I have loved this journey that I have been placed on. It’s not always been easy, and it’s definitely not always been pretty, but it has taught me much along the way. Much about myself, and about those I encounter. It is important to know a little more than the woman with the tattoo. It is important to know a little about why she inspired me so much.
I grew up in a house that contained disease. A member of my family was riddled with a terrible disease that attacked often without notice and with no consistency. Everything could be fine for months, even years, and boom, they couldn’t walk, or speech was slurred, or eyesight was affected. We never knew when, or what would be next. This caused much anxiety for my loved one. There were times when this person would avoid social settings because of fear that strangers would make inaccurate judgments. There was often the question hovering above of, “what will people think, or say?”. It made me sad that this person I loved was so tortured by other people’s perceptions that she elected to avoid putting herself in situations where there was a chance someone might think something. It made me sad, because I knew that a life like this lacked joy and intimacy. To my best efforts though, I heard myself years later saying, “People might think….” to my own kids. Some of that rubbed off on me, in spite of my best efforts, I too was worried about what others thought and said about me.
Then I encountered my senior culture of clients. I admired them. Here is an age group of people who have let go of the need to impress anyone. They live life to enjoy it. At least where my clients are concerned, I found this to be true. I often say that I worry least about my senior clients because they have nothing to prove to me. I rarely have a senior work beyond their limits. I spend more time worrying about the safety of my younger clients who still care how they look, and who is judging them. They are the ones who get hurt most often. I know because I hurt myself by pushing beyond my own limits while I was still young enough to care how other people perceived me.
One particular client stands out prominently in my mind. Her name was Joan. She was about 80 at the time I started working with her in a class setting. She was a doll. At first her body was stiff from years of emotional baggage and stress. She was always kind to herself though. As time went by, and her body began to open, she was thrilled. She would come to class so excited to share with me something she hadn’t been able to do in years. It was like she was a child discovering her body for the first time. So much excitement and enthusiasm came with her experience. I grew to really love Joan as I watched her unfold. During the 4 years I worked with her, I was witness to an amazing woman. She cared for her dying husband of 50+ years and bid him farewell. She loved deeply, she knew the value of living, and was full of life no matter her situation. She influenced me as I was going through one of the most difficult times in my adult life to date. She inspired me to stay joyful in spite of my own situation. She inspired me to be curious and enthusiastic.
One day when the class went into deep relaxation. I looked across the floor to see a group of beautiful vibrant senior women relaxing, and low and behold I spied a NEW tattoo. Joan was wearing shorts that day, and what I saw was a fresh, new butterfly on her inner thigh.
That’s the kind of woman I aspire to be. The kind of woman who, at nearly 80, would walk into a tattoo shop and get my first tattoo on my inner thigh. Joan was living for her own well-being, her own happiness, her own self-esteem. She knew that she could not control anyone else’s thoughts or reactions to her, and she did not care. She was an amazing and beautiful woman who I will always be thankful for having in my class. Joan, I learned so much from you. Thank you for showing me your tattoo.