Last night I went to get my latest tattoo touched up. It’s a standard service following completion of a tattoo to get a courtesy touch up. That was almost a year ago….Typically a touch up happens about a month after. But instead of getting a touch up, I boarded a plane…for 17 weeks.
Regardless of the timing, I was a little excited to get my touch up because I was also planning to start discussing my next tattoo. I don’t have all that many, but the ones I do have are purposeful and with meaning. Each one representing the beginning or ending of some particular chapter in my life.
I’ve always found the sensation of being tattooed a bit therapeutic. It hurts just enough to release whatever pain I’m still holding onto but not bad enough to really hurt…until last night.
When she started tattooing, I thought I was going to crawl out of my skin. That initial pain was surprising. It felt more like the continuation of an inking than a touch up. The pain was immediate…and it didn’t really let up until almost the end.
Usually deep breathing…almost a type of mediation…helps to alleviate any pain. Not this time. In fact, any time I looked at Mr. Universe — who decided to come along — the pain got worse. Look away…and it’d subside a bit. Look back at him…and the pain would intensify. This experiment went on for a bit before I finally started to understand what was happening.
For me, tattoos have always been a symbolic gesture to close out a particularly painful period in my life. The two sunflowers on my ankle were a result of being punched in the face by my boyfriend and almost flunking out of college…after I broke up with said boyfriend and made the Dean’s List, I got the tattoo to remind me that I’m better and smarter than I was behaving.
All the rest followed some sort of heart break…an ankh after divorcing Thing 1, a lotus over the ankh after divorcing Thing 2…a henne-styled lotus flower to cover up both following my decision to retire. The sanskrit on each side of my ribs serve as reminders to watch for and learn from obstacles and to follow my heart.
So last night, as I sat in the chair getting the lotus on my back touched up, I realized that for the first time in a very, very, very long time…there was no heart ache. No pain to let go of. So instead of feeling that familiar sense of release, I was faced with the pure pain of a tattoo needle.
The moment I realized what I was experiencing and why, the pain began to subside ever so slightly. Just enough to confirm I was right in my assumption…and to remind me to stop looking at Mr. Universe. To go within and find peace…appreciation…gratitude…for how far I’ve come. And to understand how far I still have to go…but with the hope that that road is pain free. Or at least without the heart ache previously experienced.