This evening I had a very brief but very meaningful exchange with a dear friend. He said, “I’m not a secretive guy, so it’s hard for me when everyone is secretive.” And in a fit of unexpected honesty I replied, “I’ve always had issues with owning my life. Like, I’d rather not apologize for it, so I hide it, which ends up sucking for me and, more importantly, for those around me. I should grow up.” And while he kindly made excuses for me, I realized that what I said was so so right and something I had thought for a long time, but never said. And in saying it, I felt it–I felt ashamed.
I have, too often, been incapable of owning up to my own choices. Even when I feel not at all misguided or unwise in my decisions, even when I would have no problem defending my path should I be confronted, I go to great lengths to avoid such a confrontation. Like, when I decided to move in with my significant other (*cough* in hindsight maybe that was a misguided decision, but at the time it seemed like a good plan. Sue me. *cough*) all those years ago, I tried to keep it from my very Catholic family for a long time. As a 21 year old woman who had willingly entered into an adult relationship, I shuddered at the thought of my family judging me for it. Judging me for what? Being human? Being *gasp!* normal?! I felt that there was nothing wrong with my actions, yet, because someone else might, I tried to keep my life under wraps.
How. Fucking. Pathetic.
I admire so much the people I know who are unapologetically and unabashedly up front about their lives (like her, and her). Having the confidence and the courage to say, “Yeah, this is me. This is my life. Not everyone is going to be OK with all of it. So-the-fuck-what?” is so incredible to me. I want to be that awesome. And I am going to be that awesome. Starting now.
I have wanted to write this blog for months, but I kept talking myself out of it with really weak ass excuses. So I am done.
This…finally…is the story of my tattoo.
First, if you don’t either know me personally or have never read this blog before, you might want to brush up real quick and read this post. But long story short, last fall my asshole father told me to get the fuck out of his house. So I did. It was really really scary to grab my purse and walk out the front door with no idea where I was planning on going or what I was going to do the next day…and the day after…and the day after…but I did it. I left. When, after several weeks, my father ate crow and said, for the first time in my life, “I’m sorry,” I was a little surprised but not impressed or moved, as he had so clearly expected me to feel. So when he said, “Just come home. Do it for your mother,” I surprised both of us by saying, “Don’t you dare tell me what to do for my mother. You want to do something for her? Quit drinking.” It was the bravest and the most self-assured I had ever felt in my entire life. And, needless to say, I didn’t move back in.
It is quite nerve-wracking to turn down a roof over your head and free food for uncertainty and homelessness, but, in that moment, the truly frightening thing would have been to be back under the roof of the man who tormented me most of my life. In that moment, I was fearless. And as I rode the high from that burst of bravery over the following weeks, I wanted nothing more than to feel that sense of sheer unstoppable courage in every aspect of my life. So, though I had not ever really thought of myself as the type to get a tattoo, I decided that that was just what I needed: a permanent and tangible something to remind me, every single day, of the bold, unafraid person I can be.
So I had “without fear” inked into my left ribcage…right next to my heart.
Every day, when I get out of the shower, I see those words on my skin, and they remind me that I don’t have to be intimidated by life. Life leaves its scars (I have 98 visible ones so far, and many more invisible), but worrying about the pain that’s to come hurts just as much–if not more–than the actual pain when it happens. I will live a much fuller life if I hope and love and experience as much as I can without fear.
Now, I am in no way saying I am fearless. LORD, no. But I am a less fearful work in progress. When I start shying away from good things, simply because they might go away at some point, I give myself a shake or a slap and say, “HEY! You’re wasting time being afraid. Knock it off!” and then I try to forge ahead with a little more courage and a slightly higher held head. And when I step outside myself and do things that are foolish or risky and then suddenly feel a little more alive, I know I am becoming the kind of person I want to be: the kind of person who has “without fear” scrawled across her ribs.
Have a problem with what I just told you? Sorry, but I’m not sorry.