There was a lot going on at the time. My whole worldview was slowly being picked apart, piece by agonizing and terrifying piece. All of the rationalizations seemed absurd, the excuses so silly and empty.
The other day, E was at "school" (which basically consists of 2 hours of structured play, because, you know, HE'S ONLY THREE) and he had worked hard to build a castle out of those fake cardboard bricks, only to have a bully come over and knock the whole thing down.
That's kind of what my faith looked like at the time. I had worked so hard to build it, meticulously placing each brick in its proper place and marvelling as the whole thing took shape. Then, it was confronted by the bully of cold, hard reality.
I had the most incredible English teacher in both junior high and my freshmen year of high school named Mrs. Brandenburg. She was passionate about her job and relentless in trying to get us to step out of our middle school awkwardness and actually express ourselves. She was a constant encouragement (like when I first started writing really bad poetry as a tween) and an inspiration to all of us who were lucky enough to have been in class with her. She was the first one to ever encourage me to write something down (I'll let you be the judge of whether or not that was a good idea).
Anyway, Mrs. Brandenburg had a saying that she lived by (and I can't help but think a certain stellar performance by Robin Williams had something to do with this): Carpe Diem. Seize the day. It has always stuck with me for some reason (perhaps as a counterweight to my accursed penchant for egregious procrastination), and it serves as a constant reminder to take advantage of the gift of time we're given.
So there I was, looking at the wreckage and ruin of everything that not-so-long-ago I thought I was certain of. I was looking for peace, but all I could find was a vague promise in an old book:
"Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God."
So I have this saying, Carpe Diem, a saying that has been so often used as justification for all kinds of mindless, self-serving nonsense (I mean, let's be honest, YOLO is just the text-message abbreviation) and hedonistic indulgence. I thought, maybe it would be kind of cool to take it and apply it to something totally counter-cultural, like peacemaking. So I needed some universal symbols of peace that would be easy to recognize.
First, the dove. Duh.
I was raised Pentecostal. The image of the dove as a representation of a certain kind of spiritual peace is a foundational piece of Pentecostal symbology. Pretty sure that one was non-negotiable.
The olive branch is significant as well, from its roots in Roman usage as a symbol of peace. Also, I love the connotations of cultivation that come along with olive branch. To get good olives, you have to work the soil, tend the grove, and pay painstaking attention to the needs of the trees. It takes work, in other words. The two taken together are often seen as a symbol of peace as well, from the conclusion of the flood story to modern appropriations like the symbol of Vets for Peace (a personal favorite of mine).
The process itself ended up with me answering my own question. I was looking for peace, asking "how do I find it?" when all along, the answer was right there in front of me.
In this life, we don't find peace. We have to make it.
So I guess if you ask me what my tattoo means, the short answer is this:
Today is the day to pro-actively make peace.
With ourselves, our pasts, our families, our enemies, our cities, our world.
Wherever we can. Today is the day. Make Peace.