Five Days Later a.k.a 10 Reasons to Get My First Tattoo for Pulse

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#1 – The cost of the tattoo is donated to the One Orlando fund.

#2 – The pain I feel under the needle will serve as a reminder of the pain the victims and their families are going through. And as I feel that short term pain I will remember how blessed I am to not be suffering their fate.

#3 – The pulse line etched into my skin will remind me that every day I wake up with a pulse is a blessing.

#4 – The rainbow will remind me not to judge or be biased towards someone or a group of people because they live differently from me.

#5 – The rainbow will remind me to be brave and dedicated enough to live my authentic life.

#6 – The rainbow will remind me that love is love is love is love.

#7 – It will remind me of how I feel in this moment. It will remind me that there needs to be change in this country and I can be a part of that.

#8 – When, and if, my kids ask about the tattoo on my ribs I can tell them about this week. I can tell them that there is great evil in this world, but there is also great good. And beyond that simple fact, every day we wake up with a pulse we have a choice to choose love. I look forward to telling my children that they have that choice.

#9 –  “You realize, don’t you, that you are the temple of God, and God himself is present in you? No one will get by with vandalizing God’s temple, you can be sure of that. God’s temple is scared – and you, remember, are the temple.” – 1 Corinthians 3:16-17

This scripture is the one most church kids hear as the argument against tattoos. ‘Your body is a temple’ is drilled into your brain to cover a whole manner of sins. Yet as I’ve prayed about this decision I’ve come to the conclusion that this scripture essentially boils down to respecting your body and using it to honor God. Well, If God is love and that is his main attribute I am striving to emulate – then this tattoo, which to me will be a permanent reminder to choose love, will in turn be a permanent reminder to choose Him.

#10 – Choosing to get this tattoo at this time will remind me of how capable Orlando and the world is to come together and choose love.

 

                Those are my reasons, and I don’t think I’ll ever regret this decision (a year on and I love my tattoo). Besides, if this time has proved anything it’s that we never know when our time is done. And when it is our bodies will fade into nothing, so it might as well stand for love while it’s here.

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Four Days After (Pulse Reflections)

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I think I am okay. That is until on the way home from a long shift construction on the I-4 inadvertently sends me right past Pulse’s front door. The sirens still blare in the distance and the FBI trucks are still sprinkled down Orange Ave. Another detour pushes me past the memorial at Orlando Health. Victims of the terror still lay in beds within the hospital walls fighting for their lives. Only a day ago I stood outside the Dr Phillips Center at a memorial and listened to the names of the 49 dead called from a list to be followed by 49 rings of church bells. 49 sounds like a lot of names and it is, but when each one was being read slowly and carefully it felt like an infinite number. And each ring of the bell felt like squeezing a lemon on deep cuts that couldn’t be seen.

I held a candle up in the dark, after the role call and after the bell tolls, in silence and solidarity. I thought that was enough. That I was okay. I thought my crying fit in the shower was the last one. However at 1am as I drive past Orlando Health and see all the candles lit by the Emergency entrance I see something else. By those candles an elderly woman is on her knees praying. I can see the sag in her back and the whiteness of her knuckles. And upon seeing her, despite telling myself I am okay, the sobs erupt from my chest. And as I slam my hand into the cold, leather ridges of my steering wheel I know I’ve been lying to myself.

I’m not okay.

 

Two Days After (Pulse Reflections)

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In the light of the Manchester bombing, I’ve decided to continue posting my initial reactions from the Pulse attack. As a city, we are approaching the one year anniversary of the Pulse massacre. I can hardly believe it’s been a year since 49 lives were taken from us in an act of hatred. However, I believe it’s important to discuss the pain, devastation and eventual healing that comes from being a witness to such an event. My hope is that sharing these thoughts will continue to foster empathy and connection. Until we connect with our fellow humans, of all races, creed, colors, political affiliations and ages, we will continue to experience tragedies like the Pulse shooting and the Manchester bombing.

It’s up to us to connect to one another with love, kindness and understanding.

As a resident of Orlando and a Leeds Lass, I stand with you Manchester. You are not alone, and you will see a brighter day. I promise.

 

Two Days After

I feel lost. As though I want to sink into a hole and stay there. I feel guilty for feeling this way as none of my friends were hurt or injured in the attack. Meanwhile 49 families have spent the last two days experiencing a pain so severe I cannot imagine. They’ve felt their world shatter as the name of their loved one appeared on that list.

I’ve been lucky enough to not go through that horror, but I can’t shake the feeling that I could have been there. I can’t stop seeing my memories of Pulse play over and over again in my head. I can see that stage, the dancers, that tiny hallway that led to the bathroom as music vibrated through my chest. Then I see the bathroom, with its sign saying ‘only one person in a stall at a time.’ I think about the female bathroom. My brain focuses on how that space was a sanctuary of calm between the crazy spurts of sweat, dance and drink.

I think about the victims crammed in a space that I had found respite in many times – a place where they were held hostage – where they waited to die – where they texted their families messages of love – and my heart splinters into irreparable pieces.

I’m angry. I’m furious that this atrocity of a thing happened in my backyard. But more than that I’m angry that it happened in one of the environments I’m the happiest. When I dance and drink in clubs with lights illuminating a concoction of faces and sweat sticking to my skin I feel the most like me. I feel free, confident and dare I say, joyful. And to think that in a moment like that, in seconds of pure free existence, lives that loved those moments the same way I do were taken is unfathomable to me.

God, then I focus on how brave they were. They had the courage to be themselves and to love who they wanted to love. Beyond that they were in a place that accepted them completely. And when I think of how their lives were taken, in the most cowardly way, in a place where they were brave and felt at home, I can’t breathe.

I can’t accept it. I can’t know that you can be killed for being courageous enough to be fully you – because if courage, honesty and love is met with death, how am I supposed to believe in a good world?

 

 

 

Dear Manchester

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As Orlando comes up on the anniversary of the Pulse shooting, an event that shattered the hearts of so many in this city only to have us unify to piece those hearts back together through community and love, what’s happening in Manchester is eerily similar. I know how much you are all hurting right now, for those who died your lives were taken too soon, for those that survived the questions, pain and guilt of surviving is overwhelming and for the residents of the city you wonder how this could ever happen in your home.

Let me tell you this, your home will never be the same: don’t expect it to be. You will feel the aftershocks of this tragedy, emotionally, politically and literally for weeks and months to come. You will walk past that arena and feel your heart break all over again. You will see the world move on and feel angry that they do not feel the devastation you are feeling. Your city will forever be marked by this.

However, my dear Manchester – my dear mother country – remember this; because of this horror, you will become more capable of love, of compassion, of kindness and of connection then you ever thought possible.

You’re already doing it, with free taxis, hotels, homeless heroes, food and blood given to the recovering kids. But more than this when you see someone hurting you will be there. You will hug strangers and listen to their stories. You will pray and cry like you never have before. Your love, displayed in the smallest of actions, will silence the hate that was intended.

Remember those you lost. Love for them. Live to honour them. Everyday, take them with you and be the future that was taken from them.

You will never be the same. Orlando has never been the same, yet our community has never been stronger. I promise you will heal, you will grow and you will love. And as you do, those you lost will live on forever.