It’s been a tradition to get tattooed every year since I got sober right around my sobriety date. I had to take some time off when I was pregnant & after I gave birth. Getting tattooed kind of falls by the wayside when you have a small baby.
I was ready to get back into it last year, & after the initial what the heck was I thinking, thought I had after the needle fired up. It felt really good to get back into it.
I found a different artist this year, made my appointment, & was stoked about getting some major work done. We’ll just say that “some stuff,” occurred after that. My heart got broken in another area & the artist got broken too. He crashed his motorcycle. He wasn’t going to be tattooing for a while.
It wasn’t going to happen. I was still wading through an emotional mire & I longed to feel anything other than what I was currently feeling. A tattoo will help, I thought. Every day I woke up & I felt loss. Every day I wished I could go back in time & find a different artist (not to take away the pain he was going through, there was pain all around). I was lamenting all this to my friend in Long Beach & she suggested that I make an appointment with her artist. I was visiting anyways, why not? She suggested doing it at the end of the trip to keep the fresh ink away from the sun & water. I made the appointment.
Time, eh? It’s a beast. Some things lightning fast & some things so slow you feel like you’ll never see through to the end of it. You wait, you want, you despair, & then all of the sudden you are smack dab in the middle of something you never bargained for.
Going back to Long Beach was different this time. I had realized from my previous visits that it was never going to be, “my” Long Beach again. It was going to be different. I was going to be different, my friends were different, even the landscape was different. Because of this realization, I flowed through the trip with increased acceptance. The slow march of time. It keeps going no matter what we do & it finally came time for the much looked forward to tattoo appointment!
I got along with the artist immediately. We had many things in common besides our mutual friends. We were even born the same year & drove the same kind of car. I told him what I had envisioned for my arm & he didn’t try to talk me out of anything. We decided on peonies to fill in the gaps of my upper arm, the goal was to officially cover the whole outside of upper left arm up. He started sketching. He transferred the sketch to my arm. I listened to the familiar sound of the tattoo gun rev up. The needle bit into my arm.
I refused to look down while he worked. I did my yoga breathing. The conversation was really amazing, considering I’d never met him before that day. He told me a story about a lady who was in so much emotional pain that she could hardly feel anything as she got tattooed. She kept coming back for more tattoos & as time went by, her life began to be happier. She kept finding it harder & harder to sit through the pain. I could really relate. Physical pain seems like nothing compared to emotional pain.
My friend came & we broke for lunch. A short lunch, he had another appointment & he wanted to keep going as soon as I finished eating. I looked down for the first time in a couple hours.
It wasn’t just what I had wanted & imagined. IT WAS BETTER.
I could hear my Higher Power whispering in my ear. See? This is what you were waiting for.
I came back from lunch & he finished my arm. It had taken 5 hours (with 1 hour of sketching). After all those months of not being able to accomplish my goal, of all of the waiting, of all the emotional turmoil, it felt really good to walk away with my arm completed. It felt even better to have some quality art work on my arm.
The next night, I attended my old home group, the very first location of my first AA meeting. It worked out that way, some old friends were taking anniversaries, other mutual close friends were attending, including my Long Beach sponsor. She did that thing she used to do during the meeting, she stroked my hair, an affection a mother would give to a daughter, or a sister to her sister, or a friend to another close friend. While the meeting was going on she whispered, “Even though you’re not here, you’re still with us. Even though we aren’t with you in Oregon, we are still with you.” I’ve gotten misty eyed over that many time since. I’ve written here multiple times about the grief I have experienced, moving away from Long Beach even though I feel at home in Oregon too.
I felt a peace about leaving, about saying goodbye. Long trips to Long Beach every couple of years will be a priority. I need to visit & connect with my other home.
& the message I heard was loud & clear. I don’t get to decide when. Today I’m in surrender with the when.
Wishing the best for all of you out there. Not just the good, but the BEST.