The one where I fix my tattoo...
A story about tuning in and meaningfulness… eighteen months ago I struck out on a journey to find myself, or ground myself, or (if I’m honest) give myself a kick up the arse. The inspiration was a magazine article advertising a retreat which suggested I could ‘learn to trust my instincts’. YES! This was just what I needed.
I’d come out of a long-term job where, towards the end, I questioned myself at every turn, and then proceeded to bumble my way through a very mixed year; a new joyful freedom competed daily with a shitty combination of loneliness and uncertainty as I carved out a new role for which there was no job description… a retreat would be just the ticket thank you.
Reflection, meditation, journaling and yoga all featured strongly on this week-long adventure and it was during a guided meditation that I conjured up my first visualisation; I’ve made my peace now with meditation but back then my pragmatic side wasn’t backing down and I spent most of the zen-like moments thinking about how I just didn’t get it. Until, just for a very meaningful moment, I did. And it became something I wanted to design into a beautiful new tattoo. A beautiful new meaningful tattoo.
I subsequently spent a heck-of-a-lot of time getting time-sucked into pinterest-based research coming up with a stack of pictures which a truly talented tattoo artist would lovingly and collaboratively transform into the perfect tattoo for me. This was a thing, right? Sure. So next I asked for recommendations and went for the first one mentioned. (Insert your own thoughts here). And then I called up the studio and took their first booking (a cancellation, hmm) and sent them, as requested, a number of pictures and a short written brief, to feed into the design process. Which would take place on the day, hmm.
The day arrived. It was the hottest day of the year last year (despite my attempts to will-power it out, I just fail in the heat) and I’d driven to the busy centre of Manchester, where the cooling breezes and calm spaces to think were entirely absent. The tattoo artist was an impatient Italian, she didn’t listen well to me, she got frustrated at me and she did not want to collaborate. I stood in the doorway whilst she secretly designed away in the back room and felt my gut shouting ‘it’s too hot to think! you’re not sure about this! just walk away!’ and, at the same time, this other, quieter but stronger voice going ‘that’s not really polite is it? and anyway, you’ve driven all this way…’
Her design came out nice enough. Nice enough isn't really good enough for a forever tattoo though is it? However, as well as my vision idea it also incorporated a cat paw, at my (last minute) request; after 16 years of solid support and love I’d said goodbye to my gorgeous Max just the day before.
So on top of not wanting to ‘upset’ the artist by walking out, I also found myself unable to ‘reject’ that little paw print; how could I? (what the….?! it was just a doodle! I’ve spent some time since then cogitating on the meaning we attach to photos, and even more time decluttering my photo albums; but more on that another time).
And so, yes I got the tattoo. And grumbled about it for months.
And everyone else who saw it loved it (whatever).
A full year on I finally got onto some proper research (um... stalking) to find talented, collaborative, friendly and creative artists, before approaching a guy at Black Stone with an invitation to ‘fix’ my ink which was met from the start with enthusiasm and kindness. Elliott made me feel important and, more importantly, heard; he noted my nerves too and took it slowly, making small but important changes and checking at each step that it was the right direction for me, until gradually we got to a place where I could feel the meaning in my design at last.
I bloody loved walking out of there knowing I’d made the right decision to go with this artist and built some fabulous evidence that my instincts are pretty awesome after all… go me!
So, what have I taken away from this story?
I have great instincts and I’m trusting that voice inside much more
Working with people who instinctively 'feel' right is awesome - I want more of this!
It’s ok to walk away when something isn’t right
Small changes can make all the difference
The space, and the people, around us can help or hinder our thinking - I know I can’t make good decisions when I’m overheated or crowded so I take some time out to get comfortable and then tune in
What clouds your instincts and how do you make space to tune back in?