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Shauna Niequist, Heart Emoticons, and Love


I got a new tattoo that I'm excited about because it not only has meaning but also it has a story. The more I hear about life lately, the more that I believe that to be a good storyteller you have to live a good story. This is not my original idea; I see it over and over again in books and by writers and leaders and speakers. This idea, however, has made me fall in love with stories and adventures and trying to lean into living a good story because I think that's what we are naturally drawn to as humans.  It is a more exciting pursuit than hoping my life will be just enough to get by or just good enough for the status quo, or whatever other measuring stick of good enough I can find when I look at the surface. I'm trying to go deeper, live intentionally, and seek interesting things. It's taking practice and discomfort and excitement and mischief and chaos, but it's slowly happening, and I like it.

So, the tattoo. A couple of months ago, an author named Shauna Niequist got a tattoo and posted it on her Facebook page, which I follow. She is a dream, and if you haven't heard of her and read anything by her, you should. (My favorites are Bittersweet and Cold Tangerines.) I mulled over the idea of a copycat tattoo for a while, but when I described my tattoo dreams to others as a “red heart emoticon” they thought that was pretty weird. BUT that has never stopped me before, and I saw the beauty on Shauna's arms and could not stop thinking about it. Then, we had a last minute opportunity to attend the Justice Conference, at which Shauna was speaking. So we went, and I made it part of my mission to meet her and ask for permission. Of course, it was perfect and easy, and we found her immediately.  I was moderately embarrassing and star struck, and Andrew laughed, and it was scary, but permission was granted.  She was gracious and encouraging and said it was fine, of course, because we almost always have the permission that we think we need, and "there are no rules" as Drew Barrymore says in Wildflower.  (But there is respect, and hence, I asked.  It's all a crazy balance)

But back to Chicago and Shauna Niequist, she was encouraging and even told me that the place that she got it done was just down the street and the guy who did it (we called) was working that night, and it was clearly perfection. Until, the conference finished, and we went over to get my tattoo, and it was no longer perfection.  They were busy and almost done for the night and had no interest in fitting us in (I say that in all honesty because I even had Andrew ask him if we could pay extra or do anything to make this happen and it was still a no). Because this is how life goes, often, at least for me. I get these amazing dreams and passions, and it's exciting and wonderful and it starts off and things look really, really good, like it's going to work out perfectly, and it's meant to be. And then, there's this moment when it changes and things get tough. When it seems like maybe, it's not meant to be anymore. And then we have these choices, do we press on or do we give up?  And if we press on, how hard to we push? When are we just trying to manipulate plans or get our way? And I know this is just a tattoo, but this is intentional living for me (at its best, overthinking everything at its worst). I started thinking about all of the times I've had dreams or emotions or passions or impulses that were maybe a little too exciting or a little too crazy or a little too unattainable, and through life and relationships and hardships and emotions I easily talked myself out of them, or let others talk me out of them. So that night, I was pretty bummed, but then I resolved that this would happen. Concisely, I start strong, have messy processes, but it typically ends well.  So I got home, made an appointment somewhere else, and here we are. I did it.

It gets better because we went to this place recommended by friends, in one of my favorite parts of town, and it was promising.  Until, the girl doing mine was clearly not into it. She told me if I placed it slightly differently than she put it on then I would be on a tattoo fail blog. So, it was awesome being told that something I am putting on my body for life is stupid... seriously, super great. But again, Shauna's was beautiful, and it's always easier to do things when someone else goes first. Side note: There were a bunch of other things said about it being in my handwriting and looking like I just wrote it on my arm and ya know, very encouraging words, but this was my story, and I honestly kind of loved it. Because first of all, if I plan on trying to “love everyone always” (Bob Goff said that and inspired me, and he is amazing), and I am going to be so committed to trying to live into that that I tattoo it on my arms then I better be able to start with the tattoo artist. And so I did. I totally did.  I kept my design; I kept my writing; I kept my chaos; I kept my resolve... And I was super kind and invested in the tattoo artist because we all have our stories.

Her work wasn't perfect, neither were her words, neither am I.  But I am over perfect. 

I'm learning that there are some things that I want to give my life for, and there are some things that I would gladly sacrifice for. I am trying really hard to pursue a good story rather than a perfect story. I want to be okay with adventures, hardships, trials, chaos, excitement, and uncertainty. There are very few things, if any, that are “always”. I will try to love always, to make the hard choices to love selflessly and fiercely and generously, regardless of the outcome.  But I do believe that Love will win, maybe Love will win as inconsistently as me in this life time, but ultimately Love will win.  "The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice." -Martin Luther King echoing Theodore Parker

I leave with this, the red heart. The even greater beauty behind Shauna's cool tattoo is that the red heart is a symbol for visualization prayer. Focusing on the symbol of a red heart, remembering that we are loved, we are enough, and “no matter what I do today or don't do today, God will not love me any less or any more.” (Shauna, in her conversation with me about the tattoo) There is often deeper beauty behind beauty, grace upon grace, and a bigger story behind the story.

You are enough.  Your story matters.  We are all in this together.  Love wins. 

Oh, and perfect, no one likes you. You're not real.  Let's all choose real.  



This story is from summer 2015.