I got that tattoo, my 14th for anyone who is keeping tabs, in my mum’s handwriting on my last evening as a 31 year old.
Whenever I tell someone that I have 13 – well now 14 – tattoos, their reaction is usually along the lines of:
Now that I think about it, “how many tattoos can you find?” can be a fun game to play during first time sex with someone. But, I digress.
ntltc stands for no tears left to cry and it is the first song Ariana Grande released following the bombing at her concert at Manchester Arena during her Dangerous Woman Tour in May 2017.
I know I write about Ari quite a bit but I am just such a fan of hers because:
- Her music is just sooo good. I have been a fan since 2013 when she released The Way, the lead single from her debut album, featuring her late ex-boyfriend Mac Miller.
- She is the teeniest tiniest thing but she has such BDE. Damn Ari can absolutely gerrrit!
But while I have enjoyed her music over the years (Side to Side is a particular favourite of mine and was my “Song of 2016”) it was not until no tears left to cry that I became a full-fledged Arianator. Though you are probably surprised at just how much I love the song for me to get a tattoo of it. You are also probably thinking it was not very prudent of me to get the tattoo when there is so much more heartache, loss and tears that life will throw my way.
But, here is the thing. We (Ari and I, lol) are not literally saying ati we have no tears left to cry:
She put up that darkly humorous tweet not long after the death of Mac Miller and the end of her engagement to Pete Davidson. So obviously we (Ari and I, lol) are aware that we have all the tears left to cry.
no tears left to cry was released on 420 last year, approximately a month away from the one year anniversary of the Manchester attack, and it is about finding the strength to carry on after hardship. In the article accompanying her August American Vogue cover the writer described it as “a dance-floor hymn to optimism in the face of catastrophe.”
I have said many times before that 2018 was the hardest year of my life. Learning to exist in a world without the love of my life seemed like such an insurmountable request the universe had made of me. But one day I was listening to no tears left to cry and I understood what emotion she is healing from in the song – utter grief. The attack left 22 concert-goers and parents who were in the entrance waiting to pick up their children following the show dead, the youngest victim being an 8 year old girl.
Not long after that realisation I did some research on the song and as per Wikipedia:
Grande wanted her first single since the bombing to be hopeful and touch on the incident, but not dwell on it. The song came about when she said, “I want it to be positive and talk about positivity and love. I don’t have any tears left to cry.” … Grande was also adamant for it to start as a ballad and then become uptempo like Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive” … Regarding the song, Grande said she hopes it brings light and comfort, “but also makes you wanna dance and live ya best life!”
And boy did I dance! I would play the song real loud and sing along even louder and for 3 minutes and 26 seconds I would feel the suffocating cloud of grief lift to make way for exuberance. As Taylor Swift (another artist I write about quite a bit) said in an op-ed for Elle Magazine earlier in the year:
It’s this alliance between a song and our memories of the times it helped us heal, or made us cry, dance, or escape that truly stands the test of time.
I first wrote about no tears left to cry as part of my 31 on 13 challenge last year. On October 12, 2018 I saw a therapist for the second time that year after I realised that I was really struggling with the anniversaries of my mum’s death. I had to admit to myself that being high was a state of mind I wanted to be in all the time but it was not doing me any favours. My therapist helped me realise that my unhealthy ways of coping with my grief were making my mum sad and for both our sakes I needed to choose healthy outlets instead. The next day I decided to embark on writing 31 creative writing posts by the end of the year (hence the 31 on 13) as a healthy outlet for my grief.
That was a massive goal (that I smashed, obvs) and it is easily why June 3, 2019 was the day I put up my 100th post on Lwile the Leo.
Granted 31 (there goes that number again) of the 100 posts were book posts but hey, semantics. 100 posts is a major milestone and I am proud of myself for the discipline I have to consistently put up a creative writing post every Wednesday.
That day was also when I learnt that Bett reads my blog and I lost all chill.
I met Bett at Creative Writing Masterclass XII as she teaches it together with Biko and she is someone I greatly admire. So for her to say that she reads my blog made me lose my shit.
Quick aside, before the Masterclass we did not know that Bett is female so me and a few other members of the class were flirting with “him” in the initial email correspondence. “He” was witty, funny and clever so I showed up to class on the first day ready to meet my future bae.
But, I digress.
As you can see from the no tears left to cry post I put up last year, I decided to take a kush break because the weed and my anxiety were not mixing well. After an almost eight week break I got back on kush around Christmas time and below is a note I wrote on December 23, 2018.
That day was exactly one year from when we buried my mum the previous year and I had to have a hard conversation with myself. I smoked around 12 blunts in 3 days, which probably is not much to people like Snoop who smoke sijui 70+ blunts in a day 😐
Christmas is my favourite day of the year, even more than my birthday believe it or not. Last year was essentially the first Christmas without my mum because in 2017 we got back to Nairobi from the burial upcountry on Christmas Eve and I did not have the time or energy to process the loss. Christmas 2018 was when I really felt the loss of my mother and so I made the decision that day, one year after we buried my mum, to get the ntltc tattoo.
I originally wanted the tatt in Ari’s handwriting so I DMd her on Instagram on the same but of course she never replied. Lol. So obviously the next best thing was to get the tatt in my mum’s handwriting. Lol.
This is the second tatt in my mum’s handwriting, the first being “I Love You” on my middle finger. I chose to place it on the middle finger of my left hand because that is where an engagement ring typically goes. That way I am also able to keep my ring finger free for matching tatts with my husband … yes I am sentimental AF. The last time she wrote “I Love You” as is and I just gave it to the tattoo artist to work with. But this time I had to work on the script myself. I found an old notebook of hers and I had to scrutinise the letters myself to look for the perfect n, t, l and c and as you can imagine it was just so painful to study her handwriting like that. Which is why I put off looking for a notebook of hers for as long as I could because I was just not ready to look at my mum’s handwriting.
I may have found the strength to carry on after hardship but this grief stuff is hard AF. The other week a colleague of mine asked to borrow my Parents magazine for a bit and I had to explain to him that I do not give it out. My mum’s favourite thing about my job was probably that I get some magazines for free and Parents was her favourite. I remember in 2014 when I was on leave she made me go to the office to pick up the mags because she was not going to wait for me to resume work two weeks later to read them. She also did not like anyone but her opening the magazines (I wonder where I get that from …) and so till now I am unable to open them. They sit in a pile on my TV stand and I do not quite know what to do with them because I still feel that they belong to my mum.
Another example, last Sunday I was catching up on the final season of Jane the Virgin and it had me deep in my feelings because my mum absolutely loved the show. She was #teamRafael (rolls eyes) and whenever we could we would watch the latest episode together. I would have given anything to be able to watch the series finale with her, so what I did was I put her photo next to me on the couch to create the illusion that we were watching it together. Yes I know that is corny AF but unless you have lost someone dear to you, you probably will not get how important and necessary that corny AF shit was to me.
I can single out no tears left to cry as the song that helped heal my heart and kick-start this wave of happiness, positivity and exuberance that I am currently riding. Which is why this teeny tiny (just like Ari) 14th tattoo is definitely one of my favourites.
5 thoughts on “N Is For ntltc”
I love love love this I have been waiting to read it since my watched your insta story. The greatest lesson I am learning from you is to not hide your grief in let it out find a way to let it out(in a healthy way🙈) so thank you for your posts every Wednesday they give me life!!
Ooopsy typo since i**
Aaaaw. Thanks babe 😘😘😘
You are so Brave in so many ways, I am usually one of those silent readers , absolutely love your articles btw & #TeamRafael all the way😍 still in season 3 , no spoilers but am lowkey hoping #TeamJane+Rafael😍😍
Aaaaaw. Thank you 😘
And sawa, no spoilers 🤐