In my blog yesterday, I made the promise to write more consistently.  Yeah, here we go…

I know I owe a “50 things update” — that’s next, but today is about one of the specific things on the list.  The tattoo thing.

Because I’m a mommy first and always, let me preface this blog by saying that there is a tremendous difference between getting a tattoo when one is 50 and getting one when one is 20.  I cannot think of a tattoo that would have profound meaning to me now that I might have chosen at 20.  You may be more mature, more stable, more impulsive, more daring, more of any number of personality traits, but for me, it would not have been the right thing to do.  You have all heard me stand on my soapbox and preach about growing and changing and developing and learning and the absolute value of all of that; what I don’t share with you because I’d sound like Grandma in her rocker is that we also go through seasons of life.  Getting a tattoo (at any age) reflects a commitment to the symbolism, so to speak, although my tattoo artist pooh-poohs that idea with talk about conversions and cover-ups.  Anyway, you are not the person at 20 or 25 or 30 or even 35 that you are going to be for the most of the remainder of your life.  What a thrilling, exhilarating prospect.

So here’s the bad boy:

right forearm

As always, crappy camera and crappy operator, but you get the idea.  And because I’m the wordiest person you know, it will take this entire entry to explain the choice.

Shortest version:  It’s a symbol of my affinity for science and of living a life based on science and reason.

Longer version:  It’s a reminder to me that no matter where my future takes me, I intend to live a life based on rationality and reason.  I am not a Vulcan, and I know the value of passion and intuition and emotion and creativity and impulsiveness, but those are internal, personal characteristics and shouldn’t be applied to the figuring out of how our external world functions.

Longest version:  There have been several major events in my life in which I abdicated the responsibility of thinking for myself.  It wasn’t because of carelessness or laziness or lack of intellectual ability – each one can be explained to my own satisfaction, but an explanation is not an excuse, nor is it license to continue the habit.  In each instance I have been astounded at my own complicity, profoundly surprised at myself, astonished at the discovery, and determined Not To Do That Again.  I use this moment to laugh at myself and wonder:  what’s next?  To what area of life will I apply rational, scientific thought instead of dogma, conventional wisdom, societal pressure, and indoctrination?

When I was a young adult and just beginning my married life, the accepted lifestyle was one of credit.  My own father lectured me numerous times on the topic You’ll Always Have a Car Payment.  All of our peers were living this way – buying food, clothes, recreation on credit.  Even our financial adviser taught us how to “manage” our credit cards.  We lived the Credit Lifestyle for a few years, paying for meals long after they were in the sewage system, finishing one car payment and immediately incurring the next.  We were both working, until we had the kids, and we were living beyond our means.  When we finally put on the brakes and really looked at what we were doing, the solution was so very simplistic, and relatively painless.  We did a lot of extra work reinventing the wheel, with constructing a budget, exploring savings options, learning how to buy, but when we discovered more information about this, it just served as confirmation that we were doing it right.  It seems slightly less radical now, in this era of consumer awareness and credit fallout, but at the time it was doing almost exactly the opposite of what our peers in mainstream society were doing.

When I reached my 40th birthday, unhealthy and overweight, I made a decision to regain my health.  I chose to do it by educating myself about exercise and nutrition, with a specific interest in metabolic processes.  What I learned, once again, was contrary to accepted wisdom; in fact, it was almost the USDA Food Pyramid upside down.  6 to 11 servings of grains per day?  2-3 ounces of protein?  Don’t get me started.  I applied what I learned, and had great success, and continue to have success both personally and with clients with the science I have learned.  (For a great layout of this, read Good Calories, Bad Calories by Gary Taubes)

Lastly, I have examined the faith in which I was raised with a skeptical eye.  Were I have been a child born to Muslim parents in Qatar, or to Buddhist parents in Sri Lanka, or to Mormon parents in Utah, I would likely have been as indoctrinated in those faiths as I was my own.  I have approached my faith with the scrutiny of science, and with the same thorough examining I have to the other endeavors in my life.  What I have learned has been, in an understatement, life-changing.

My tattoo reminds me every day of the joy and responsibility of skepticism.  It reminds me to celebrate my beautiful brain and yours.  It reminds me that there is always something to learn, some way to grow, something new to discover.  And that’s why, every time I see it, it makes me smile.

Thanks for reading!