Sunday, August 23, 2015


Several weeks ago I walked into a tattoo shop, hardcore rapper music playing loudly in the background, and had a brief conversation with the tattoo artist who, yesterday, put the above tattoo on my wrist for me. As we talked at that initial meeting he seemed to be trying really hard to connect with us. The conversation seemed a bit stilted  and I wondered if we were not his typical clientele and if he was feeling a bit rattled. As we talked every single preconceived idea I had about tattoo shops was shouting in my head.

I liked that he maintained eye contact as I was trying really hard to read what was in his eyes. In the vein of trying to make conversation I asked if he had ever done any tattoos on mastectomy scars. I think his ears heard me say vasectomy scars by mistake. Oh, ouch. No. Never. He didn't say that but when he asked me to repeat my question my hand went to the empty side of my chest and he understood instantly. No, he hadn't ever but he was all about doing whatever people needed in order to feel beautiful about themselves.

Beautiful about themselves. I've worked so hard on feeling beautiful about myself and when his words pierced a deep wound I wasn't even aware was there, tears sprang instantly to my eyes. His eyes immediately softened and I was able to see such a depth of kindness there. Dearest One kept talking with him while I left the shop and stood and sobbed on the sidewalk.

Yesterday I walked into the shop and the music was truly awful. Long time readers know I have my very own potty mouth but there was something jarring about f bombs and other indelicacies being shouted out in time to a very heavy beat. I did some deep breathing, some praying, anything to distract me from being bombarded with the noise. At the same time, because I believe that art, all art, speaks truth to us, I respect people's rights to express that in whatever way speaks to them.

I wondered if the tattoo artist would remember our conversation about mastectomy scars. Well, what I really wondered was whether he would remember my reaction to that conversation. He did. He told me he was honoured that I would consider having him do such a tatoo.

The whole appointment to get my tattoo lasted about 30 minutes. We had the nicest conversation that included how he has a tattoo of his mother's name on his own wrist as a reminder to make his mother feel proud of him by his actions and morals. He's a loving father of a little girl and the best part of his day so far had been spending time with her.

It's such a gift in this world when our preconceived ideas get shot full of holes.

Kindness often springs up in the unlikeliest places.

Sunday, August 09, 2015

Sitting Right In The Ashes

I had to put my blog to private because my anonymity was breached. Enough time has passed that I felt I could change the settings back. I hope this is a sound move.

I've had a good, full-of-people summer. Grandchildren, children, parents, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, and long time friends in face to face communion. However, after three weeks of not a lick of solitude, I felt relieved to go on a week long silent retreat.

The first night is a communal supper where you can talk all you want, ahead of being assigned to a spiritual director. At supper I sat at the same table as a woman who radiated a warmth that was both solid and real. She also had a sparkle in her eye. I prayed she would be my spiritual director and then let go of that desire many times in the space of the next hour. After all, there were many spiritual directors to be had. But darn, I really wanted it to be her.

And it was.

The week that followed was a gift that comes from the blend of grace and hard work. Do those two words even belong in the same sentence? I don't know. My spiritual director has spent much of her life working with people in recovery. She was such a delight.

I like to complicate things, any thing, even a silent retreat, and had forgotten that it is enough to simply show up.

During the retreat I let go of trying to connect dots, even the dots of my journal ramblings and let them speak for themselves, without needing to come to a single conclusion. My spiritual director was content to let them be as well. It is a mystery how growth can come out of this. Not one tidy package to be had. Imagine that. And yet I feel changed.

Here is a quote from my journal which spoke to me during that time:
"The poor ego is always looking for an easy way out. Deep in the wintry parts of our minds, we are hardy stock and know there is no such thing as a work free transformation. We know that we will have to burnt to the ground in one way or another, and then sit right in the ashes of who we once thought we were and go on from there. But another side of our natures, a part more desirous of languor, hopes it won't be so, hopes the hard work can cease so slumber can resume." ~ Clarissa Pinkola Estes in Women Who Run With The Wolves
Songs came unbidden to mind the whole week. I trusted that they came from somewhere beyond me.  I was surprised with where they took me and how songs from decades ago could filter in and impact me.

Most days I went for a long walk that took me from countryside to city and then ended up at a creek on a mostly abandoned road.  There I dangled my legs over the side of the bridge while I sat and watched the water converge as if every drop of water was fighting it out for first place.

One night we had a communal penitential service followed by private confession. As we entered the chapel there was a basket of rocks with a sign asking us to pick one. The chapel lights were dimmed so I couldn't do my usual looking-through-the-whole-basket to find the perfect rock ritual. No, I picked up the first one my fingers found. As I sat waiting for the service to begin the rock felt heavy in my hand. My fingers searched its surface like they were reading braille when they found a ridge that ran through the middle of it and I smiled to myself at its appearance.

During the service we were invited to either place the rock in a basket at the altar afterwards, symbolizing a letting go of all that weighed us down, or to go out in nature do so there. Throwing mine into the creek, where it would take years of water coursing over it to smooth out that ridge, felt like the perfect place to let go of all that had surfaced for me during the week.