The pain of regret


“If only. Those must be the two saddest words in the world.”

~Mercedes Lackey

For someone who has entitled her blog Happy Impermanence, I’ve dome something in a quite contrary spirit.

I got my first tattoo.

And, while now there’s the option of tattoo removal, it is symbolically one of the most permanent things a person can do. This idea has freaked me out.

Let me start by saying that I am a choice-lover; I have been known to deliberate over decisions from as small as nail polish color to as big as changing careers. I like that I can change my hair color, fonts on this screen, and even my wedding ring (I have 3).

I float around in impermanence.

Often, this is mostly in a physical sort of way rather than an existential manner. Like I’ve shared before, I cling onto moments, relationships, places. Letting go often causes me pain (not ink-laden-needle-pain, but pain just the same). Therefore, there are times when impermanence isn’t so happy for me. There’s a bitter sweetness to the word and what it means.

Ok, so why the tat?

There are several reasons:

  1.  I’ve wanted one for a while.~I’ve admired art on people for years now.
  2. I found a design that means something to me.~My sister came up with something that symbolizes our roots and my family.
  3. The timing was right.~While my sister could not get one as well since she’s pregnant, she sat there with me receiving hand-crushing abuse for hours. It meant everything to have her there.

Confession: I don’t LOVE it.

Upon seeing the finished work, I thought it too big, not exactly what I envisioned, and a completely CRAZY move. I began to doubt my choice and judge my action. I began to regret.

Regret is a funny emotion. It’s a sadness that gets right under your skin. It’s a feeling of repentance or remorse of opportunity lost that feels sharp in the beginning and lingers on. Much like a tattoo.

So, why the regret? Because it was ugly? No, it’s actually a beautiful work of art. Because it was foolish? I have something on my body that conjures up the people I most love, so that’s not it. What comes up for me is that fact that I can’t wash it off, it won’t fade, or peel away.

This made me think: what would it mean to really live with a choice?

My sister said it best as she listened to my consistent whining for hours afterward. She said, “It’s part of you now. You need to choose to love it.” Wise girl.

As time passes, I am getting used to it. I’m regretting less, loving more because I choose to.

Novelist Victoria Holt said: “Never regret. If it’s good, it’s wonderful. If it’s bad, it’s experience.”I think this tattoo trip has some good and bad mixed in…guess that makes it a wonderful experience.

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9 comments
  1. Irene Morton said:

    Congratulations on your first tat! How wonderful to have your sister enjoy the moment with you! I got my first one last year, and like you, I thought about and wanted one for quite some time. Along with my best friend, I took the leap and have no regrets!

    Enjoy it, it is now indeed a part of who your are!

  2. Amy Boyce said:

    Christine, what you say resonates with me. The permanence of a tattoo is glaring yet when looked at in the proper perspective, and if selected for the right reasons, I believe a tattoo can be a symbol to the world of who you are what you are. They can be simplistic or elaborate works of art that describe outwardly who we are inwardly and what we value. Ten years ago my more conservative friends back home thought I was crazy to get a tattoo on my upper arm where everyone would be able to see it – my best friend said “what about when you get married, everyone will see it”. I viewed this differently. In my mind I wanted everyone to see it as it is a subtle symbol to the world of my spirituality, of where I come from, and what is serene to me. It is a Kanji symbol for water. While born in an earth sign – my feet firmly planted on the ground – it is in and around water where I feel at peace and closest to God. I have a special bond with mother ocean and any other body of water. When I look at my tattoo, it grounds me and reminds me of my inner calmness and spirit. I believe that your tattoo, because it is a symbol of your roots and your family, will grow to be very special to you and something that you choose to show the world. Peace

  3. Thanks, Irene. I am embracing it now.

  4. thanks for your comments, Amy. I appreciate your perspectives.

  5. Holly said:

    Ah yes. Regret. Tattoos. I have some stories to share.

    I got my first (and only) tattoo when I was 16. Just a design with no emotional significance that I chose from the wall at the parlour. I’ve never regretted it, and I like that it means nothing. It’s just pretty :)

    On the other hand, I suffered a pang of regret when I got my cat, Jack. I adopted him (he was a rescued kitten) and I was so smitten with him, I may have made the decision too impulsively. When I arrived home with him and let him free in my apartment, all I could think was, “What have I done!??” But my selfish love for him and the fact I didn’t want to go back on such a decision, because, who knows who he’d end up with after me, I kept him. But for some days after I got him, I felt so regretful – He is a living thing, who will live many years and I will be responsible for him. Is it even right to have a pet when you live in the city? How could I be so selfish? It was a bit too much for me and I was sad I didn’t give myself time to digest that info before making such a decision. But I soon realized that if Jack and I were going to have a good relationship, and I was going to be a good caretaker, then I would have to let those feelings go. Since then, I have felt truly happy to have him, he definitely enriches my life and I know he has a pretty good life with me. I love him to no end and he is my pride and joy. I could not imagine my life without him. That said, I have learned from this, that I would probably not have another pet in the future. Jack is my one and only, I like to think this happened because we needed each other.

    But your sister speaks wise words. Your tattoo, my cat, they are part of us now, and we must choose to love them. But that can only happen if we are honest about our regretful feelings and then let them go … for real.

    The whole experience around your tattoo seems absolutely wonderful though! Your sister, the connection to your family, pushing the boundaries of your comfort zone, beautiful art – I’m sure you will love your tattoo in the end. Don’t worry too much, just let it be what it will become. But of course, I can see you are already on your way to doing that, so good for you.

    It’s quite an inspiring and honest story. Thanks for sharing Xx.

  6. Holly, thanks for sharing your own experiences with regret. It’s so interesting how that initial feeling regret evolves into something positive if we let it. I am sure your cat has provided you with much reward in the form of love. And yes, I also believe that with time I’ll love that new part of me.

  7. Amy, thanks for sharing your experience with your own tattoo. I understand your feeling of wanting to share it as a symbol of yourself, visibly. In essence, we do this through the way we dress, how many piercings we have, what we do to our hair….all expressions of our personalities. This one just happens to be more permanent.

  8. Thanks, Irene. I knew you would understand.

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