Sunday, May 29, 2011

joy comes in the morning

I got a tattoo.

Some of you are freaking out at this revelation--amazed that I am more of a rebel than you previously thought, or horrified at that same notion.

But I didn't do it to prove anything to anyone. I didn't do it to prove that I'm a badass. I didn't do it to be cool. I didn't do it to make my parents mad at me.

I thought about it for a long time. I had toyed with the idea of getting a tattoo, probably since I was 15, but I knew it would be something encouraging to me, something I could deal with having on my body forever. But I also knew I would have to wait a while. When I was 18, I thought of what I wanted. A good general rule of thumb with tattoos is to wait a year after deciding what you want as a tattoo before getting it, to make sure you still want it. It's been three years. And I got it a few weeks ago.

I didn't take this lightly. I knew my parents and other members of my family would not be happy about it, and it was a struggle to go against that. It scared me to make a permanent mark on my body. I thought about how this would affect my future career plans. Would I be able to hide it if I needed to? Do I really want a tattoo if I want to hide it? Are my parents ever going to forgive me? Are people I know or meet later going to think less of me? Do you really have to do this?

Some of those questions I know the answer to, others I don't, but to the final one--No, I didn't have to do this. I made a choice. So, no I'm not going to say, oh it's just something I had to do for myself. It's something I wanted to do for myself. This tattoo is important to me, its message is important to me, but yeah, I could have lived my life just as well without it.

But it's all about the choices we make. I mean what about the person you married? The job you chose to apply for/take? The place you moved to? The child you chose to have or abort? A tattoo seems less serious than some of those to me, and there are many that spend less time thinking about those things.

But, again, I'm not really trying to compare myself to others, by saying I'm so much better because I haven't made other difficult choices. I take full responsibility. I'm an adult. I thought about it a long time, weighed all the consequences of doing it, and decided to get a tattoo.

I worked at the IRS for 6 weeks, and told myself I would let myself do one big thing just for me with the money. The rest of it would go to paying for food and bills, and saving up to pay off my student loans. While I was working a desk job for 8 hours a day, I was sure I just wanted a spa weekend, or at least just a massage. But as I thought about it, I thought about this tattoo I had already waited 3 years to get. It was the week of the anniversary of Madeleine's death. And I realized it was time.

This tattoo describes my life. It's both for me and about everyone around me. In my high school years, I really found comfort in a song we sang in youth choir, that came from Psalm 30:5

For his wrath is only for a minute; in his grace there is life; weeping may be for a night, but joy comes in the morning.

Especially that second part: joy comes in the morning. I have struggled with depression throughout adolescence. I have been blessed with incredible people in my life that helped me through it, but what always kept me going is remembering that it wouldn't last forever. Joy comes in the morning. 

And I wanted to have it as a tattoo. With a peace dove. Both a symbol of peace, and a symbol that I can fly away from the pain that sometimes feel likes it's holding me back. And maybe I should be able to remember that without having it as a tattoo, but it's nice to always be able to look at it.

2008 was a rough year. It was the year I sprained my foot twice, wasn't allowed to dance for six months. It was the year I was diagnosed with PMDD and then Major Depression. It was the year I started taking medication for both of those. It was a year full of a lot of friendship drama. It was a year I constantly had to remind myself that joy would come in the morning. It was the year I realized I wanted this tattoo.

I put it on my ankle. I'm a dancer, so my feet are important to me. They carry me through this world, they let me dance. And it was horrible when I couldn't dance. I had to remember that joy would come in the morning. And that's why I chose to put that tattoo there. So much of my joy comes through dance. I want to remember that at all times. Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.

But still, why a tattoo? I've always loved seeing tattoos as art. There's a conflicted history of tattooing, some of it cultural, some of it very painful. But contemporary tattoos are often body art. And so many of them, especially when they mean something to the person, are so beautiful. They are becoming more popular and more accepted in our society. The message I chose to tattoo is a part of me, and I chose to make it permanently a part of my body.

I love this tattoo. The artist did a beautiful job. And I love looking down and seeing that reminder. Joy comes in the morning.

Here's some photos:
getting the tattoo done (by crtnz @ true blue tattoo in austin)

after the tattoo healed, the dove on the back

the text wraps around above my right ankle

then for fun:

this is how I felt getting the dove done on the back--the rest of it wasn't too bad, but that part was pretty painful. fortunately, it didn't last too long!


  1. It's beautiful, and so are you! I love these photographs, especially your pointed toe & your expression in the last one. Congratulations on your new bodily decoration. :-) I hope your parents didn't take it too hard.

  2. Love it. I've never regretted my body art, and I don't think you will either. Sometimes we "bear in our body" the important reminders of life. I hope it's a constant source of blessing for you.