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Posts tagged ‘love’

No 37: Baring Secrets

Portrait_Week37

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“Baring Secrets” speaks to some new and very personal things stirring inside me in the past few months. Most significantly, the ideas of love and vulnerability. I met a man recently who I formed an instant friendship with. From the get go, it was less like meeting for the first time and more like remembering someone I haven’t seen in a very very long time. It is the very same sort of feeling I had when I first met my fiancé.

Being faced with such a connection has left me both thrilled and terrified. Both happy and conflicted. And interestingly enough, I now realize why it took so long for the heart images to come to fruition. I think things were getting in the way on purpose until my heart was in the very space it needed to be to tell this story – until the circumstances of meeting this person came about.

There are stories of fear and bravery here. Stories of the secrets I hold deep within me… the places of pain that no one else sees. Places even I have not dared to venture within myself since my fiance died. Places that I have sewn tightly shut for the past two and a half years. Places that I know – once the stitches are removed – have the potential to be very painful and scary.

So it goes with the heart… with the possibility of allowing someone new into the most sacred parts of ourselves. It is not only for the widowed, but for anyone who risks their heart. Because we have to open up the stitches of old wounds if we’re really going to love and be loved. We have to be willing to bare the secrets that reside in those most private, dark, dirty, worn corners of us if we ever want a chance to feel that beautiful soul-filled unconditional love from another.

It is not easy to open up these deepest wounds. It takes incredible bravery. The open air can be excruciating at times. We have no guarantee that the person who is loosening the stitches will do so gently and with love. No guarantee that they won’t try to rip them out, or seal them shut without a care to heal them. All we can do, is hope, and trust that we chose someone who can do the job right.

God, it is terrifying… so terrifying to let new hands begin to loosen the stitches. Especially when someone else had already done the job so well, years ago. Someone else, who’s death caused new stitches. But… I think, far more terrifying to never let new hands touch the heart. To never try and allow someone to be gentle with me. Because in that, I will never learn that someone new can do the job well, too.

After years of hiding it away, I am finally presenting my heart bravely, and allowing some of those stitches to be loosened. Not all of them, and not all the way. But some, and slowly. Thus far, these new hands have been gentle. They have not tried to open my heart any more than I am ready for. They have not tried to sew the wounds back shut once they saw inside. Instead, they have held my battered heart quietly, with strength – seeming to know that all it needs is to be held, to be seen as fully as it wants to be seen.

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Week 36 // Balance

Portrait_Week36

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I’ve been waiting for this image for a long time. Over the past year it has evolved in various forms until the idea of creating a story around heartstrings came up. The original of the idea came from hearing a story about a woman’s near-death experience recently, in which she described leaving her body but seeing literal strings connecting her heart to all the other hearts around her. That clicked for me as the perfect concept for this shot.

I’ve sat with all the images from this shoot for over a week now because so many of them turned out to be very powerful. So much so that I’m thinking I will break it out into its own smaller series – in color. I’ve certainly had a hard time choosing just one for this series, but this is the one that is speaking to me today.

The heart story. Connections, love, vulnerability, tension, fear, courage. The heart is a raw, wild place inside us that we only ever allow a very select few to see. Personally, I like it that way.

There has been, all my life, this constant tension between myself and the outside world. I have lost far too many people in my 32 years to be frivolous about who I attach it to. This isn’t something that has been caused by my fiance’s death, but likely by the death of my mother when I was very young and likely also to the dysfunctional nature of my childhood. I turned inward when she died, and spent much of my time within my own heart and mind. Safe from the pain of losing others. Over time, I became an expert at keeping connections at bay… but in the background, I always knew there was something about this that I didn’t like. It was all too easy to sever ties with most people because I never let them connect to me in the first place.

My fiancé’s love changed all that. He crept into the depths of my heart in ways that I had not allowed anyone else to. His essence wrapped itself around the deepest, darkest, most vulnerable parts of me. There was no fixing, just existing. Together. Wrapped around each other’s darkness. And around each other’s light. I let him all the way in. When he died, I could do nothing but bleed for a very long time. The brokenness made it impossible not to.

So it was his death which actually began to change something in me. In particular, the trauma and shock of how suddenly he died. It ripped my heart right out of my chest. What I didn’t know back then, is that although this meant my heart was now more vulnerable than ever, it also meant that it was more out in the open to receive love. That’s the thing of it – to receive love, to create connections, we must be willing to put our hearts out into the open and risk them being ripped apart.

It’s a terrifying thing. In the past few months, there have been some powerful shifts for me that have led to new challenges. There have been events and people who have come into my world which have pushed me to decide whether I will continue working to keep my heart our there in the world. Beginning to date again, and move into deeper friendships with men again, has been one of the biggest struggles of late. Particularly because it began to present itself so without warning and it has uprooted all sorts of things I had yet to begin to work through.

As I move forward, I’m learning a new balance with the outside world. I am not hiding my heart away like I used to. Finding less need for that now. I am not leaving it out in the open either though. I am holding it close to me, grasped firmly between strong hands – protected, but connected. Allowing others to grab hold of my heartstrings without letting them pull me out of balance. Choosing people who will not want to pull me out of balance. From here, I can loosen or tighten my grip as needed, in order to feel safe. And I can trust others respect that and do the same for themselves. The tension is no longer a negative. It is no longer out of balance on one side or the other, but instead like two equal forces, myself and the hearts of everyone else around me, creating power, energy and stability in the space between us.

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“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 26 // Stardust

 

Portrait_Week25

This image marks the halfway point in my year-long self portrait project. This is both exciting and also a little bit nerve-wracking. When I look back… it is hard to believe that just six months ago, none of these images even existed. It’s almost impossible to believe in fact, because they are so much a part of me that I cannot imagine a time when they did not exist. Perhaps in some way, these images have existed inside me far longer than I will ever realize. It’s a curious thing to wonder about. It’s nerve-wracking because, well let’s face it, I have no idea where I am going from here. I have so completely started my entire life over since my fiancé’ died… diving head first into the unknown… its naturally scary to wonder just what will happen when the final day of this project comes.

What will I do with all of these images? Will I be able to showcase them as I truly dream to – in a solo exhibition printed large and sprawling across walls, ten feet tall? Will I be able to find a publisher to create a book of this journey, as I so dream to? What on earth will I do next year? At halfway, I’m struggle more with worrying about what lies ahead… with the next stage of building this new life. But, as I remind myself often, there’s no going back. So I might as well keep on moving and just trust whatever is going to happen will all work out okay. (We all know that’s easier said than done though!)

This week’s image is quite different from all the others I’ve done up to this point. It came about in part by accident. While processing the original image, I switched to the wrong blending mode in photoshop and created something of a double exposure look. Originally it was just a duplicate of the figure, but once I saw the effect, I instantly got a visual in my mind of using stars and nebulae. So while the original feel of this image was more of a searching into a white void… it became instead about a beautiful, mysterious interconnectedness. It became about the connection that each of us has to all those we love who have died… our mothers and fathers, our sons and daughters, cousins, friends, sisters, brothers, grandparents and far away ancestors. They all make up this grand, collective energy that I believe wants to help guide us in this life.

I personally do believe we are very much connected with the spirits of those passed and the universal energy they create and reside in. I know it in my heart, because I use that connection every single day to guide me and help me decide things in my life. I’ve followed intuition along every step of the journey since my fiancé died. To me, those gut instincts come from that greater universal collective – not really from me at all. Often times, I get very specific visuals for photos to create – that seem to arrive out of thin air. Some of the most popular of my images in fact have been such. And those I believe come from some collective energy of souls guiding me. We are all connected to that every day. Even if we aren’t aware of it, I think in the quiet moments – if we get still enough to really hear it – we all can find the guidance we need… it lies in the stardust.

 

“You are stardust, as am I… And one day I too will return to the sky.”

-Excerpt from a poem of mine, Stardust

 

Week 15 // Surrender

Portrait_Week15

I’m in Hawaii this week and next visiting a friend, so this week’s portrait is from the beautiful island of Kauai! I wish you could see it here – lush rainy jungle the likes of which I’ve never seen. Powerful coastlines, ancient volcanic ruins, and an immense canyon where you would least expect it. It’s one of the lesser inhabited islands as well, so there are many areas where it feels almost as if you’re the only people who have ever been there. I would venture to say the spirit of this place rivals the Grand Canyon for me – which is my favorite place on earth.

I’ll have to post some more pictures soon just from the hikes we’ve done, but for now… the portrait…

I stumbled upon this incredible location right down the beach from our hotel Friday morning last week. We’d tried to book several other hotels with no luck. Being that I am a firm believer in how the universe and those in spirit guide me… I have no doubt I was led right to this spot to capture my next image. I went out early in the morning while my girlfriends were grabbing breakfast, just to climb around on the lava rock and take some pictures… and my jaw dropped when I came across this broken-heart rock – split almost evenly three ways.

In the journey of grief, to lay in our pain is to lay also within our love. The heart may be broken, it may feel a pain that is unbearable, but it is only because that is where our love resides so deeply. Losing my fiancé has taken me on a journey of learning to find acceptance of my pain… learning to surrender into what is broken. It’s never an easy thing to do. I can always feel the cracks and the breaks beneath me. Learning to accept today does not mean I’ll be able to accept it tomorrow necessarily. It’s a constant exercise to practice in order to find some level of peace.

This image also reminds me of surrendering to something greater than myself – be that called God, the universe, or my spirit guides. A medium I visited once told me – when I feel the most lost and the most in pain – to lay myself out on the ground and spread my arms open to the sky…and to lay this way and pray. I’d never thought to pray in such a way before (and was never really big on praying to begin with before Drew died), but I have done it many times since my visit with her and there indeed has been something powerful about it for me. It feels like I am physically giving myself to some greater whole and I end up always feeling comforted and connected instead of isolated and alone. This image reminds me that – in the raging waters of life, in the pain of a broken heart, there is still a space of peace to be found. I need only be still, and open my broken heart, and love will come through.

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.

 

Healing Milestones

photoI’m just a day away from selling at my first art festival… and my emotions are all over the place. I’m SO excited, this is something I’ve dreamed of since I was a little girl. Every summer, I went to a myriad of art festivals and left each one with a calling in my heart. I watched artists at their booths and talked to them and stood in awe of their work.. listening all the while to the whispers in my own soul of how badly I wanted to be one of them. And tomorrow, I will finally be stepping behind the booth with my own creations.

I’ve been hard at work the past month to get ready – and as I’m getting the final touches done on my booth setup and inventory, I’m in awe. I’m looking down at all these lovelies and thinking “did this actually come out of me?” Really… they are not mine as much as they are gifts to me in my dark night. I’ve just been trying to survive my emotions this past year, and looking for hope wherever I could find it. I believe each thing I’ve made was given to me to help carry me through the loss of my fiancé – to give me hope and joy and courage. To help me tell our story – an artist and a pilot – two lovers of nature, adventure, flight, creativity and so much more. There are small things that tell this story in each thing I make. They restore me daily. What magic to be able to share them with others and hope that they find their own healing, courage, and hope in them!

It is bittersweet of course, which is where my all-over-the-place emotions are coming from. I am both so excited and at the same time utterly heartbroken. To know that he should be here for this. To know how proud he would be and that he’d be by my side helping me out. There is absolutely no way around the deep sadness that this brings to the occasion. I’ve shed a lot of tears in the past few days… but felt a lot of excitement too. Tomorrow, I’m just going to focus on enjoying the moment with good friends and family around to support me. I know he’d kick my ass if I let his absence get in my way, after all! Here’s to a new adventures. Its going to be exciting. A little bit sad too, but mostly… exciting!!!

…and I painted

Today, for the first time since I was about twelve years old, I painted. What’s even more, I was lost in painting… swept off my feet in a dance of brush strokes undulating across the canvas. Feeding my heart as the colors mixed and blended and flowed together in ever-changing harmony. It was so refreshing to be lost in the moment of creating a thing – without caring about the end product.

Below are the two paintings I did today. I really have to thank Kelly Ray Roberts for her Flying Lessons e-course and all the amazing, inspiring women I am meeting through our group each day. I feel like I’ve been looking for a creative tribe like this for a long time. Their energy has really helped to put something beautiful back into my daily life as I move through my grief. Thank you lady flyers!

 


Both of these pieces are representative of the loss in my life right now – losing my fiancé, Drew in June of this year. You can read more about the symbolism of each painting here at my other blog our1000days.com

Through the years, I’ve drawn and sculpted and welded and thrown clay around. I’ve made rescued art and photographed and written lovely words… but painting has always been the one type of art I have shied away from. It has always intimidated me. It’s taken a few months of sitting here with paints and canvases taunting me before I finally had the courage to try. I’m glad I did, it was such fun!

I’ve also never really created visual art to express emotions I’m going through… my preferred method has always been words. This definitely opened up a new avenue for me – one I plan to continue with!

Honoring Our Story.

Hi everyone, It has taken some time to get this going, but I have finally started my new blog, our1000days.com, to share the story of Andrew and I; the lessons we learned, the love we will always have, and the journey that lies ahead. For me, it will be a place to honor him and to begin to heal. I hope to post daily. Please stop by from time to time – I assure you even through the sorrows… this is a story worth reading. As always, thank you all for your support.

Hugs, Tears, Gifts and Love

Hi everyone..  first i wanted to say thank you to each of you for your loving and supportive replies to my last post. It truly warmed my heart and meant so much to me to have such support from you. We may not know each other’s faces, or know the sound of each other’s voices, but believe me when I tell you, it has meant something real to me.

I’ve been back in Dallas a week. I’ve had more rock bottom melt downs than you can count this past month, but especially coming back to Dallas. I tried to sleep in my apartment alone for 2 nights before finally calling a friend to stay over and then calling my Aunt to come down to stay with me for a week. I’ve tried to do things on my own my whole life – it’s definitely a new and odd experience to not even be able to be in my own apartment alone for more than a few hours. I am so thankful for the people who have been here for me along this journey so far… and the ones that are to come.

I will not leave you without a few positives though – as one of the things he loved most about me was my ability to find rainbows in even the darkest storms… a few highlights from my first and most horrible week in Dallas…

Succulent Succulents
My team at work sent me this gorgeous succulent basket and a great big amazing cards that made me cry buckets. Thank you all, now I just hope I don’t kill the poor things with my brown thumb!

The Girls At The Office
The first day I went back to the office… there were a few girls (you know who you are ladies) that surrounded me with love, tears, and hugs. We broke down right there in the middle of an ocean of cubicles together. They even gave me their lunches and snacks, and brought me water and anything else I needed so that I didn’t even have to get up from my desk. And some of these girls I don’t even work with on a daily basis, in fact I really don’t work with them at all directly. Knowing they are there has made each day at work a little easier to handle. Thank you ladies.

PASTA!
My second day back at work, one of the ladies in my group gave me some leftover pasta from Olive Garden. I had not eaten pasta in over a month. It was penne, with a light red cream sauce and shrimp, and it was the most heavenly thing. My taste buds were singing! Thank you Linda.

Hearts for my Heart
I finally opened up a box of cards and other goodies from work today that I had not gone through yet… and was overwhelmed by all the lovelies. One of the groups next door to me made me individual little needle felted hearts with their names each tagged onto them! Best of all, they came inside a lovely little felting craft box, complete with a bunch of colorful wool to make new creations with. So many little hearts just brightened my heart. Thank you ladies (and Montey!)

I’ve yet to find the creator of this adorable little bird I got from the office as well! There was no tag and I suspect the card got away from him, but he will be sure to cheer up my desk when I take him back up there tomorrow! He stands about 7 or 8 inches tall!I love his little feet. Will soon find out the maker and update here.

A Military Memorial
One of Drew’s friends on the gun forum wrote to me privately after the accident and wanted to send me a ceremonial flag in his memory. I cried when he offered this.. as I know how much it would have meant to Drew. Although Drew was not in the military, but he had deep respect for our military and I know had he not had a back injury, he had planned to fly for our country. His friend also included a military medal for good conduct. Not knowing much about military medals, I looked it up. This is a medal that is given for 3 years of good conduct, as well as to any soldier killed in the line of duty. Thank you Karl – you are a good man and friend.

Well, that is going to wrap it up for tonight. Not every post will be positive… but I was glad to have the energy tonight to post one. Again thank you to everyone for the gifts, cards, kinds words, support, tears, hugs, calls, food, and for everything in between. I love you all. <3

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