Friday, November 10, 2017

Enter the Phoenix

Yesterday was the day -- and I put the appointment in my calendar as "Enter the Phoenix." I am now the proud owner of a freaking GINORMOUS new tattoo.

Here's the thing. I was thinking on the evolution of this design -- that first I wanted this dainty, botanical dandelion illustration with all the fluffies and the two butterflies and it would be all wispy and feminine but also very, very sad. Very woe-is-me. Very "I am floating away on this tide of grief."

So I went with something that is the COMPLETE AND UTTER OPPOSITE of that feeling.

I saw the design, and it was the perfect mix of tribal-style badassery, some traditional tattooing stipple style, and the natural beauty of two detailed monarchs.

It was just a lot bigger than I imagined.

Here is some stencil preview:



I gulped a bit at the size, but was like, YES. Let's do this thing. It is big, it is powerful, it is no shrinking violet piece of art.

And so I lay on the table, wearing a leftover BeBand pregnancy band as a makeshift bra and my old sweatshirt backwards to give me some warmth and coverage. I love the sweet poetic justice in the pregnancy band being used for this purpose.

I forgot how much tattooing hurts. I'm not sure if it's the placement (apparently where you are ticklish is where you have a bundle of nerves, and it feels like a hot knife dragging through your skin), or the new needle styles, or the way the artist moved quickly through but also gave it the depth needed, but HOLY HELL that was super painful.

The outlining was the worst. It was the biggest needle, and he just sort of did the wings all at once and the tail, and I lay there, trying to squirm without moving my shoulder, tapping my hand on the table, singing, swearing up a storm, and laughing maniacally.

My new therapist asks why I laugh so much when I talk about really shitty things.

I laugh because I refuse to cry all the time. And it works.

I cried NOT ONCE during the two hours of outlining, shading, stippling, coloring in, and general torture.

I did, however, at one point yell, "I MAY COMPLETELY REGRET THE SIZE RIGHT NOW! Oh, SURE, let's do TRIBAL! Let's do a SHITLOAD of BIG, BLACK SHAPES! GREAT IDEA. Why is there no MANDATORY COUNSELING for this???" 

I don't regret it though. It is freaking beautiful. It is gorgeous, and powerful, and everything I wanted it to be. It will just slightly peek out of most clothing until the summer, but even then it won't ever be super visible at work. But it's there, showing my rise from the ashes of everything, my triumph, my strength. The two butterflies are transformation, but they are also memories of my two babies that almost got to be. They're not sad, though. They're beautiful.

Right after. My hair is a hot mess because I sweat like a beast when I'm in pain, and it was a hilariously HUGE cloud of curls and frizz when we were done. 
Today, more healed, less oozy, no longer bleeding all over the place. Hard to get the whole thing myself! 
It hurt, but I bet childbirth hurts worse. This was my birth. Bryce is slowly getting used to it: he asked when I'm buying my Harley and running off with some leather-clad guy named Bubba, but he'll learn to coexist with it peacefully.

Of all the things that happened this week, this was surely the most physically painful, but it was the most emotionally and mentally rewarding, too.

I love that this work of art on my back is a physical representation of all we've survived, of the pain and the strength and resilience that results from 8 long, difficult years.

I am a freaking phoenix. I am a butterfly. I am a warrior and a gentle soul all at once. I love when some things that are imagined and visualized can go from concept to reality.

25 comments:

  1. This. Is. Gorgeous!!! Jess, it turned out lovely and powerful! I absolutely love it and all that this represents.

    You are a Phoenix. A light-bearing creature who has arising from the ashes. This is a symbol of your rebirth (pain included and no comparison is needed). In those moments where you are feeling the darkness, may this be a reminder of who you are, what you are capable of and all the power inside you. Much love lady.

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    1. Thank you! I'm so happy that it turned out the way it did, ginormousness and all. ;) I love what you said about the phoenix. Love right back at you!

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  2. Jess, it is BEAUTIFUL, just like you. I can't believe that huge tattoo was done in two hours!! He worked fast! Probably dragged the needle vs picking it up, which is where that hot knife feeling comes from, but also allows much faster work and deeper, more even color. (SO important for a mostly black tattoo) Yup, that spot is a bitch, painful but worth it.
    I am SO glad it came out so perfectly, that what you imagined came to life.
    And hahaha about Bryce...he must not have any tattoos? My husband is the same way, and with each of mine it took some adjustment.

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    1. Thank you so much! Yeah, he worked FAST. Oh yes, needle dragging would definitely explain what I felt. I'm glad that means deeper, more even color...I kept saying "THIS WILL ALL BE WORTH IT WHEN IT'S DONE AND AMAZING!!!" Oh no, Bryce has no tattoos. This is sort of foreign to him, although he knew I already had some when I met him! All my previous ones were there when we met. This is just the humdinger of them all!
      I'm glad you like, I feel like you are my authority on things inky. :)

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  3. Oh, Jess, it's freaking awesome, just like you. I, too, love the poetic justice of using that bra for this purpose. Welcome to your new post-ashes life.

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    1. Thank you so much! It feels so powerful to me. And yeah, I didn't get to wear that band for long either time, but to wear it for this process was lovely -- creation of a different kind! I like that, post-ashes life.

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  4. Wow!! Just... wow! :) I love how it turned out!

    (And LOL at Bryce's comments. ;) )

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    1. Thank you! It's definitely THERE, isn't it? :) Yeah, that Bryce. I feel like now I need to rent a motorcycle or have a friend with one park it in the driveway just to mess with him... HA!

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  5. This is beautiful! And I love the meaning behind it!

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    1. Thank you so much! It is definitely the most meaningful of my tattoos. (And the most painful and in-your-face...) I am so glad it turned out this way!

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  6. Wow! All the comments the others made, plus:

    - It makes me happy that you said the butterflies are beautiful, not sad. I often say that I remember now my lost babies with love, not sadness, so I totally get this. And you're right, they are beautiful.

    - I laughed out loud at "Why is there no MANDATORY COUNSELING for this???"

    - You ARE a freaking phoenix! Brava, you!

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    1. Thank you! I'm glad it makes you happy about the butterflies (me, too), and that I gave you a chuckle. :)

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  7. This is truly tribal. I love the design - powerful, indeed! Good for you. Claim your strength, your victory over sorrow. You are a Phoenix and you shall rise...

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    1. Thank you! I'm not sure I have a victory over sorrow, but I do rise despite it, maybe because of it.

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  8. Hey, I’m so happy that you were able to make your Phoenix a reality, and for all it represents to you. What a celebration of life and resilience!

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    1. Thank you! So exciting to see it come to fruition. I like that, yes, it is a celebration!

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  9. After so much thought and research and reflection, I'm happy for you in how you feel your new tattoo turned out. It looks like a powerful piece of art. Nice combination of the phoenix and butterflies, and they seem so fitting of you.

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    1. Thank you! It does feel like a powerful piece of art. I'm glad you like! It's lovely to see it become reality. (Less lovely to have wearing a bra be so damn uncomfortable, but hey.)

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  10. Well dang woman. Go big or go home. :-)

    Looks marvelous. Congratulations!

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    1. Thank you so much! And lol, because I literally was thinking that as he was stabbing me with the ink needles, "go big or go home, I guess..." No dainty linework for me! :)

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    1. Thank you! I thought you might... ;) It's been so wonderful to see it come to be. I just can't stop sneaking glimpses at my back!

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  12. Oh, wow, it's absolutely amazing! That's a great design. I'm glad you were able to bring it from your head to reality.

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