Thursday, August 26, 2010

Making a Mark

Right before I left Austin, I did something that -- until this year -- I never thought I would do. I got a tattoo. I'm not someone who judges people for having tattoos, but I always just thought it wasn't for me. I couldn't ever imagine having something mean so much to me that I had to have it permanently drawn onto my body. In fact, I always used to have a rule about tattoos that I still believe is a pretty good rule of thumb: Decide on a design and a place on your body, then wait 5 years. If you still want the same thing in the same place, get the tattoo. You haven't lost anything by waiting. If not, aren't you glad you didn't get it? See, failproof rule.

Well, I broke my own rule. This wasn't a spur-of-the-moment decision by any means though. By the time the Superbowl rolled around this year (early February), I was discussing designs with Brian's brother and close friends. I talked about going to Austin for South by Southwest with Jeremy, Hart and Wilson in March and if that had happened, I was going to buy us all matching tattoos in Brian's memory. Well, that was scrapped due to a number of circumstances, but I still had this design in my mind. I'd say I came up with the design in February or March. I didn't actually DRAW this, but I knew what I wanted.

I wanted to get the tattoo somewhere other than Des Moines -- I wanted it to remind me of a trip or a journey. Then I made my plans to spend the summer in Austin, and it seemed like the perfect time to do that. I knew -- even before deciding to make the move permanent -- that my time would make a lasting mark on my life, so it seemed like the best time to make a permanent mark on my body.

As soon as I got to Austin, I started soliciting recommendations for tattoo artists/parlors and suggestions as to where on my body it should be located. Before May was over, I knew I wanted the tattoo in between my shoulderblades and I knew where I was going to get it. (I went to Royce at Southside Tattoos on South Congress:

The only thing I had to do, then, was set up my appointment. It is recommended that you not go swimming or expose your fresh ink to excessive sunlight for the first two weeks, so I realized that I'd have to wait until right before I left Austin for Des Moines. I finally made my appointment for 2 days before I moved back north.

My appointment was at 4:30 on a Tuesday. My friends Erin & Chad met me there to take pictures, watch the process (neither of them has ink, either), and provide moral support. Once we finalized the design and selected colors, it took about 45 minutes to an hour. And it did hurt a little! At first, I thought, "Oh, this is more annoying than painful." But, by the end, it did hurt and I was ready to be done! Once I was done, we went out for drinks to celebrate and had a great night.

The design is a shamrock with a Chicago Bears "C" in the middle. The significance of the tattoo is that Brian was very proud of his Irish heritage and, of course, was a huge Chicago Bears fan (and I am too!). In fact, Brian would have passed my "tattoo test" with flying colors. For as long as I can remember -- at least since he started college -- he talked about getting a tattoo of a leaping leprechaun holding 2 mugs of beer and said he would get it on his upper arm. He was steadfast in wanting this, and I would have supported him fully if he'd done so. However, he never actually followed through. Just a fun little fact about him, and something that surprised some of his friends and family members when I've shared that. :) As an aside, that's one of the reasons we all still need to talk about him -- it's fun to keep learning about a person, and he needs us to tell his stories now.

Anyway, I didn't wait 5 years. I waited a matter of months from the time I finalized my design and location. I am so certain I will never regret my decision that I didn't feel the need to wait. I guess my rule-breaking means I just made those "rules" without thinking about what life might throw at me and what might help me along the way. I really believe getting the tattoo furthered my healing.

For one, Brian is a permanent part of me, whether I have a visible tribute or not. My tribute to him is because he didn't get a chance to get his ink and because he's made a permanent mark on my life and deserves a permanent spot on my body. I like the permanence of this -- he is with me always, whether or not I'm wearing his ring or whether or not I'm thinking of him at any given moment. Fittingly, the design is a representation of what Brian loved and what I loved about him -- it reminds me of happy thoughts. It shows that I've come through this with flying colors -- that I can remember my best friend and husband in a loving and happy way, despite the gauntlet I've run, despite the fact that I'm not out of the woods yet.

I do also think, though, that the tattoo also serves as a battle scar. It is there to tell my story, to open discussion. People will see it and ask me about it, what it means, why I got it. That is my opportunity to tell the world about Brian, how great he was, and what he meant to me. It also shows the world that I've been through hell and survived. It will open the door for people I meet to know me better and to get a glimpse into the life I once had.

These pictures are from the day I had the tattoo done, so they're a little raw. I will try to obtain and post a picture of my ink post-healing as well.

1 comment:

  1. Sorry for flooding you with comments (I hope you don't mind!), but I started reading your blog and couldn't stop. You have a great writing style, by the way. I can relate to so much of what you've said...though, again, I don't mean to suggest that our losses are the same. Anyway, I went through the same thing with a tattoo. I had kind of always wanted one, especially after my mom died, but I didn't know what I wanted and was in no rush. I was also REALLY afraid of the pain. Last fall, one of our dogs passed away unexpectedly from an illness we thought we were managing. Seeing him suddenly get sick and taking care of him and watching his body go through all of that was not only hard because of my love for him but also because it was like reliving my mom at the end in a way. A couple days after he died, I suddenly KNEW that I HAD to get a tattoo. I needed something that would symbolize infinity, something that would remind me that "this" is not all there is and that all those I've lost are never too far from me. I found a historic symbol that resonated with me and knew I had found my tattoo. I decided that the pain of the tattoo couldn't hurt nearly as bad as my heart was, and I was just ready. And you know what, it turned out that it really didn't hurt at all, and every time I look at it, I smile because the symbol is so comforting to me. I recently got a second one as well for different reasons, but it's equally symbolic and timeless. Good for you, girl!! Don't you feel proud of yourself?!