The things that can’t be undone

Last week I was driving down the street when three young women came out of a cafe in the middle of the afternoon. They were dressed in a manner that indicated they wanted to be perceived a certain way: dyed black hair, short kilts with knee socks, heavy chains around their necks, ripped t-shirts with (presumably) goth phrases I don’t understand.

Ever the armchair anthropologist, I continued to observe them while I sat at a stoplight. They walked toward a rusty old sedan and turned to get in. The girl getting in the back seat had a skirt so short you could see the tattoo across the back of both thighs reading “See you in hell”.

Oh honey, I thought as the light turned green.


For a while I toyed with the idea of a tattoo, but I never wanted one enough to commit to it. While I’m sure I could have come up with something subtle enough to have been appropriate, and I’ve seen lots of lovely tattoos on other people, part of me rebelled against having something that would follow me around the rest of my life.

Not only would I be committing to an image, I’d be committing to be a certain kind of person – the kind of person who had that particular tattoo.

I’ve always been scared of the things that can’t be undone. And as much as we’re told that there’s nothing that can’t be undone – tattoos can be removed, promises can be broken, choices can be changed – the truth is everything leaves scars.

Perhaps that was why I dated so little in my younger adulthood: I knew I wasn’t ready for serious commitment, and none of the people I met made me want to change myself or my life. So why would I move myself into a relationship that was going to wound me (would change me be a more neutral term?) if I could just as easily stay the way I was.

On my best days I think this is a virtue, but the other side of prudence is fear. It’s the same fear that kept me from writing, that still keeps me from writing, because what I put out there can’t be reined back it.  I’ve never had this problem with speech. Writing feels much more permanent.

I don’t regret anything I’ve done, and that’s a good feeling. I also don’t regret anything I haven’t done. But I need to stay on my guard, being sure I don’t avoid risks just because I’m afraid of what scars they might leave.

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5 Responses to The things that can’t be undone

  1. Don Sartain says:

    Thanks for sharing. That’s something I really struggle with now, too. It feels like I’ve been burned so many times in life that I don’t want to take the chance of getting burned again. The problem is that when I look back, I don’t see the fires of hell burning me, I see the refining fire molding and shaping me. Yet, I’m still so wary of walking into the fire that I know is good for me, because refining fire still burns. But God is faithful to sustain, and nothing comes to us without being filtered through his sovereign, loving fatherly hands.

  2. You continue to amaze and inspire. Lost love leaves, very, very often, indelible scars. I know this to be true of me, and I relish the scars. Those that are mental are cherished, Those that fade physically are renewed by my hand, without regret. I have often wanted to replace the latter behavior with tattooing, but (silly as it seems) that would preclude me for quite a while in donating blood here in the crazy state of NY. Keep writing Margaret.

  3. Donald Kolenda says:

    A nice post. I appreciate your vulnerability. I shared this with my daughter.

  4. Renee says:

    We’re they all dressed alike. It is funny how we all conform in our non-conformity as young adults.

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