Things I Learned This Weekend

Doesn’t it seem that the older you get, the faster time flies by? Approximately three minutes ago, I was leaving work on Friday afternoon. Now it’s Sunday night and I’m full of gotta-get-up-early-for-work dread. Don’t get me wrong, I like my job. I just hate waking up early.

Albeit short, this has been an interesting weekend, I’m feeling a little bit motivated to write.

This weekend, I learned that writing a blog post with an interesting title will get many more page views than any previously-written boringly-named post will get. But, as you can see from today’s title above, I am not going to take advantage of this lesson. I’m writing for me, not you. But it was interesting that so many people read my blog this weekend, and very nice to hear comments from friends old and new! Thanks for your feedback, everyone.

This weekend, I learned that tattoo removal hurts like freakin’ crazy. Should I back up a little bit? How did I learn such a thing? Well, when I was in college I took a religious studies course about Islamic Mysticism. It was a really cool class. This was way before I had fully developed my current views on theism, and I really appreciated learning about Sufis. The Sufis love their god, and some were known to express this love in the form of poetry. Have you ever heard of Rumi? He was born in 1207, but his work is beautiful and relevant today.
Let the lover be disgraceful, crazy,
absentminded. Someone sober
will worry about things going badly.
Let the lover be.”

I’d always wanted a tattoo. Although I wasn’t sure what to get, I knew I was looking for something with a meaning that could resonate with me for as long as the tattoo lasted. While Sufi poetry was mostly about love, they tended to use imagery of drunkenness and ecstasy. Of course, they were really inferring that a union with God was intoxicating and ecstatic, but in college, I liked those ideals regardless of intent. Along those lines, here is what I almost got tattooed on my body at age 19:

That, in case you’re wondering, is a love poem by Rumi. It’s still bookmarked on my Safari, the list of favorites having been imported from computer to computer over the years. And I’m so glad I settled with the tattoo I ended up getting, because the laser would have proven unbearable as it erased every last character of that poem.
That was my first tattoo on the first day of its life. It was supposed to be an Arabic word that meant “do beautiful things.” It was the name of a Sufi philosophy that dictated all Sufis should be on their best behavior at all times, as though Allah was watching them. While I couldn’t quite identify with that, I loved the idea of being the best I could be at all times, no matter who was there or why. As it turned out, the tattoo wasn’t quite right, which can happen when a word is culled from the recesses of Google and Arabic websites. It was missing a couple of dots. After it was fixed, I got the itch for another tattoo; getting the ink is kind of a rush, like a runner’s high. I ended up with the word “love” in Hebrew tattooed on my left ankle. It balanced out the Arabic for this lapsed Jew, I figured. This was a terrible tattoo. It was free because it was one of the artist’s first attempts at permanent body art. That explains why the letters faded away around my Achilles, like a whisper or afterthought.
Almost as soon as the tattoos became a part of my personal landscape, I knew that they would have to be removed at some point. The Arabic, for example, became particularly annoying. When I wore dresses or skirts in an attempt to present myself nicely, the word was somewhat of an eyesore. People would say “You have a smudge of dirt on your leg… oh, wait…”
So, to make a long story short, thanks to Groupon and an early birthday present, I was able to do something about the tattoos this weekend. And if you take nothing else from this post, let it be this: that laser hurts like hell. Getting the tattoos removed was approximately 5,452,921 times more painful than having them done in the first place. At the studio, I lay down nonchalantly on my belly at first, waiting for the laser. After the first blast – which felt, incidentally, like a white-hot beesting that resonated up past the knee and down towards my toes – my entire body clenched. I gripped the sides of the chair until my fingers went white, every muscle aching from the restraint of holding myself down against every instinct to get up and bolt. This continued for, fortunately, only a few minutes. Although I don’t remember saying anything during the procedure, Xavier heard me cursing like a sailor from the waiting area outside. It hurt so bad that I was dizzy for 20 minutes afterwards. Crazy, right? I’m not the bravest person ever, but trust me: this hurt. Keep your tattoos, people.
They did offer Lidocaine cream for an additional $20, which I deferred in the name of saving money and acting as tough as possible. This was an epic mistake that I shall never repeat, not for any of my remaining five sessions. Now the tattoo remnants are bandaged and I can’t wait to peek and see how much they’ve changed. I got a glimpse before the healing cream went on, and they definitely looked faded.
Although my “do beautiful things” tattoo will soon become a thing of the past, I want its message to live on. Today, I was saddened upon hearing the news story that Representative Gabrielle Giffords will not seek reelection to Congress. I just finished reading the biography that she and her husband wrote together, and it was an amazing and touching story that left me in tears. (Look for it in a What I’m Reading Wednesday post shortly!). Rep. Giffords, as you may remember, was shot point-blank in the head by a deranged gunman as she hosted a Congress on Your Corner event last January. She survived, but seven others did not, and many others were also injured. Reading the story of all that she did for her country and her constituents before her injury, then learning about her long and difficult recovery, made me wonder what more I can be doing with my life to help others. Although I have the opportunity to work with patients on a daily basis, my job is more about helping doctors to come to a diagnosis, not actually helping them in a hands-on way. That is still my ultimate professional goal: to help people feel better.
I don’t know if I believe in karma, not in the traditional sense. However, I believe that putting forth positive energy into the world will result in a better place for everyone, and you will ultimately be happier for it. This attitude hasn’t always been kind to me in return – I’ve been burned badly after trusting others. But I’ll keep trying to see the best in people, and treat them the way I’d like to be treated.  That’s what my idealistic tattooed self would have wanted, and I’m going to remember that even after a laser burns away my best-laid plans.

3 thoughts on “Things I Learned This Weekend

  1. catae

    Poor Julie!!! I always heard that getting tattoos removed hurts more than the actual tattoo!!! does it leave a scar? I never got the one I wanted and now Im glad i never did. I did get a belly button piercing in college and now i have an ugly scar to remind me of my mistake. Are you coming this wknd? andre mentioned that you might come! would love to see u!!


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