Content Warning: The following story contains mention of sexual and emotional abuse, which may be triggering for some readers
"For the Love of All that is Mighty and Good, Please Be Kind," Ali Russo
Kindness has always been the trait I value the most. It’s the first thing I look for when forming relationships with people; I like to watch the way they fold their hands and speak out of the corners of their mouths, holding doors with the tips of their fingers and rocking on their heels. I try to take all opportunities of kindness the universe has to offer, not for any other reason except the satisfaction in that helping someone else has made their day a little lighter. If I want to believe that the world can be kind, I need to be so, too.
Conversely, this is much harder to apply to yourself—or, at least in my own personal experiences. Growing up with severe, undiagnosed anxiety, I became my own, worst, inner-critic. I believed that nobody would like me, including myself, if I did not bend to all of the requests, favors, and needs of the people I cared for in my life; I wanted them to undoubtedly know, throughout all the lengths of time, that I would love them and be there when they asked.
At the time, I couldn’t understand the damage this ideology would do to me, and certainly didn’t grasp that a healthy relationship should not leave one feeling as fatigued as I was. But this was my kindness. This was how I liked to show it.
The first semester of my freshman year, I got out of a two-year relationship that was both emotionally and sexually abusive. I broke up with him over a phone call, and subsequently, he had to leave work because of the emotional distress I had caused. Over the course of the weeks, trailing my soles across the carpet of my therapist’s office, I expressed how the failure of our relationship, including the abuse and the break-up, was my fault. I remember clasping my hands between my knees, my shoulders hunched as I spoke to my therapist. “The way I broke up with him, the way I left him feeling—those are the cruelest things I’ve ever done.”
“Those are the kindest things you’ve ever done.” She corrected.
I remember feeling dumbfounded at her opposition, gaping at the confidence in which her ponytail swayed from both shoulders while she shook her head. “Whether you recognized it consciously or not, you knew you had to get out of that situation. You knew you needed a change, and to be kinder to yourself.”
Four years later, if you asked me the name of the college counselor who sat opposite of me in that tiny, warm room on campus, I couldn’t tell you. But I could tell you about the way her fingers wove into their own as she said this, the sporadic, faint spots on the back of her hands like prayer beads I could count with comfort. I could tell you about the eruption that followed, the flood that heaved; the collapse of comprehension at the ludicrous idea that I was just as important as those who held precedence over me—that I should hold precedence over me.
I got my “be kind.” tattoo the following semester, squeezing my best friend’s hand as the ink settled into a reminder that remained forever. Now, in the year 2016 I am desperately trying to remind myself again, and again, and again, that being kind is always worth it, being kind is a reciprocal pleasure—it is the tangible mark of our humanity. We must never, ever lose it.
Tattoosday is way to demonstrate the storytelling quality of tattoos as well as the healing quality of tattoos.
If you would like to share the stories behind your ink, send us a picture of a tattoo or tattoos that have a significant story tied to your survival in life. Then write at least 400 words (you can write as many as you'd like) about the tattoo, it's meaning, and what it means to you today.
These stories will all run on Tuesdays!
One per week! So you have plenty of time to submit them to us!
The caveat with TATTOOSDAY is that we will not be making you a free piece of art, instead, your ink IS the art we will share with the story—which makes the most sense. BUT we will send you some stickers for sharing your story with us!