Imbued with this feeling of gratitude shining forth from my chest that’s nearly ready to burst with the goodness of it all…
I didn’t know I was supposed to—it was an entirely new experience for me and I learned as I went. Two sessions. The first session was for the initial consult and I was scared shitless. Yet I was invigorated to show someone my art, which I wanted permanently displayed on my skin.
It’s not so much a piece of art as a coat of arms. It says something about a person, and mine seems to inspire questions and wonder in those who gaze upon it, so I feel that’s fitting for me.
But I have a problem with exchanging money for such a positive and enlightening experience as I had there, and I’m not exaggerating one minute amount to say it was life-altering. Definitely affirming. I wanted to do something. Hippies don’t exchange money, but hugs only go so far
A basket filled with hand-picked organic fruits and vegetables, preferably local, is what I decided on. Also, some other vegetarian and vegan staples—lentils, quinoa, nuts, seeds—clean food.
To my mind, me picking these items out by hand, and with only the best and most positive intentions is the only true way to show someone how much you really do appreciate their efforts. I paid cash for the work itself, but I want to repay the artist with heart and soul. I want her to feel what I could not even hope to put into words or express in artwork. Some would call it paying it forward. The semantics of it are unimportant, all that matters is the expression itself.
How can you put a dollar amount to sitting sunken in to a well-worn couch, waiting patiently and unhurriedly for your tattoo artist to arrive, who is 30 minutes late, when the owner of the shop walks in the front door locking eyes with you in a split second of complete spiritual knowledge?
You just know where each other are coming from without any formal exchange of words. This is the reason you chose this place, you say. Nice work, he says. A simple thank you, and he goes off to begin his own work.
You still sit there, completely content and having not a care in the world. You simply thrive in that space and time, caught between moments of past and future.
Later, when your artist arrives and is actively scratching ink into your skin, he says how he knew something awesome would happen today, not only for the amazing piece of art on your arm, but also for the complete calm you exuded in waiting. Total acceptance. He says you were just being. Being. I could have cried and in fact did feel a slight sting in my tear ducts. Happiness.
Little moments like that just validate your whole goddamn existence, they do, and the beauty is overwhelming to me. Words really fail at times like that, but no positive action falls on deaf ears. Your every fiber of being seems to remind you, so you don’t forget and soon you feel compelled to do something good yourself, for someone else. Good decisions that lead to more good decisions by others.
After much spiritual and philosophical conversation, all of it meaningful and with purpose, he shares a glass of kombucha he brewed himself, a direct exchange of life and love from one organism to another. Let food be thy medicine, and so shall be my gift to my artist.
It won’t be fancy but it will mean something. It won’t pay your bills but it will nurture your body and spirit.
Sadly, we miss this experience anymore. Shopping complexes only complicate matters.
Live simply, live well. Most of all, live with a goddamn purpose—a meaning, and make it good.
Buy two of something and share it with your neighbor—spreading your joy even if they don’t offer anything in return. The gesture, though not reciprocated instantly, will not easily be forgotten and maybe one day, at your funeral, they will speak up about the time you did something really nice for them and that they never forgot it and this speech will sparkle in the hearts and minds of all in attendance, and it will inspire someone there to do something nice, just because.
There will always be those that tell me I’m going to regret getting this, because it’ll be with me for the rest of my life and what it might look like when I get older, but I really don’t care. I’m not there yet, am I? Even if I were, I would still never regret it because it was something I waited to do for years, patiently waiting for the right time and place and person to translate it to my skin for me.
It’s symbolic of why you shouldn’t rush things, and it reminds me that things will almost always work out somehow, some way, even if it’s not exactly what you thought you had in mind.
I look in the mirror and I see life reflected back at me, I can see the love in it, the peace and tranquility and see it bristling with positive affirmations.
To most, it will always just be a lot of ink on my arm. Permanently.
I’ve never been one to enjoy life inside the box, though, and I will never regret this experience because it found me truly feeling this moment.
Shane Michael is an inward journeyer, outward experiencer. Mental martial artist, makeshift yogi, all around nice guy. A bit cynical at times but it’s a work in progress, as are all things. Recently embracing the inherent talent within, rather than fighting against or resisting it, has made life so much easier now. I’m learning, one day at a time, that this life is what you make it.
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Ed: Wendy Keslick/Kate Bartolotta