I’ve presented a lot of my personal healing art on this site, which to date I believe has all been my painting. I have also shared other healing art mediums, poetry, writing, t-shirts, etc. to underscore the point that healing art encompasses a huge variety of types and manners. Aside from being a painter, I also am an avid tattoo fan.
I have numerous tattoos, all of which I have designed myself and all of which have significant meaning to me. They all represent various stages in my life evolution and my recovery process. This includes milestones of achievement, reminders of struggles overcome, celebration of what I’ve accomplished in my life journey and people who have been a significant part of it all. To most everyone else my tattoos are basically colorful shapes and forms and I do get a lot of compliments. (So thank you to Jennifer Cook, my lifelong tattoo artist, for her ability to translate my significant body artwork designs into vivid, relevant tattoos – you can check out her work at www.liquidjadetattoos.com)
I think what I enjoy most about tattoo art is the permanence of the statement and the fact that while my tattoos are displayed to the world, I control with whom I share their true symbolism and meanings. I have a tattoo on my back that would be defined as a “tribal dragonfly” motif at first glance, but is actually designed to include the first letters of my former partner Tim, my three children, Christy, Jaimee and Ian and myself. It is a commemoration of the importance of my family. (I define family as family-of-choice, not necessarily family by blood relationship.) I use the diamond shape quite often in my tattoo designs as my symbol for family and important persons in my life as well. On this tattoo I’ve placed the five diamonds at the top of my neck so they show above shirt collars, for me a constant display to the world of something I hold dear.
Another tattoo on my upper left arm is a grouping of lotus flowers, in recognition of my continual effort in life to rise out of the dirt and muck of childhood sexual abuse and “bloom” as my true self. On my right forearm I have the word “evolving” inked using graffiti lettering and incorporating symbols that characterize my personal commitment to always learning and growing in my life. On either side of the word “evolving” are the wings of radical acceptance, clear vision and compassionate presence. My tattoos are a constant reminder to me of what I hold important and meaningful in my life.
Some of my tattoos are more abstract, much like my paintings. Let me share an example. I struggled for years with the challenge of overcoming the power that Lyle, my biological father and violent child rapist, held over me even after his death. As is so common for male survivors, I so desperately wanted a father figure that I found it incredibly challenging to let go of him and relinquish the control he still had over my thoughts and feelings.
With painful hard work in therapy and a determination to retrain my thoughts and feelings, I was able to let him go, to give back to him what was his and no longer accept his insidious and damaging influence over me. It was such a shock and such a wonderful feeling when this happened that I wanted to capture and claim that victorious occasion. A tattoo seemed to be the perfect way to do this. The permanence of the tattoo would be symbolic of me overcoming and never turning back. Placing the tattoo around my wrist where I would see it all the time would be a constant reminder to me of my commitment to accept what I had accomplished and never go back.
My tattoos convey moments in my life story and indelibly capture my victories. They have been a source of immense satisfaction for me as they constantly remind me of what I’ve accomplished and overcome in my journey of recovery, as well as persistently remind me what and who is important to me.
Bottom line for today’s blog is that healing arts take many forms and all of these can be effective tools at our disposal if we just reach out and utilize them. It is my hope that everyone reading this and all my blogs will take advantage of the power of healing arts.