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Posts tagged ‘moving forward’

The Voyager

portrait_week40

This may likely be my last post here until I make my way to my new home and get settled in up north. I came across this passage in a wonderful book I just finished last week, and I knew it was fitting for this moment in my life, and this image:

There is a time known as the between. The between voyager travels through uncharted territory, navigating dangers, attempting passage into the next life. There are times in life, after a death of some kind, when we are open to the slightest shifts, when our powers are acute, when we can change the future. The between voyager temporarily possesses an immensely heightened intelligence, extraordinary powers of concentration, special abilities of clairvoyance… flexibility to become whatever can be imagined, and the openness to be radically transformed by a thought or a vision or an instruction.” – Excerpt from the book I Was Amelia Earhart by Jane Mendelsohn

I can’t deny that, secretly, I love being on the edges of life. I always have. I love that moment when you are looking out into the unknown and part of you is scared, but part of you is ready to hoist yourself out, almost recklessly so. You want to go, to explore and find out what’s out there. Your fears start to diminish as an insatiable curiosity begins to burn and draw you towards the sun. That moment, just before you leap, when the air feels electric and uncertain and powerful. When your legs feel unsteady but your eyes are ablaze with something deep in your soul. It is a moment I have been in love with since I was a child.

In just less than a week now, I will be embarking into uncharted territory. I’ve spent the past few weeks tirelessly going through every box and bag that I own… all of which has sat in storage these past three years since he died. Ironically, yesterday I came across an interesting old photo. It was from the last time I was packing up my entire life, a few months after he died. This picture, showing boxes piled up to the ceiling in my small Dallas apartment, had a timestamp on it for this very same week. I was so shocked. How surreal that on the very same week three years ago, I had just finished packing up my life, and I have just finished doing the same this week. For a moment, two versions of me existed… taking deep breaths in quiet moments on the edges of tomorrow. One is a tomorrow I have lived for the past three years. The other, a tomorrow I do not know yet.

Despite how difficult this journey has been since he died… stepping out into the unknown and allowing life to happen to me was the best decision I ever made. I have learned more about myself and about life than I ever thought possible. I have met so many incredible people – most of which I never would have met had I not taken this chance. I know with much more certainty the things I hold important. Although still in the early stages, I am also now committed to doing meaningful work that matters to myself and helps others.

I don’t quite know who I will be as I enter this new world, nor do I know how this new land will change me. All I know is that I will be changed, and that excites me. I’ve been changing by darkness for years now, and I’m ready to be changed by the light again. Who’s with me?

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 33 // Point of Return

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I wanted to talk a bit in this post about the idea of claiming yourself again on the journey of grief. It seems, as I am discovering, that there comes a time when you begin to truly be done with the heaviness of grief at its worst. After years of feeling and crying and aching and longing… years of shutting yourself out from the world and from life, years of clawing your way through the mud and fighting for your very life… I think there comes a time when a shift begins to happen. And you begin to return to yourself and to life.

As I was talking to my grief coach this week, I shared something that I’ve struggled with the past three or four months in relation to this project. I explained to him that for several months now – without entirely realizing it – I was moving into a new landscape in my life but was holding back from showing it in the images. Some part of me felt uneasy to show that shift. For me, creating images out of a place of pain is far easier than from a place of strength.

I suppose it has something to do with why so many of us struggle to show our boldest and most bright selves. We are all fighting a fear of shining too bright and of what people will think of us if we do. Beginning to capture the parts of this journey I could never plan – like returning to life – has been a deep struggle for me.

There have been some extremely long months of being in serious battle over each image and the entire project. It wasn’t an internal battle as well – with not wanting to embrace this part of the journey yet. Not wanting to boldly admit that I am feeling healed enough to move toward life again. But as each of the images unfold in the past few weeks – I’m discovering such a deep alignment with exactly where my soul is right now… and I’m seeing how incredibly healing and beautiful it is to fully own wherever I am.

This week’s image ties back to several other shots in the series in a very prominent way. Visually it ties very closely to Week 15: Surrender. That image was representative of letting ourselves sit within our pain and perhaps give that pain to some higher force.This week speaks of surrender too, but in a little different way. Not surrender into the pain, but instead, surrender into the life that is left.

The other image that it ties to in a very major way is Week 19: Between Two Worlds. That image spoke of feeling torn between two worlds – the life I have now and the life I had with him, as well as this earthly life and the beyond. It was about being caught in the middle of the tension of all of those worlds.

This week, there is something very different going on with those boundaries within me. There is a feeling of lightness stirring in me that hasn’t been there before. A feeling that I am moving more fully into life again, stepping above the darkness and returning to myself.

I cannot express how impossible it all seemed two and a half years ago that I would be coming to a point like this. And more importantly, for it to feel okay. I feel assured that he will be as much with me in the skies of a new life ahead as he was in the landscape of our life together. Simply put, it is feeling strangely okay to live life again. To fill my world with everything there is left in life and not worry that it will mean he is less a part of it all. I’ve feared that for so long… but gently, slowly, over time, I’ve come to see it isn’t the case at all. He goes wherever I go. He will always be my wings, bringing me back to myself.

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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 25 // Let Go

Portrait_Week24cI’ve felt this way a lot lately… like I am just beginning to walk out into a great big unknown. Like it is time to loosen my grip from the past and begin to step into the present and embrace life more fully. My life since my fiancé died has been a huge unknown – but for the better part of of these two years I have been in hibernation. I have, in a strange way, carved out a comfortable existence living within the beauty of my past. And it can be easy to want to stay there. I cannot see anything concrete ahead of me for my future after all. To face walking out into the vastness – with a fear that I will be alone and that his love will not follow – quite frankly, it scares the hell out of me.

And on another level, I have known for a while I need to start to build a community of photographers and galleries around me to continue to grow as an artist. This too scares the hell out of me, because it means everything to me. To take my images – which are very much a part of my soul – out into the scrupulous art world in bigger cities feels incredibly vulnerable. To walk out into that means that I have no clue what the landscape will look like or where it will take me. That’s scary for any artist.

But the past few months have been different. I have felt deep in my bones a push to move forward. It feels strangely automatic – like my soul is gently prodding me that it is time. And also a little bit like he is telling me so too. But it isn’t something I’ve been ready for at all. Cue the freaks outs and fears and tears that have run rampant in me for months now. It’s a daily struggle that few in my life have even known is going on.

There is a tremendous amount of pain in accepting that its time to let go, and begin to step out into this big unknown future that I must create now. The struggle has been in the fear that if I let go of whatever small solid ground I feel like I have, that I will lose my connection to him and perhaps to myself in a way.

I want to be clear here, by “let go” I do not mean let go of him. I think people get this confused… that somehow we got the meaning of this phrase all mixed up with the idea of letting go of a person. It doesn’t have anything to do with that. Why would anyone want us to let go or someone whom we love and who brings beauty into our world even after they have died? Of course not. The phrase “let go” is about trust. It means to let go of the fear. The fear of losing our connection to them. The fear that we are incapable of handling what’s ahead.

So that is place I have been for the past few months, the next lesson that I have been asked to learn I suppose. Trusting enough to let go. Learning it has meant being caught between this paralyzing fear of losing more and this insatiable pull to embrace my future and create more. It has meant learning to choose trust when I really want to choose fear… because I find trust is often more about a decision to commit than anything. This part of the journey has brought me to this image. To this new place where I’m gaining enough strength to decide to let go and trust… both in the unknown and in the idea that he will be with me no matter where life takes me, for all my years to come.

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