It's been over 6 months since I've taken a self portrait. After a year of weekly portraits exploring my grief and pain, you would think I'd be so comfortable showing emotions. Yet I have found myself stuck for months since my big move. Plenty of other creative things have been happening, but I have kept my more vulnerable emotions out of all of it. Looking back, I sat in my grief for nearly 4 years after my fiance died, and grew very comfortable with expressing stories of extreme pain and loss. But now - as I am dating someone new for the first time since his death, and becoming closer to this new man's daughter - I am entering into unfamiliar territory... the ordinary struggles. This is a place I have not yet created from.
Here, I am dealing with more everyday challenges, like learning to mother, planning a future with someone new, homesickness and changing friendship/family dynamics. Somehow, it seems I convinced myself no one wants to see a woman exploring that stuff... the ordinary hard stuff of life. Which is, I realize, absurd. It's all part of the journey, after all.
So, on a particularly awful day last week, after feeling burnt out and really on the defense, I somehow mustered the energy to pick up my camera and snap some self portraits... finally having a dialogue with myself. Well, my phone actually, because it was handy and I had only the energy for that. This was not anything fancy. I was just laying on my couch, watching a movie, and feeling overwhelmed.
Sometimes it isn't about props and wardrobe and theatrics. Sometimes it's just about catching ourselves in the moment when emotions are fresh, and capturing it to allow ourselves to acknowledge what's going on inside. That's what self portraits have always been about for me. This photo matched a feeling inside that has been hard to put into words since moving from Texas to Ohio. Feeling fearful of change, and as a result, quite defensive and withdrawn from the world... poised for attack.
A great amount of love and adventure has been going on this year, do not let this piece mislead the fact that I am enjoying this new adventure immensely. But every change has its difficulties. I've gone through a lot of overwhelm about mothering. There have been new, unexpected layers of grief for my mother, ones that could only be unearthed from the depths of me as I begin to mother on my own, without my mom. Learning the dynamic of a new relationship and partner has taken work and energy of course too, particularly because we both bring our grief and fairly established lives into the mix. Trying to continue to build a meaningful career with my art and writing is a constant balancing act. And homesickness permeates the air... as the culture shock from Texas to Ohio was greater than I'd anticipated. Moving right before the winter set in was probably the hardest way to have done things for a southern gal. And really none of this has gone into images.
My God, how easy it can be to want to show the world only the happy parts. How swiftly any of us can fall into that trap and suddenly forget to listen to our own deepest selves. It hasn't been detrimental, but I assure you, it has created a noise in my heart that has left me going through waves of disconnect with others, and myself. Struggle is not only present during the extremes of grief and trauma. Darkness is always there. Self doubt and fear, sadness and worry and irrational, ridiculous thoughts never escape us. So, this photo is my attempt at courage... my attempt at speaking about the challenges that exist even when the changes in our life are good ones. It's about the continued journey of living, which has a never-ending landscape of hills and valleys.
So, if you happen to be one of those folks who was hoping my images would take a more positive turn, sorry, I can't guarantee that'll ever happen. I assure you happier images do land on my Facebook and Instagram feeds, just not as part of this series. For this series, I am choosing to keep the conversation going with my most vulnerable self... the parts of me that are scared and difficult to show, because that is why I shoot them.
I don't like for people to know that my default during times of change is to disconnect from others. I need a great deal of time alone to sit quietly with change, and I often feel misunderstood for this. My sense of fight or flight reacts quickly as a result, and I don't like that it can cause me to revert to old tactics of "me against the world". These parts of me are not new. They were not caused by my fiance's death, but by a lifetime of losing people and having to be self reliant. I am simply used to the idea that change means I will be on my own, and so a part of me begins to prepare for that - to protect me - sometimes more than it needs to. It is a natural sort of reaction I suppose given my story. One I work on daily, because ultimately, all we can do is hope to be a little softer, a little more healed, and a little more openhearted tomorrow than we were today.