The unease set in after I was alone in the house. I had for years wanted to get a tattoo, and I had waited and waited until just the right design spoke to me, and just the right artist was available, and it was just the right time. Thursday was that day.
But what caught me off guard was the butterflies in my stomach as I went through my morning before the 1:00 appointment. The nerves weren’t a case of fear of the needle, or fear of the pain, but rather a fear of the permanence of the artwork. There are No Do-overs. (Okay, Buddhists, I know the drill. Nothing is permanent. My tattoo isn’t permanent. The arm that it is inked on isn’t permanent. This body isn’t permanent. I know. Just go with me here.)
When I arrived at the studio, I finalized the design details with Jersey, then Seth set about making it into a stencil. Once the stencil was applied to my arm I got to see really how cool it looked, and was pretty excited to get started. I sat in the 1960 vintage barber chair, reclined, and Jersey set the needles a-buzzin’.
The first pass with the needle wasn’t so bad. The next few kind of stung, but after a few minutes the skin started to get numb and it was fine. I could really feel it when he had to make a wider line, and the needle stayed in that area a little longer. That one felt like he was scooping out a chunk of skin.
The first break came after finishing the black outline. I got a chance to see it in the mirror, and it was still looking fantastic. The next step was adding the color, and after a total time in the shop of two and a half hours, I was looking in the mirror at the finished artwork. Exactly as I pictured it months earlier!
After I got home I was hit with the second surprise of the day. Regret. I was overcome with regret and second guessing. When the realization hit that this was permanent, I couldn’t go back, and no matter how much I regretted it, there was nothing I could do about it, I was almost nauseous.
Ellen came home from work, and I talked about it with her, and got some external validation, and the regret started to dissipate. My sleep Thursday night was very restless, with several tattoo themed dreams (and lots of tossing and turning).
In the days since then, I have come to adore the tattoo. It is exactly what I wanted, has a lot of meaning, and is nice quality. I’m thinking that the first tattoo is the difficult one – I’ve already started thinking about what I want to get next. Everyone who has seen it has been overwhelmingly positive. Even the people that I never would have guessed would be supportive of it are.
Special thanks to Ellen (for the inspiration), The_Kamikazen (for the design), and Jersey (for the ink). Also a shout-out to Seth, with whom I talked about meditation during our breaks (and who has a nice looking Om on his wrist).
Here’s what it means:
I chose a “happy buddha” (hotei) because it is a reminder to have a positive outlook on life – not to take it too seriously. He is juggling to represent keeping everything in your life in balance. One ball is on the ground because you can’t keep it all in the air – you have to know that it’s okay to set some things down. Juggling, besides being an activity that I enjoy, also requires you to be present in the moment in order to keep all the balls in the air.
The lotus is the blue lotus which is a symbol of wisdom. The hotei sits inside the lotus as he continues to gain knowledge. The inside of the lotus petals are pink, symbolic of the “great buddha”. As the lotus continues to open, we move closer to the realizing the buddhahood that is in us all.
The balls that are being juggled are colored in the same palette as a tradional prayer flag, each one representing the elements that make up our existence – the things we are trying to keep in balance. Blue (sky/space), White (air/wind), Red (fire), Green (water), Yellow (ground).
The Design: The design has changed a little from the one drawn by The_Kamikazen. Most notably, the platform was replaced by the lotus. It was something that Jersey changed it on his own. It’s funny because that was the way I had originally visualized the design. Once I saw the hotei sitting in the lotus, the raised knee didn’t look quite right, so I had him change it to a lotus position. Jersey also replaced the large circle with a gradient glow. Everything else is still the same.
Now that the tattoo’s done, it’s time to buy the t-shirt!!