My always would ask me if I wanted my ears pierced when I was little. She said it because Katie has always wanted hers done, and all my friends had theirs done. I would say “not yet!” I said not yet for years, until my 16th birthday. Even then, after all that time, I wrung my hands and worried, until I decided if I wanted them out, I could just take it out whenever I wanted.
My next piercing was a home job done by a family friend. The piercing gun got stuck in my lobe, and my family, Mum included, were laughing, whilst I went white as a sheet. The family friend awkwardly told me to stay still, fumbled about nervously, whilst my darling family were cracking up in fits around me. It would have been a funny situation, if I hadn’t been the one with a piercing gun sticking out of my head. The lady told me I had a fat ear lobe, and perhaps we should try the other side. I swore off the idea, licking my wounds, until Katie convinced me. Katie is forever the only person who can actually make me do anything at all.
For years afterwards, I had two piercings in my right ear, and one in my left.
After my Mum passed away, I wanted to live in my body exactly as she last saw it. There were so many impossibilities to my resolution. I was only 18, so as I grew into myself, stretchmarks, scars, wrinkles, and lines appeared. I told myself it was okay, because those are like words on your skin. My body is designed to heal and grow, it is not meant to stay the same.
Little annoyances, like my hair growing, meant that my body would not be the same one my mum hugged, kissed and smiled at.
One piercing I had always wanted, was my helix. I asked my mum, and she said no. It would toy on my mind for a while when I thought, “wow, I’m gonna do it.” Then I would bottle it for another year.
Eventually, I ended up committing to my helix. I decided that after 6 years of “not yets” I should just do it. With my legs swinging from nerves, I sat on the bench, a bit relieved that covid restrictions meant no one could watch (after the fat lobe situation).
I did my yogic breathing, went to my special place in which pain barely touched me. Grinning, I looked in the mirror and I had a feeling that I haven’t had that often. It felt like a little piece of me had come home. I sat down and asked her to do a third piercing on my lobe. Afterwards, I looked in the mirror and felt that feeling again.
Whilst I was walking around with my angry red ear, I felt very connected to myself. I was amazed that something so small could make me feel so different. I am so used to internal change, that these tiny holes in my ears shocked me.
Inevitably, the worry nibbled my mind. I wrung my hands in Katie’s room, and I said “Mum has never seen me with this piercing.” She didn’t even want me to get it. Katie soothed my soul, and said Mum would love how I looked.
Like those stretchmarks, wrinkles, lines, the added height she has not seen, I am confronted with an intense grief. It is so cruel to have had my mum taken from me when I was so fresh to the world. It is so cruel that she never got a chance to see me as a person, rather than a slapdash accumulation of likes and dislikes. Unfortunately, she knew me when I was a teenager, and all the angst that goes with it. She never knew me now, as someone who does yoga daily, has so many friends, and rollerskates. I have to live as I want to, yet with that comes so much responsibility for myself.
For me, and many like me, I think we respond with overexaggerated care. We place our feet onto a sheet of glass, and tap. Tap, tap, tap, to see if any cracks form. Gently, we apply that pressure, and step. Tap, tap, tap. Step. Tap, tap, tap. Step. Agonisingly slow, we tap our way through our life. That’s why things that are so small to others, like a piercing, are huge commitments to me.
Not many people understand my way of living. One person recently said I would struggle to find another 21-year-old like me. I have met people like me, but I’m glad this youthful way of life is limited. I would never wish the pain I have witnessed on another soul. If it meant there weren’t other careful, tender hearts who are terrified of the future and change, I would happily carry on being the young person I am.
Upon reflection, I have to say that I think external change is the simplest change to make. Internal change is harder than anything else, and I know that is what my mum would be the proudest of myself for. I would never be able to stay an 18-year-old forever. The growth of my body from the 18 of to 21 reminds me of that daily. I was never destined to be eternal, I was destined to change.
We are all destined for difference. If you aren’t growing, something in your environment is not right for you. I have learnt that from my beautiful indoor garden. At 18, I was surviving. I was trying to get through life. At 21, I am thriving. I am enjoying life. That is an internal change that my mum celebrates with me for, every day. An internal change that is far, far greater than any piercing could give me. What more could she want for her youngest child? What more could I do to try to be someone she is proud of, than to just be kind, happy and brave?
It is a rainy Tuesday, and I’m listening to Norah Jones, feeling so happy, peaceful and in love with life. Thank you, Mum. I am grateful for the person you were every day, because you have made me, me.
A song for you: Peace, by Norah Jones.