You are stronger than you know.

These are the words on my right arm, complete with a tiny butterfly, making up my very first tattoo at the ripe old age of 49. This was a culmination of 20 years of thinking about them, yearning for one, and worrying what people would think if I got one. Gasp! A doctor with a tattoo? Would people see me as an entirely different person? Would they respect me less? Would they still take me seriously? Would I still look good in a short sleeve dress? It went on and on. You know what finally changed my mind and made me stop worrying? I finally realized that life was just too short to have it controlled by what other people think all the time.. Now please understand, this does not apply to all situations. There are some things that you should take into consideration the potential reactions of others. For example, if you are considering running nude into a colony of porcupines or considering lighting someone’s hair on fire or considering throwing your career in the toilet by attacking an administrative official….you know, those kind of things. You should really stop and consider the consequences before doing those….lol

I got that simple tattoo (followed by several others by the way…It is true what they say about getting addicted.) at a time in my life when my level of emotional despair almost had me at the breaking point. My daughter had some very serious health issues and we almost lost her multiple times and I was looking for any spot of hope or strength that I could tangibly sink my teeth into to hang on to. I tried counselling. I tried talking to family. I tried meditation. I tried medication. I felt like I was at the end of my strength rope. Then, it occurred to me that if I could have just a little visual reminder that I could get through this, something just for me that I could focus on whenever I needed to, then maybe everything would be ok. Thus the idea of finally going through the tattoo was born. I put it right on my right forearm too, a place that I had never previously considered because I couldn’t hide it if I needed to. It turned out that it was the perfect spot.

Interestingly, I waited to try to fall apart until after she had recovered. It’s as if my mind realized that it was ok to fall a bit now that the immediate crisis was over. I didn’t even get the tattoo until later and she was actually able to come with me. She helped with the design and the letters and the little butterfly that we added. I am not sure that she fully realized at the time why I was getting it and that was ok. She wanted to be there and I was grateful with my whole heart that she even existed for it to be possible.

Inner strength is a interesting thing. It seems that we can’t even define it without mentioning struggle or pain or brokenness. Maybe that’s is because our finest inner strength seems to emerge from waging mental battle and we can’t think of a battle without using those terms. Inner strength is defined as integrity of character: resoluteness of will; mental resistance to doubt or discouragement. Gandhi said,”Strength does not come from winning. Your struggles develop your strengths. When you go through hardships and decide not to surrender, that is strength. People also talk about strength in terms of not hurting those who hurt you and forgiving those that have. Trent Shelton said,” Never be ashamed about being broken, because strength is nothing but pain that’s been repaired.”

It is interesting to me how inner strength and physical strength are not mutually exclusive. Strength itself is defined as the quality or state of being physically strong or the capacity of an object or substance to withstand great force or pressure. It’s the same word but with a much more literal meaning. The ability to lift a 500 pound dumbbell would qualify you as strong, but it doesn’t guarantee that you could also withstand a crisis situation. I am sure Gandhi could not lift 500 pounds, but his inner strength allowed him to be an anti-colonial nationalist and political ethicist who used nonviolent resistance to lead the successful campaign for India’s independence from British Rule. To me that is much more intrinsically valuable. I am by no means knocking physical strength, and it can be truly awesome to witness. I just think that inner strength is more intrinsically valuable. If I had to pick between Gandhi or Zydrunas Savickas ( 4 time World’s Strongest Man Champion) regarding who I would want in my life corner, I am going to go with Gandhi. Have a fantastic day everybody.

Dr. Katz