On July 5th I got my first tattoo. By August 1st, it had all but disappeared. I had waited 37 years to finally get one and it lasted less than a month.
Granted with the placement of said tattoo, which was on the lowest finger pad of my left ring finger, I was told that it would not last given the amount of times we washed our hands. I knew it was not forever, but I sure did think it would have lasted longer than a month. I wasn’t ready for it to go so soon.
I had chosen the letter “L” to place on the interior of my left ring finger to symbolize the vow I made to myself – to love myself, to choose my health, to know I have inner strength. Then the symbol I had chosen to help represent my growth as a confident, competent, healthy, self-realized individual disappeared. It ended before I was ready.
Simultaneously to the slowly disappearing tattoo, was a short-lived relationship. I’ve dated long enough to know when it’s not a good match. And while younger versions of myself could have made it last longer, I now had my vow to answer to. I’ve chosen to live an authentic life where I know I have chosen to take care of myself. And staying in a relationship with someone who is not committed to that does not align with such. It ended before I wanted it to but I still had control of the situation. I was the one closing that book. My choice dictated the direction.
And while these are the examples I’ll easily share, they are not the ones that confused me the most. I saw the tattoo and the relationship slowly fading. I had forewarning. I knew they were coming.
The experience I did not see coming, expected, nor knew what to do with when it ended was a viral video instead.
On June 26, I posted a Reel on Instagram of myself practicing correct tongue rest posture (which is full tongue blade suctioned to the palate). It hit a chord, had the right music, was the right amount of time and reached 2.5 million views. Believe me, that still shocks me and leaves me beyond puzzled. How does this even happen? What’s even more was I began to find myself checking my Instagram account far more than I ever did before to see the status updates – something I used to pride myself on not doing. I began to really enjoy seeing the growing numbers, starting to find outside admiration to fuel my inner worth. I knew however in the back of my head that I was beginning to give too much thought to this and it wouldn’t last forever. That I was right about. Almost as fast as it started, it stopped. And I wasn’t ready for any of it.
But if I’m honest, when are we ever really ready for something we enjoy to stop? Not often.
What makes these three instances interesting to me is individually they are seemingly insignificant or at best very amusing. And if it had just been those first two things that ended, I would have continued ignoring my feelings because they simply weren’t big enough to notice. They didn’t bother me, or so I thought. But that last third was the one that made all three of them hit harder together. I had been telling myself I wasn’t sad about my tattoo vanishing or yet another relationship ending. But I was. It simply took the third instance starting, shining, then ending to help me realize it.
And even then, it took me a while to let it all sink in. But when I finally admitted I felt off, heavy, sad — paired with an honest conversation with a good friend — I realized I was grieving, looking to old outside sources for filling myself up, and feeling loss in my body even before my understanding could catch up.
Loss and grief are interesting. Sometimes they are big losses and grief with a capital “L” and “G” and others are more cumulative small life cuts that simply add up and slice deep. And while a former version of myself would never admit to any of these as pains, I now can because while my tattoo, last relationship or video didn’t last my vow to myself did. I want a true life that honors myself and my health. This includes my mental health.
In the first two cases, I had stayed on course for keeping my inner values aligned with my worth. However it was the viral video that threw me off. I had been relying on something outside of myself to determine inner worthiness. Something that can only stem from within me. I know this. I teach this. And for a month, I forgot it.
Life continues to remind me the lessons I need to learn and still re-learn. And this was one. Things will end and you will be ok. Resilience comes from a strong core not a shiny exterior. Growing sturdy wings starts with a strong heart, true voice and deep breath. All of which I had been ignoring until life reminded me.
It took really huge life quakes for me to learn these lessons the first time, but as we keep moving forward it sometimes takes smaller lessons to remind us what we have forgotten. And for now, these were the lessons I needed to remind me what I had neglected in this moment. Life has a way of doing that.
I firmly believe we get to design the life we want, but that only happens when we honor the experiences we are having.
So what did I do with these feelings? After realizing I had been ignoring then, I then named and sat with them. I wrote about them. I meditated on them. And I stopped pretending they didn’t exist. I was sad. So I allowed myself to be sad. I made myself tea. I curled in the fetal position with my dog. I talked to a trusted friend. And when I felt what was radiating out of me finally release, I felt grateful for handling my inner truths in a productive way. That is how we grow. That is the change we seek. That is what ongoing healing looks like.
And as my friend over coffee reminded me, emotions are gold. And she’s right. They are not to be ignored or pushed down or blown past. They are the messages we are sent to help remind us to rest, to pay attention, to look before we run towards more numbing.
We get to choose the life we want, but only when we choose to listen to what our body, mind and soul are telling us.