Grief changes you forever.
Going through a traumatic experience alters you, forever. I decided to alter my body, forever.
Even a year ago, if I had been asked about the probability that I would get a tattoo, I would have laughed. No chance.
Somehow I began to consider it. I wanted to carry my children with me all the time. I have my rings with their names and initials, and a necklace, but wanted something more permanent. The idea of wearable art was appealing. I searched the interwebs for something that would catch my eye and found the inspiration. Their four birthdates. Typewriter font because I am a writer. It was exactly what I was looking for, in a perfect spot — where I could show/hide as I wanted.
A tattoo artist was recommended to me and I made an appointment. It was several weeks out, so I could only wait with nervous anticipation. Nervous about both the pain and the permanence. A friend thought the pain might be therapeutic for me and I tried to think of it that way: the pain I would need to endure, much like the pain I have endured to date, as part of this unwanted journey.
I drove to the tiny hole-in-the-wall shop in another suburb. The artist was easygoing, and before I knew it, it was over. Fifteen minutes of prep, fifteen minutes of application. I was prepared for much worse pain.
I commented to someone that, apparently, this is what trauma does to you: you alter your body. His response was that people do a lot of new things when they experience trauma. At least this one is constructive.
Fierce, strong... Those still are not words that I am comfortable with. I am healing.
In a small way (or perhaps, a big way) I want it to prompt conversation. I want someone to say, "What are the dates for?" And I will respond "The birthdates of my four children."
I can almost hear the words: "You have FOUR children?" To which I need to gain the courage to say, "Yes, I have four children, two living."
And now I carry them with me, always.