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Posts tagged ‘courage’

Week 34 // The Awakening

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I’ve had a few weeks away from the project with the holidays and other events taking precedence… but am glad to be returning. In week 33, Point of Return, I wrote of the feeling of returning to myself and to life again in a bolder way. And there have certainly been some big events and experiences to come my way since then.

Right away this image made my mind wander into the story of Sleeping Beauty and how its concepts relate to grief. Although this connection wasn’t initially planned, I can’t deny the link. Themes of having something overtake you without warning. Being powerless. Having your life completely interrupted without any say – locked within your experience. And most of all – having parts of yourself that remain asleep within you for years.

It’s been far too cold to photograph myself outside in almost no clothing, so I’ve been forced indoors for a few shots lately. This one was originally shot vertically, looking out my bedroom window. I ran the shower to steam up the room and was experimenting with some shots using the fogged window.

The steam fogged up the glass on my lens initially – creating this lovely creamy effect. After only two shots I wiped the lens clean, shooting the rest clearly, but in the end, I kept coming back to this image. It was weeks before I actually began to understand the story unfolding here. It always amazes me how I may shoot an image and have no idea why or what it’s saying until a future moment when my life catches up to the story of the photo. Which it soon did.

I had a brief romantic encounter over the holidays… the first since my fiancé died. A seemingly ordinary event in anyone else’s life which is made paramount by the situation of being widowed. Now, I have worked very hard over the past two and a half years to separate from that part of myself which knows well and remembers being intimate and vulnerable with a man. It’s a piece of myself that splintered off in the trauma of his death that basically just shut down. And there I have left her all this time, asleep.

I’ve pushed the remembrance of a romantic life so far away that I really can’t even recall what it feels like anymore. And for a time, that has really worked just fine. I’m busy. I’ve got plenty of other things I’m focusing on. Life is generally going well. Easier to just not be able to feel all that. I’ve not even be able to spend time with men as friends for the better part of two years now. It’s only been in the past 6 months or so that being around men in general has become more comfortable for me again.

With that has come a new kind of lonely though. It’s more strongly rooted in wanting someone new than in missing Drew – although I still miss him every day. I can actually feel a desire for someone new now. Largely because I know full well, there are parts of my healing that cannot happen on my own. Healing that can only take place when I open my most vulnerable self to someone new… When I allow someone else to make me laugh the way he did, or hold me tight when I am upset. And also, because after two and a half years, I’m damn sick of not being taken out on dates, or held, or made to feel special in any way. Yeh. A gal gets lonely!

So it’s no surprise to me that this person showed up when they did. Despite knowing it really wasn’t going to go anywhere, and that it was going to be confusing and difficult and upsetting and at some point likely going to hurt like a bitch, I still opened myself to it. I think this is wonderful. Because I could have stayed asleep. I could have said “Nope, I’m not ready to wake up yet.” and just left that part of myself in slumber for however much longer. Left her behind. Safer, protected, but missing out on life. And I didn’t.

And yes, it was all those things – confusing, difficult, upsetting, and it did hurt like a bitch. It hurts to have that part of myself woken up – to remember what it feels like to be in that close space with someone again and then to go our separate ways. But, it was also FUN, really fun. And beautiful to feel it again. And not as difficult as I imagined. I laughed more than I have in ages. I allowed someone to hold me. I allowed myself to be vulnerable and trusting. I learned about another person’s experience of the world. I learned a few things about myself too. I woke up. And for that I am proud. No more sleeping… Life is to be lived. The good, the bad, and all the messy in between.

“Still, Life” is a year-long self portrait series exploring the journey of grief. You can read more about the project in this post. To see the full image gallery visit 2014 PROJECT. Please share with anyone who you feel can relate to the imagery, my hope is that it gives many others a visual for something they are going through in their own lives.

Week 9 // Bleeding The Darkness

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This past week was a struggle for me both personally and creatively. My fiancé’s birthday was over the weekend, which means weeks of riding various emotional waves and traveling to new levels of grief I have not yet been to. It becomes hard for me to create photos when things feel very raw. For that, I often turn to painting or writing. But I had no choice but to push through, I won’t allow myself to skip a single week of this portrait project.

I’ve sat with this image actually for several weeks… mulling it over. Exploring what it means to me. Unsure even about sharing it, perhaps because I have needed to find my own meaning in it first. Often times I don’t have a plan when I go out and shoot, so it can take time before I begin to even know exactly what part of my myself and my grief I am diving into.

This image was certainly one of those, but it began to resonate with me this past week, with his birthday approaching. Those days and weeks leading up to a birthday, an anniversary, a holiday create a special kind of darkness when you have lost your partner, or anyone you loved very dearly. My mornings have been empty, hollow, filled with a vacant weight – not of nothing, but of even less than nothing, the loss of something. Someone. They are the days when you cannot want to get out of bed or eat or get to work or be awake or be asleep. Moments when you feel neither dead or alive, but hollow, and all-consumed by the darkness inside you as if it is bleeding right out of your skin. It is not a part I enjoy being in, nor a part I enjoy sharing particularly. But it IS.

This image is about seeing yourself still standing, even though you do not feel like you are there. Somehow, with all the pain, some part of you  – of all of us – keeps standing. That is what I see here… a part of me that is beaten and broken, the part that is in such pain that it’s bleeding out darkness from her pores. And she is caught in a moment of showing it unapologetically. It is about facing life and truth head on – not because we want to but because we HAVE to, each day.  It is about saying “This is me. This is what my darkness looks like. And I will not apologize for it or hide it away. I will be me, where I am, how I am, as I am.”

Love to you all.

 

If you’re new to this project, you can read more about it in this post.
Please share
 with anyone who you feel can relate to the imagery, my hope is that it gives many others a visual for something they are going through in their own lives.

Juicy Tuesday!

Hello to you creative souls!

I’m super excited to have already gotten the first submission to our monthly blog challenge. I will be keeping you in suspense though until the end of the month to see it – but I will say it has me excited for what else will come! How is everyone doing with their flight-themed artwork? We’re almost halfway through the month now… boy that got here fast! I’m in the works on my piece, still early stages, but excited about where its going!

I’d like to introduce to you Juicy Tuesdays – a once-a-week post that will have some delicious tidbits to keep your creativity flowing on your blog challenge! For today’s juicy bits, I thought I’d share some quotes and poems about flight…

/The Eagle and the Hawk

I am the eagle, I live in high country,
In rocky cathedrals that reach to the sky,
I am the hawk and there’s blood on my feathers,
But time is still turning, they soon will be dry,
And all those who see me, and all who believe in me,
Share in the freedom I feel when I fly!

Come dance with the west wind,
And touch all the mountain tops,
Sail o’er the canyons, and up to the stars,
And reach for the heavens, and hope for the future,
And all that we can be, not what we are.

— John Denver

 

“The secret of flight is this — you have to do it immediately, before your body realizes it is defying the laws.”
― Michael Cunningham

 

/Come to the Edge

Come to the edge.
We might fall.
Come to the edge.
It’s too high!
COME TO THE EDGE!
And they came,
and he pushed,
and they flew.

— Christopher Logue

 

“You wanna fly, you got to give up the shit that weighs you down.”
― Toni MorrisonSong of Solomon

 

“I have come to accept the feeling of not knowing where I am going. And I have trained myself to love it. Because it is only when we are suspended in mid-air with no landing in sight, that we force our wings to unravel and alas begin our flight. And as we fly, we still may not know where we are going to. But the miracle is in the unfolding of the wings. You may not know where you’re going, but you know that so long as you spread your wings, the winds will carry you.”
― C. JoyBell C.

 

/Courage

Courage is the price that Life exacts for granting peace.
The soul that knows it not Knows no release from little things:
Knows not the livid loneliness of fear,
Nor mountain heights where bitter joy can hear
The sound of wings.
How can life grant us boon of living, compensate
For dull gray ugliness and pregnant hate
Unless we dare The soul’s dominion?
Each time we make a choice, we pay
With courage to behold the restless day,
And count it fair.

— Amelia Earhart

 

/Give me the Wings

Give me the wings, magician! So their tune
Mix with the silver trumpets of the Moon,
And, beyond music mounting, clean outrun
The golden diapason of the sun.
There is a secret that the birds are learning
Where the long lanes in heaven have a turning
And no man yet has followed: therefore these
Laugh hauntingly across our usual seas.
I’ll not be mocked by curlews in the sky;
Give me the wings, magician, or I die.

— Humbert Wolfe

 

“Once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been, and there you will always long to return.”
― Leonardo da Vinci

 

Painting Credit: Brad Stroman’s “Hawk Passing” painting in acrylic on board, from Gallery MAR.

What I know About Fear – Part 2

Firstly, I have to thank you all for the wonderful responses to my last post – Part 1 on Fear! I have been blown away by the positive response… particularly because this was a vulnerable post to share. I found myself immediately wanting to take it down, totally unsure of what the response would be! Yup, I was… what’s that word? Afraid! ;) All of your comments have really proven to me that is was worth putting out there though. So thank you!

In the first part of this series on fear, I told you a bit of my personal history with fear and how it has evolved through the years and through experiences that life has brought me. In this post, I want to share some of the things I’ve learned about fear just specifically in the past 4 months since losing Andrew.

Having had to face one overwhelming fear after another in the past months has given me a perspective I did not have before all this happened. The funeral arrangements, the viewing, the funeral, designing the headstone, going back to Dallas to clean out his apartment, trying to go back to work, deciding not to go back to work, packing up my cats and a carload of stuff and saying goodbye to the city we called home, packing my apartment (that part is still in progress, I decided to make a slow move to it wouldn’t be quite to overwhelming, still is), birthdays and holidays without him… every single huge, unthinkable, insurmountable task screamed “this shouldn’t be happening. This is wrong.” And each of those things feels like a ladder that reaches up into space that must be climbed. Hell, even a normal day sometimes feels like that still. But I did discover something of value in each and every one of those steps…

I discovered first-hand that human spirit is a remarkable thing. We can withstand absolutely incredible amounts of trauma and pain… far more than we ever truly know until it happens to us. I am dumb-founded still as to how I manage to get out of bed everyday and find some level of joy somewhere in that day. Some days are better than others, of course. As each painful task or event comes, I think that surely I will drown in the pain of it – or get halfway up that ladder into space and slip and fall. Aside from the overall living with this loss, speaking at his funeral was the hardest thing I will probably ever do in my entire lifetime on this earth. It was at his family’s church, the church where I sat by his side for Christmas service the last 3 years. The service was horrible and beautiful all at the same time. I remember afterwards so many people coming up to me and saying how much grace and poise I had and just how beautiful my words were and how it helped them… and I remember how odd it felt to be complimented for such a thing. I felt proud, that I made him proud, but what a horrible thing to even have to feel proud over. I knew, no one could even imagine how I ever got up there to speak. I couldn’t either, to be honest. All I knew was that in my mind, it wasn’t a choice. It wasn’t about being brave or having guts, it was about doing the right thing. If anyone on this earth was going to speak about the man I love and what our life together meant, it was going to be me. He deserved that – and it didn’t matter how scared I was. He would have done the same for me, this I know, and so fear didn’t matter. And that was just it – something in my life became more important than fear in that moment.

I found out what happens when a thing becomes bigger than your fear. This is a big deal in moving forward with anything in our lives… something has to mean enough to you, so much, that the fear doesn’t matter anymore. In fact, it has me looking back at many times in my life when this very idea lead to positive changes that had been waiting in the shadow of fear. It has me thinking back to when Drew and I first started dating… I’d been in a bad relationship before and was terrified to date again. But he was my best friend, and eventually over time, the idea of building more with him became bigger than my fear of a bad relationship, and I let go. That was definitely the best decision I ever made, as it led to a more beautiful relationship than either of us had ever imagined. And today, choosing a new direction in my life, a new career path, the desire for change finally became bigger than the fear. The fear is still there, and I still feel it, but it doesn’t matter anymore. Because now I want something enough that fear is not going to stop me. There will be hard days still, many hard days to come, but I will still stay committed.

I have learned to feel afraid and do it anyway. We learn through loss that today is all we have. We might as well fill it with the experiences and people that we love most. Fill it with our most authentic selves – whether that is joy or sadness or anger or love. Say yes only to the things that feel right with our souls or bring us joy today. Do things that truly matter to us and help others. And do things we are afraid to do, things we’ve never done before, with the perspective that we’d rather fail on a new adventure than succeed on a path we’ve already walked before. And also be honest with ourselves – truly, bluntly honest, about the things that fit into that life. Deep down, we really always do know what works and what doesn’t.. it just gets buried.

I want to feel life, not just live it out. And fear is just a feeling, one of many. It’s not a pit of lava or a thousand bullets or a raging bull charging at me… it is just a feeling. It is a natural feeling to anything new… and it will come. I think I’d rather it come over something important and meaningful than over something mediocre that my heart is not on fire for.

I have learned to sit with my fears. Our fears have the best of intentions. They believe they are protecting us from scary or dangerous things in this world. And sometimes they actually are. But other times, they overreact and hinder us. I’ve learned that it’s important to acknowledge fears, and to take the time to sit with them and see what they are really trying to say to me. Having lost both of my parents and now the person I was going to build a future with, I’m very afraid of losing people – and I probably always will be to some extent, but I know this, and so when it comes I try to listen to make sure I have the support from myself and others that I need. My fears about financial security are a big one too, especially now that I’m working to follow my dreams of being a self employed artist. I’ve had a stable job since I was 17, so of course I’m going to feel fear about trying to change that. That fear must be listened to also, and reminded that I have always landed on my feet in the past, and even though we’re trying things in a totally new and scary way, I will not let anything bad happen. I am in charge, and I can be trusted (or trust myself) to make the right choices. And with that, the fears can relax. They can be like small children that way, fears… sometimes all they need is a little reassurance that it’s all going to be okay.

_________

So now, I have a part time job at an art gallery that barely pays for my gas money. But I love my boss and coworkers – and I get to be surrounded by great art, learn about talented local artists, and meet new people each day. I can feel Drew’s spirit beaming to know that I am here. I’m staying with his folks for now, quite possibly the first time in my life I have ever truly let my guard down and just allowed people to help me, really help me, to get somewhere new in my life… and am grateful each day for their support. And the rest of the time I am feeling life… the joy, the horrible pain of grief, the anger, the love, the beauty. I’m writing and painting and reading and sharing… I’m crying and trying and exploring and falling down and getting back up and figuring out this new path I am on. It’s kind of messy, I will say, but there it is.

As I look back, I think about where I was a few months ago… completely petrified with making the decision to quit my corporate job, leave Dallas and commit to this big idea. Barely even eating I was so freaked out. It was the scariest and saddest and most immense decision I’ve ever made – but it’s also been the most healing thing I probably could have done for myself right now. Every day I am glad I didn’t allow my fears to get in the way of making this change… even if I have no idea where I’m going yet.

***

I’m curious to know… is there something big in your life you have always feared? Are you still fearing it now, and is it holding you back? Or have you found something bigger than your fear that helped you to move through it? I would love to hear about other people’s experiences with fear, particularly relating to your dreams and making them happen!

What I know About Fear – Part One

This post has actually become so gigantic that I’ve decided to separate it into two parts! My goodness, that’s a lot of fear Sarah! True true, but I hope you will find a lot of nuggets in my long-windedness. So here is part one….

I have been thinking a bit about fears this past week in relation to living the life of our dreams. We’ve all heard the question “what would you do if you knew you could not fail?”. I remember trying to answer this question in the past… and I was always wishy-washy. Really, I didn’t even know what I would want to do. That’s a lie. I did know, I’ve always known. I’ve known since I was probably 5 years old. I want to be an artist. I want to make beautiful things and inspire others to do the same. This is me… quite simple. But it has taken a cataclysm in my personal life for me to see it and get true about it.

My own History with Fear
I’ve spent most of my adult life being pretty cloudy about what I want because of fear. It came from the fear that I am not worthy of living my dreams… that I do not deserve to live the life I truly want. And so, whenever asked that question, my answer was always some sort of compromised not-so-bold version of the real answer. Looking back now, I realize that I truly did NOT believe it was possible. And since I didn’t believe that I could have it or that I deserved it, I got in the way of my own voice a lot (and seriously did not even know I was doing it!). I imagine this is what many people struggle with… the believing a thing is possible for us and that we deserve to have it.

In the 3 years I spent with my fiancé, a lot changed about how I see myself and my relationship to fear. We both saw what each other was capable of, and we were always encouraging each other to follow our dreams and be our best selves. In doing so, we both went out of our comfort zones, faced a lot of fears, took a lot of chances and learned a whole lot of new stuff. He got me to shoot guns and go skydiving – and I love both! I got him to take dance lessons, dress up for a cheesy 80’s night concerts and a myriad of other ridiculous things that put him completely out of his comfort zone as a calm, reserved, small town guy. He was the one who bought me my camera, and was my photo assistant to every intimidating photo job I went on. He read every blog post enthusiastically and brainstormed on each art project with me (in fact, quite a few of my 12 month projects from last year were his ideas… including the Reclaimed Window Coffee Table, and the Ukrainian Egg Survival Kit). I played the part of flight student as he practiced hours and hours of lesson plans on everything from the the mechanics of a helicopter to aerodynamics. We each knew the other was capable of achieving our greatest dreams (even if we didn’t always believe it for ourselves) and it showed in how we made space for those dreams to grow.

Replacing Fear with Excitement
With him at my side, I learned to replace the fear of what might go wrong with the excitement of what is possible. That has been a huge shift. I started and successfully completed last year’s 12 months of creativity (which in turn lead to the creation of this blog!), I took a welding class, I started up and organized a wonderful creative group in Dallas – one which is still living on even now that I have moved out of town. None of these things were ever things I’d done before, and they all brought with them fears of their own kind. But what I found as I began to take small steps towards my dreams was that the rewards always greatly outweighed whatever fears I’d had – every time. Hands down.

Facing Fears far Bigger
Losing Drew was like the universe hitting the reset button… only I NEVER asked for a do-over. The life I had was the one I wanted. I’m now faced with years of learning how to live again and a lifetime of grieving his loss. This thought alone… this idea that it will take years to feel even halfway normal again, and that I will cry for him for the rest of my life, has scared the shit out of me. Along with the fear that I will never be able to fall in love with anyone again – that I will always be looking for him. In the first couple of months, I was terrified that I would not even survive this… that I would become some shell of a person that turned bitter and hard because of so much awful in her life. So far, thankfully at least that fear has not come true.

Fear, Passion and Creativity
To attempt to move forward in a way that would make Drew proud and keep me sane… I talk (and write) to everyone I can about what I’m going through, and spend a lot of time nurturing myself – so that I never feel alone and always feel taken care of. I spend as much time as possible living in the present, because living in the past or future is too scary and painful to go into for very long. And I make art. I paint, write, photograph, build, sketch, design, read, and brainstorm. I fill my days with as much creativity as I can. It used to be something fun to do, but now it has become vital. When I am creating or even thinking about creating, I’m able to replace all my fears with excitement again. I’m able to fully feel all my emotions there – both the good and the bad – without the fear.

I now realize that art is to me what flying was to Drew. The first time he flew a helicopter, he wrote that he could not imagine doing anything else with his life. And now I understand that feeling. Art is my lifeblood and the thing I was put on this earth to do. There is something beautiful in being able to experience that level of passion. Now I know – when I am totally lost in creativity – what flying felt like for him. It is like getting to experience a piece of him I never knew before – and maybe even a piece of myself I never knew before, too. This is a gift I am grateful for every day.

How one fear Helped Another
So as I’m writing all this out, I’m realizing that my new set of fears – these much bigger fears – have made all my old fears obsolete for the most part. Comparatively, the old fears about not being worthy and not believing I can live the life I want seem pointless to even be concerned with any longer… particularly when my mindset now is that today is all I have. I know I’m worthy of having the life I want to have, because I am living it every day now instead of waiting and hoping and planning for it. No, it’s not the life I wanted and dreamed of… it’s not the life I planned with him, but in this present moment, with what I have to work with right here, right now, I am living each day uncompromised and I am following my heart. I have made the choices yesterday that put me where I decided I wanted to be today, and I will do that today for tomorrow. The rest of it… is all faith. But I will way this, I 100% believe that living our dreams is possible now… even if I am nowhere close to being a successful artist myself, i know it will happen. and I know that there is more than enough room for all of us to do so.

To be continue…..

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