Health & Happiness

I can still remember the searing pain – a heat so intense that even my breath was struggling to support my presence. I was nearly finished. We were almost there. But I was also nearly finished, SPENT. It was a race to the finish line. 


I’d received a few tattoos before but none took me to the brink of this new cliff. And, looking back, none bore such an urgency to remember. I’ve learned we humans can do just about anything when we see and feel the value in its course. And clearly this one HAD to have value if I was enduring this much discomfort. 


The tattoos I’m referencing are the words HEALTH & HAPPINESS lining the spine of my index fingers. For those who understand physiology AND tattoos, I can feel you cringing right along with me. For those who don’t yet know, it’s an area ripe with over 3000 nerves in the fingertips alone. So, it is fair to ask me – ARE YOU CRAZY to get a tattoo on your fingers?


My short answer is NO – but crazy experiences DID lead me to the decision to RECLAIM these powerful gifts – the words tattooed on my fingers as constant and loving reminders that they are indeed MINE and that I have a choice to share them or keep them as I see fit, especially when my old experiences might whisper otherwise.


PolyVagal Theory

There’s a ton of emerging science around body trauma healing which couldn’t delight me more. In particular, Stephen Porges PolyVagal Theory combined with the plethora of theories on attachment. Now, just wait, don’t leave yet. I promise the point is coming just around this bend.


In short – the PVT surmises that our nervous system is constantly surveying for cues of safety or threat to our survival and happiness. If it turns out that our more authentic self suddenly becomes a threat to our relationships – like, when I am sad or angry or even happy, my people pull away, we might give up our authentic responses and happiness for the safety of someone staying – their happiness might become more important than our happiness.  


In my personal journey, I realized this was part of my truth from a variety of my relationships. As you might guess, it was quite difficult to see BUT also deeply empowering. As a kiddo I had much less choice over this priority – I needed to choose safety over authenticity. But as an adult, being gifted the needed time, space and support, I could learn to come home to my authentic self, health and happiness. 


And, for those on the journey of change – we know this rewiring of the body and mind doesn’t happen overnight. SO, tattooing these words on my fingers were not only needed but have been pivotal supports of energy, comfort and compassion when my unprocessed events might challenge me otherwise.


As Bessel Van Der Kolk shares – the body keeps the score – I implore to you, healing takes time. And just because we have a revelation doesn’t mean the next day our body is on the same page. BUT it does mean we have suddenly become attuned to something new and THAT calls attention to our body in a whole new way facilitating the possibility of change and growth with some consistent nurturance.  It is less about outcome and more about effort.


So, after all this – what’s the rub? How might I define happiness? One might assume if Gabby gave up her happiness all these years to attain safety of closeness, she might only care about her happiness. There would be some logic in this assumption and gratefully I share you are only HALF right. In coming home to my happiness I realized, I didn’t want to give up making others happy to attain my happiness. More, it was how can we BOTH feel happy. 


And that’s bliss for me folks. Finding a dignifiable middle ground where BOTH parties feel respected. 


The ironic part is from an adult lense, that is ALSO where safety now lies for me.



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