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Posts tagged ‘living on’

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 10 // The Mask

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Losing someone very dear changes you entirely. It must. And for a time, your identity may feel like is has been lost altogether – hidden behind a darkness that is too big for you to see past. This is a large part of the journey we go one when someone we love has died. It is the search to understand who we are now that they aren’t here, who we will become as we go forward, and how they will be a part of that.

Since he died, it seems I’ve done nothing but look for myself. In every word I write, every photo I take, every relationship I begin or end, every brave new thing I try… each of these informs me of who I am now. It is not who I was when he was alive – I cannot be that girl anymore. It is instead, who he is helping me to become. This is who I am always observing.

It’s a tireless trek to say the least. A messy, lost, wandering, humble journey. A balancing act – with one hand down to the darkness and one raised to the light. One to my pain and one to my joy. Both of these are within me – often fighting to exist at the same time. I try my best to create balance between them in order to heal. I am learning it’s equally important to allow the light to warm me, just as much as to allow for the pain to mask over me from time to time. And that sometimes, it is okay to allow both of those to wash over me all at once.

If you’re in the midst of a deep loss of your own, you may fear that you will never quite find yourself again. That you will never be able to see past the pain and see yourself again. I can tell you – from where I am today – that with time and gentle hands to balance yourself, you will find yourself again.

 

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 5 // The Guardians

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Since a young age, I have felt protected and watched over by the ones in my life who have died – most notably my mother, who died when I was nine. At thirty one, I’ve now lost my mother, father, and my husband-to-be. I have also lost all of my grandparents, and several aunts and uncles… so I have accumulated quite the gathering of guardians on the other side.

I sometimes imagine them around me. I sometimes FEEL them around me. Especially my fiancé – as he is never shy to tell me he is near. They are tall and expansive – much bigger than they ever were in this life. When I stumbled upon this tree a few weeks ago, I knew instantly that it communicated exactly what I wanted to show of this inner world of mine.

Everywhere I go, everything in life that I do, this is where I stand on the inside. Surrounded by the power and protection of these souls. All the parts of me are there – the part that is small and sad and still broken… she is curled softly amidst their feet… looking up to them and asking for help. Asking for them to help her feel safe and to show her the way.

The part of me that is strong and tenacious and determined is there too. She stands tall but never alone – always with a hand braced against them. Should anything try to knock her down, she knows… she will not ever fall far, for she will always only fall into the limbs of great guardians. This is my reality. My way of being in the world is to operate internally from this place of spiritual strength. It saves me, heals me, guides me, and allows me to embrace life more fully each day.

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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