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The Dance

Portrait_No39

As I continue in this direction with hands I keep being drawn to… I have found myself suddenly at a powerful intersection of both my work and my life. Since the earliest days of the “Still, Life” series, I have held this image in my heart. It was always meant to be a continuation of the stories told in Hope and Desperation (below). It first came to me at a time when I was seeing a variety of images that included a second figure… a man. Some of these images were meant to speak of a connection to my late-fiance in the spiritual realm, while others were meant to speak of someone else… someone new. I decided hiring a male friend just to capture these stories wouldn’t work. It needed to be real. It needed to actually be the next man in my life. And without even a remote glimpse and no feeling of even desiring someone new yet, I put these ideas aside to wait patiently for that day to come.

hope&desperation

And here we are, arriving at the day this image finally came to be. It is precisely what I imagined for all those many months… except for one thing: the story on the other end. That I could have never known.

The Dance depicts a meeting of souls. That pivotal moment in time when two paths cross in the darkness and a bond is formed. It is the story of brothers, of sisters, of soulmates and friends… each has met desperation and hope in their own way – making them unafraid to see one another in the darkness. In this way, something very powerful and solid is created from the dark places inside us. Such meetings are sacred. For it is the darkness that bonds us to one another in ways we cannot ever bond in the light. It is the tests and trials found here that reveal the truth of a person’s character, integrity, and loyalty. It is the place that changes us, and the place that unites us.

There is something I cannot describe as anything but magic when I think about this image. To have spent so much time with this visual in my head and heart – with no idea when I would ever meet this person or be able to create it – and to now see it made real. And not only to see it, but to now know both stories. To know now what I didn’t know a year ago – that this man’s story would end up being just as important as my own story to the shot.

This soul, who I didn’t even know existed just 4 months ago, matches my own dark journey in a way I could have never imagined. A way I will always wish didn’t exist… because he also endured the death of his love. His beautiful, bright-shining, courageous wife of twelve years. To an agonizing long-term illness. A journey very different to my own sudden loss, but a journey through the darkness nonetheless. As a relationship has begun to unfold between us these past months, I came to know with certainty… he is the one I have been waiting for – to tell this part of both of our stories, and to live this part of my journey.

Week 13 // Frozen

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Something incredibly deep happened with this week’s portrait. I honestly do not think I can put into words how this image goes straight to my core – and how shocked I am that it came out of me. As I got further into processing it today, I found myself with tears wilting down my cheeks at least a dozen times. There’s no doubt in my mind something outside of me was channeling through.

Quite often as I bring my images into the computer, a certain song begins to play in my mind. I normally don’t share the songs that accompany the images, but I felt very strongly compelled to share this one, so I hope you’ll listen as you soak it in and think of this song in the light of loss – where a life shared with someone so dear now often seems as though it were a dream: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TZ44x0GnKh4

My idea was to capture the feeling of being trapped, frozen just on the other side of where life exists so lush. It is the feeling that my fiancé’s death gave me – being so completely surrounded by vibrant and beautiful life and being so unable to reach it or feel it. Essentially, for me, it is about navigating your daily life with an empty, haunting, deep pain that prevents you from experiencing the beauty right before you.

It is a feeling we will all experience at some point in our life – whether for years or fleeting moments. It might not even come from the death of someone we love. It might come from another darkness we are in that slowly freezes us below the surface just the same. Some of us might spend years here. Some of us might not ever make it out in our lifetime. It’s true. But here is one good thing I do know about this state…

Even in the hardest winters of your life – when you cannot feel a thing for how cold you have become and you feel as close to dead inside as possible – you are still alive. You are hibernating. And if used wisely, this can be a time which gives you incredible strength. A time in which you can come to know yourself to depths of which you have never known existed. And one day, there will come a moment when something will warm your life again. And when that day comes, you will be stronger. You will be wiser. You will be more deeply present to feel every touch and smell every scent of it. And it will be ten thousand times sweeter than anything you knew before the winter. I have known death. I have known abuse. I have known pain and darkness most of my life. And if there is one thing I know for certain, it is that life is always waiting just above the surface. Keep your eyes open and your heart fearless… your spring will come.

“Still, Life” is a year-long self portrait series about living on after loss. 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.

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.

Week 6 // Desperation

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My father-in-law once described this whole experience of grief as feeling like falling into a pit over and over again. You exhaust yourself trying to climb out of it. You claw your way up muddy walls, sometimes reaching high enough to feel the sun on your face again for a moment. And then you lose your grip, and you feel yourself sliding back into the depths of your pain. Your fingers digging into the wet earth… hoping to find something to anchor to. But much of the time it is to no avail… and you fall and fall and fall. Until finally, you are once again at the bottom. Exhausted. Depleted. Empty-handed.

It is a special kind of desperation to be back in the bottom of your pain when you’ve lost someone incredibly dear to you. I was brought back there just a week ago, after attending my first bachelorette party since my fiancé died. Seeing everything I should have had and want so dearly to have… I lost my grip, and down I slid over mud and ash and pain. Stopping only when I reached the bottom of my pain, where there was nothing to do but surrender.

Almost 2 years after his death, I am not brought back there as often as I used to be. But I never forget the place where – for at least the first 6 months – I think I only managed to climb a few feet up the wall before falling (and I rarely had the strength to try and climb at all). When I am brought back there now, the reaction is still the same as the week he died. Every hair on my body and every last cell of me screams out in desperation. Even my hands themselves cry out – begging to be able to feel him again… pleading to know none of it is true. Aching to know the world I once knew, which looked nothing like this one. It wasn’t dirty. It wasn’t cold. It wasn’t dark. It wasn’t hard to look at or hard to feel. My world before was bright… something people liked to look at. Something I liked to look at. How complex living your life becomes when you find yourself in a world that no one wants to see, including you.

That is why I have so much appreciation for all of the people who have watched the most painful parts of my journey. Who have been unafraid to look at my world when it wasn’t beautiful to see. Hell some of them have even hurled themselves right down into the pit after me – entirely unafraid to feel the darkness with me. Those are the heroes in my story. They are the ones who make the loneliest place we will ever travel a little bit less alone. Today, if you are still here reading, that is most certainly you.

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.

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