Tattoo Update: Wherein it all becomes VERY REAL and VERY SCARY

This past weekend, I did it.
I made the appointment.
To transform something tainted by history into something beautiful, meaningful and new.

A couple of weeks ago, I shared the story of one of my tattoos.    It’s been several years since I closed the door on that chapter of my life, and though I’ve since got other tattoos, this one remains firmly stamped on my back, huge,  a continual reminder of pain,  of mistakes, and of my darkest hours.

In life, I try to learn from mistakes and bad experiences – with people, it can be through the choice to forgive, or to opt out of negative forces.  With work, it can be to focus on how I can better contribute to the future, rather than on errors I may have made in the past.  With anxiety, it can be to remain fiercely determined, taking little steps along the path to finally being free of the fears that have held me back for so long. But with a tattoo? It’s not so easy.

Finances definitely play a part in why I haven’t yet done anything about it.  This thing is six inches high and solid black, and expanding it into something that’s going to really mean something is a big undertaking.  But the biggest reason so far is the pain. My back is an ongoing puzzle I’ve spent the last few years desperately trying to solve. Chronic pain along the right hand side of my back, from the top of my shoulder down to the top of my hip.  I’ve lost count of how much money I’ve funnelled into health care providers; chiropractors, physiotherapists, acupuncturists, massage, and even cortisone injections (that was a fun one.)  I don’t have coverage for this sort of thing, but I’ll do whatever it takes to figure it out.  It stops me being able to do things I want to.  Dance, exercise, go bowling – even going to the movies I carry two tennis balls in with me, placing them in the back of my chair, trying to alleviate some of the pain.  These days, I’m going for incredible amounts of pain deep-tissue massage once a week and diligently doing my exercises every other night. They’re agonizing, and I feel like a total wuss. But I keep my eyes on the prize.

This has, by far, been the biggest reason I haven’t done anything about my tattoo. Yet. But this weekend, I made an appointment for 18th May (that’s two weeks, people!) to get the outline done.  A friend of mine is dating an incredible artist, who worked with what I had and designed something that’s not only amazingly gorgeous, but exactly what I want on my body for life.  It’s an elaborate phoenix, the body of which will cover what I have and extend into artistic and intricate wings that span across the entirety of my upper back.  I love the idea of rebirth and constantly growing into something stronger, better, and more beautiful.  I can’t wait for it to be finished and to show the world.  And it’s a perfect fit.

But I can’t deny I’m afraid.  The artist said we have to get the outline done all in one session – which he imagines will take at least two hours. After that, he told me, I can come back as many times as I like to get the shading done – if I can only stand 45 minutes, I can do 45 minutes.  But two hours? Intimidating, to say the least. Since I’ve started the massage sessions, it’s doing better in that the muscles no longer go into spasm at the slightest touch. But the pain is still there, and the skin very sensitive. I can’t take pain killers beforehand, as they “thin the blood”.  I’m debating going for the cortisone shots again the morning of. But then I remind myself I went into convulsing shock and had to be escorted home in a blanket.

When I’m faced with difficult situations, I try to weigh things out. When I first started facilitating workshops, I was terrified. But I weighed out my fear of public speaking and of judgment with my desire to pass along information that will ultimately help my audience live better lives.  The latter desire was stronger, and that’s what I used to get through it. I also kept in mind that I can’t control what other people are going to think of me – so there is no sense in worry consuming my mind over something of which I have no power. All I can do is the best I can.

In this instance, I’m trying to use the same balancing act to get through it. The first hurdle will be the hardest, but if I can do it, it’ll be the first step on fully closing the chapter on something I have no desire to revisit ever again. I’ve made the mistakes, and I’ve learned from them. They have done their part in shaping me, and shaping the way I look at life.  They have played their part, and it’s fair to be able to close the book and shelve it away for good.  Yes, my desire to do that is stronger than my fear. I know it’s going to be hard. But, as with so many things, the things that mean the most are sometimes the hardest to do.

Wish me luck!