I’ve changed. I don’t need to keep staring back in regret. Ending up somewhere different than you expected doesn’t mean you took the wrong road. It means you kept on going. You keep on going–that’s the point.

I can look at my tattoo and remember that even though 108 million other girls had the same idea–I am unique. I can look at the scar on my ankle and remember thinking I was invincible (and being wrong!) I can look at the scar on my finger and remember a great job with some wonderful friends and some funny stories. I can look at all the scars on my heart and use them as a map instead of going forward on autopilot.

So I’m keeping the tattoo. I won’t try to hide my scars. I know I still have more to come. And this part I can tattoo on my heart:

“I used to have a sign pinned up on my wall that read: ‘Only to the extent that we expose ourselves over and over to annihilation can that which is indestructible be found in us.’”

~Pema Chödrön

Things will come together and fall apart and come back together again.

I will take my three-seconds, fold up my regrets like a road map and dive right out of my nest into whatever comes next.

If I want to strip down to what’s essential, to what’s indestructible, I’m bound to get a few more scars.

I wouldn’t have it any other way.

About Kate Bartolotta

Kate Bartolotta is the strongest girl in the world. She is the love child of a pirate and a roller derby queen. She hails from the second star to the right. She doesn't know how to behave with all the apples and ibexes. She doesn't suffer from her eight million freckles, she loves them! Like a rolling stone, Kate gathers no moss. Kate loves kale, being barefoot, Dr. Seuss, singing too loudly, gallivanting, palindromes, blackberries and has far too many books for her own good. When she's not writing, you can find her practicing yoga, running in the woods, playing with her kids, devouring a book, planting dandelions, changing the world and doing her dishes. Kate does not play the accordion. She is a massage therapist, writer and a compassionate friend to all. This year Kate aspires to finally give up on learning to knit and will instead spend that time putting a little bit more of her heart on the page. Connect with Kate on Facebook and Twitter

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28 Responses to “Tattoos, Scrapes & Scars.”

  1. Lorin says:

    Lovely.

    Posted to the Elephant Journal main page on Facebook.

    Lorin Arnold
    Blogger at
    The VeganAsana
    Associate Editor for Elephant Food
    Editor for Elephant Family

  2. Wonderful piece Kate – gotta share this one!

  3. Ozz says:

    FYI, the quote Chodron was citing was from Zen master Karlfried graf Dürckheim – and the entire passage is worth considering:

    "The person who, being really on the Way, falls upon hard times in the world, will not, as a consequence, turn to that friend who offers him refuge and comfort and encourages his old self to survive. Rather, he will seek out someone who will faithfully and inexorably help him to risk himself, so that he may endure the difficulty and pass courageously through it. Only to the extent that a person exposes himself over and over again to annihilation, can that which is indestructible be found within him. In this daring lies dignity and the true spirit of awakening."

  4. karlsaliter says:

    Nice work as usual Kate, just posted to elephant spirituality facebook.

  5. Karla says:

    Simply beautiful!

  6. Pixie says:

    beautiful and true! I feel the same way about my scars from my mastectomy; I used to be ashamed of them, and now, they are a special part of me, they represent so many lessons learned and because of them, I am alive (no more cancer)!

  7. OK, you just convinced me I need to write about my scars….they're not hidden by yoga pants, tattooed by choice, but carved into my face by the slashed glass of a windscreen in a head-on collision….and not once have I ever wanted them gone :)

  8. [...] I know I couldn’t have reached there before, that quiet place. I don’t know how I would have gone through it in normal circumstances, without the ripping, shredding trauma of everything being torn from me, inside and out. I don’t conclude that going through this is the only way to arrive. But maybe it takes something similar; or maybe for others, it doesn’t. But it does take something that is, on all the very quiet and deep levels, so much more than we ever… [...]

  9. JoshMPlant says:

    Truly wonderful. My scars remind me that the pain is finished and the healing has commenced. I used to cut, a lot, so my scars are my friend. They ground me. They remind me that I got out, and moved on.

  10. Love this Kate! I also have a tattoo I got when I was 18, lower left back. It was before the craze hit and while I have always "scoffed" at the tramp stamp reaction. This means a lot more to me and it doesn't matter what others think. Scars are beautiful in their own right no matter what form they come in. Surgical or colorful. They radiate light in a different way!

  11. paulie says:

    when it comes to tattoos
    Jimmy Buffett said it best
    "a permanent reminder of a temporary feeling"

  12. Ayngelina says:

    Dragon tattoo on my lower right back. I got it when I was 23 and moved to Asia to work after university. Some people tease me about it but it was a really important time in my life and I look at it with pride of what I had accomplished. I'd never get rid of it,

  13. [...] comments about body art, like the one above, are not unfamiliar to those of us thus [...]

  14. [...] how you want something to look, with the design or where it is located on your body. Please do! It’s your tattoo! You’re the one that’s going to have to walk around with it on your person for the rest of your [...]

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