The first time I met her I trusted her immediately…with life and limb. This amazing woman with vibrant, pink streaks of hair surrounding her sparkling smile is the tattoo artist I found to add more meaning to my life and arm. I showed her the picture I wanted and showed her where I wanted it on my upper arm. Her response seemed to replicate her response to life…,”You know this would be really cool even bigger…”
Distracting me from the pain of tattooing, she shared bits of her life, getting hit by a car while she is racing her road bike in Colorado. Deciding that rather than using canvass she would express her art on people’s bodies. This woman lives life as she sees fit. She plays by her own rules, or lack of them. She lives to express herself and embraces anything and everything that happens to her. I get the idea she could share about her life for much longer than the two hours the tattoo took.
The next time I met her was at an art opening for a friend of mine.
She was the ice cream lady!
But, this was no ordinary ice cream. Her treats resembled tater tots and were accompanied by a cafeteria style ketchup bottle filled with raspberry sauce. The “Tater Tots” were homemade peanut butter ice cream?
This lovely lady may dance to her own tune but she doesn’t do anything half ass. She catches people’s attention and then makes them glad they gave it. I marveled at her tater tots, showed her my arm, and took her card, certain that we would meet again, and vowing that I would live big until we did. Try as I might I can’t remember the art.
Her name is Kerry and she is a character and a real person too. To make money she tattoos by day and in the evening she runs an ice cream shop that specializes in ice cream cakes. It is no surprise that she caters to special parties. Her life is a special party.
By day she makes Harley’s, dancing devils and far out art on arms and legs and backs and bellies. By night she makes cakes with zombies, intricate flowers, Zebra’s, Toucans or pet faces. There is nothing wrong with working a 9 to 5 job, but that just isn’t for Kerry. She wouldn’t fit in such a job. Often, when she gets done with a cake it won’t fit in the box she originally intended for it.
Her ideas grow faster than most people’s dreams.
Her cakes are a celebration: birthdays, graduation, a sunny day, loss of virginity, passing of a loved one, Arbor day or an un-birthday. I had an anatomical heart for Valentines Day, a tent with crickets for my daughter going to camp, a human brain for finishing 8th grade… she can make anything and make anything tasty. Her cakes are made for fun, with love and they generate both fun and love in anyone lucky enough to see or taste or gobble one down.
Some of us get quite serious. Kerry forgot to. She lives with passion. She isn’t rich, if being rich has something to do with having money or easily paying your mortgage. But she has added a bit of outrageous celebration to the lives of so many people.
Her ice cream shop is called I Scream. And she is living a dream. Thankfully her tattoo shop doesn’t go by the same name. She cuts it close with bills and creditors but doesn’t let business or seriousness get in the way of her creations.
The other day I was headed to I Scream for my daughter’s birthday and was running late. A quick call had Kerry promise to stay open until we got there. When we walked in we were greeted, as usual, with light and love and uncommonly big smiles with little bounces as though she was so glad to see us and her launch date was close.
Kerry is soft and happy. It is a bit as though she has no edges. She is strong and defenseless. She has nothing to prove. She is passionate about what she does and doesn’t do anything without passion. If she didn’t do tattoos or cakes she would be doing something else fun and wild, she would be celebrating and contributing to others.
Her shop is in a rough neighborhood. As she gleefully gave us samples of Lavender Lemon and Orange Habinero Chocolate Jeff entered the shop. Jeff wanted two one dollars bills for some change. (Why?) Jeff introduced himself with a purpose. He, it seems, lives on the street. He thought that perhaps we might want to give him some money. Jeff was down on his luck and a couple quarts low on passion as well. He didn’t notice Kerry, or the ice cream. He wanted us to know that life is hard and he has had it rough. Kerry gave him his two one dollar bills with a flourish, as though it was her biggest sale of the day. He received them without noticing and reluctantly shuffled back out into the cold early spring St Louis evening.
Jeff lives without passion, from moment to difficult moment without celebration. His future is dark and his present invisible. I suspect he has exactly as much money saved for retirement as Kerry does, but he has a very different outlook. He is a victim, she is a creator. He doesn’t want to do anything he is doing. He does everything under protest. She always wants to be doing whatever she is doing. People are lit up loving to have Kerry around. I had to dismiss Jeff, he wanted more from us than we could ever give while Kerry gives and gives and gives.
Our next glimpse into Kerry’s life was the arrival of a mother and two young daughters. The little girls were seven or eight and more than able to wrinkle their noses at odd flavored ice cream from an odd woman. They ended up with a jelly bean-ish flavor new enough to still be searching for a name. Mom received the palette of tastes. After just a tiny wooden spoon with pistachio carmel she was hooked. “I am sold” she exclaimed. “I have never had ice cream like this before.”
Passion is contagious, so is compassion and Kerry is a carrier of both. When we asked her how she made the pistachio carmel ice cream she spoke of bags of pistachios from foreign lands and a mysterious pistachio essence that cost eighty dollars for a very small bottle. Pistachio prices are apparently rising but her accountant, in return for his services, implored her to create this new flavor.
I don’t want anyone else’s life: not Kerry’s and not Jeff’s either. I want mine. But I want all of mine. I want the ups and the downs. I want the tears and the clowns. Passion isn’t really about what happens but more about how you receive what happens. Receiving the next thought or event or experience with open arms results in passion and an even more positive reception for the next moment.
But resistance isn’t a bad thing either. As long as you open to resistance. If you imagine that what is happening shouldn’t be you resist. You have distrusted what is and your life gets a little darker.
The story goes that Byron Katie, noted guru, was at the eye doctor and he mentioned that she might lose her sight. She without missing a beat said “Blindness, my favorite.” I don’t know if this story is true, but I do know by a glimpse into Kerry’s life that passion makes it worth living and inspires everyone around her. Passion isn’t about making fancy cakes or living a wild life: passion is about embracing the life you have just as it is. You don’t find passion in something. You bring it to something. It is already an integral part of the reception that you offer to anything and everything that is lucky enough to wander into your life.
Passion doesn’t happen on a particular day or in a special way. Passion is always there, a deep, wonderful resource waiting, patiently, to enter your attention. To tap into it you notice what is. That is the secret to living a passionate life each moment.
Passionate moments add up to a life worth living. Not every moment has to be filled with passion, but passionate moments accumulate rapidly.