Wear your heart on your skin in this life.
Today, let yourself be touched—feel the pleasure of it, transcend the pain. None of us will get out of this life without wounds, injuries, or tattooed reminders. I say to you, welcome each one. Let your heart out of your locked-down, bolted-up ribcage. Be brave with it. Go ahead and love and fail and love again. I promise you, the heart you keep under lock and key will still be broken anyway.
Let your skin tell your stories–let it feel them. Own and welcome them–your wounds will heal, no matter how deeply engraved across your heart they seem.
Like all of us, my skin is a repository for my experiences. It keeps track of everything.
Scarred forearm and elbow tell about being hit by a car as a child and refusing to go to the hospital, though battered and incoherent, until someone found my mother and brought her to the scene. Even then, I knew what comfort was and waited it out until it came to me. That scar tells the story of my tenacity and love of her.
The scar on my shin came from jumping off a high ledge into murky waters below. There was a boy with a fast motorcycle and a night of kissing him beneath the unapologetic stars. There was finding the rocky outcropping and saying yes to his dare, adrenaline firing in my veins the way it did when he pressed his mouth on mine. There was the moment of leaping off and of landing hard. In this scar’s white slivered perfection, I still recall the feeling of flight and know the story of a short-lived, youthful rebellion.
Along my left wrist are clean, symmetrical scars—staccato breaks over the skin with one long diagonal thread over two fat veins—so faded now as to be almost indiscernible unless you look very carefully. These tell the story of a teenage girl so broken by violence, abandonment, and loss—a girl with a pain wild enough to make her believe the only way to cure it was to cut it out with her dead brother’s hunting knife. This, a scar-story my body has never forgotten, but has healed through.
My skin bears other stories—I’ve worn my heart on my skin when full-moon round with three pregnancies, stretch marks from carrying those children into life embellishing my hips. And I have also told my stories with the tattoos embedded in my skin.
Each of these is its own narrative—a novel in every brush of ink, needles, and blood. My tattoos tell stories about adulthood, death, wishes that didn’t come true, transformation of wounds into blooms and new growth, what writing means to me and a nod to a favorite literary muse, and also of motherhood and how my children are by my side and larger than life for me at every moment.
I thought I was nearly done the process of inking my stories across my skin—wearing my heart on my skin in this way—and then my mother died suddenly. Now, I know the next story I will have tattooed on me when the time is right will be one telling not just about my life, but hers. These are the histories left behind in color and shadows on my blank swaths of skin.
Every fist-heavy bruise from my history lives on my skin alongside the whisper of my babies’ tender breaths when I rocked them to sleep at night, my entire universe contained in the orbit of my arms.
I wear every old violation and abuse, but also feel the kindness of every love who has kissed a trail along the nape of my neck and tasted my skin for just a fleeting moment.
Touch me and my skin will always remember. Wound me and I will heal and write the story of that fresh scar. I wear my heart on my skin in this life. I know I am not alone in this. Think about your scars, your marks, your tattoos—those visible and those hidden just beneath the surface.
Let your heart out of hiding. Be brave. Come closer. Let me touch you and feel the story there. Where bodies meet, narratives begin. Let words live in your skin.
Adorned in nothing more than your pure, vulnerable nakedness and a willingness to bear witness to your stories—there you wear your whole resilient, courageous, infinite heart.