The story of how I came to have a tattoo is also a story about joy.
It all happened about 17 years ago.
I am not even over-dramatizing when I say that when my first marriage ended, I resolutely hauled all of the clothes out of my closet as I sobbed, threw everything in garbage bags, grabbed my beloved basset hound, and drove away from my life as I knew it in the dead of night.
I ended up back in my parents’ home and very gradually and gently, began to re-build and create a new life,
My break from my first marriage was abrupt and harsh, and though I knew for sure that leaving was for the best, there was much to grieve and much that I still cared about in that little town that I had so quickly left behind.
Karen, for instance -not me, of course, but my dear friend Karen, the woman who had been my principal through my first few years of teaching elementary. Karen had become my mentor, not just in teaching, but in life: in leadership, in spirituality, in all things good that I aspired to become.
She worried about me after I left, calling me, sending me uplifting gifts, and even driving us both all the way up to Edmonton and back on the day before school started back in September so that we could attend Lilith Fair together.
What I remember most about that trip, though, were the deep conversations during the long car ride –
Conversations that still stay with me even though she has been gone 9 years, having died of cancer a little over a year after my mom died.
On another car trip that summer, her and I went to Calgary and each bravely got a tattoo in honour of her 45th birthday.
I had an orange and blue star inked onto my lower back, inspired by the paper lantern that hung in the bedroom of my new apartment.
The walls of that little bedroom in the top floor suite of the old house that I was renting were painted orange and navy blue and my landlord (who would become my future father-in-law) apologized profusely for this fact. I didn’t care, though,
I loved everything about that apartment, especially the bedroom.
I would look up from my bed at that beautiful star,
while the bold, strong colours on the walls cocooned me up at night.
Emerging from underneath my feelings of hurt and betrayal was a sense of freedom and renewal that I had never before quite experienced,
an exhilarating sense of possibility that from that day forward I could and would re-write my life. I would choose new words to define my days,
words like integrity, truth, adventure, kindness,
And when I went to bed at night in my little apartment, even though I was alone, I felt
I rarely even remember anymore that I have a tattoo. It is mostly hidden, and I can’t see it. For a while I stated that I would, at some point, go back and have the star filled in with a more intricate and detailed design to make the tattoo more artistic and interesting, as it is really just an outline of a star filled in with solid colors.
However, even as I said it out loud back them, I doubted I ever would.
My minor act of rebellion was complete and I had no desire to subject myself to more needless pain.
The outline is enough.
Thank you, Karen, for your big love that summer and for holding my hand through the pain that I needed to then bear,
for generously taking me into the fold of your true self, uncovering to me truths and desires and ideas that I needed to understand then to be who I am now.
I am ever amazed by the intricate paths that the stories of our lives lead us down, cleverly and magically winding,
seemingly finding the fullness of circles (and stars) to complete.