I got a tattoo this summer. It’s something I’ve been meaning to do for a while – decades even. Probably over thirty years ago I asked Danny’s (my dad) ex-girlfriend, who had become a tattoo artist, to do it for me. She refused, citing maternal prerogative, claiming I wouldn’t want it when I was a full-adult.

Either I’m still not a full adult, or she was wrong. I was jonesing (had a compulsion) to get inked, and I did.

I had my reasons for getting it – and for getting what I got. (I have a slightly off-kilter circle around the wrist bone on my right arm.) But a dear friend who recently asked me why I did it (and why I got what I got) offered me a reason that rang even truer for me than the reasons I had compiled in my mind. It’s a reason that encapsulates all of my reasons and all of where I’m at right now. (Even though, as always, I most likely misheard or misremembered what he actually said. I do that.)

“It’s a circle,” he said, “is it to represent that you’ve wholed?”

To me, the tattoo represented fully claiming the side of my childhood that was all about Danny. I’ve done much to integrate the Church into my mind and being – owning, as much as possible, what it was to grow up a Moonie, how it affected me (good and bad). I wanted to own my life with Danny and the influences (again, good and bad) from that.

It’s also actually quite humorous (to me), because the tattoo is exactly what I remember Danny’s ex-girlfriend having, and what I remember Danny’s ex-girlfriend giving to a number of the other women in that circle of friends…only I’m wrong about all their tattoos. The ones I asked for pictures of are all different than I remember and different from each other.

In many ways I love the fact that I wrote a memoir and I got a tattoo based on my distinct memories…that are wrong. As I’ve said many times before, memory is weird.

My initial reasons for my tattoo are all still valid, even if they’re wrong. And “I have wholed” is perhaps even more valid. (I also love it because apparently I like to play with language and use verbs as if they’re nouns and nouns as if they’re verbs…and this is yet another chance to mess with words and meanings.)

I have wholed in many, many ways. That’s what my journey and my healing have been about. Writing this memoir has wholed me even more, perhaps even more than I ever thought possible. I have reconnected with people I never thought I’d see again and connected with strangers with whom I have so much in common, or for whom I can be a resource. I have had conversations I never thought I’d have and have said and heard things I’ve been longing to say and hear for years. I have opened myself up – in book talks and heart-to-hearts, with family, friends, clients, and (again) strangers – and have learned even more from all these exchanges as well as the many interviews, podcasts, and book club discussions. I have been blessed with (for me at least) jaw-dropping support, kindness, friendship, encouragement, and championing from a myriad of, again, family, friends, clients, and strangers. And a few amazing, again jaw-dropping, reviews. (Check out this most recent one from Hippocampus Magazine!) I have allowed myself to be vulnerable and cared for. Oh, and I have a tattoo I adore.

I have found more (and more) love, light, joy, connection, beauty, clarity, magnificence, and wholeness than I ever imagined.

I have wholed.

I’d love to hear your thoughts, and please share this post with others if it resonates with you!

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