My first was a set of delicate quotation marks on my wrists, right over my pulse points. I was twenty. I lived in a world of fiction. Books -- writing them, reading -- got me through a lot of tough years. I wanted to keep that peace with me and be able to look at it every day and find it again.
Last May I got my latest tattoo. I was twenty-three, my sister was twenty-one. On the back of her left heel, she got the sun and I got the moon on my own right heel. I remember not being nervous, and I remember how brilliantly teal the walls of the tattoo parlor were with the early summer sun glaring through the windows. My sister means the world to me, and even more than books ever were or could be, she is my happy and bright, no matter how dark the nights.
But my favorite tattoo was my second. I was twenty-one, almost twenty-two. The days leading up to it were spent deciding where I wanted the tattoo placed, how big I wanted the lettering, which script was right. It was my sister's first tattoo (a quote from Rent across her back, in typewriter lettering). I wore my Ramones shirt. I had a panic attack on the drive there, making the tattoo all the more appropriate afterward.
|Photo by Sarah Culver Photography|
"fear no fate"
I decided I wanted the small quote to sit just under my left collarbone, a few inches above my heart. I wanted it visible; I wanted to see it every time I looked in the mirror.
Usually, the tops I wear cover at least part of the tattoo. (I noticed once, at work, that only the word "fear" was visible. It made me laugh, and then think about the importance of the two words that followed.) So, naturally, because it is a tattoo that is partially visible -- as in, visible enough to see I have a tattoo, but maybe not clear enough to make out what it is -- I get a lot of questions about it.
"Fear no fate." It's a line I cut out of my favorite E.E. Cummings poem, [i carry your heart with me(i carry it in]. It sits at the top of the second stanza, and in full, the sentiment reads reads:
i fear / no fate(for you are my fate,my sweet)It's no secret I hold a special place in my heart for poetry. I hoard prose. The other day I found a torn page of poetry folded up in my wallet. I have pages upon pages bookmarked, earmarked, highlighted and underlined. E.E. Cummings is certainly one of my favorites. He's one poet I return to, time and again, no matter my mood.
Fear has played too large a hand in my life. When my anxiety was at its worst, I couldn't see a path forward. I was afraid of moving at all, so I stood still. I feared every fate, because something positive -- something possible and good -- was unfathomable.
I tattooed a permanent message of defiance.
Here's a truth: I have always been worried that I will never be enough. I have this constant worry that those around me will always only be temporary. My past is complicated. My present is also complicated. I am, frankly, an effort. It's why it takes me so long to open up to people, to trust them; I'm afraid the more I share, the sooner they'll leave. Becoming a burden, feeling like a burden (justified or not), is my greatest fear.
That's another thread of thought throughout the poem that always grabs me.
i carry your heart with me (i carry it / in my heart)i am never without it(anywhere / i go you go, my dear)"My sister, my father, my friends. Anyone I love can never leave me. They are never far when I carry them with me, when I permit their existence in my heart. No matter the literal, physical distance, they are always a heartbeat away. People change people, for better or worse.