My fascination with tattoos began with my dad. He had just one, which if you have tattoos, you know is rare. It was on his upper arm, and it was my mom’s name, with a flower at the end. He got it for her, but she hates tattoos so it was his last, and instead of fresh ink, he would bring home flowers instead.
I would stare at it when I was little and wonder if it hurt when he got it. Was it a pain he could remember? Did seeing it make him think of my mom, the place he got it done, the people he was with? What would my first tattoo be, and would the pain make me cry?
I was admiring my most recent tattoo yesterday. Curved lines that loop into the names of both my girls and attach to flowers (literally just connecting the dots now of how similar that is to what my dad had). Every time I look at it I think of Grace and Evelyn. How blessed I am to have had the privilege to raise Grace for 17 years and to continue to pour into Evelyn’s life with as much love and encouragement as I possibly can.
But it made me think about how much trauma is like a tattoo.
Trauma tattoos your soul. Marking you up with unwanted designs and uneven lines, against your will.
I wish I could say that trauma and I didn’t know each other so well, but it has been etching pictures on my soul since our first intro when I was young. Crooked lines that include a doctor taking advantage of a trusting child, holding my dad’s hand as he struggled through his last shallow breaths and hearing Jim’s voice on the phone telling me my baby was gone. I can instantly recall the smells, the sounds and the faces that were around me in every one of these scenarios and unfortunately, a few others.
And it hurts. When trauma marks you, it hurts and it lasts, forever.
I started to think though, maybe that’s why I like tattoos as much as I do. I get to decide what pictures I want to see. I get to make the choice to look at something beautiful. Something that reminds me of life, redemption, healing, and endurance. A choice I was never given when my soul received its tattoos.
I know there are still lots of you that don’t like tattoos and have all sorts of reasons why a person shouldn’t get them. Believe me, I have heard them all, but when I pick out something that I want permanently on my body, it is partly because I want to know that the trauma ink on my life isn’t what defines me. I don’t have to be subject to the frustration that comes with unwanted scars.
I can choose to look at my first tattoo, the infinity sign with It Is Well woven in, the one that reminds me of Grace’s big, never-ending love and Evelyn’s ability to see beyond the pain to the fact that God is still good.
I can choose to look at the cross on my ankle that I got with my niece Emma. The first tattoo that Grace was planning on getting when she graduated. The sunshine that reminds me of warmth and best friends, the strawberries that remind me of my sweet Oma, the verse John 16:33, that reminds me that Jesus has overcome all this craziness already, so I can live without fear, and my latest one, that I look at all the time, with the beautiful names of my girls. It reminds me just how blessed I am to have my sweet daughters.
Those are some of the marks I choose to have.
Don’t let the trauma tattoos keep you from living. Let the pain subside and choose to do something today that reminds you of beauty.
(Disclaimer…don’t get a tattoo if you aren’t 18, I don’t want to be blamed for anything)!