• Tracey

This is 48

I turned 48 yesterday. Birthdays are usually not a big deal, and to be honest, this one wasn't either. However, considering how difficult the last year has been, I was happy to see 47 go and 48 make an entrance. Because of my husband's current condition with his cancer treatment, we stayed home for my birthday celebration. I've been wanting to have a few new pictures made of myself, especially since I have recently gotten two tattoos that have deep meaning to me, but haven't had the time or energy to do it. It literally has been YEARS since I've had portraits done. So, yesterday, as a birthday treat, my oldest daughter pampered me with doing my hair and make-up and then followed up with a mini photo shoot in my back yard. By trade she is a video editor, but she has an interest and talent in still photography as well. It was fantastic fun to spend quality time with her and I was grateful to feel pampered.

I've wanted a tattoo for a long time but two things held me back. First, was my upbringing and the influence of my early religious education in the Southern Baptist Church and the opinion of my father, both who consistently told me that my body is a temple, a perfect creation from God that I should not alter...ever . Secondly, I wasn't completely sure what art I wanted and could commit to for the rest of my life. So, I put it off. After living through this year and all the changes it has brought, I decided now was the time to pursue this dream of mine. Life is too short to keep putting things off. I still felt a sense of guilt for wanting one, but I moved forward anyway.

One morning, I rolled over and on my nightstand was a little rock. I picked it up and saw that it was a rock my youngest daughter decorated and placed there for me. It simply had a speech bubble with a heart in it. For some reason, it grabbed at my heart and my throat constricted as tears formed in my eyes. It was such a sweet, gentle reminder that this life is about nothing more and nothing less than love. I am a deeply spiritual person and the first thought in my mind was that, even through the worst year of my life, God has spoken love into it in so many ways. Speaking love. I knew the first tattoo I would get would be this cute, gentle reminder that God's only language is love and if we look for it, it is there even in the darkest moments of our lives. It is also a visual reminder for me to try and be like God and always speak with kindness in my interactions with others. That doesn't mean I will be a pushover, but it does mean that I will try my best to speak my thoughts and convictions with love in my heart for the other person, even if they are my enemy.

So, I made an appointment and with much trepidation, but with full confidence in my choice, I went and got this tattoo. As I was lying on the table, having the ink etched into my skin, I was thinking about my father and how he would probably be disappointed in me. I verbalized this and my thoughts about my religious upbringing to the tattoo artist and his response stuck with me. He said, "You know...if you think about it, what are the most ornately decorated buildings in most communities?"

I responded, "Churches and temples."

"Exactly," he said. "Your body is your temple. If you choose to honor God in this way, it is your choice."

The rest of the time we stayed in silence until I was finished. He didn't know it, but he made me so much more comfortable about my decision to get a tattoo and my soul appreciated his profound yet simple comment.

That same day, as I was paying for my little speech bubble, I decided to book the next appointment for my second tattoo. I knew right then what it would be...ironically, I wanted a tattoo in honor of my father who passed years back. I laughed when I explained my idea to the artist. He knew from our earlier talk that my father probably would not have approved of a tattoo and yet here I was planning a memorial tattoo in his honor. But, I was sure in my decision, despite the obvious irony.

My second tattoo came a few weeks later. I decided on a bird theme, not surprisingly to many who know my art well, because I use them a lot in my creations. What many may not know is the reason I love birds so much is because of my father. My father loved birds too and he used to feed them at a bird feeder he placed in our yard. We had one ever since I can remember. When I was little he would let me help him fill it and to this day it is one of my fondest memories with him...feeding the birds. I now have two bird feeding stations on my property and I think of him every single time I fill the feeders. I wanted to a crown on the bird's head to represent my father, king of our little family. I also wanted some numbers that have special meaning to me, 4214. To balance out the bird and numbers and to add context around the bird, the artist suggested adding the red circle in the background, perhaps representing the sun. I was a bit unsure of the red, but he told me how red makes other parts of the tattoo pop and so I decided to trust him and go with it.

Turns out, I love it. I am proud of them and you know what? I think my father would be too. I am the first to ever get a tattoo in my family and I kind of like being the rebel. I might just get more in the future but for now I am content. I may be in the midst of a mid-life crisis at 48 years old, but I don't care. Life is too short and I am going to live it without regrets.

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