Last weekend didn’t go as I expected.
I’ve lost none of the stress weighing on me.
And the world, which had already seemed crazy, has gotten a little darker and a little more worrisome.
I’ve been thinking about my Nana a lot lately.
My Nana is and was my Dad’s Mum. A devout Catholic woman with six kids, thirteen grandchildren, and a wicked sense of humour.
Being the youngest of the thirteen grandkids, I didn’t get as much time with her as I would have liked. Nana had two strokes and passed away when I was 10, but I have a lot of memories with her when she was still in good health.
I was lucky enough that my folks lived very close and so I spent a lot of time with her and my Papa when I was a kid, though Papa and I didn’t really get to know each other until after she passed.
I always thought she was bullet proof, partly because when you’re a kid everyone seems that way and partly because she always seemed so matter of fact about things. Some of that is probably just my kid’s perspective but it’s how I remember her.
She was always doing something. Weeding the garden or her flowerbeds, harvesting vegetables from the garden, hanging clothes on the line, making bread or pie. The yearly dusting of her literal hundreds of salt and pepper shakers.
I think about helping her with those things now, though I’m sure I wasn’t much of a help, and I’d give anything to be able to sit in her kitchen.
If I think about it, I can smell loaves of bread dough rising on the table as the wood oven goes to get the damp out of the kitchen, despite the fact it’s freaking summer and already hot. I can smell the dishsoap she used and see myself drinking a glass of well water that always tasted different than our well water is a pleasantly musty kind of way, while the plastic on the kitchen table (that I never saw without plastic on it) sticks to my arm, and I can smell the ghosts of her cigarettes.
I want so much to sit there with her (though if the bread was rising it was more likely she’d be sitting in the living room and watching the Young and the Restless) and ask her how she got through the hard times.
I’m not sure she’d talk about it, though. I have a distinct feeling her answer would involve God and I think she’d probably be horrified by my opinion on that matter.
I’m also not sure she’d have advice any different from my parents’, both of whom seldom have answers beyond my own when it comes to ‘what should I do?’ type of questions.
I feel like the world has sped up considerably and left some of us a bit behind. There’s so many different unspoken rules about things, and all of them vary depending on who you talk to, and everyone has this ridiculous assumption that everyone is on the same page and if they aren’t, then that is somehow their fault rather than just simply a fact of life.
I think maybe the reason I’ve been thinking about my Nana so much lately is that I want to go back to that feeling I had when she was still in good health and we would spend time together.
I was the thirteenth grandchild but Nana never made me feel unimportant. She made me a part of whatever she was doing, she made space for me, and she never had to tell me she loved me because she showed it in the way she’d stay with me till I fell asleep and treat me like a person instead of just a kid.
It’s that last part that’s the most important.
I think it’s easier when you’re dealing with kids because kids haven’t quite grown into all the complexities of a fully grown person, but I think people tend to fail to treat others like people.
I don’t feel like a person a lot of the time. I, most often, feel like people are talking to an image they’ve constructed of who I am and when I don’t fit into that mold, I get slapped.
In fairness, I tend to try to fit in whatever mold I think people see me in. Which isn’t fair, to them or to me, but I can’t seem to help myself. I think it’s probably a defense mechanism.
I try really hard not to view people as something in particular, but I know I’m guilty of it too. It’s hard not to fall into that habit because we’re part of a society that has taught us that given enough information, we know everything.
That’s bullshit, by the way.
There’s still so much we don’t know.
It just feels, at least to me, like we’re all under constant scrutiny. Everyone is always watching and there are all these expectations.
I am so tired.
I’m tired of constantly trying and failing to be whatever it is people think I’m supposed to be. It’s like charades where you don’t know what you’re supposed to be acting out and every once in a while you get exhausted and act the part badly only to get stuff thrown at you from your team members.
I think I’m rambling at this point but all my thoughts lately are in a scrambled mess, so I’m not going to beat myself up about it.
When it comes down to it, all you can do is the best you can do.
I’ve done and am doing the best I can with what I have.
I tend to put a lot of pressure on myself.
I can get kind of laser focused on things and I tend to obsess about them, putting unreasonable amounts of pressure on myself.
In some ways this has been the making of me: It’s what kept me from making stupid mistakes in high school, it’s what pushed me to get good grades, and it’s what motivates me to work hard.
However, lately it’s starting to break me.
See, the trouble is, I have spent so long piling tasks in front of myself and looking for step by step instructions on how to do each thing and move forward, that I can have trouble thinking about my life abstractly.
Life is terribly abstract.
There are things I want that can’t be attained by a simple set of steps and this usually ends up with me obsessively trying to figure them out, shove them into steps in my mind, and it makes me burn out internally.
Lately, I’ve felt a bit lost.
I don’t understand or particularly like a lot of things going on in the world, I haven’t had anything to contribute to this blog (so I have been skipping writing it), I’ve got a couple personal things I’m worried about, I’m not really certain what I want out of life right now that I can feasibly manage, my finances are a little tighter post-move than I had hoped, and my love life is in a coma.
I feel like I’m constantly spinning my wheels and going nowhere.
Logically, I’m aware that everyone feels like this sometimes. Still, as I tend to do with this sort of thing, even when I’m not thinking about it, I’m obsessing over it.
What’s really odd is I find myself disconnected from obsessing over it. Like I’m running a background program that’s using a lot of memory but not noticeable from a user standpoint.
I just find myself exhausted and often unhappy for reasons I can neither fully articulate nor understand.
It makes me very glad to have a dog, sometimes.
He can be a lot of work, but he’s always full of love and affection and he forces me to do things like get up in the morning and make contact with humans on weekends where I can’t bring myself to leave my apartment for more than an hour or so.
This weekend I’m going up to the lake with some friends and I’m thankful for it.
I’m hoping I can shed some of the weight on my shoulders and unplug from whatever is going on in the back of my mind.
Bare feet on the ground is usually the best medicine for me and considering how defective I feel lately, I could certainly use some medicine.
It strikes me that I sound very pretentious saying that, but I can’t tell if that’s because it’s true or because I’m being self-critical. All I know for certain is that I need my bare feet on the ground and my hands in the lake or on a tree so I can just breathe again.
I need to touch things that are real for a while so I can maybe start to feel real again.
I’ll let you know how it goes.
Today I had one of those days.
You know the kind of day where stuff just keeps piling up on you?
Every time I got something done or felt like I was getting something done, something else came sliding down. Normally, this would be annoying but doable.
Today I just did not have the bandwidth.
I’m gearing up to move this month, which is stressful.
I’ve been sleeping like shit, which is never good.
I woke up stressed.
But you know what?
Even though the majority of the day felt like bricks being added to my chest one by one and even though I have been torturing myself over a move that likely won’t even happen for a few weeks, and having a slight existential crisis because I do that every so often…
I kept my shit together and I got through.
It doesn’t matter that my last nerve was frayed and dangerously close to snapping at the end of the day and that a lot of the weight on my shoulders is still there because I managed to get through today, which means I got to make it to tomorrow.
I think sometimes we think that win has to be something big but a lot of the time a win is just the absence of a failure or further fuckery.
I watch the videos and read the articles about the massive wildfire plaguing Alberta and I think about how getting out alive is a win for those people.
I look back at my own life just a little less than two years ago and I think about how having a job at all is a win for me.
I’m not saying it lifts the burdens I’m currently carrying, I think it’s unrealistic to expect gratitude to somehow erase the weight of your problems, but it does redistribute the heavy load and make it a little more manageable if only for a little while longer.
Sometimes a little while longer is all you need to get to the next win.
Right now I feel like I’m in a place of stagnation and I find that’s often when I start to get restless.
Maybe that feeling will go away once I move into the new place, but for now I’m trying to placate myself with breaking down my problems into things I can maybe do something about.
Is this satisfying?
Not even a little.
Most of these things are stuff I can’t control and frankly, I would like the gratification to be…not instant but more immediate. Like 3-4 weeks delivery rather than 9 months, but I pride myself on being realistic and I know that if I can’t solve my problems instantly, then I need to break off little chunks of them so that my obsessive noodle-cave of a brain can gnaw on something other than my sanity as it spins in circles.
A colleague recently, like REAL recently, pointed out that I don’t have much for an ego.
Which is ridiculous because I’m made of freaking magic and you’re all my future peasants, but it’s possible this peasant had kind of a point.
When it comes to ego, I find myself in kind of a chicken-vs-egg situation. I can never tell is my lack of belief in myself and abilities is a result of having a strong belief that there’s an answer that I just can’t get to and that the reason I can’t get to it is because I’m lacking or if I actually have a giant ego and think that when I’m missing answers it’s totally unacceptable because I’m smart and perfect and must hold myself to a higher standard.
Either way, I’m the type of person who can get fixated on things- whether or not I have control over them.
I have literally obsessed over whether or not I cut someone off while driving because they honked at me, despite knowing logically I had done nothing wrong and the passenger in the vehicle telling me that they saw the whole thing and I wasn’t at all to blame.
I have also spent over and hour playing Tetris with a box of dishes just to fit everything in the way it was originally because I had kept all the cardboard and it had come all together so surely it had to fit back together and I am a moderately intelligent human, so I should be able to figure that out- never mind that it would have taken me far less time to just cobble together an alternative.
Weirdly, I don’t really fixate on how I fixate on things, I just try to find ways to manage it. If you understand your weaknesses, you can at focus them in productive ways at best and manage them at worst.
Today, I have chosen to shift my focus from the stress and the weight of today to the fact that I came out of it profoundly less affected than anticipated and choose the pieces of my problems that will keep my brain from running around like a screaming child.
It’s not ideal, but I’m managing.
I have no snappy ending for this post, so instead, please enjoy this great and apt Rob Cantor song:
They say that to grow as a person, you have to do things that scare you.
The problem is, I’m really good at rationalizing to myself that the things I’m afraid of are not things I’m afraid of, I’m just not comfortable doing them or not doing them for perfectly logical type reasons.
I think that without meaning to, we all lie to ourselves sometimes. You’d think that being ourselves, we’d be able to figure out what are and aren’t lies but it’s a whole rabbit whole of complexity and confusion and oh my god why can’t we just know stuff?
Stupid human complexity.
So, I’ve been trying to figure out what scares me so I can start confronting those fears.
As you might know if you follow the blog, this isn’t unusual. I try to push myself a lot because I HAVE TO DO ALL THE THINGS AND SUCCEED IN THEM DAMNIT!
I’m not a perfectionist with high expectations.
While I’m sure there are more things I’m afraid of than I’m aware of yet, the big three I can think of revolve around my confidence, or lack thereof.
I’m really, really insecure about my body. Some days are better than others but there is a deep self-hate there that I’m not great at dealing with. You might say that if I’m not happy with how I look I should do something about it but if you’re saying that then I’m sorry to inform you that you’re a bit of an asshole and missing the point entirely.
I want to be ok with my body as it is because it’s unlikely to change. Losing weight, for medical reasons, is nearly impossible for me and I can’t afford/don’t want do resort to surgery. Hell, even if I lose the weight I’m sure I’d find something else I don’t like about the way I look.
I mean, I don’t hate how I look all the time but I literally get anxious until I’ve seen the picture taken of me because I’m afraid I’ll look unattractive. Which is kind of a paradox considering I’m quite happy to take my dog for a walk with bed-head and pj pants at 7:30am and I don’t give a shit.
So, that’ something I’d like to confront.
The next thing I’m afraid of is performing in public. I really love playing my ukulele and singing but I rarely do that in front of people because I am terrified that people will say or think that I shouldn’t be doing that in public because I’m not good enough at it. I have this unrealistic fear that someone would just come up and perform take my ukulele to perform better than I can and I’d just be there mortified. WHICH MAKES NO DAMN SENSE! There’s always going to be someone better at stuff than I am, why the hell does it matter? It doesn’t.
Anyway, I’d like to perform in front of actual humans at some point.
The last thing I want to work on is asking for things. I don’t mean material things, I just mean asking for what I want. I’m not great at asking. I never want to put anyone out or inadvertently include myself where I’m not wanted. There are a lot of things I would love to do or be invited to join or get help with but I have a lot of trouble asking for those things because I feel like no one owes me anything and if I ask they might think I do feel that way and I don’t want to bother them but…..and so the cycle of self-doubt goes.
I’m trying to get better at asking and in fairness, there are a few things that I will ask for with no problem or ask for regardless of how unspeakably uncomfortable it makes me.
So now that I know these are the things I want to confront, the question is how to confront them?
I’m not super sure, yet.
I mean, number two is easy enough, I can just perform somewhere in front of some humans….of course in doing so I’ll slightly be confronting all three of these fears because I’ll have to ask to perform somewhere (most likely) and I’ll be super self conscious of how I look the entire time.
I feel like learning to love myself as I am is a lot harder than performing in public, though. I’m not even really sure how to do that. Suggestions are welcome.
As for my fear of asking…I’m not sure what I can do beyond what I am doing: trying to make myself ask for things.
You know, life would be a lot easier if instead of these kind of internal fears I was just afraid of external stuff like ducks or something.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t trust ducks, but I’m not afraid of them.
I just think they’re semi-aquatic rapists.
If I was a duck I’d be scared of ducks but as a human, they aren’t a fear I need to confront.
In conclusion: ducks are assholes.
See? Will Ferrell gets it.
P.S. Next week I will try to write a blog that is both on time and more coherent than this one.
P.P.S. I said TRY.
You know that religious parable, Footprints?
Where they guy is all:
“Yo, Jesus, there’s only one set of footprints when my life was at it’s hardest. Why’d you bail?”
and Jesus is all:
“When you only see one set of footprints, that is when I got bored and went for a walk on the water. I can do that you know. Also, it’d be nice if we could have a conversation every once in a while that wasn’t just you asking me for stuff. I have needs too, you know.”
I might be remembering it wrong.
Well, despite the fact I’m not remotely religious, that tie between life and footprints on a beach has always struck me.
I don’t exactly know what it is about having bare feet, but I find it really relaxing.
I like not being constricted by socks and frankly, I don’t find socks keep my feet that warm.
Shoes on the other hand, when combined with socks, do make my feet too warm.
So, when I can and when it’s comfortable, I like to go barefoot.
It might seem weird, but I like feeling the ground under my feet. Something about it makes me feel more connected and some of my happiest moments are when I’m barefoot. Like when I’m at the cottage and walking down to the lake on old pine needles or I take a detour down to trod on the soft moss until I get to the warm beach and dig my toes into the sand to feel the tiny grains crunch together. I might take a walk along the damp shoreline or stick a plastic chair in the edge of the lake and stick my feet in the water.
One of my favourite barefoot moments was when I was travelling with a friend in Italy. We went up the leaning tower in Pisa and I slipped a few times because my sandals didn’t have a great grip. So, after we got to the top, I went barefoot. I remember the marble was warm at the top of the tower and it radiated through my feet until we headed down and as I stepped onto the chilly marble staircase and into the grooves left in the marble, I thought about how many pairs of feet had made that same journey, carving those grooves in the marble in the process, and somehow I felt closer to those that went before.
It might seem strange, but something about going shoeless feels like I’m getting away with something.
It reminds me of being a kid, of parties where those of us who were in heels laughingly said ‘Screw this noise!’ and piled our shoes in a corner so we could dance unencumbered. It reminds me that I am here.
To feel the tile of my kitchen after leaving the carpet of my bedroom or the hardwood of my living room is a very tangible signal to my brain that I am in a different space.
It probably sounds a little naive, but I think we’d all be a little happier if we went barefoot more often.
I mean that metaphorically, mostly.
Unless you’re in a relationship, chances are you haven’t had much physical contact today or most days. We as a society have become so removed from everything. I’m not saying that’s a particularly bad thing, but I think it’s important to plug back in once in a while.
For me, I plug back in when I hug a friend or do something that gets my hands dirty or go barefoot.
It’s kind of sad that I charge my phone more often than I charge myself. Especially because I’m really shitty at remembering to charge my phone.
I can’t wait until summer comes and I can wear sandals, which is the next best thing to not wearing shoes, and go for barefoot walks on the beach.
Until then, I think I need to find a few more outlets for myself to plug into.
More hugs, maybe?
Maybe it’s time to find something new to get my hands dirty with.
I don’t know, but I know that I need a new outlet because as much as I love going barefoot, I have no desire to do so in the Canadian cold.
Don’t think I could BARE that.
P.S. I can hear you all groaning at my pun. Shut up. You knew who I was when you started reading this…I assume. Ok, maybe you didn’t. Still, shut up. Puns are great.
Yesterday was Bell’s annual “Let’s Talk” campaign to help raise awareness about mental illness and while I appreciate the raised awareness and the funds raised to support more work in the mental health field, I chose not to share the #Let’sTalk stuff.
Partly because I am and was, rather ironically, still going through a low period and wasn’t in a place to talk about that stuff yesterday and partly because Bell is anything BUT good for my mental health. Between their crap service and even worse customer service, they’re enough to make anyone crazy.
So, I wanted to write something this week about mental health.
I’ve written a lot on this blog about things I do when I’m feeling low or how I analyse or try to understand what I’m feeling, but I don’t think I’ve talked a lot about HOW it feels.
It’s not something that I feel I can ever quite articulate correctly and even when speaking to those closest to me, it’s hard to explain…but I also thinks it is important to talk about how these things feel so that it’s easier to understand.
Every experience is very subjective, so what I’m about to say does not apply to everyone but this is the best way I can explain it:
When I go through a low, it feels like barometer pressure.
Sometimes I can feel the pressure building, but a lot of the time I don’t even realize it until the storm begins.
How I feel during those storms differs but usually it is one or more of the following feelings: numb, sad, exhausted, or overwhelmed.
At best, I end up feeling disconnected, disinterested, and numb. At worst, I feel a physical ache in my chest- like I’m made of eggshell and inside is an aching and empty pit. I know that sounds dramatic, but that’s how it feels.
It’s why it can consume people and we lose amazing friends and family who couldn’t ever see an end to those feelings.
It’s all too easy for people to dismiss depression as someone feeling sad, but it’s so much more complicated than that and you can tell someone who’s suffering through a low that it’ll pass but that’s not really helpful.
Logically, I know that this is a storm. These feelings won’t last, they will pass and the sunshine will come back but knowing that doesn’t make the storm go away and it doesn’t speed it up any either.
Telling someone with depression, or berating yourself for being depressed is exactly as useful as yelling at a cloud.
You: HEY! HEY YOU, CLOUD! I UNDERSTAND YOU.
Cloud: *is a cloud*
You: I UNDERSTAND THE SCIENCE THAT MAKES YOU A CLOUD!
Cloud: *is still a cloud*
You: YOU’RE JUST A VISIBLE MASS OF CONDENSED WATER VAPOR, FLOATING AROUND IN THE ATMOSPHERE!
Cloud: *is still a fucking cloud*
You: ONCE THERE IS A SUFFICIENT CHANGE IN THE ATMOSPHERE, YOU’LL BE GONE!
Cloud: *gives no fucks and is still a cloud*
First of all, you look ridiculous yelling at that cloud. Secondly, as most people will admit, unless you’re a wizard or something, yelling at a cloud is probably going to have no effect on how fast that cloud moves/doesn’t move/evaporates.
Same goes for emotions.
I’m not great with emotions at the best of times, so sometimes my lows manifest themselves as physical illness. This was especially a problem in university, before I went to counselling and before I knew that what I felt was not normal.
I remember in first year of university, this one time….I was either not sleeping at all or sleeping too much and I didn’t know why. I lost my appetite. I lost all interest in doing anything at all. I got the point where the thought of eating made me ill, so I was just pale and I felt cold and out of it and had no idea why.
My folks were really great about it and I had I don’t know how much blood taken at the Doctor’s office and they couldn’t find anything wrong. Finally, at what felt like the millionth appointment, my Doctor was out sick and there was a temporary replacement there.
The new Doctor and I spoke for about 5 minutes before she started asking me questions.
I learned two things that day.
- My regular Doctor was a lazy asshole.
- I probably had depression.
I would not seek help for depression for another 3 years from this point. Embarrassed because I didn’t think I had the right to be depressed in the first place, I did research online and tried to manage my symptoms via what I learned that way.
When I finally did seek counselling, I left my first appointment being told in not-so-many words: “I have no idea how you’ve not sought help before now and we you need more care than we can give you.”
I was given a referral to another counselling facility, which I almost didn’t go to.
Part of what made it a struggle for me to ask for help was that I didn’t think I had the right to be depressed. I recognized how privileged I was and couldn’t understand how I could have the gall to be depressed when so many people have it so much worse than I do.
I had amazing and supportive parents.
I had friends.
I had decent grades.
So why the hell was I depressed?
Now pay attention.
This is important.
THAT IS NOT HOW IT WORKS.
If you have depression, you basically have a built-in weather system that is prone to storms that last longer than average. That’s all it is.
Everyone has down days and low periods but if your low periods are lasting for, oh say, two weeks? That’s probably something to consider and it doesn’t matter if you’re life is absolutely flawless, you can’t control how you feel.
Still, remember, it is a storm. It is weather and it is horrible but it will pass. All you can do is try to plan for it as best you can, take advantage of your resources, and batten down the hatches.
There’s a lot I want to say about this subject but so much of it is still very personal to me and a lot of it has already been said by so many other talented people. The Bloggess, whose blog is amazing and you really should read rather than mine, covers this sort of thing much better than I do.
I suppose, when it comes down to it, I just want to put another voice out there to tell you that it is OK to have depression. It’s not fun, but it’s OK.
Seek help if you need help.
Take a deep breath and remember it’s scary and awful, but it’s just a storm.
And remember that no good ever came from yelling at clouds.
So, last week I talked about how much 2016 has thus far been a punch to the gut and how I was trying to focus on better things.
This week, I can tell you that focusing on better things has helped.
I knew it would because I’ve got practice at picking myself back up.
After posting my blog last week, I received a not-so-helpful response from someone telling me to “Suck it up”.
To that, I say: “Piss off”.
The older I get, the more I begin to internalize the idea that I am in control of a great many things in my life. Luck and circumstance will always have something to do with where I end up, but there is a lot I have control over.
I find that really comforting.
When I’m stressed or upset or my depression has decided to rear it’s ugly head in a down spiral, I try to follow a simple pattern that I established for myself with the help of some counselling.
I let myself have a little freak-out.
Then I sit down and make a list.
Making a list makes me feel like I have control over something and it makes me actually sit down and think about what I want, what I want to change, and how I should go about doing something about all of it.
The first item on the list is usually unwritten but always the same: “Make a Step 1”
As a kid, I used to (and still do) get pretty daunted by the amount of work in front of me and my folks would say “Don’t look at how much you have to do, look at how much you’ve done.”
I try to do that a lot. I do it in this blog and I do it when I find myself berating myself for not somehow being better off than I am now. When you take the time to look back and see where you came from, it can help you figure out where you want to go.
This past week, the step 1 I wrote down was “Make change I can see”
I removed some things from my line of sight that were bothering me, I started making little changes around the apartment that I could see visually. I was doing something and leaving a trail of things being done behind me.
That’s probably the best therapy there is for me.
So, back to being told to “Suck it up”.
As you can tell from what I’ve described, I’m not exactly sitting around wallowing in my own situation. I take some time to acknowledge that yes, I am human, and yes that means I have these shitty things called feelings (even if I usually pretend they’re not there), and then I get on with my life.
No one needs to tell me to “Suck it up”.
To tell me to do so implies that you think my feelings aren’t valid, in which case fuck you, or you think I’m not already doing that, in which case still fuck you.
Part of me finds it a little ridiculous that a comment like this can still bother me. I’m a relatively successful, grown ass woman and I don’t need anyone’s opinion to validate that. I mean, it’s nice when it happens, but I don’t need it.
I think the reason this kind of thing still bothers me is this: I have spent so much time letting what other people said of me, or said to me, define me and I’m trying so hard not to be that person anymore. When someone says something like this, it makes me feel like they aren’t listening. I hate that. I hate being dismissed.
I have spent a long time letting people invalidate me and invalidating my own opinion on who I am. I said no more a long time ago and I meant it. No more.
It’s when this kind of stuff gets said that I need to remember to look behind me and see how far I’ve come so that I can take a deep breath, remind myself that it’s my life and my opinion of my life that matters, and then make the decision as to what I’m going to do.
The decision is usually that I’m not going to accept that bullshit.
What I AM going to do is continue creating the gallery wall in my bedroom I’ve been so excited about. I’m also going to make jambalaya this week, which is awesome. I’m going to continue researching my best option for a savings account (I’ve almost got it decided, tomorrow I’m making my final choice). I’m going to go through my stuff and decide what I don’t need. I’m even going to go on a date and give the whole ‘romance’ thing another try. (Yes I know it’s a bad idea.)
THAT is what I’m going to do.
If you don’t like it?
Suck it up.
I got my first tattoo when I was 18 years old.
Such a stereotype, right?
An act of teenage rebellion, fueled by hormones, at least that’s what most people seem to think when I tell them my first tattoo was at 18. That’s not the case though.
I wanted a tattoo from probably the age of 16, but wasn’t sure what I wanted to get. Looking back, it’s easy to see that the root of my indecisiveness was because I’m cautious by nature and knew that tattoos are, for the most part, permanent.
I wanted a tattoo, I didn’t want to regret a tattoo.
I decided to play it safe by choosing a cross.
I wasn’t by any means religious as a teenager, by 16 I was well on my way to identifying as agnostic and by 17 it was fairly cemented but I recognized that having been raised Catholic and with grandparents who had very strong roots in the church, religion would always be a part of who I was. I figured that the cross, as a symbol, was unlikely to develop new meaning anytime soon and so overall, I decided it was a safe choice.
I thought about it for a year, I did my research, and then I broached the subject with my parents. They were supportive, if a bit resistant, but treated me as they always have: A responsible girl capable of making her own decisions.
I tried to find a photo of the tattoo but literally the only photo I could find where you can even kind of see it is in one or two photos of me from first year university and the photo I took when I initially started talking to Sarah about it.
As you can see, it wasn’t a particularly large or complicated tattoo. In fact, so rarely did people see it or notice it, that friends I’ve had for years would routinely forget I had it and people who DID notice it would immediately assume I was religious and ask me questions.
Now, don’t get me wrong: I love tattoo questions. I put time and thought into getting a tattoo and I invested the money to get it, so I love when someone compliments my skin art and asks about it. What I found exhausting was that I had to constantly explain why I would get a religious symbol tattooed on me if I wasn’t religious myself.
Besides that, the tattoo itself wasn’t particularly special. I had wanted to consult an artist and have a tattoo designed but the shop I went to, while have a spotless reputation, was more of an old school “Point and pick” type of place.
After a few years, I fell out of love with the tattoo but I never regretted it.
Getting a tattoo felt like the first step of becoming who I was going to be. It was a physical way I chose to express myself and if I hadn’t gotten one at 18, I probably wouldn’t have gotten the postmark tattoo that started this whole crazy 30 before 30 journey.
So, like I said, no regrets. Still, I wasn’t in love with the tattoo anymore.
I’ve thought about getting a cover up a few times over the years and a lot more since I got my postmark tattoo. So, naturally, I turned to the same insanely talented artist who did my postmark to do the cover up.
Sarah Rogers works at 5 Cent Tattoo and is basically the coolest person ever. She took a look at my cross, took a few pictures, talked with me about what I wanted and let me send her a Pinterest board full of inspiration.
In the end, we agreed on three flowers with a lil foliage in a vintage style.
Since the cross had originally had a lot to do with the memory of my Nana (despite the fact I’m not sure how she’d feel about me having a tattoo. Papa saw and approved the original, so maybe she’d have been ok with it), so I wanted to do something else that kind of kept her memory in mind.
Nana was pretty well known for having a green thumb and it’s one of the things I remember best about the house she and Papa lived in. When I was little, she used to let me pick the violets that grew between the cracks in the cement outside the house and put them in little arrangements. If I was PARTICULARLY well behaved, I even occasionally got to pick one of her many petunias.
In memory of those times, when she was healthiest and at her best, I decided to get a violet and a dusty rose petunia. For the final flower, I chose a red carnation. Nana loved red carnations and they were very prevalent at her wake and funeral as a result.
When Nana passed in 1999, I was 10 years old and it was the hardest thing I’d ever gone through. She’d been sick for a long time, had two strokes, but in my kid brain, I still kind of hoped she’d get better and go back to being Nana (even if I knew that wasn’t possible).
As hard as it was to lose her, though, Nana’s passing inadvertently became the catalyst for a deeper relationship with my Papa. I’d always been closer to Nana than I was to Papa, probably because where she was loud and boisterous, Papa was quiet (though SUPER mischievous if you really knew him).
After losing Nana, Papa came out to my parents’ farm a lot and as a result, I saw him often and grew closer to him. In his quiet way, he teased me and always accepted the hugs I forced on to him from the time I was tiny. The man, like his son, could not say no to me if I demanded a hug despite the fact he wasn’t a super huggy type of person.
So, strangely, for me, red carnations are a bitter sweet flower. They remind me of Nana but also of her passing and all of the things that came to mean later on.
Nana and Papa are both gone now, but this cover-up kind of reminds me that they’re still with me.
Funnily enough, last night, I had a dream in which my Nana (whom I have seen in dreams a total of twice since she passed) laughingly looked over my new tattoo and taunted me for it.
“What, the cross wasn’t good enough?” she laughed, gesturing at my leg
“It’s still there, you just can’t see it now”
“Well what was the point of getting it, then?” she teased me, laughing
“But do you like it?” I wanted to know
“It’s very pretty but you could just grow some flowers if you want ’em”
In my dream, we were sat at her kitchen table and I swear I could smell the cigarette smoke, wood furnace, and the lingering smell of bacon grease.
She poked at my fresh tattoo and laughed and teased me when I told her that smarted. She was, as I want to remember her, full of cheek and laughter.
Considering how many times today I’ve inadvertently bumped my fresh tattoo into things, when normally I’m not so clumsy, I can only assume she’s still poking at me.
Completed BIG 30 Items
#1. Postmark Tattoo
#2. Reupholster a Chair
#3. See Amanda Palmer Perform Live
#4. Meet Someone I Admire
#5. Play an Instrument in Public
#6. Ride a Horse
#7. Ride a Hot Air Balloon
#8. Laser Eyes
#9. Go Sky-Diving
#10. Cover Up My First Tattoo