Why I Got My First Tattoo At 51

I never liked tattoos.

I certainly never thought I’d get one. But as they say, never say never.

How does someone go from disliking something, to doing that very thing herself? Especially when it’s something you can’t undo, like a tattoo? In my case, you have a life-changing experience that leads to a great big change of opinion, and heart.

As I’ve shared abundantly on this blog over the past year, and in my book Breaking the Spell, I lived the first 50 years of my life as a very driven and controlling person. I was a “make it happen” kind of gal. Come hell or high water, if it was going to be it was up to me.

I burned out a couple of times living this way.

Yes, I achieved success, but at a cost. And, I was never quite satisfied where I was. I was always seeking higher achievement and greater success. And, maybe more significantly, believing it was all on me to make it happen. It was exhausting and it finally came to a screeching halt at the end of 2009. I became clear what I was doing wasn’t working, and it was time for a change.

I began to let go.

I let go of things having to look a certain way.

I let go of the idea that my business success is what defined me, or made me a worthy person.

I let go of the idea that I had to make it all happen.

I let go of control and decided to just be open, and trust the Universe, God, Spirit, a higher power, my higher self (call it whatever you like).

It was scary.

Like letting go of the steering wheel and praying the car doesn’t crash.

I didn’t have a plan and I didn’t know what was going to happen. Foreign territory for me.

It was unsettling, because suddenly I wasn’t working so hard. Driving so furiously toward success. I was comfortable going 100 with my hair on fire. Letting someone else drive me in the slow lane not so much. It definitely took some adjustment. And all the while I felt restless. Like I should be doing more. Downshifting was a totally new sensation.

But after awhile I settled in.

I became comfortable in this new state. I wrote my book. Started blogging. And watched my life begin unfolding in a whole new way.

Clients still showed up, albeit a little further and far between because I wasn’t actively marketing. But that was OK. I was taking a bit of a mental health break. A sabbatical if you will. To figure out what I wanted to do next.

Money kept showing up, often from unexpected places.

I was no longer making a six-figure income but we were just fine. We simplified our lives. Sold off our investment properties. Paid off all our debt. I felt a sense of freedom. Ironically I’d spent years chasing financial freedom, thinking more money was the key. Turns out I was wrong. Yes, money is a part of it, but so is not spending every cent you make trying to achieve greater and greater levels of success.

Through all this, I began to realize I didn’t have to figure it all out. If I was open, the answers would very often show up.

So, I just kept asking how I could best serve, and being willing to step into the opportunities that presented.

This downtime helped me see I really wanted to teach.

I wasn’t sure who I would teach, or how, or where. I simply set an intention. Shortly after, an email landed in my inbox inviting me to teach on Udemy, an online video training platform I’d not heard of previously. After checking it out I decided to step into it, and what has unfolded in the seven months since then has been a real gift. My business is being transformed in a way that truly suits how I want to serve and spend my time, and in a way that is enabling me to help hundreds of people every month, instead of just a handful.

In February I also lost my dog.

It was heart-breaking, but what unfolded after has also been life-changing. Our little puppy, Hope, showed up (her name is no accident!). Over the past seven months she too has ushered in all sorts of positive change. She’s made me laugh every day through some difficult life situations. She’s helping me rebuild a circle of local friends who have nothing to do with business and success, but who are just nice, normal people who love dogs. And, maybe most surprising, she’s helped me discover that doing therapy dog work is the next step in my life. And, with my business evolving the way it is, I will have the time to do this, something that wouldn’t have been possible with my old business.

I could go on. There are many more examples of wonderful opportunities, synchronistic events, and magic that has unfolded since I learned to let go and trust.

Let Go & Trust has became my new mantra.

My new guiding principle. I want to always be reminded so I don’t fall back into the control model. I like it too much in this new place. I still recall the day, almost a year ago, when the idea came to me to get those words tattooed on my body. I was out running. I recall thinking it was a crazy idea. All sorts of thoughts ran through my head:  You’re too old… You don’t like tattoos… It’s permanent, are you sure you want to do that?

But the thought wouldn’t go away.

That’s when I knew I was supposed to do it. So, in August, when my daughter was home for a visit, we got matching tattoos (that itself is a whole other story!). Suffice it to say it was exactly what we were supposed to do. The situation that led to it has convinced us both of that. And now we both have a constant reminder of how we’re choosing to live our lives.

No, I never thought I’d get a tattoo.

When my daughter got her first tattoo,  I realized the meaning a tattoo can hold, and it changed my opinion, a bit. Yet, I’m still surprised I got to the point of getting inked myself. But I don’t regret it. Quite the opposite in fact, I absolutely love having it. It represents something that’s now central to my being. Something I believe in to my core. In essence, something that is now part of who I am. The tattoo is just an outward symbol of that, and a reminder to never go back to that old way of living.

If you’re wondering what the significance of the butterfly is, and the placement on my shoulder…

After chasing success and happiness for so many years, I came upon the following quote while writing my book, Breaking the Spell.

Happiness is a butterfly, which when pursued, is always just beyond your grasp, but which, if you will sit down quietly, may alight upon you.  ~Nathaniel Hawthorne

I had a vision one day while running, of a butterfly landing on my shoulder, and I realized in that moment the tattoo must include a butterfly and it must go on my shoulder. After debating placement for months, all question was gone. I knew what I wanted. I knew where I wanted it. And I knew I was ready.


About Debbie

After spending 32 years in marketing, Debbie now spends her time blogging, teaching online courses, doing volunteer pet therapy, and encouraging others to follow a more inspired path through life.

8 comments on “Why I Got My First Tattoo At 51

  1. Debbie , Debbie, Oh Debbie
    You are super cool lady.
    I agree on your point of view completely,
    You are so unique .
    I am big fan of you

  2. Hi Debbie,
    I have just read this article and I can say it is truly profound for me. I am only a short way into the same transition that you speak of – letting go of the success driven lifestyle that defines us and holds us captive. I recently had the same revelation – that my identity is not my career, I am not just a business woman, success in business doesn’t have to define me. I know in my heart that there is more to life than that.
    I have let go and I am feeling like I am in a completely foreign place. What’s next, what’s going to happen?????? I have relinquished the control to make way for the Trust, it was tough but the alternative was not working. My faith in God has grown and I am excited about what is to come.
    I am sure there is no coincidence that I came across your blog post. It is confirmation that i am on the right track – that all will be good. You are a true witness to me and I am grateful that you decided to speak out about your change of direction. The world conforms us into thinking that you will have it all, if you strive, push and run yourself into the ground. Your blog post shows that it doesn’t have to be that way.
    I look forward to reading your book – who knows, maybe one day I will have a matching tattoo to show you!! Let go and Trust.
    Bless you
    Ps. I came across your article via Louie’s facebook page. I am from Australia, we met through another colleague at a Conference I attended in San Diego early 2012. Thank you again for sharing this article.

  3. Thanks so much for sharing Yvette. I’m glad the article resonated with you. Good luck on your letting-go journey. It is well worth it!

  4. Fantastic blog! Do you have any suggestions for aspiring writers?
    I’m hoping to start my own site soon but I’m a little lost on everything.
    Would you recommend starting with a free platform like WordPress or
    go for a paid option? There are so many choices out there that I’m totally overwhelmed ..
    Any recommendations? Kudos!

  5. Glad you like the blog. I recommend registering your own domain and getting your own hosting and using WordPress.org (not WordPress.com). Good luck!

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