What’s that on your arm?

Back in May I got myself on the waiting list for a very talented tattoo artist in Vancouver.  At the beginning of July I had a consultation with him where I described what I was looking for, showed some pictures of inspiration and then left the details in his hands.  It’s difficult to describe something artistic when you’re as incapable of fine arts as I am… I left with an appointment for the beginning of August and a sense of calm.  About a week later I emailed another inspiration photo and a story about why I was getting the tattoo, on the off chance that it would help inform the design. 

Throughout the month of July, while I was waiting ever so impatiently for my appointment time, I was constantly asked by friends and family if I’d seen the design yet… No was my reply.. I’ll see it on the day of the tattoo and I have every confidence that it will be perfect so no, I’m not worried.  Last Sunday I took the bus (and then a cab, because I am stupid) downtown… I was calm as a cucumber (even tho I find the mere idea of cucumbers most repellant!) and very confident and peaceful.  It stood to reason I told myself… part of why I was on my way down there to get this piece of art etched onto me was to celebrate the peace I’d found in the last six months. 

I didn’t know what to expect or what the design would look like… but the literal second that I saw his interpretation of my story, I fell in love… It’s a weird thing to say that it was exactly what I wanted; even though I didn’t know what that was until that very moment… His art closed the chapter on the last seven years of my life and celebrated the opening of my mind and heart that has occurred in the last six months.  I look down at my arm and see a reminder of the overwhelming peace I feel now… it reminds me to be thankful for it and to continue to seek peace and strength.  And, it’s really really pretty! 

Please excuse the somewhat crappy picture… the tattoo also looks somewhat crappy because it was only three days old when this photo was taken and it’s still healing… but you get the idea. (also, it’s sideways… but again… you get the idea…)

Hummingbird

And for those of you in Vancouver/GVRD who are wondering…

Gastown Tattoo Parlour

My artist was Logan Howard.  And he will certainly be doing my next tattoo… which isn’t as long away as one might think 😉

Just let go

Last week we went to the lake in Squamish.  It was amazing… I swam and sunned and ate and laughed… really an amazing time.  And yet the one thing that has stuck out more than any of that is a moment that didn’t even happen.  There was a rope swing on the shore… way high up in the trees and I believe I declared as we were discussing the swing that there was no way on this earth I would ever partake in that activity.  No.  Nope.  Nu uh! 

I did picture myself doing it tho… I pictured climbing up to the top, grabbing on to the rope swing and in some feat of heroism, actually jumping off the platform and swinging out over the water.  And then swinging back, too frozen by fear to let go and smashing back into the platform… Once you jump, you just HAVE to let go of the rope… you have no choice… because not letting go of that rope means certain and epic injury. 

If you were holding a million dollars in your hands and someone said if you gave it up and trusted that they’d replace it with two million, would you do it?  What if you trusted the person with your life?  Would you give up the million and your control to momentarily have nothing before they provided for you and came through on their promise? 

I used to wonder what it sounded like when God spoke to you… is it a voice?  A feeling?  How do you know?  Maybe for everyone it’s different… I assume so.  I’ve realized that for me, it’s the sound of my own voice… but wise and impactful. It’s in my own head, saying the things I need to hear… I argue with it… It makes me cry… because that voice… that sounds like me but smarter and wiser and divinely blessed… that’s God.  And He’s telling me to let go…Let go of that which I know is holding me back from something better.  I need to let go of something… of someone.  

This voice in my head… this divine message from God… 

Just let go.  I promise I’ll give you something better to hold on to.

You can’t have what I want to give you while your hands are full.

Just let go… I promise it won’t hurt…

Just.  Let.  Go. 

I’m standing on the platform… arguing… saying I can’t.  Knowing I have to… It’s so obvious that what I’m holding on to is not right… not meant for me… not the plan… It’s so obvious… and yet, I’m standing on the platform, refusing to make the jump because the second you jump… the second you trust that the rope will hold you, you HAVE to let go… 

I’m moved to tears grateful that my God is patient.  Oh boy, am I ever.  I know that this is important… to let go of what I’m holding on to and trust that something better is in store for me.  My fear, keeping me on the platform… keeping me from letting go is that that better thing is still a ways off… and I’m so weary of being alone.  To be honest, I’m mostly alone now… Just to mix analogies… instead of being covered by a big thick and fluffy blanket to keep me warm… I’m holding on to a threadbare tatter of a blanket that is doing nothing for me but getting in the way of the big thick fluffy one.  I’m still as cold as if I had nothing… 

As I’m writing this… I can hear the Voice of God… in my own head… in my own voice… Stand up there for as long as you need to… hold on to that threadbare tatter for as long as you need to.  I’m patient… but you’ll eventually have to let go… you know you do.  And when you do, I promise there’s something better for you. 

I’m not a trusting person… I’ve known this about myself for a long time now… I used to be… I’d put my trust in anyone that even hinted around at it… but I’ve been burned here in this mortal world and it’s hampered my ability to trust at all… 

As I sit here… with tears in my eyes and the most giant lump of what can only be grief in my chest, these are the words repeating in my head… 

Just let go.  I promise I won’t let you fall. 

I’m going to have to find a way to trust that.  Soon.

How do you push back the fear, let go of your own control and trust?

Trust in the Timing. Always Trust.

I’ve been wanting to get another tattoo for some time now.  The one I got I love uncontrollably but I want to celebrate my new life.  When people had asked me what I was getting, my answer was that I could FEEL it in the back of my mind but I couldn’t SEE it yet… Frustrating right?  It’s so difficult to not be able to put words and descriptors to a feeling.  Even when I tried, I felt tongue tied and like I wasn’t meant to be talking about it.

Jumping the gun as I am wont to do, I booked a consultation with an artist that came on a recommendation from a friend of a friend before I could ‘see’ the design I was feeling.  I went down with my girlfriend and we chatted with him for an hour.  The style of her tattoos appeals to me and so she showed him hers, we talked about what was driving the tattoo, what I was celebrating, why I was where I am today and what I’d come through.  I really thought that he ‘got’ me.  As it turns out, I was either right and he did ‘get me’ but then didn’t spend any time on the work whatsoever… or he didn’t actually get me at all, which is reflected in his design.

The design is absolute garbage.  It has nothing to do with anything remotely meaningful to me at all.  I still couldn’t see my design through the haze but I knew for sure that this wasn’t it.  ‘I’ll know it when I see it’ was something I said to a friend about it.  I’ll just know.

So I sent the garbage design to my friend… mostly for a laugh… mostly because we’d just been talking about the design and the odd feeling I was getting from this artist.

Well as I’m sure you can gather, the reaction to the picture I sent wasn’t good, but then the most amazing thing happened.  The inspiration that I was searching for… the lens I needed to see what I could already feel.

“May I make a suggestion?” he said.

“Yes!  Of course” was my reply. 

“It’s simple.  I’m lending you the hummingbird coin back.  Use it to inspire you” he said.

 

And there it was.  A rush of emotion washed over me and I could finally see it.

I know what the design is, I’m in love with the inspiration and the meaning behind it and it all shone forth from the back of my mind… it broke free of the haze.

Maybe this all seems overly dramatic for a tattoo.  Maybe it IS overly dramatic for a tattoo.  The thing is that this tattoo is a part of my journey… a journey which is so important to the rest of my life.  I assured my friend many times that I wouldn’t get anything tattoo’d on me that I wasn’t in love with… that wasn’t the perfect thing.  And that was true.

I want to say that I shouldn’t have jumped the gun on going for that first consultation (since I’m actually on a wait list for the guy I REALLY want to do the work), I shouldn’t have tried to explain something that wasn’t ready for public consumption and I shouldn’t have tried to force the issue of seeing what it was.  But had I not had the awful design to show to my friend… to open the window to his simple suggestion, then I may not have gotten where I am now.  It’s a metaphor for life if you think about it.  Mistakes and decisions you make will inform the future.  You might not see how at the time and you might not know when, but if you’re open to the idea then eventually the whole picture is layed out in front of you.  Perfect and meant to be.  I love that!

The Hummingbird Coin

One day last year in the middle of my struggle for sanity and a firm grip on my life, my dad came down to visit. We took the bus down to Granville Island and while he was talking to a sales clerk, I was digging through a dish of small pewter coins…. On the front each one had a Northwest Coast Native animal symbol and on the back an inspirational word. I found one that said Peace on the back with the depiction of a hummingbird on the front. The sign on the front of the dish said ‘Pocket Spirits’ and while I’m not much for the idea of items being ‘spirits’, I felt compelled to buy it. I thought if I didn’t have any peace of my own, maybe I could at least have this… I carried it around in my wallet for a year… every time I went into my wallet I saw my small bit of peace.

The Hummingbird Coin

I was pretty far from being peaceful and it would take me an additional six months to actually find peace, but still this little coin I held on to… the only peace I had at the time. It was a small reminder that peace was out there and that it was something that I could have. Something that I wanted. I didn’t know what it felt like but I was sure that when I had it, I would know.

I’ve mentioned how I found my peace in December. The calm peaceful feeling that I now have is one of the greatest gifts I’ve ever received. I don’t know if you can identify the feeling of peace if you haven’t had the feeling of being not peaceful. It’s hard to describe… the immense sense of calm that I feel now. I still have my moments of course and I still have bad days, but I’m peaceful overall.

About three weeks ago I found the coin on my desk. I don’t know how it got out of my wallet but when I saw it on my desk I knew I didn’t need it anymore. I’d found my peace and it was stronger and more powerful than the piece of pewter I was holding. I sat, rubbing the coin for a long time… playing with it… contemplating it… and at that moment I knew that I needed to give this very important piece of my healing away. I have a friend that could certainly use some peace and so I said goodbye to my coin and put it back in my wallet so it was with me the next time I saw him.

I’m an incredibly sentimental and romantic type of person.

(Romantic:  defined as marked by the imaginative or emotional appeal of what is heroic, adventurous, remote, mysterious, or idealized).

Most people in my life don’t meet me there… my sentimentality is oft regarded as cheesy or ridiculous. My ability to remember tiny, seemingly insignificant details about people I care about, and my innate ability to understand someone more than they can ever know has been labelled as crazy. I assure you, it’s not crazy and it’s not something I can control. For those that I care a great deal about, it’s a built in operating system (to steal a phrase from a friend) function to care about and recall these small details… things that seem insignificant rarely are. I’ve spent a lot of time in my life hiding it… laughing along when my sentimental side is dissed… pretending that it doesn’t bother me that instead of appreciating who I am at my core, I’m mocked for it. Truth be told, it does bother me… of course it does!  It’s a side of me that is integral to my character and no one feels good to be mocked on about something that is innate to who they are.

I took a chance giving my coin away to my friend. In the ongoing effort I’ve been making to be true to who I am, I knew I was going to say what I wanted to say, regardless of how my sentimentality had been received in the past. I was pretty sure that this time would be different.

I took the coin out of my wallet and held it tightly in my hand. I told the story of how I ended up with this coin and then, pressing it into his hand, said ‘I’ve found my peace. Now maybe you’ll find yours’.

The gift was received in just the way I gave it. That it was just an object at one point but that it had meaning to me and I was passing it along. I was told that it was a true gesture of love and trust. And I wasn’t mocked as being sentimental or cheesy… I was met where I am with an understanding of who I am and why something like this would be important to me. The gesture wasn’t cast off, but accepted and embraced in the pure way it was given.

There are some ‘things’ that we have and hold on to that cease to become things… they assume a life and a power of their own and while to the naked eye this is just a $2 piece of metal, to myself and to my friend, it’s a powerful piece of love and friendship and powerful love and powerful friendship can change our worlds. When we change ourselves, we change the world… and when we find our peace, we find that the world around us has more peace.

My hope for my friend is that every time he reaches into his pocket and his hand grazes this coin, that he feels the power in the care of another. That he knows that if I can find my peace (and Lord knows, it was a hard road!) then he can find his peace and he will forever have a friend to walk down that road with him.  We are only alone on difficult roads if we choose to be… and those in my care… those who gain access to the core of who I am… they will never be alone.

Before and During

The best way to do a ‘Before’ and ‘After’ is to post a picture… which I will spend the entire time I write this post contemplating whether or not I will post one… I have it… it’s just a matter of whether I want some people I know in real life to see it…

But there are some less visual indicators of change. And I would argue heartily that they are the most important ones and the physical changes in a person are merely the side effect of this. I retweeted the following yesterday…

Don’t expect external changes if you’re not committed to internal change.

My sister once said that the extra weight I was carrying was my pain on the outside. At the time it seemed reasonable but I filed it away, as I’m wont to do and only now has it come back to me, in a more processed and understandable state.

Only once you are no longer in the painful situation is it possible to understand the magnitude of that pain. My mind never processed it as a whole… bits and pieces were given to me in dribs and drabs… I do believe that God doesn’t give you more than you can handle and part of the way that manifests is that for someone like me, who is an uber processor… I didn’t process it all… it would have killed me… the sheer volume of pain would have done me in.

So slowly, as things came up they were either put on a shelf for a later time or processed… thought about, ruminated on. I don’t think it was a conscious effort… I didn’t sit down and pick a moment in time or an experience and intentionally… the thoughts and feelings just happened…

And then, one day I found myself feeling something I hadn’t felt in years… I felt happy and calm. I didn’t recognize it at first… it was a somewhat foreign feeling… I didn’t feel like yelling at people when I was driving… I was kinder to people around me and I handed out more benefit of the doubt than you could shake a stick at. I smiled at people. And the incredible thing was that as I explored this new feeling of calm and happy and let it lead the way for me, the response I got from the world changed… the world became more calm and happy around me. People smiled back. I laughed with strangers. I felt centered in my body…

The part about the internal change creating external change that creates the most problems is that it looks easy. People only see the physical changes. They only see that it looks like you just decided to be happy one day. They only see the results of fitting into smaller clothes and none of the immensely hard work that you’ve undertaken to get to that place. Which means that when you make these internal changes of which the side effect is physical change, the resistance from your friends and family can be overwhelming and they can sometimes really work at you to get you to ‘change back’. It’s understandable really… if you think about it. I was a comfortable place to land…I was consistently available to be used and mistreated because I was already in a vulnerable place… I was easy to control… I wasn’t a viable threat…

I’m not a super competitive person… at all. I’m a live and let live, do your own thing and let me do mine, kind of person. I’ve always been that way and a change in my mental status or my physical status isn’t going to change that. However, I do know that people will, without me knowing it, engage in competition with me. And now that I’m changing… becoming the next chapter of my life, there are no longer ‘easy wins’ for those that choose to secretly compete with me. I’m okay with that. I understand it and I understand that it can be so uncomfortable for those close to me that they react in a less than graceful way…

I often want to say ‘I’m the same person I’ve always been’. That’s easy to say for me because I’m here, in me… I know that the way I am has always been here… deep inside. But the way I present myself to other people now… that IS different. I’m not the same anymore and I wouldn’t want to be.

I’ve decided through the writing of this that I’m not ready to show the before and after picture. The external changes in me are not as important to me as the internal changes. And the only way to stand by that statement is to leave the visuals out of it for now. (note I said for now…)