That seemed like an appropriate post title today, given that not only are we at the part of my mid-life crisis story where I start digging my way out of it, but we’re also still digging out of who-knows-how-many feet of snow this week, because…apparently this is what our “banana belt” of the state has become with climate change, etc. I’m not sure where we’re going to put much more snow. There’s just no room! It’s gonna be a huge mess when this all decides to melt…
In any case, last week, I left off with a decision not to apply for a very lucrative job, and to make another tattoo appointment. Understand that while I was making these decisions, I was still questioning everything, and trying to keep my head and such where it belonged – which is in the life I’d made for myself, rather than in a fantasy world made of different decisions. I kept flipping back and forth, almost mourning the road not taken, as odd as that sounds. And wanting desperately to know what it would be like, even though my head kept telling me that even though it would have been very different, I’d still probably be in the same mental space at that time, just looking the other way.
That’s the thing about us humans. We always tend to get to a point (or points) where we want what we don’t or can’t have (or chose not to have earlier). And it doesn’t seem to matter what we choose in the moment…somehow, we’ll always hit a point of wondering “what if” later down the road. Just knowing that is at least some comfort, I’ve found. Sort of.
When I turned forty (in the middle of all this, and before the whole job decision thing), I finally decided to go get a tattoo I’d been wanting for years. I got it in a somewhat inconspicuous place on my lower ankle, easily hidden for work. But that wasn’t where I’d really wanted to put it. I was still in conservative “don’t make anyone else uncomfortable” mode, so I went against my own desires. Getting the tattoo was a step in the right direction, but it wasn’t enough. And after I decided not to apply for the higher level job, I decided it was time to take some sort of a big step for myself. Something that would make me feel bold and more in control of my own decisions. Something that would force me to acknowledge my own needs and desires more publicly, because it would be on display nearly all the time. Something that would make it harder for me to repress who I am, and thus hopefully embolden me to embrace that publicly, as well as privately.
So, eleven months after getting my publishing business logo tattooed on my ankle and six months after deciding to stay with my current job, I had my tattoo artist design a rattlesnake tattoo with bitterroot flowers (Montana’s state flower) for the inside of my left forearm. The snake’s tongue flicks out right down onto my wrist, so it’s impossible to completely hide without both long sleeves and gloves. It’s beautiful, and bold, and there to remind me to be bold, and to listen to my instincts instead of just listening to my head all the time. And also to remind me not to deny who I really am, even if who I am/what I like makes other people uncomfortable because it’s outside the norm.
It took awhile to get used to wearing this tattoo. It’s not inconspicuous, and it did indeed force me to allow people to see a sliver of the “real me” and to be okay with their judgement on that, no matter what it was. But it also helped me to embrace “being me” in public, and it made me feel bold and empowered.
An interesting side effect is that by growing in that way, I started dealing with those other feelings I’d been struggling with. I started realizing that I didn’t have to actually get rid of them, or overcome them, or change them. That they were part of who I am, and that as long as I didn’t act on them, it was okay to acknowledge and even entertain them without guilt (or as much guilt, anyways). Just being able to do that, to examine them without so much guilt and dismay attached to them allowed me to finally start really thinking about what they meant, and why they had become such a big deal in the last few years.
It also allowed me to start writing about them. Not directly (except to my best friend), but in fiction, where I could sort of look at them from all sides, from a removed perspective that would allow me better personal perspective. I do some of my best thinking while writing fiction, and throughout this whole mid-life crisis period, writing had been nearly impossible. Finally writing again and starting to deal with my feelings on paper was a relief. Those stories aren’t finished yet and won’t be for awhile, but I consider them therapy, and still work on them a little here and there, as I’m able.
It’s kind of amazing how relatively small decisions can be so influential in all areas of our lives, isn’t it? But while I was finally writing again, I still had a ways to go before I’d feel content and “at peace” with my life again (mostly). Which is where we’ll hopefully end up…next week.