Its All About The Ink…

As an operating room nurse, I get to see some really great tattoos. I also get to see some really questionable ones too, but I don’t judge. For me, it’s about the quality of the work and the message not the placement or vulgarity of the piece. Tattoo is art you wear on your skin, its been said.

I think its more than that.

I’ve written about integration of body, mind, and spirit previously. For many of the patients I talk to in my practice, getting a tattoo was a way to claim their body back. Patients who were forced to undergo multiple surgical procedures, chemo, radiation, all the stuff — to save their ‘skin’. Well, by the end, a lot of them don’t really feel connected to that body any more. I wish I had a dollar for every breast cancer patient or heart patient I have taken care of who came through with a pink or red ribbon tattoo on their bodies.

For me, getting tattoos was likewise a statement of the same sentiment. Traumas from my childhood, relationship issues, and my struggles with anxiety left me feeling afloat. When I got my first tattoo, small and inconspicuous though it is, I felt like I had just reclaimed my entire being, this skin was mine again. I knew it would not be my only tattoo.

When I talk to patients about their ink, I love to hear the stories attached to each piece. Each design is specifically chosen and has meaning to the person who will wear it on their skin for the rest of their lives. Today, I find, if someone has made an error in judgement and changes their mind about an image, skillful artists can cover old tattoos with spectacular new creations that are simply stunning. There are no mistakes in tattoos, only a human canvass which can be ‘repainted’.

Having a tattoo is fairly mainstream these days. Many of the people I know, work with, socialize with, am related to, or otherwise bump into have ink. We are not outliers of society as in days gone by.

I remember when my nephew (who is around forty-six now) got his Calvin and Hobbs tattoo as a teenager. His mother had a fit. Ironically, the last time she visited me (at around age seventy-two years old), I took her on down to my tattoo place and she got a Tinkerbelle tattoo. It was completely awesome.

I have settled in with three to date, with a couple more in the planning stages. My ink. My skin. My life.

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