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a black-ink tattoo of the word "enough" with curlicue decorations around it

Enough

a black-ink tattoo of the word "enough" with curlicue decorations around it

The author’s freshly drawn tattoo, by Trevor at Alley Cat Tattoo, Harrisonburg, Virginia.

I’ve spent 39 years on this earth without any tattoos. I’m not anti-tattoo, but I couldn’t think of anything that I would, without any doubt, want forever engraved on my skin. For some reason, as I approached my most recent birthday, I suddenly had a desire to celebrate it with permanent ink. In small Hebrew lettering on my upper arm, close to my  heart, I got my two sons’ names, which both came from Hebrew Scripture and hold great meaning. Less than a month later, I was already planning my second tattoo.

This second tattoo was inspired by the gift of a week at CREDO, a program in some denominations for pastors that looks deeply at overall health and wellbeing in five areas: vocational, spiritual, financial, physical, and emotional. From the start, one word kept coming to the fore: Enough. I journeyed with that word for the week in the company of wonderful colleagues, and knew what my next tattoo had to be.

For those familiar with the Enneagram, I am a very solid One – often called The Perfectionist, or as I prefer, The Reformer. Ones are always striving for improvement. We want to make the world a better place. We want to improve what is in our environment. But the strongest focus of that drive for improvement is internal. I’ve always known that I hold others to high standards, but none nearly as high as the expectations that I have for myself. It’s pretty exhausting. Ones are always our own worst critics.

As a One, the word “Enough” was the word on which I needed to meditate. What would it look like for what I have done to be enough? For me to be enough? When do I know that enough is enough?

In some ways, “enough” and “grace” could be used interchangeably. To be honest, the word “grace” might have made for a more graceful tattoo. Ryan O’Neal, the artist behind “Sleeping at Last,” has created a whole body of music that is enneagram focused.[1] I sometimes just put “One” on repeat, listening to the refrain “grace requires nothing of me.” Grace is enough. But for me, “enough” conveys a little more, too. Read more

Epiphany

Epiphany

Buford probably never paid homage to another person
in her life. Widowed young, no children, innumerable
opinions, Buford got to work and never stopped—

fixing her house, tending her garden,
building porches, painting ceilings;
climbing on ladders, rafters, scaffolding, even

into her seventies. When she finally decided
to move to the nursing home, she ordered
a motorized wheelchair, in which she became

unstoppable, even if another–slower–
resident got in her way. And when she turned 104,
she proved every day that she didn’t get that far

by being weak-willed. (Move that. Stand there. Stop
talking so loud. My hearing is fine.)
Visiting
Buford was less an act of non-anxious

presence, and always more of an exercise
in following orders. Yet, one time, when I brought
my fourteen-week-old daughter to Buford’s room,

and placed her on the worn, yellow bedspread,
Buford stooped over her, as low as she could go.
And as my daughter started swinging

her small soft fists, Buford reached out,
allowing one of those squishy hands to catch her bent
knuckle, and she paused for a moment, letting

her finger be gripped by this other finger,
which had entered the world 103 years
and 10 months after hers. At this,

as flesh met flesh,
I knelt beside the bed
and bowed my head.