Saturday, October 3, 2015

Comfort Zone

I recently stepped outside my comfort zone. Way outside. I mean, waaaaayy outside.

I got my first tattoo. 

No big deal, you might say. 

And for you, that might be true, but for me it was a huge step. And I mean, HUGE. I grew up with the image that tattoos were something drunken sailors did in strange ports-o'-call. Or drunken soldiers did on on leave. Or gang members did to identify themselves. Or people did to push social boundaries. 

And I am not any of those...

I see myself as clean cut, and socially conservative, and a bit afraid of what people might think of me...and I was like that until I decided to come out. And come out I did. Not giving a fuck what anyone thought. I wore what I wanted, and just lived my life... for a while.

And I wonder what happened to that nice young man who lived so authentically back then?

He became older and a bit too serious, too responsible, too worried about what others thought, especially his boyfriends. 

But, after some serious thought and some encouragement, he finally got inked.

At age 57.

But, first, let me also share this piece...

At age 90!
When I met my now-ex, he had two small tattoos, and I wasn't fond of them, even though he didn't fit the image I had of tatted people. He later had one of them covered with something larger, and quite expensive.  During our relationship, I'd begun mildly entertaining the idea of just maybe a small tribal band around a bicep, but never told anyone being too proud to admit I'd changed my stance about something so radical. But I gave that idea up, as my biceps aren't bulging enough for a band tattoo to look good, in my opinion. And I wasn't motivated enough to develop them just to get a tattoo. This feeling became motivation for a scene in my novel, Out of the Past.

One other very dear friend got several during the course of our friendship, yet it never changed my impression of her as she was always a bit of a rebel.

When the ex left, a new idea hit me, I would now get my tattoo, but to commemorate my new life without him and the transition of me and my new life into something bigger and better, I'd get one of a phoenix over my right pec. I even blogged about it, but one other friend pushed her way into my head, "No, don't! You'll get old and it will sag and look all saggy and wrinkly and gross!" And I listened to her. 

So, I put the idea out of my mind, until about five years later when I met someone special who has multiple tattoos. And, yes, he did push social boundaries, just a bit.

We'd talked about his, and I told him I had wanted to get one, but changed my mind, he asked why and I told him. He said I should do it if I wanted to, and for no other reason. And after a while the idea came back, but now I had a new design in mind; a four-sided Celtic knot, because I have Celtic heritage and one side each of the knot to remind me to nurture my mind, my body, my heart and my spirit. And he encouraged me to just consider it. After all, it was my body, my opinion, and no one else's, and  the tattoo would mean something special to me.

Then I started noticing several people my age with them, and seemingly respectable people too. And they looked good. Both the tats and the people.

I won't go this far
I began screwing up my courage; I found a nearby shop with positive reviews, and went in (with a friend for courage) with photos of what I wanted and was referred to an artist. We talked over my designs, he quoted me a price, and we parted, with me saying I needed to save the money. I got the money together and scheduled a final consultation and to leave the deposit, but nerves got the better of me, and I canceled. I later rescheduled and drove all the way down there refusing to let myself be swayed from driving on past the shop, once again. Deposit made, we scheduled a two hour session for both designs, with the artist saying it would save me money rather than booking separate sessions.

For days before the appointment, I could feel my heart racing, not only for the tattoo, but because of other changes I was considering in my life, some of which I've written about. All together it has been quite overwhelming. But, I digress. And the more I thought about it, did I want to sit through two hours and what if I can't handle the pain, the needles, the sitting there motionless? So, I suggested we do one at a time and start with the smaller one. And I'll worry about the money.

On tat day, I drove down, anticipating what was coming; the needles, the pain, the self-image post inking, the pain, the comments from others, the pain, the anxiety, the pain.

I survived it all...and the pain wasn't so bad; more annoying than painful, like someone repeatedly poking a small pin in me.

I think it looks great...and I'm very happy with it.

And then I faced reality as I had to go to work the next day. I deliberately showed a few co-workers my new tattoo as I'd discussed my thoughts with them. (And they have tats as well.) They were thrilled for me.

After that, I said nothing unless someone commented, and being the tattoo was on my inner left forearm, it wasn't that hard to miss since I wear short sleeve shirts to work in the Southern California heat. Those who did notice on their own were all very positive in their comments. One co-worker was surprised this was my first tattoo at all, as she suspected I was always a bit of a rebel and already had one, just not in a visible area. I'm not sure where she got that idea! Me being a rebel, not the non-visible tattoo. But, the most surprising comment I heard was that nearly every person mentioned they'd thought about getting one. Even the sweet, quiet ones. I guess still waters run deep.

Maybe I am a role model. Or indeed, a bit of a rebel.

But, for me the most interesting result was I felt as if a huge weight had been lifted off my shoulders. My doctor has asked me to monitor my blood pressure as it's borderline high. After I got the tattoo, it fell into the normal range. My resting heart rate dropped almost a full ten beats per minute and stayed that way for almost three days. My anxiety levels dropped to where I felt more at ease than I had in a long time. I didn't care what anyone said, or thought. I had my tattoo.

I'm looking forward to getting the phoenix. And then, that will be it. 

Well, maybe I'll consider the tribal band...
Mine, on day 2


  1. I'm beyond thrilled for you, Jeff. Sounds like you were ready to let go of another layer of fear you may have been holding on to. I would imagine that you may be experiencing a new sense of freedom along with this sensational tattoo, and the courage it took to go forward with it. Can't wait to hear more...

    1. Thank you, Evie. Can't wait to tell you!