Saturday, August 14, 2010

The Self

I try not to cross-post between here and Over A Candle too much. But because of the adoption themes inherent in this post, and because I know not everyone who reads here reads there, I thought I should share this in both places.

I have, for many years, considered getting a tattoo. I knew that, if I got one, it would have to be a rune. And because runes play so deep a part of my spirituality, I could not trust just anyone with doing the art. It would invariably have an impact on my own spiritual life. So I needed someone I could trust.

Unfortunately, I never really met anyone I got to know well enough who also did tattoos. So I sat on the impulse for over a decade.

Earlier this year, I saw an episode of Flashforward where a woman had a Japanese character tattooed on her wrist. It occurred to me then that I should get a rune tattooed on my wrist.

But I still needed someone to do it, and I needed a design. At first I thought I would have just a simple character, but I realized I should get something a bit more unique. I did look at designs online, and I found one or two I liked, but I wasn't sure I wanted the runes I was finding (including Eihwaz, the rune for defense). I liked them, but I wasn't sure.

Earlier this week, I finally decided I needed to get a rune tattooed. It was time, and I had to do it. But I still needed a design. When I began thinking about it a couple of months ago, a friend had offered her services. This is a good friend from the online adoption community I'm a part of.

I told Devon what I wanted. The rune for the Self, Mannaz, seemed the only real choice for the tattoo. I showed her a picture and told her what it meant. Then I gave her almost no direction in designing a stylized version of the rune.

Here is how Ralph Blum describes Mannaz in his work The Book of Runes, which I have used as a resource for more than twenty years. The following are the opening and closing paragraphs from Mannaz's entry (in the upright position):

The starting point is the self. Its essence is water. Only clarity, willingness to change, is effective now. A correct relationship to your self is primary, for from it flow all possible correct relationships with others and with the Divine. . . .

If you take the Rune of the Self and cut it down the middle, you will see the Rune for Joy with its mirror image. There is a subtle caution here against carelessness. The dancing acrobatic energy of balancing is called for now - the Self is required to balance the self. Nothing in excess was the second phrase written over the gateway to the temple at Delphi. The first counsel was Know thyself.

With almost no guidance, but for a few comments on early drafts, here is the final piece of artwork that Devon came up with for me.

Here is Devon's original artwork.

There is a lot of meaning in this for me. The first thing I noted in her original draft was the wooden look of the various stems of the rune. It seemed natural, made of twigs, and that look really appealed to me. That is preserved in the final artwork.

More, though, on the first draft, she already had the wrapped joints. I couldn't exactly say at the time why they appealed to me, but I can now. It looks to me as though the rune is actually several parts joined together with twine. I do think that does wonderful job representing the different parts of myself, bound together, but not fully united as a single whole. My Self is made of various elements. Notice, too, that the central wrapping binds together Wunjo, Joy, with its mirror opposite, as Blum suggests in his entry. Devon didn't know this when she created the piece, but her bindings were perfect.

She then mentioned to me that she was thinking of adding roots but worried that it could be offensive in some way. It was the whole adoptees not having roots thing that she was thinking of, I believe. But I liked the idea. My Self, cobbled together as it is, still has roots. So I encouraged Devon to add them, to see what they looked like.

She added roots to both the top and the bottom, but we agreed that it was a bit too much. She took them off the top, and I knew she was on to something. A couple of changes to the proportions of the legs and the width of the rune, and you see the final product.

When she sent me the picture above, it was a text message on my phone. And I knew immediately that she had given me the design I had long wanted. It was perfect. She had gotten everything so perfectly... I was in awe. I immediately wanted to show everyone. Heck, I wanted to go out and get the tattoo that day.

But I had to wait. She needed to hook her scanner up so that she could send me a clean copy. That happened Thursday. But I was too busy with other things Thursday to go to the tattoo parlor. So Friday, I went almost as soon as it opened at noon.

I guess Friday the 13th was good day for tattoos. The parlor was packed. I went up to the counter and showed them the artwork Devon had created for me. The guy thought that going smaller would lose too much detail. But a woman behind the counter immediately took an interest and set up and appointment with me for later in the afternoon.

I left for a few hours to pass the time. I was anxious to get the work done, but I managed to wait. Barely.

When I returned to 46 & 2 Tattoo, Stephanie had me fill out some paperwork and then ushered me into her chair. We discussed how it should go on my wrist, and she convinced me that, rather than going up or down the arm, it should be sideways, so that I could look at it upright, and also show it to others.

She shaved my arm and placed the ink trace on my arm. After discussing the process, I sat down and she got to work. It didn't hurt much at all. I don't know if I have a high tolerance or if I have few nerves on the inside of my wrist, but it was an easy twenty-five minutes.

As she worked, she talked to me. She asked me if my mom knew that I was getting this today. She said that she asks everyone, no matter how old they are. I said that she didn't. Then I remembered I had mentioned it to my biological mother, so I said that, actually, she did. And then, in a fit of the weirdness that happens to me as an adoptee, I explained that I have two mothers, and one of them knew.

She then said, much to my surprise, that she was an adoptee, too.

Seriously. I mean, come on. There is a way this whole thing was unreal. She talked to me about my search and reunion. She asked me about my relationships with all my different families. She mentioned that she was from Kansas (one of two states that never sealed records) and had gotten her information five years ago, but had yet to actually search.

I knew, somehow, that this was right. In Devon, I had found the perfect person to design my tattoo. And in Stephanie, I had the perfect person to actually ink it into my skin. Sometimes, the universe will have its way with or without our planning.

I know you're probably wondering by now, so here it is...

Here is what my left wrist looks like.

Now I really want to take excellent care of this. I want it to look good for years to come. I think the lines are even sharper in person than in this picture, but this gives you a pretty good idea what it looks like.

I cannot stop looking at it. It's a beautiful piece. Thank you to Stephanie for doing an amazing job. And thank you especially to Devon for designing exactly what I wanted.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Confirmation and Loyalty

Even while so many things seemed determined to fall apart... Okay, now I'm not owning my own agency... Let's try again...

Even while I seem so determined to torch so much of my life, this seems to be the week for validation.

Yesteday I had a long, and long overdue, talk with my best friend in the whole world. If my (biological) mom understands me so well because we are so alike, this friend understands me because she has been with me through so much. She has known me for over twenty years, and she has seen me at my worst. Repeatedly. And she is still my friend despite all of that.

We talked about a lot of things, but at one point we turned my search and reunion. I mentioned that my reunion had brought up a lot of things for me, including anger at my adoptive parents. I felt sheepish even saying it, but I was trying to explain everything to her. She immediately jumped in and said she was so glad to hear I was finally angry. She confessed that she had been angry at how my parents had failed me ever since she first met me. She seemed to think it was about time.

That took me aback. I think I had long worried that my anger was a product of my search and reunion, that that process had colored my perceptions of my childhood. Hearing from her that the problems I had come to see were really there, were evident twenty years ago, reassured me that it wasn't just that the reunion had changed my view. Rather, it allowed me to see things that had always been there. That was very therapeutic for me.

And yet, I still struggle with the loyalty piece. I still feel as though I owe my parents something. I still feel compelled to visit as often as I can manage and to be the good and happy son and adoptee. I don't want to be that, anymore. I don't think I CAN be that anymore. Somehow, I need to break that cycle. And I am working on it.

It amazes me how healing it can be to feel validated by people that know me.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Kindred Spirits

I have been going through a really rocky time. I don't know what my life will look like when I come out of this. Right now, it's hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel, but I'm trying to find that end, trying to find my way out.

At my wife's encouragement, I called my mom, my first mom. I was scared. So many times, I have tried to talk to people, and I have seen them run away, or dismiss me, or just fail to understand. I have faced ridicule and judgment. And I was afraid, too, that she might be disappointed in me. I'm pretty sure I could handle disappointment from almost anyone else, but not her.

But I didn't want to fall into the same patterns with her that I have with almost everyone else in my life, so I found some courage to talk openly and honestly with her.

And she was kind. And she listened. And she told me stories to make me laugh. And she gave me advice. And she understood.

It is impossible, I think, to explain just how meaningful that is to me. We are so similar, down to the mistakes we make and why we make them. Every sentence out of my mouth, it seemed, she understood because she was that way, too. To know that there is one person on the planet who gets how I think, and thinks it's normal, and who has been through it enough to be able to give me some guidance...

I don't feel okay right now. But I feel better than I have felt in a very long time. To know that she is out there, that she accepts me, that she loves me, despite everything, or maybe even because of it... It is the best thing that I could have at the moment.

I like feeling special and unique. I imagine many people do. But sometimes, I just want to know that, even if I am crazy, I'm not the only one. Tonight I know that.

She said, tonight, that more she knows me, the more she knows me. And I knew what she meant. For those that need a translation... The more she learns about me, the more she sees just how alike we really are, and she can understand me more and more by thinking about herself. And it's true, for me, too. In finding her, I've found myself. I can understand myself a little better because she is here as a model. And she seems to know exactly what I need to hear to feel a little better. I don't know if I've ever had that experience in my life.

Even while my world seems to be falling apart around me, my mom seems to be a solid point for me to hang on to. And that truly is a gift. To have someone who is insane, just like me.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Louisville Protest Video

One more bit from the Louisville protest a couple of weeks ago. A YouTube video from still photos (including some taken by yours truly) has been put together by the organizers. I wanted to share it with everyone who might be reading here.

Please go view, comment, and add the video to your favorites.

That's it for the moment. I'm sure that details on next year's gathering will begin trickling out soon. Until then, you should go the Adoptee Rights Deomnstration website to see how you can help.