I got my first tattoo a few days ago. Until I walked into the tattoo parlor, I would have sworn that I would never mark my body like that. I would have told you that tattoos are vulgar and that people who get them are bound to regret them at some point. Maybe they are and maybe I will, but I understand the appeal of them now. There is something extremely liberating about getting a tat – like a big “fuck you” to the universe; a way to put the inner scarring on the outside for the world to see; a way to turn the pain into beauty.

For me, that was the motivator – pain. I finally felt that the pain I had bottled up and pushed down and covered up for so long, simply could not be covered any more. I needed to acknowledge it and embrace it, love it even. My pain is a part of me, a really big part. It, more than anything, has made me who I am. And who I am is beautiful.  I am worthy. I am strong. I am a survivor and I will survive.

I have made mistakes and I own them. I have hurt others and I have been hurt, mostly by loving too freely and expecting too much from people who could not give it. Some of my pain is self-inflicted and some was forced on me, against my will, but all of it is mine now. It has been like a wounded animal, now screaming and clawing everything around it, now cowering in fear, now pacing inside the cage I built to contain it, pacing forever, looking for a crack in the cage, a slight inattention that would allow it to escape. It has marked me, scarred me, shredded me at times, because I would not, could not, look at it and see it in all its bloody beauty.

And there is a beauty in pain, terrible and frightening, but radiant too. It takes the coarse, thick hide off of you and leaves you pink and panting, tender to the world. The trick is to stay tender, but not raw; soft, but not fragile; marked, but not marred; awake and alive and aware.

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