Once I took flight, the stress of planning shit disappeared. I landed a few hours later into a warm and rainy South. When you walk through an airport listening to Kendrick, you feel on fire. If you choose Frank Ocean, everything feels nostalgic. I chose Channel Orange and headed to baggage claim. My first client of this trip was waiting for me!

Heather is a mom to four: triplets and then one for good measure. She works on the 31st floor of a building in downtown Birmingham. I quickly remembered her Southern charm tempers an intimidating mind.


When you sit with people for hours, you don’t just absorb their stories, you pick up on nuance. Little, personalized ways of communicating. Sure, it gives me tools to helps with pain management, but it’s more than that. When coupled with a backstory, you start to get a feel for the person.

I’ve read that a gestalt therapist (with somatic education) has the ability to observe a person walking and pick up on signs of pain, medical issues, depression, anxiety, and so on. They’ve connected experiential psychotherapy with adult movement patterns. It’s an extra tool used to pull more information. The more accurate the context, the more fitting we can empathize.

As a tattooer, we tend to get more time with people than most other professions. If we let ourselves, we can pick up on so much. And even be part of a healing process.

It’s seeing someone deeply and asking questions instead of acting like you understand. “What did I miss?”

And then, we tend to open up even more. We sense safety if it’s present, and we lean in.


When I first met her she was nervous about running her first 10k. Now she’s running ultra marathons. Of course she is.

We catch up and I got to meet her partner. His eyes squint when he smiles and I’m certain they match hers somehow. He’s just as sweet as he is weathered. They run together and that’s adorable. 

After setting up, we went to take pictures of her healed tattoos and I noticed something.

She was reticent to take her shirt off.

It melted me. Because I remember otherwise. I remember how clinical the process was and usually is.

When using the word “abandon” within the context of property, it means to give up with the intent of never again claiming a right or interest in.

Most women tend to reveal their scarring with that sort of abandon.

We finished the photo session and I felt safe to comment on what I had noticed. She smiled and responded, “these weren’t mine before... but now they are.”

I tend to cry, so whatever, I cried. :)

They told me more about their lives together and I didn’t want to respond with anything related to myself, I was lucky to soak it up. Being privy to any life is the most beautiful gift.

It was all so quick. We got some great photos and being able to see behind the scenes is proving to add so much more to these stories.

Now I need ramen and a little bit of sleep before I get up at 3am for a redeye to Houston!


If empathy grows with acceptance, it seems transparency gives even more to embrace.