This, Too, Shall Pass
I thought I'd get my half sleeves finished before I got any new tattoos done. Once I've started something I like to have it finished before moving onto the next project. Maybe because I don't want to be thinking about two things at once, or maybe because I'm a bit of a perfectionist. But mostly, I think, because I don't want to walk round with half finished ink for any longer than I really have to. But when I decided to get my half sleeves started last year I was pretty sure I'd have no more tattoos until they were done. Piercings, suspensions, pulls, etc. yes. But tattoos? No.
Then came a day in work earlier this year where I was booked in for a tattoo at 4 o'clock, so planned to leave Swansea at 3 to be sure I was at the studio in time. On getting to work though, I discovered that I was supposed to be attending a meeting that would last until at least 4, meaning I wouldn't get to the studio 'til 5, meaning I'd only have an hour in which to get tattooed. This seemed a bit pointless given the time needed for setting up and packing away, so I had two choices: postpone the tattoo until Shaun could fit me in again (which could be months) or get something else done instead.
Now I don't normally get tattoos on impulse. It took me two years to decide on my half sleeves, and a lot of thought goes into what I'm getting and where I'm getting it, but I didn't want to have to postpone the appointment, especially on such short notice. Luckily I'd been thinking about getting another tattoo for a while, and had even sorted out the style of the text I wanted it in so I could get it done when my sleeves were finished. I'd been re-reading Terry Pratchett's The Last Hero and I love the text used on the 'Leonard da Quirm' illustrations:
The Da Quirm code (English text)
An illustration from The Last Hero
I was toying with the idea of getting one of the illustrations done, but I thought that would need a bit more consideration. I'd wanted the words 'This too shall pass' on a tattoo for a while though, and I thought that combining the words with Paul Kidby's text style would really work well. This seemed like the ideal time to get it done.
So why 'this too shall pass'? Well, I've written previously about dealing with self harm and depression, and in dealing with these I've drawn a lot on the Buddhist idea of impermanence. The Buddha said that all things are impermanent, in a state of flux:
All conditioned things or phenomenal processes, mental as well as material, that go to make up the samsaric plane of existence are transient or impermanent.
A person is constantly changing, life is constantly changing and nothing lasts forever. This is an idea I've tried to hold onto through the really bad times, when I've been as low as I can be. 'This'll pass,' I tell myself. 'In an hour, in a day, in a week, things will be different.' And usually I'm right. Having the knowledge that things are impermanent, don't last, has helped me a lot, and I wanted to have a reminder of that, just in case I forget.
I did think about getting the text in Welsh, as I've been wanting a tattoo in my native language for a long time, but I decided against it. I'd always heard 'this too shall pass' in English and I felt that would be the best language for it to be written in. I also wanted to have the specific text 'this too shall pass' rather than any other variations because I'd heard it before, in various places, none of which I can remember now. Talking to a friend after getting the tattoo she also said she recognised it, and a Google search showed that the quote originated in Jewish folktales concerning King Solomon (although there are different versions of the folktale):
King Solomon, feeling blue, asked his advisors to find him a ring he had once seen in a dream.
"When I feel satisfied I'm afraid that it won't last. And when I don't, I am afraid my sorrow will go on forever. Find me the ring that will ease my suffering." he demanded.
Solomon sent out all of his advisors, and eventually one of them met an old jeweler who carved into a simple gold band the inscription, "this too shall pass." When the king received his ring and read the inscription, his sorrows turned to joy and his joy to sorrows, and then both gave way to equanimity.
Which I think relates to the Buddhist idea of impermanence very well.
I rang Shaun and explained that I'd be late, and that I wanted to get a different tattoo done as we only had an hour. He was fine with that, so when the meeting finished I headed up to Aberdare. I got to the studio by 5 and showed Shaun the text I wanted, as well as the style I wanted it in. I had made some slight changes to the text that Paul Kidby created - I changed the a to a normal 'ap. Shaun also removed one of the lines on the inside of the o as two wouldn't fit. He then disappeared into the back room to draw the design up for me and I sat down to wait.
It didn't take long before I was called into the studio and Shaun placed the design on my wrists. I chose my wrists because I've always wanted a tattoo there, and this way I have a text that means a lot to me in a place where I can both see it when I need to, and know it's there even if I'm wearing something over it. I was expecting the tattoo to hurt, being on my wrists, but I was pleasantly surprised when it didn't. It didn't take long to get the tattoo done either - 45 minutes, if that, and I was walking out of the studio with both wrists wrapped in clingfilm.
Left wrist Right wrist
submitted by: Anonymous
on: 28 Sept. 2008