In Memoriam

A few days ago, I was finally able to end a one year and seven-month process of getting a large tattoo on my left shoulder blade. Of course, that isn’t the interesting part- the process is. Before I dive into that, I need to tell the story behind the ink.

Growing up, my older brother was my best friend in the world. We did everything together, and as we grew older, we remained close friends. I hung out with him more than anyone else, and I always took comfort in knowing that he’d always have my back. But I was wrong. When I was 13, I lost him. My best friend in the whole world died at 17 from suicide. To this day, that remains one of the two hardest things I have ever had to go through. But after that fateful night, I thought that I would never have to go through something that again. I never thought that I would feel that monumental pain a second time, because who goes through something like that twice?

But then seven years later, it did happen again. I was always really close to my uncle in a way most people aren’t. We were very close in age, which helped make us really close in life. Growing up, my older brother, my uncle, and I would have sleepovers, go joy riding, and a million other things together. My uncle had a personality like no other; he could make me laugh in a way no one else could, but he also was the most compassionate person I’ve ever known. One night, he was a one car accident that was bad enough to make the news. His car caught fire with him trapped inside, leaving him with third and fourth degree burns on several different parts of his body and a list of injuries a mile long. After a month of hospital visits, and him going through surgery after surgery, his heart gave out before he was ever woken out of his coma. At 20, I never thought this would be a place I’d be again- this time with my 27-year-old uncle.

Not only did I feel this new grief from losing my uncle, but I also found feelings that I had long buried forcing themselves to the forefront of my mind from losing my brother. It was a grief like none other, and I didn’t think I would ever get through it. In nearly nine years, not has a day has gone by that I haven’t thought of my brother. The same has been true for the past year and half for my uncle. I miss them every single day, and some days the pain is so bad I can barely stand it. I have an emptiness inside me that I know will never be filled, but I did find a way to make the pain a little more bearable.

About a month after I lost my uncle, I started getting ideas for an art piece. Art had always been a way from me to release my emotions, and this was no different. I decided to make this piece into a tattoo as a way to carry the two of them with me. One night in early July, I drew my first sketch for my tattoo idea.

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Every Rose Has Its Thorn by Poison was my brother’s funeral song. He had told us a few months before that it was his favorite, and while the song is about a broken relationship, parts of the lyrics seemed to fit the situation. If I Could Turn Back Time by Cher was my uncle’s funeral song. He was a huge Cher fan, and this song just felt right. It was one of her most iconic songs, and again, some of the lyrics seemed to fit the situation we were all in. While I liked the sketch, it still didn’t feel right. After many conversations with my best friend, who was so unbelievably amazing while I went through everything with my uncle and played a HUGE role in this process, she suggested I put the rose inside the hourglass. After many attempts, I came up with my final sketch for my tattoo in August.

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I contacted a place not too far from where I lived to set up a time to get my tattoo. It was my 21st birthday present to myself. I sent them my sketch, and a few days later my best friend and I (plus one more) made the trip in late January. After two hours of him sketching and tattooing, I had an outline done. He told me it would need three weeks to heal, and then I could get the rest done.

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I stared at that outline in the mirror a lot, especially when I really missed them. As much as I wanted to finish it, it took me a long time to actually do it. But over a year later, in late March, I finally did. I went to a different person for the shading, and it was the best tattoo experience I ever had. She did a beautiful job, and it turned out so much better than I could have ever imagined.

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When I finally got home after work that night, I started at it in the mirror for what seemed like hours. And for the first time in a long time, I let myself cry. I cried for how much I missed them. I cried for everything I had lost. I cried for the emptiness I feel inside me every moment of every day. I cried for all the moments I will never get; memories I will never get to make. I cried for the unfairness of it all. I cried for the person I used to be before; the person I had left behind. I cried for my family, and all the pain we’ve had to endure. I cried for all the people who lose the ones they love. I cried for everything they had missed. I cried for all the good times we had had. I cried for all the memories we had made. I cried for the people they had been and the people they’d never get to be. I cried for them and I cried for me.

When you lose someone you love, that love doesn’t die with them. It lives on inside you in a very different way. It stays with you wrapped in pain and loss. There are days where the pain is manageable and days where it takes your breath away. But days when I miss them more than usual, I can look at this tattoo. It is a way to carry them with me wherever I go, but also serves as a reminder of all the happy memories. I wouldn’t trade the short time I had with them for anything in the world. Even if I knew how it would all end, I wouldn’t hesitate to do it all over again.

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Why Dogs are Better Than a Boyfriend

Recently, I made a decision to adopt a dog. I chose a four-year-old Catahoula mix who was rescued from a parking lot in Alabama. Koda, which is the name I gave him, came to me so anxious, he would barely leave his kennel. After over a month of lots of time and love, he has become one of the most loving dogs I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting. He loves to cuddle, go for car rides and walks, and has found a liking for the snow. He takes a while to warm up to new people and he’s not a fan of unfamiliar things, but given his background, I’m happy with the progress he’s made. He has mastered sit, shake, and lay down and is close to mastering stay. While there’s been a lot of work involved and a few frustrations, I can say with confidence that I am very happy with my dog. Because of that, I would like to insert a small shameless plug for adopting rescue pets. An older dog is especially good for your first, because they are usually already potty trained and have been socialized. Most just need some love and a good home.

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*Koda one week after he was adopted

Now for my main point: for a long time, I felt like I was missing something, and that something was a boyfriend. I craved a meaningful relationship with someone I could connect with on a deeper level. That search has been to no avail, however, my search for a dog went much better. This past month and a half has shown me why adopting a dog is better than having a boyfriend.

They listen to you a lot better

So many times, I hear fights and frustrations coming from girls whose boyfriends just don’t listen to them. They talk and talk, and their boyfriends don’t hear a word of what they are saying. This isn’t as big of a problem with dogs. They come when you call them, and tend to do whatever you ask them to do.

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*Koda doing exactly what I asked him to do

They don’t talk back

Not only do they listen better, but they don’t talk back to you. This means no arguing, no yelling, and no sarcastic responses. You don’t have to worry about back talk when the thing you’re talking to can’t talk.

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They won’t reject you

Being rejected by a person you like is not a great feeling, especially when you muster up all your courage to take a chance and ask them out, and they give you a hard no. First of all, dogs will always give you a chance, which already gives them an advantage. When you carefully select a guy you think is right for you, there’s a good chance we will want nothing to do with you. As far as dogs go, you pick one out that you like and go get it. Most likely, the dog you pick will be more than willing to love you forever.

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*Koda cuddles!

No fear of breaking up

Not only will they not reject you, they also won’t break up with you. You don’t have to worry about making a mistake or dread them breaking your heart, because dogs are forgiving and don’t give up on people.

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You call all the shots

With a boyfriend, you have to compromise a lot of things. With a dog, you are in charge. Not only are you able to call all the shots, if the dog doesn’t listen, it’s perfectly acceptable to put them in their kennel for a while. You can put them on a leash, so they can’t run away from you. While you could do these things with a boyfriend, it’s frowned upon.

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The love

Dogs will love you more than they love themselves. They will love you blindly and look beyond all your flaws. They are always there when you need them and will keep all your secrets. You will be their entire world and the most important thing in their life. No love from any man will ever beat the love you get from your dog.

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As humans, we don’t deserve the love dogs give us. The way they will follow us anywhere we go, press up against us to cuddle, and cover our faces in kisses. While they can’t fill every void we may have from a lack of a boyfriend, they come pretty close. They can provide a type of love you just won’t get anywhere else, and they are great combats to depression. I encourage those who are willing and able to adopt a dog and give them the loving home they deserve. I may be single for the foreseeable future, at least I have my dog.

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*Koda napping on my bed, looking adorable

To Me

I’ve written posts to my friends, my coworkers, members of my family, a boyfriend who doesn’t exist, and several others. I’ve written to let people know what they mean to me, how much they’ve done for me, what I love about them, and so much more. I’ve written to help people understand, to make people see how they’ve hurt me, and to help people feel good. I’ve written hundreds of posts, meant for different types of readers, but there’s one person I haven’t yet written to- me. So here we are- my letter to me.

Dear Me,

I know you hate when people beat around the bush, so I’ll just cut right to the chase; you have to stop beating yourself up all the time. You talk about being kind to others, and work hard to be a good person to those around you, but you seem to have forgotten to be kind to yourself. I know this hard for you, especially since there are so many parts of you that you don’t like. I know how hard you work to ignore the voice in your head that tells you over and over how worthless you are. I know how hard you’ve fought to make it this far. I know how many times you’ve fought to stay alive. I know how hard this life has been for you. But I also know how strong you’ve become. You have pushed through every obstacle this life has thrown at you, and you have made it to the other side. You have moved mountains to get where you are, and you should be proud of yourself for that.

Yes, you have done things you aren’t proud of. Yes, you have made mistakes. Yes, you’ve let your emotions get the better of you. But you have never stopped trying. You have never been afraid to take responsibility for what you’ve done. You own your mistakes and you apologize for them. Not everyone has the courage to do that. Sometimes people look at you, and all they see is a mess. But you know that that even though that may be true sometimes, it does not define who you are. You are allowed to be a mess and to make mistakes. You are allowed to get upset and show your emotions. You are allowed to be human.

 You have learned that you are more than your anxiety and depression, and you have stopped letting it run your life. Yes, it still takes the wheel now and again, but it’s not the only one driving the car. You’ve learned to let people in and see all that you can be. You’ve learned to stop apologizing for who you are. You’ve stopped hiding behind walls because you took the time to tear them down. You’ve stopped being ashamed. You’ve stopped obsessing over everything you should be, and just let yourself be.

I know you believe you are worthless sometimes, but I want you to know that you aren’t. So many people value you, and they don’t think you’re nothing. Their world has been changed by you, and that means something. It can be hard to see your worth sometimes, but it’s there- you just have to dig for it. For some people, you are worth the effort. You are worth the frustration and the shut outs. You are worth the time. Stop listening to the voice inside you that tells you how worthless you are and start listening to the voices around you that tell why that voice is wrong.

I also know how lonely you can be and how you think you don’t deserve to be loved, but I know that’s not true. You deserve someone who sees how wonderful you can be and helps you to see it too. Yes, you’ve had a bad run with guys making you feel like you aren’t worthy of anything better- like all you will ever be is broken. But part of you has to know that isn’t true, or you wouldn’t have walked away from every single one of them. It takes an incredible amount of strength to do that, but also takes the realization that they aren’t good enough for you. You deserve better- you deserve someone who makes you happy. You deserve to be loved.

Life has not been kind to you, and I know that’s why you try so hard to be kind to others. This has been thrown back in your face more times than you can count. You’ve been taken for granted, ignored, pushed around, and made to feel like none of it matters. People have taken your kindness and used it against you more times than you can count, but you haven’t let it stop you. No one likes to feel this way- no one likes to have their existence ignored, to feel like people only care because you have something to give, to feel hurt. You take that hurt, and you use it to fuel the spark of kindness inside of you. Someday, people will look back and remember you for that. They will remember how you treated them kindly, despite how others treated you. They will remember you for your heart, and that’s not something everyone can say.

So, you can think that no one likes you, that you don’t matter, and that you are nothing. You can think that you’re a terrible person and you can think you will never be worthy of anything. But you’re wrong. You are lying to yourself. You wouldn’t work as hard as you do if all that were true. You have coworkers who adore you, friends who love you, and family who wouldn’t know what to do without you. You are not nothing. It’s time you stop treating yourself like you are.

With Love, You

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This wasn’t easy for me to write, but I also know that this isn’t just for me. This for anyone who feels like they are nothing. This is for anyone who feels like they don’t matter. This is for anyone who cannot see their worth. Your voice is lying to you too, and some part of you knows it. Find that part of yourself, and let it in. Let it tell you why you matter. Let it tell you why you aren’t nothing. Let it consume you. You’ll be glad you did.