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It hasn’t been the easiest of weeks. I’ve had a little too much down time. Appointments at the tattoo studio are few and far between since I’m still so new and haven’t developed a big customer base yet (hint hint: tell everyone you know to come see me!). So I’ve had a lot of time to think. That’s not always a good thing for me, because it leads to negative, cyclical swirling in my brain. It’s like my brain is a drunken whirligig of black and gray and more black and more gray. There’s an absense of color in my head sometimes.

I’ve had too much time to look at photos of the tattoos I’ve done and pick them apart and get mad at myself for them not being perfect. I’ve had too much time to worry about the probability that I’ll have to get a job soon since I’m not bringing in much money at the tattoo studio yet. When I’m not constantly distracted, I have too much time to focus on my body, which spends most of its time complaining about its own mere existence and threatening to quit. And when I get tired (which is always) and achy (which is always) and nauseated (which is often), and don’t have a decent distraction, I get little mini flashbacks of those final couple days by my dad’s bedside when I was so utterly drained and exhausted and ill and grief-stricken. And then, of course, I am again grief-stricken.

For some reason, the universe always chooses these moments to give me little nudges to keep me thinking about my dad. Lucky pennies left in the grocery store parking lot, dementia reminders all over the news, tv shows and movies where a parent dies, radio shows about grief…millions of little things that become an onslaught at a moment when I’m already fragile. I’ve cried. A lot. Which is embarrassing when I’m sitting in my tattoo studio room. Not the most professional. Thank god we have doors to close so I can hide for a minute or two and compose myself.

The thing that really gets me is that I’m still not missing my dad. I’m missing my demented dad, my sick dad. And I’m replaying his final days and trying to figure out how I could have spared him that pain somehow. I’m not thinking about him napping happily on the sofa with the cat, or hiking down the train tracks with him, or how he had a very particular way of eating yogurt. I remember those things, sure, but I can’t make myself focus on them. Instead, my brain goes to the hardest, most painful moments with him and replays them over and over. Those painful memories have become syndicated reruns, invading seemingly innocuous moments and leveling me.

I don’t know how to change my focus. I don’t know how to slow the whirligig down and add a little color. I keep trying to will my attention to happier things, like throwing colorful chalk dust onto all the ugliness, but the whirligig just blows the color all away again. I wish there was a way to scrub my memory clean of the dark stuff, because I know there’s color underneath. It’s there. It peeks out periodically. Sometimes it bursts forth and the blackness cracks and shatters and I can sweep it up and toss it out. But the black always comes back. And I’m okay with a little darkness; it’s familiar and makes the good stuff seem that much better. But lately it’s been overwhelming. I wish I could find some balance. Or maybe still have it not be balanced, but have the color on the winning team.

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