I’ve wanted a new tattoo for ages now, but I kept putting it off because of the price. Today was the day I was going to set up an appointment to finally get it done. I was all a flutter with excitement as I walked into the tattoo parlor. I spoke to a guy, put down a deposit, and set the date. But as I walked out of the door an overwhelming feeling of dread hit my veins like fire. Feeling hot all over is one of my first signs of an anxiety attack and I was heating up fast. I got into my car and sat there. What the heck was going on? Why was I freaking out? I’ve wanted this tattoo for a long time now, why was I second guessing myself now? It wasn’t like I hadn’t thought this decision over for months. I had found the perfect placement and everything. I was so excited on my drive here and then PANIC!!!!
I sat there for 15 minutes trying to calm myself down and breathe, when I realized that I would probably have to do this all day, every day until I actually got the tattoo. There was no way in hell I was going to go through an entire week freaking out over a tattoo appointment. What was I going to do? In times of worry, I pray the serenity prayer. I pay special attention to the very first verses “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” It did not take a lot of wisdom to realize that this situation could be easily remedied. My anxiety could go away in a matter of 5 minutes if I wanted it to, but boy would I need courage.
All I had to do was walk back into the tattoo place, confess that I am a scaredy cat, and ask for my deposit back. Easier said than done. My fear of looking like an idiot tempted me to just suck it up and get the tattoo. But fear of looking like an idiot is not a good reason to get something permanent or suffer through a week of anxiety.
So I walked back into the parlor. There was a girl sitting on the couch waiting for her appointment..oh joy, another witness. I walked up to the guy at the desk and before my brain knew what it was going to say, my mouth blurted out “I can’t do it!”
The guy looked at me like I was crazy. When he asked why I changed my mind, I couldn’t give him an answer. I had no idea. I just made this awkward “uuuuhhhhhhh” sound like Tina from Bob’s burgers.
I’m sure my extended and awkward “uuuuuuuuuuhhhhh” made him uncomfortable, because he quickly found my envelope with my deposit. Luckily, he was a really nice guy and he handed me my full deposit. I’m not completely certain why I did what I did next, but I think part of me tried to lighten the load of my own mortification so I turned around, proudly exclaimed, “embarrassing moments brought to you by Liz” and did a curtsy before exiting.
I thought about this sequence of events a lot today. Partly because I was mortified, but also because I didn’t understand what triggered the anxiety attack. It finally hit me that every time I got really excited about this tattoo it has been around an identity crisis. The last time I was really pumped and ready to get this tattoo I had just been diagnosed with anxiety and depression. The time before that I had just found out that our last fertility treatment did not work. This time around I am transitioning from my job at church to being a full time housewife. There is something about my feeling of inferiority and loss that brings about a reaction in which I try to adjust or control my appearance.
To me a tattoo signifies knowing yourself. You have to be pretty secure about the piece that you choose to display – it becomes a part of you. I guess in a way I feel like I really don’t know who I am. My life is completely different than what I thought it would be, not necessarily bad, but I’m left not knowing what my purpose is.
I want to feel like I know who I am again, and for some reason I thought a tattoo would give me that back. I would be “the earthy girl with the tattoo on her neck” or people might think “she’s cute but a little edgy”. Funnily enough the tattoo I wanted was a cross. I am a child of God and a grateful believer in Jesus Christ. A tattoo doesn’t give me that identity, God does. A tattoo doesn’t prove that identity, I do through my actions and words.
This embarrassing moment has given me a lot to think about. I was about to jump into this commitment for all the wrong reasons. I don’t want to get my identity from a tattoo, I want it to express my identity. And to be honest, I don’t feel secure in my identity as just “a child of God, a follower of Jesus”. I want to feel secure in that, but I don’t. I always want to add something else in, like what I do. What I did has always been enough for me, but now I’m not secure in what I do. I am following God’s will for my life but I fear judgment from others. I am once again finding myself in a place where I have to choose if God is enough for me. Is His will enough for me? Is His grace sufficient for me? Do I trust His plan? Can I learn to get my identity from Christ alone and not what I do? Did I at least give the tattoo guy a funny story to tell his coworkers?
I pray that the answer is “yes” to all these questions.
Maybe someday I will feel secure in my identity again. And maybe someday I will get that tattoo, but whether I do or I don’t I won’t get my identity from it.