I was more nervous than I thought I would be when I walked into the shop. I have been thinking about this tattoo for twelve years and talking about it for the last two. Leave it to 18-year-old Abby to decide to wait till 30 to get her first tattoo.
I sat down on the table and Danielle got four lines in when I sat up. “Hang on, I think I am going to puke.” I’ve puked for every major transition in my life, both babies, my wedding, and now my thirtieth birthday. It was fitting in a way.
But I didn’t just puke. I had been having some stomach issues the entire weekend. When I puke, I lose total control. Like, total bodily control. You can probably guess whats coming. On my thirtieth birthday, in front of my husband, two very close friends and a tattoo artist (I guess now my tattoo artist), I hit a milestone no one ever wants to hit. I crapped my pants in public. I pooped while I puked while I puked in a garbage can.
I suppose that could have meant I was out. I could have walked away with four lines on my foot and a promise to come back later. I don’t know that anyone would have blamed me. I mean, I crapped my pants in public. Instead I went into the bathroom and took off my leggings. I rinsed out my underwear and put them back on. No one cared. Everyone knew and no one cared. It wasn’t even that they pretended I didn’t, it was just that no one cared.
I feel like this is the lesson I have been learning forever. I feel like it is one that perhaps I finally learned on that table. No one cares about my messes as much as I do. People love me in the mess, but I have to let them. I have to deal with the mess, I have to move past it, but people still want to be there.
People can handle me, all of me. I just need to let them.
About a week ago, I responded to someone on Facebook: Sometimes Holy Ground make you shit your pants. Step on it anyway. God is so hilarious sometimes. In the next thirty years I hope he uses less of my words against me.
I don’t know how to explain everything that happened in my heart, as this image was carved onto my foot. But I feel like a lot of the lies that I’ve been grappling with finally died.
It hurt more than I thought it would. It hurt a lot more than I thought it would. But I did it, and if pushed could do it again (Although I have no plans of ever doing that again.) I sometimes tell myself I can’t do things because they are hard things. It is a lie I have been hanging on to despite the truth of my life, of my career, of my parenting, my book and now of the tattoo on my foot.
Abby does hard things. When things get hard she stays, she finishes.
I like to have a lot of people around me when I am doing the hard things, the things that hurt, the things I feel called to. I always thought this was because I am not as strong as the lone wolf. That lie died with the photos my friend Jennifer sent me. Two close friends, my sister, my husband, a story sessions representative and her husband. All of these people I love, all of them I want with me. It doesn’t make me weak, it is simply the way that I am built. I am a pack animal, I run in a pack. I tried to apologize to the tattoo artist. Danielle smiled back at me, “I’m the same way.”
My pack doesn’t make me weak, it gives me strength. I don’t need to apologize for the way I am built.
One mess, two hours and fifteen minutes, a lot of hand holding, and some deep breathing later it was finished. I carry it on my left foot. An owl, sitting in a dogwood tree, the dogwood blooming both pink and white. The dogwood of my youth is grafted together. It blooms both colors and we would have our picture taken under it for prom, easter, mother’s day. But the dogwood is also a symbol of the ressurection. The story goes that the cross was made from that wood. The symbol of a faith that is wholly mine and also inherited. And owls see into the darkness. There was an owl waiting for me when I got back from walking around my neighborhood when I was in labor with Juliet. It gave me great comfort, made me sure I could be a mom.
I got this tattoo as a symbol of who I am and who I hope to be: someone who lives life like an owl in a dogwood, grounded in the ressurection, seeing into the darkness.
Very special thanks to Jennifer Upton for the beautiful pictures, Danielle of Only You Tattoo who is clearly the best tattoo artist in the world, and the rest of my pack, Tony Upton, Megan and Mindy, my sister Jill and my husband Christian for doing this with me.