Musings and Snoozes

“I am because you were” 

I think it’s safe to say that on the surface at least, most of my tattoos are not deep and meaningful. Those who know me a bit better know that the placement of my wrist tattoo is significant, that the words on my arm are lyrics to my favourite song, and that everything else is a nod to my pagan beliefs, while being pretty in the process. But today, along with my amazing mum who got her very first tattoo for her 70th birthday, I also got my first tattoo with a real meaning.

“I am because you were”. A short and simple phrase which holds a lot of meaning, in particular to remember my Dad. I have toyed with the idea of getting something for Dad for a long time, but I didn’t want something overt, his name or his birthday for example, nor did I want to get something silly, like a snail (he was called Brian, therefore Brian the snail), so when I came across these words, they seemed perfect. Even more so in the last few weeks, as I’ve been talking to my therapist, telling them about myself, my life, and my parents. It makes me incredibly proud of who I am because of both my parents, and actually because of who I once was too. These words encompass all of that – I am because of my Dad, I am because of my Mum, and I am because of who I was and who I’ve grown to be.

And so this is for all of those things, for all of those people, but most significantly, for my lovely Dad, who (for better or worse!) played such a big part in making me who I am today. 

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The Girl with the Clockwork Heart

I am sat here, munching on pretzels and Nutella, admiring my tattoo, and generally just being happy in my own skin. It’s a good feeling. One I haven’t felt for a while. They say a change is as good as a rest and it’s true. I feel just like I did when I came over here last time – like I have a renewed sense of being, as if I’m made of clockwork and someone has wound me back up again to start afresh. I love it. 

So where to start with my travels. I spent the whole of last week in New York with Max, her son and his girlfriend, and I still love the place just as much as I always have. I got thinking about why, and I came to the slightly odd conclusion that New York is an Introvert’s paradise. Bear with me here. When I think about how I go about my day in New York (the non-touristy ones, the shopping, coffee and mooching type days), what I love is that I can keep myself to myself, I can sit in a coffee shop and read book for hours just like everyone else in there, but at the same time, I can make little connections with people. More so than in England I find, although I’m well aware that the accent in a foreign country helps, but somehow I just find it so much easier to make friends here, to talk to people, to find out little thing about their lives, insights into their stories. I love it. 

So my week in New York was followed by a complete contrast, staying with a friend in Massachusetts. It was exactly what I needed after the frenetic city. I have been thoroughly spoilt, thoroughly looked after, I have made new friends, caught up with old ones, and found a whole new part of the country to fall in love with. Not to mention gained yet another new piece of beautiful artwork on my leg, so just like last year, I have a memento of my travels and a reminder of this feeling. 

And I want to remember this feeling. I need to. It’s one of such utter contentment and comfort in my own skin that I have to remember how it feels and maybe, just maybe, take it home with me. 

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A New York State of Mind

I am in love. Thoroughly, utterly, head over heels in love. 

I didn’t think I could love this city any more than I already did, but no, being back here again and having the bonus of sharing it all with Jon has just made me fall in love all over again. Maybe a little with him too, as well as the city 🙂

I don’t know what it is about this place. I should hate it – the people, the crowds, the constant clamour for your attention – but no, it all just adds to its charm. I can lose myself here utterly, yet still feel connected to each and every person. The city just feels alive, and in turn, I do too. 

I feel different here. Comfortably so. Jon commented yesterday that he hasn’t seen me so well and so seemingly pain free in a long time. And he’s right. I feel…amazing. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not naive and I know adrenaline and endorphins are playing their part here, but to have walked the width of the city yesterday and mooched round Brooklyn, I should not still be standing. Yet 13km later and some sleep, and I’m raring to go again. When I compare that to how I was on our honeymoon four years ago – all I wanted to do was stay in bed and sleep all the time – it’s an incredible contrast, and testament to both how far I’ve come and the power of an awesome city. 

And so to my latest adventure. I knew I wanted something to mark my time here. Something that I could always look back on and hopefully centre myself with and remember how this feels. So I did what any inky addict does, and got a tattoo. 

I did my research first and thankfully got a recommendation, as searching for “tattoo studio NYC” is unsurprisingly overwhelming. The place was fab – lovely people, awesome artist, proper retro vibe. We had a good chat about all things crazy American politics of course, as well as getting thanked for exporting John Oliver! A recommendation for dinner later and we were back out in Brooklyn, with me grinning like a cheshire cat. 

And so here I am at 8am, listening to Jon snore remarkably gently, and feeling like I’m home. I hope that even once I’ve left, I can look at those words on my arm and remember this – how it feels to be truly content and connected to myself 🙂

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I can smell autumn dancing in the breeze

Lying in the bath and listening to the rain fall on the trees outside. I love the sound of autumn, it’s instantly relaxing. 

This week has not been a great one. Work, life, stress – they’ve all gotten a little on top of me. But there have been bright spots too – awesome friends, meeting my new PT at the gym, and of course mine and Jon’s anniversary on Thursday. To prove that romance is not dead, we upgraded from our traditional McDonald’s and instead had Indian takeaway, curled up under a blanket, and watched TV. I did not touch my laptop or do any work all evening, and it was lovely.

I was supposed to be over at Santa Pod today to go drag racing, but I took the shockingly sensible option of not subjecting my already somewhat aching body to the cold, wind and rain. I don’t know whether I feel proud of myself for doing the sensible thing, or miffed for missing out on a day with friends. A little of both I suppose. I hate missing out on things. I have however slept, rested and looked after myself, so at least I stand a chance of making it through one last week of work and a last minute trip to Ireland on Tuesday. 

And so it’s ten days til holiday. I have waited quite literally all year for this and I’m so damn excited. I woke up at 3am this morning to an email from the tattoo place I’d contacted telling me that yes, they could fit me in. I confirmed date and time with them this afternoon (not risking booking goodness knows what at 3am!), they’re putting the design together for me, and I’ll come away with a forever after memory of NY. Eeeee 😀

So all that’s left is to do everything possible to take care of myself this week. That and try not to wear myself out with excitement, like a small child. I’ll work on that. 

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To the moon and back

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Pretty sure I need to be on a beach in Thailand right now. Or watching the world go by in New York. Or sat in a tetería in Granada, smoking shisha and drinking mint tea. I definitely feel the need to escape somewhere, somewhere I can get lost in and just forget everything for a while.

So instead I got some more ink. Cheaper than running away, right? I was only supposed to be going with Shell to get hers done (which is stunningly beautiful btw) but then Emzie had some free time and well, it just seemed rude not to really. So I resisted adding more to my arm or starting on anything from scratch, and got the additions to my moon that I’ve been thinking about for ages. It’s been looking a bit faded in comparison to my beautiful flowers (but then having worked out it’s nearly 10 years old, it’s not that surprising) so I wanted to give it a new lease of life. So I let Emzie loose with a marker pen and always, she came up with perfection. The moon has been touched up and the droplets, stars, key and feather have all been added. The only downside is that I of course can’t see it, so I have to keep looking at the picture to remind myself how lovely it looks 😀

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It might not be Thailand, or New York, or Granada, but it’s enough. Just a little addition to brighten up my day, help me forget the mess that is my horribly half medicated body, and have something beautiful to focus on for a while instead.

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My body is a charm bracelet, my tattoos are my charms

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I’ve written before about my love of getting tattooed, but yesterday I decided to write about it as it was happening – from killing time in the car beforehand (because for once in my life I was early), how it feels when I’m being inked, to the spike and crash afterwards. It’s an experience I love, and one which never ceases to amaze me because of just how good it makes me feel. So I’ve done a lot of writing over the last 24 hours and here is just an insight into how the tattoo process works for me.

Shockingly, I’m 20 minutes early. For a girl who’s likely to be late to her own funeral, this is nothing short of a miracle. Still, it’s a nice day so I’m sat in the car with the roof down, soaking up some much-needed Vitamin D. God I’ve missed sunshine, roll on Summer…! I’m so excited to finally be getting more of this design done. I knew when I got the initial flowers last year that I wanted to make this into a big piece, but I thought it would just stay as an idea that I’d never get round to going through with (story of my life). But no, here I am, about to go and see how much Emzie can get done in an hour. There will be significantly more swirls at the end of it, that’s for sure 🙂

Even now I find it hard to explain how good it feels when the needle is on my skin. It quite literally puts me in a trance-like state that relaxes me instantly. Everything else just fades away and I’m completely calm. For someone who is almost constantly in pain/anxious/tired to the point of exhaustion, I can’t tell you how amazing that feeling is. Meditation and mindfulness go so far, and there are other, not so safe, not so legal ways to feel this good, but to get something so beautiful as the art on my skin at the end of it as well makes it my favourite way to relax. 

Sat in Starbucks topping up my sugar levels now, like I ever need an excuse for coffee and cake, but shh. Jon’s coming to meet me in a bit, but I’ll take this chance to try and explain all the post-ink endorphin fueled adrenaline that’s running through me right now. Firstly, and most importantly, I’m not in any pain. Not just no tattoo pain, but no pain whatsoever. I forget how strange this feels and I honestly don’t think I can even begin to explain it to someone who spends the majority of their life pain free anyway, but for me, it’s pretty damn incredible. It doesn’t last, it’s usually about 2 or 3 hours tops, but I plan on enjoying every minute of it in the meantime. The temptation is to go and do all the things that pain stops me doing, but sadly the after effects are still the same and once this wears off, I’ll be back to where I was before, only worse off if I go and run a marathon or some such crazy. But I can enjoy just sitting here and feeling normal, walking up the stairs and not hurting when I get to the top, holding my coffee cup without my wrist complaining. They may be little things, but it’s the little things you miss when they’re taken away, trust me. Anyway, endorphins, happy face, I am enjoying this, regardless of the strange looks I might get for grinning into my coffee cup 🙂

Feelings and emotions aside, the tattoo itself looks fab. I am so very lucky to be able to go to Emzie and just say “hey, more swirls and some little flowers please” and for her to just know what I see in my mind.
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She’s even drawn a mini lotus flower which I wanted but actually forgot to mention, so by pure luck it’s perfect. In an hour we’ve done the whole top half of my arm – pretty damn impressive. So I’ve still got the bottom half to join it up completely with my forearm piece, and then we’ll go back and fill in some of the gaps round the back of my arm as well. I’ve kept the same colours as my shoulder pieces, and I’m glad – I was undecided about whether to just make the rest of it black and white, but actually the splashes of colour work really well.
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We got very excited about watercolour tattoos too, so they might be next on the list because the pink would look amazing. I’ll just add it to everything else I want done….

And so comes the crashing. So so tired that I can barely keep my eyes open. The plus side for me is that it’s actual sleepiness, rather than just pointless fatigue, meaning that sleep should be pretty easy tonight, which’ll make a nice change. My body sort of goes into shutdown at this point – everything slows down and I get drowsy, like taking too much Piraton as a kid! It’s a nice feeling, so long as I don’t actually want to get anything done of course, but then it’s Saturday night and nothing ever needs doing on a Saturday night. I’ve made myself a nice blanket nest on the sofa, we’re watching films that I don’t need to think about, and I can happily drift in and out of consciousness for a while, dreaming about my beautifully decorated skin. 

Which brings us back up to the now – Sunday afternoon – the pain of the tattoo itself is of course kicking in, but that’s ok, nothing that large amounts of cocoa butter won’t fix! And it’s not a patch on the pain felt after getting my shoulders and side done, thankfully! I joke with Emzie that I’m so calm when being tattooed now because nothing will ever feel as painful as my side did, but it’s probably true. Even I struggled to find my inner calm there! So I shall continue to spend the rest of the day looking at my arm and grinning, while planning the three hundred other tattoos I still want and wondering at which point I’m going to win the lottery and be able to get them all done!

But there we go, a little insight into why I love being tattooed so much. It’s not for everyone, and I don’t expect everybody to understand, but it’s a massively important part of my life and on the really hard, pain-filled days, it’s the little things like this that keep me going.

 

 

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If in doubt

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Story of my life. As I’m banned from any more tattooing for now, I went to see Emzie to book Max’s instead. Might as well live vicariously through all my lovely friends! I have dyed my hair though – I felt in need of cheering up after work, so I mixed up some pink and purple and now I feel nice and refreshed.

On a more practical note, I pick up my meds tomorrow, thank god! I was going to go tonight, but I’d rather go to the pharmacy in Chalfont tomorrow as they’re usually the only place that can get everything. I envisage tomorrow and Thursday being pretty crappy in terms of side effects, but hopefully right as rain by the weekend 🙂

This week isn’t feeling as tough as last week, possibly due to a much-needed fab weekend, but I’ll be glad to get to the end of it! My patience is wearing thin already, and it’s only Tuesday, so if I want to make it to the weekend without ending up in jail, it better get a move on.

On that note, I’m going to go find some chocolate and curl up with the pooch 🐾

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Inky love and pain relief

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I am one of those strange people who quite enjoys the pain of tattoos. Admittedly today’s little session to add extra swirls to my shoulder was so quick it was almost over in a blink of an eye, but it’s still a ritual (for want of a better word) that I enjoy.

Having done a bit of research on the links between chronic pain (lupus, fibromyalgia, MS etc) and the tattoo process, I have at least learnt that I am very much not alone in how I feel. The two types of pain are extremely different, and one can relieve, albeit temporarily, the other.

I remember when I went and got my wrist tattoo a few years ago – it was my first tattoo since being diagnosed and I was absolutely terrified that I wouldn’t be able to cope, or that the trauma on my body (and I use the term trauma medically here) would be too much and I’d go into a flare up. But quite the opposite. The pain itself at the time was so sharp and so different to my usual aches and pains that it almost felt pleasant. Couple that with the sheer amount of adrenaline and endorphins that run through your body, and I remember for the first time feeling oddly pain free. The healing process was remarkably smooth and I spent weeks waiting for the horrible come down and the dreaded flare up to come. But it didn’t.

When I got my shoulders and side done, it was much the same. More pain (I freely admit to not particularly enjoying the pain down my side and under my boob *shudder*), but the relaxation I generally feel in the chair and consequently my headspace, is pretty pleasant. I had more healing issues with these ones (you don’t realise quite how much you move your shoulders around until someone’s jabbed needles and ink in them for 2 hours), but again, the dreaded flare up and side effects never appeared.

And so to today. I’m currently under a slight ban from two things – one is going into New Look, and two is spending all my non existent money on tattoos. The former is hard enough, the latter is torture. And so I like to think that for the first time in my life, I’ve sort of compromised. My shoulder and wrist tattoos will join up one day, creating winding vines and flowers all around my arm, but in the meantime I’m just adding little bits here and there. For months now the very top part of my tattoo has been frustrating me as it doesn’t come quite as far over my shoulder as I’d have liked, and so in half an hour and for a very reasonably small amount of money, the lovely Emzie has added just enough new ink to my body to keep me going for another few months.

So here I am, a bit sleepy after the adrenaline comedown, but relatively pain free and thoroughly pleased with my newly acquired swirly shizz. Pain might not be for everybody, but for someone who spends 95% of her life in pain, trust me when I tell you that this strange little inky phenomenon is one of the best remedies I currently have 🙂

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Tattoo love (the prequel)

I was all set for today’s blog to be about my love for tattoos and all things ink, but in all honesty I’m shattered and words, let alone sentences, are proving tricky.

So instead, I shall just leave you with a couple of very cute artwork pieces I came across tonight by Susan van Camp. Not someone I known anything about, nor have I had the energy to research yet, but these cats and dragons are too lovely not to share.

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All things ink will follow tomorrow when I’m a tad more coherent.

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Procrastination Alert!

It’s just like being back at uni: I have an application form to fill in for a promotion at work, which I really don’t like the look of (despite really wanting the job!) so clearly it’s the perfect time for a blog update!

Yesterday was my hospital appointment and for the first time ever, I saw my actual consultant! She was very lovely, agreed with the Sjögrens diagnosis but instead of putting me through a biopsy, she’s just put me straight on the drugs. Woo! They wont have any ill effects if by any chance they’re wrong about the diagnosis and obviously if they do work, then yay! So as the Sjögrens is a secondary diagnosis, ie I’ve got Fibro as well, it means I’m now on two lots of medication. I’m hoping that between the two of them, plus the ribose sugar I’m taking, that I should start to see at least an improvement soon. That’s assuming I remember to actually take any of them of course…. *scatterbrain*

In other exciting news, I’ve finally booked my tattoo! Woo! Due to my inability to draw, it’s taken me about 4 years to actually get to a point where I can go in to the studio and say “I want this, draw it, tattoo me”. But it’s all booked for a week on Monday-so very excited! I’ll admit though that I’m a bit concerned about the pain. Not the actual tattoo pain as such cos I know what it feels like and I’m not really a wuss with these things, but more about how my body will react. Given that fibro means that even a small amount of pain (ie tapping me or hugging me too hard) can result in hours of pain, I hope it doesn’t cause too many problems. In my head needle pain and muscle pain are completely separate, so fingers crossed it’ll all be fine. It’ll be worth it anyway 🙂

Overall it’s been a pretty good birthday week. Work’s been stressy as hell, but my colleagues are all utterly wonderful and I felt very spoilt with cards, flowers and decorations. A very unexpectedly lovely day 🙂 Celebrations continued with a beautiful dinner (The Old Plow in Speen-anyone local, I wholeheartedly recommended it) and more lovely presents. So really, for a birthday I kept forgetting about, it was pretty good!

Sadly I think I’ve probably sat in Starbucks long enough that they could reasonably throw me out, so time to give in, head home, and attack the application. Why ‘I’m awesome, please give me the job’ wouldn’t work I don’t know……

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