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Love to Live, Live to Love {On Tattoos, Life Mottos & Being You}

Wrist Tattoos

I’ve wanted a tattoo for as long as I can remember — something small and meaningful, but pretty too.

My grandfather had a tattoo on his arm that said his name, Russ, and I can distinctly remember sitting at his kitchen table with him, just studying it. I loved it, and while it was faded and a bit wrinkly, that tattoo was so beautiful to me.

I’ve thought about getting a tattoo off and on since I turned 18 and more often since becoming a mother — a group of birds to represent each of our kids, a flower with the petal outlines made out of tiny letters spelling each of their names, etc. — but Sean’s never really been on board.

However, for the past few months, I’ve really been wanting wrist tattoos.

I knew I wanted words that would really mean something — words that would remind me to be joyful and the type of life I want to lead:

Grace & mercy.
Joy & love.
My word of the year is LIVE.
My favorite sweater, from Old Navy, says LOVE LIFE. in big bold letters.

Nothing seemed quite perfect, especially since one of our daughter’s middle names is Joy and another’s is Grace. As much as I love both of those words (as well as their sisters’ — Faith and Hope), I really didn’t want to end up with just one child’s middle name on my wrist!

And then a few weeks ago our Pastor preached a sermon in which he quoted Amy Carmichael, who’s life motto was “Love to live, live to love.”

The minute he said it, I knew I wanted those words to be my life motto as well, and I knew I wanted them on my wrists.

I brought up the idea of a tattoo to my husband again and asked if he would consider taking me to get them for my birthday.

He didn’t say no, so I started getting recommendations on Facebook for local tattoo artists.

Wrist Tattoos

I’ve since been reminded by several people (who don’t like tattoos in general) that they are permanent. I promise that, at 32 years old, I do realize that, and I finally put my thoughts about it into words the other day when I was chatting with a friend:

I can only hope that I’ll live to 80 and be proud of my wrinkly tattoos and a life characterized by the motto! You can also find more tattoo ideas on fashionterest.

You see, I think my 20s were characterized by worrying about what other people think: I was almost always the youngest person in any given situation — the first of our friends to get married (and the youngest in the group to start with), the first to have kids (with 4 by the time I was 27), the youngest in most professional circles — and I thought people were watching and judging me a lot more than they probably were.

I think, however, that my 30s will be characterized by me being me. I don’t find myself worrying about other people’s opinions nearly as much. I’m quicker to admit to my hipster friends that I’m just not that cool, to my conservative friends that I fall somewhere closer to the middle, to anyone who asks that I don’t have all the answers and my life’s not perfect.

So even though I know there are plenty of people — even people I greatly respect — who don’t like tattoos and might judge me for having one (two?), I found that I really wasn’t too worried about it. I love the tattoos — the way they look and what they say — and I got them for me. (My friend Kara recently wrote a beautiful post about being brave and doing what makes you feel like you, and I identify with so many of her words!)

I love that every day I’ll be reminded of my desire to really live and really love. I’m not always good at either — preferring to hide myself in the busyness of work when things get tough and easily annoyed by “people” in general — but I want to keep working on both of them for as long as I live.

I love that I now have permanent accessories for all of those times when I forget to put on jewelry. (Ha!)

I love that they’re unique and my own, and that I didn’t get a tattoo when I was younger just to get one or not get one this time because I was afraid what people would think or say. The truth is: you can always remove a tattoo and here is a great article about does tattoo removal hurt to answer all of your questions.

Wrist Tattoos

And because I’ve been asked multiple times in 24 hours: Yes, it hurt, but it was a very localized pain and just hurt in little bursts, so it was definitely bearable. Afterward, it welted up pretty bad for a couple hours, and it felt a lot like a bad sunburn last night. Today it just feels like a scrape. And it took about 30 minutes for the actual tattoo(s). (I still can’t figure out if it counts as one tattoo or two separate ones — ha!)

Do you have a life motto? A tattoo? Do you worry about what other people think, or are you comfortable being you?