personal love symbols

The Gift That Keeps On Living

I received an interesting gift during my trip to Utah. Aside from the full-on classes on stage combat, persona motivation and the art of the cigar, I also had some limited availability for one-on-one consults. Basically these are occasions when I will either observe a performer’s movement or technique and give them feedback – I would never be so presumptuous as to call it criticism – in the hopes it will be useful.

One of the students in the community group took advantage of this opportunity, and we had a very intense session where she explored some of the deeper motivations for her performance skills. Getting into the guts of performance is a very personal thing, so I won’t share much of that here, but suffice it to say it was a powerful journey through her psyche, which was an honor for me to witness.

Apparently my input was helpful, because the next day she asked me if she could give me a gift – a gift of her other art, tattoos. She is a professional tattoo artist, and wanted to gift me with a tattoo.

Choosing Your Talisman

Unlike certain progeny of mine, I have always been rather hesitant to acquire tattoos. I’m one of the few Marines I know without an eagle, globe, and anchor or bulldog on their arm, and the one bit of ink I do have is the kabuki makeup I wore for my first semi-professional dance solo, an achievement of a dream once thought lost and very hard-won. There has never been any regret about that particular investment.

The offer of another tattoo was particularly well timed, though. I have been considering getting the symbol of a particular performance art open space as a tattoo – not only because I’m proud of my part in organizing it for the past three years, or because of how well it’s done with the attendees. It has spurred growth and directions for performance that have truly boggled my mind.

But my love for the symbol has more to do with the team of nine co-facilitators that I’ve been working with for these years. They come from all over – Canada, Europe, all over the U.S. They have many different backgrounds, from government to computer to mixed martial arts, and in terms of gender, class, and race it’s a veritable rainbow coalition.

They have one thing in common, though. They have all given me support both in good times and bad, sometimes when I’ve needed it the most. I’ve also seen them, as a group without me, work through difficult issues in a clear and concise way that left me humbled to count them as friends.

So I took up my new Utah friend on her offer, and I now have a symbol on my back that looks vaguely like a Chinese ideogram, though it’s not. It is done in her particular style of painterly tattoo ink, so you can see the lines of each brush stroke writ broad across my back.

It’s only days old, so I still feel it when I move, but even when the scabs are healed and I rarely see it, I will know it is there. It represents friendship and shared love of art and community and the passion to make things happen.

It is a symbol of my friends who will always have my back.

What symbols do you carry with you that mean more than what they are? Me, I lose things a lot, I needed to put this on my body to make sure it didn’t disappear. But I believe in the power of personal talismans of love, whether it’s a ring on your finger, a picture in your wallet, or just that special rock on your desk you touch once in a while.

I hope you take a moment this weekend and take that talisman, whatever it is, out of it’s everyday context and really think about what it represents. Think of it as recharging it – remembering where it came from, who it’s for, and what that love gives you by it’s presence.

And if you are unfortunate enough not to have that talisman, then I hope you choose this weekend to start finding one. The love is out there; the physical symbol just helps you remember it.

1 thought on “personal love symbols”

  1. A tattoo is something that I will probably never (yes I said never) get. But I am beginning to understand the power of a talisman.
    They are different from mementos which I have more than a few of: old playbills and t-shirts from past shows that I just can’t seem to let go, photo albums, bits of rock or shell that were important at the time, a marked up copy of a book left by a former lover…
    Until this past year I have never had a talisman. In the midst of personal turmoil and change I picked up one of those mementos and found the talisman I needed. Just like yours, it was a gift from a friend. It’s a tiny bead I strung on a chain when I came home from traveling almost 15 years ago. My friend found it while we were hiking in her mountainous homeland. I treasured it then, and thought about trying to wear it regularly, but I rarely wore jewelry and it felt odd. A little over a year ago I came across it and knew that now was the right time. I needed this reminder of my past adventures and the rewards of taking risks.

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