Word Vomit

I wrote this post last week but didn’t post it. Honestly, I chickened out. For all the honesty I have brought to my blog, this is one of many posts I decided to discard. However, I decided to suck it up and post it. So here it is in all of its glory…..

I learned a valuable lesson last night on accident. If you have been following my blog you may have assumed that I am only filled with sweet sentiments towards my bride and I always say the right thing at the right time. I thank you for your perception,  but it is wrong. Sadly, I have a greater habit of voracious word vomit with her.

Andrea is the only person in my life where I have no filter. I am not worried about Andrea leaving me. I am not worried about her not liking me. I am not worried about her belittling me because I have a poor or misguided view on a subject. On most occasions, it is very nice to have that kind of freedom. The problem is, this has allowed me the opportunity to work out my thoughts and feelings in an uncontrolled environment.

Case in point, last night during dinner I was rambling on and on about all the social commentary of the day. I refuse to get into discussions on social media because I personally think they are fruitless. So, I tend to say to my bride the things I would normally add to someone else’s feed. My wife, being intelligent, tends to banter back with me. Sometimes we raise tone with each other, other times we agree to disagree, but most of the time we are in complete agreement. Or rather, she proves she is right and I am wrong.

My chosen flavor of the evening was all the hullabaloo over the Golden Globes. I have seen all over Facebook and other social media platforms the outrage or admiration over Meryl Streep’s acceptance speech. More specifically her commentary on our future POTUS’s words, actions & poor character. I personally found her comments to be well spoken and poetic. While I personally would not choose to accept such a prestigious award in that manner, I admire her for her willingness to take a stand for what she believes. Most importantly, I was impressed with her ability to do it in an intellectually stimulating and well thought out manner.

My issue was with the seemingly double standard being blatantly carried out in the commentary on social media. It seems that we find it okay to questions one man’s cruelty by responding with cruelty. In one breathe we hate the language and gestures he uses to mock a man with a physical disability, but express our anger by mocking him instead. That concept doesn’t make sense to me. If we return evil for evil are we not any better ourselves?

In trying to work out how I feel about this whole situation I stated that it seems like if you are in the public eye, whether through visual media or the written word, and you make brash statements about an individual such as our illustrious POTUS, you kind of welcome his brash and arrogant responses. I don’t know how one can be sheltered from the mocking tone of someone like Trump. I completely disagree with his language and presentation. He could learn a lot from Meryl. However, doesn’t he have the right to respond?

I said this in a very poor way to my bride. She very strongly disagreed. She reminded me that he is the President-Elect. The way he holds himself should be above that of the common citizen. I heard her. I agreed with her. But for fun, I wanted to debate her. So, I inserted some very mucky, irritating and veracious word vomit. I didn’t believe the vomit, but I wanted to sharpen our minds. Instead, I hurt my wife’s heart.

As I rambled on I saw what I thought was anger. It wasn’t anger. It was pain.  As I raised my hands and elevated my voice to make a point about something I didn’t believe in, I saw deep red penetrating from her pupils. Suddenly I saw wet streams begin to fall from her face as she stood in front on me. Then, like and idiot I asked, “Why are you so mad at me?”

Her response was razor wire. She said, “That man (POTUS) only finds beautiful what he deems to be so and will cut down anyone else. If he saw me. If saw the scars across my chest and my lack of breast he would find me ugly. How can you defend a man like that!” Then she slammed the door as she left to take Eli to Taekwondo.

I was left in a silent house. I never meant to make the conversation personal. I never stopped for a moment and considered how much his words, actions, and deeds over the past few months have affected my wife. I was simply trying to have fun being snarky, and instead, I made her believe for a moment that I approved of his misogyny.

For the record, I don’t. However, I learned last night how deep the pain my wife feels about her body. My words of affirmation and continual praise of her beauty can sometimes fall short when a man in power waves his hands in the air. To her, she is one who could be mocked. There should be anger and outrage towards someone with such great authority who would use his power to belittle someone for something they can’t change. POTUS can work on his misogyny, Andrea can’t remove the scars.

I never realized how personal it was to her as a female and as a person battling breast cancer to see and hear his actions. Last night I learned how truly personal Politics can be. As I stood in the house by myself I was reminded of what Meryl Streep said in her acceptance speech, “And this instinct to humiliate, when it’s modeled by someone in the public platform, by someone powerful, it filters down into everybody’s life, because it kind of gives permission for other people to do the same thing. Disrespect invites disrespect. Violence incites violence. When the powerful use their position to bully others, we all lose.

In truth, I lost last night. I tried to pick her brain and went too far. In doing so I picked the side of the bully. I didn’t mean to, but I did. For that, I am sorry. I spent the evening reminding my wife I was just bantering for fun. However, she taught me that some things are not defendable. As always, she gave me grace and forgiveness. Maybe next time I spar with her mentally I can pick the right side of the argument, or at least take the time to think before I word vomit all over her heart.

So I got a tattoo…

img_0992I have never been a tattoo guy. I have been asked a lot if I ever wanted one. The answer was always the same, “No, not really.” I always told people If I  got one, I would wake up the next morning,  hate it, and want it changed. However, I always added that I would only get a tattoo if something monumental happened in my life. And then my bride got cancer.

From the very beginning, I knew I was going to get a tattoo. I also knew that some in my life would not understand. I wrestled with this thought over the past few month. There are some people I know who have always spoken of tattoos in a very negative way. I have heard sermons and listened to individuals ramble on about how terrible they were. I have never felt that way. I have never bought into any of the arguments. So, the decision to go get ink was not hard.

For anyone who wants to know my rationale, here it is. My wife’s body has been forever scarred. She will never be the same. I decided, if she was going to be marked by cancer, I would be marked as well. She has also gone through terrible amounts of pain and I wanted to join her in a small way by experiencing some pain myself. Mine would never amount to what she has experienced, but at least it would be a small gesture.

Over the past few months,  I gave a lot of thought to what and where I would get tattooed.  A lot of people figured I would put something religious on my skin. I decided against that. I wanted something that I could use to tell our story. I wanted something that symbolized our journey. At first, I considered doing a small bullet. This was because our surgeon told us the chemo we would be given would act like a silver bullet. At one point I considered something werewolf like in honor of Ole Scruffy, but I decided that was not a good idea. I finally came to the conclusion I wanted a phoenix. I have always been enamored with the mythology behind it, and I figured it would make a really cool tattoo. I also wanted it in a tribal style.

Then came the discussion of where. I joked off and on about putting it on my hind quarters. A nice phoenix right above my crack would make for great conversation at the beach. Seriously, that was a joke. The location actually wasn’t difficult. I wanted it on my right side, because that was the side Ole Scruffy called home, and I wanted it on my lower arm. I didn’t want to hide it. I wanted it to be visible.

So, my plan has always been to get a tattoo soon after the cancer was removed from my wife’s body. I have been talking with friends of mine who have them for months. Being new to all of this, I wanted to know the best place to get one. After consulting with a few people, examining the artwork they got, I decided to go to a shop near my house and let an artist named Megan have the honor.

When I walked into the shop to get a consultation I felt a bit weird. No, I wasn’t feeling guilty, I just felt out of place. If you know me, I don’t look like a tattoo guy and have no experience with how to even get one. However awkward I may have felt, Megan did a great job of making me feel comfortable.

Megan is quite the cool lady. When I met her she had dark hair with blue streaks all throughout. I explained to her what I wanted, but also told her I wanted her to design it. I didn’t want a tattoo off a wall. I wanted something unique. I wanted something personal. Megan took my ideas, we exchanged a few emails about design, and then confirmed the date.

The night I left to get my tattoo my wife gave me some encouraging words. She told me, “Make sure you don’t cry.” Her confidence in my pain management was very sweet. I know she was kidding, but as I left the house I wasn’t quite sure what I was getting into. I honestly had no idea what it would feel like or if I would cry. I consider myself someone who takes physical pain pretty well, but as I entered the shop to get inked, I was second guessing my ability to be manly.

Megan and I discussed the final design for a bit. I agreed with her that the phoenix needed flames so people wouldn’t think it was just a random bird. I also loved what she did with my concept. I didn’t want a lot of color. I wanted the phoenix to be black with just a little bit of pink to symbolize my bride’s breast cancer. Megan came up with the idea to have one of the tale feathers swoop into the breast cancer awareness symbol. When I saw it, I knew I made the right choice for a tattoo artist.

Once we agreed on a final design, it was time to start the process. Megan had me sit on a table and lay my arm out. She placed a stencil of the design on my arm so we could agree on location. As she pulled away the paper that left an imprint of the phoenix on my arm, I suddenly got really excited. There, on my arm, was something I had imagined for months and it was magnificent.

Then came the actual process of tattooing. Megan told me she would do a practice line to see how I handled it. When she made the statement I almost laughed. I imagine freaking out over the pain and living the rest of my life with a black line on my arm symbolizing my frailty and weakness. That right there would have stripped me of what small amount of a man card I have left.

Megan asked if I was ready.

I told her I was.

As I listened to the sound of the needle and prepared to feel it penetrating my skin, I closed my eyes and saw Andrea laying in the recovery room. I remembered all those days we spent laying around watching movies as she recovered from chemo. I saw her face when she told me she had cancer. In that brief time and space, I whispered in my soul, “I love you Andrea.” Then the needle hit my arm. img_0997

Honestly, it wasn’t bad at all. It felt like getting an i.v. over and over again combined with some light sun burning. The process took about 3 hours. I spent the time talking with Megan and the other artists in the shop. Most of the time I didn’t even notice her tattooing me. In a small way, I now get why people become addicted to it. There is a bit of a rush during it.

When the process was complete I thanked Megan. I don’t think she will ever know how much she helped me. Getting a tattoo was a small way I could walk this journey with my wife. It was a way I could feel her pain.  It allowed me a brief second to imagine how she has felt and join her in the struggle. The same way our stylist helped Andrea wrestle with losing her hair, Megan helped me cope with the pain and suffering we have experienced. For that small token of grace, I am thankful.

So now,img_0999 I have a tattoo. It’s been a few weeks since it was done and it has healed nicely. There is a chance, because of how much black that was used, I will need to go back and get some touch ups. If I do, I look forward to seeing Megan again. If I don’t, I hope she knows what a gift she has given me. She played a small part in our journey and has given me something to help share our story. Cancer has now caused physical pain to both of us, we both have felt it’s intense flames, but like the phoenix will rise anew.