When we posted a call for the participants in the Boulder Tattoo Project to send us the story of their Boulder Tattoo Project tattoo (why they chose their particular words and what these words have come to mean to them), we were overwhelmed by the outpouring of sentiment and by people’s trust in us. Thank you for sharing your memories, beliefs, and lives with us.
On this blog, we will share some of the images and stories that are part of this artwork: one image and one story every week. All photographs were taken by Andrew Brislin, unless otherwise noted. Please come back next week!
Here is the story of Jessica Fleck Smith’s “your mind stays”:
“Your living is determined not so much by what life brings to you as by the attitude you bring to life; not so much by what happens to you as by the way your mind looks at what happens.
Two years ago I lost my mind.
Not in the, I’ve finally gone nuts kind of way. More in the, Who am I? What the hell am I doing? And why do I feel like I’m watching everything from the ceiling, kind of way.
I hit my head.
It was a stupid case of not paying attention and hitting the stupid sharp corner of a stupid old window. The story isn’t spectacular or gory or even at all riveting. But the impact? That part got me. Physically. Mentally. Emotionally. Spiritually…? If there is such a thing, that too got conked out of whack. The best way to explain the months following my stupid hit is a spinning disembodiment of mind and soul–I’d hopped on a never-ending, fucked-up carnival ride. A funhouse, tilt-a-whirl mash up.
That’s when I started searching (because that’s what lost people do). I floated along next to myself and searched and searched for something or someone to fix me. I sought out healers and doctors. Tests and tinctures. Crystals and blood-work. Nasty, dirt tasting herbs that promised to glue me back together. Multi-colored pills that claimed to halt the carnival ride. I flipped my diet upside-down. Took supplements religiously. All that stuff you’re supposed to do.
But I was still lost.
Slowly, s-l-o-w-l-y, I came around (because sometimes the mind just needs time to heal). I realized there is no magic potion. No Wizard of Oz. There had been no poisoned apple. This was no fairy tale. But it also wasn’t a tragedy. While all those outside sources–all my searching–had brought with it some healing, a little light and clarity, and near emptied my bank account (searching is an expensive hobby), I’d only needed to dig within myself. That’s where the balance –the big red STOP THE RIDE button–was hiding. My true self was in there, crouched protectively behind a boulder, all along.
I’m still getting to know her. She’s tricky and sneaky and likes to stick to the ceiling from time to time, but I’m better at wrangling her back down now. I’m a work in progress. An ever-evolving art project. And I’m learning to like myself better this way, all paint strokes and mixed media chunks and charcoal scribbles. Imperfect yet whole.
My phrase was: YOUR MIND STAYS.
The moment I read it, something clicked between my head and my heart. I saw it scrolled in type print across my right forearm. With a loose idea of how the design would look, I was excited. But when I finally saw it…I fell in love. The tattoo so perfectly depicted the mind, constant yet ever-changing, strong yet humbling.
Imperfect yet whole.
It is now tattooed on my right arm. The same side I hit my head on. The same side that now houses my ever so slightly and ever so significantly altered brain. But the mind is so much more than the brain. The mind is consciousness and awareness and part of who I am. It’s the same mind I was born with and the same mind I’ll die with. It’ll change. Evolve. Be challenged. Heal.
No matter how fast the tilt-a-whirl spins or how many distorted mirrors the funhouse shoves at you or, hell, if you happen to hit your head on a stupid window, your mind can’t be lost or stolen.
Your mind stays…”
Jessica Fleck Smith is a writer (under the pen name Jessika Fleck), a mom, a wife, an artist, a knitter, and a typewriter and hourglass collector. Her love affair with Boulder began when she was in college and her mother lived there. One visit and she was hooked. When her husband decided to get his PhD, Boulder showed up on the radar and she asked (begged… demanded…) he apply to the University of Colorado. He did. And got in. Whether they settle there permanently or move on, she loves Boulder for better or worse, head injuries and all.