Welcome to the second installment of my self-portrait project! This week’s guidance for our self-portrait was finding stillness in the midst of the fullness of life.
When nap time rolls around for my girls, I immediately go into me time. Actually, I am downright greedy about it. I put my phone on silent, and for the most part I use this time to do only things I want to do. Whether I work on my photography, take a class online, read a book, take a bath, exercise, crafts, whatever. As long as I am enjoying it, that’s what I am doing. I realize this sounds like crazy talk to many moms out there, because how do I get anything done, right? Well, honestly, I don’t. I kind of scrape by with the minimum effort in all the “house” things that I don’t enjoy doing.
Nap time is where I often find my stillness. I don’t necessarily stop and meditate (though I am trying to do that everyday), but the act of doing something creative or enjoying something someone else created slows me down. I take time to enjoy that, which is around me. I light a candle and stop to notice the aroma. I see the patterns of the afternoon light streaking through my bedroom windows. I notice how much I love certain combinations of color. I feel the tingly warm water of the bath on skin as the tension washes away.
I used to feel selfish for my lack of productivity during nap times. But I know that even though it looks like I’m doing nothing, I’m actually doing something very good for my soul. When I take time to fill my cup I love my life and those around me so much more.
Regarding the portrait, I set up a scene of me reading some books I’m loving right now: “Wearing God” by Lauren Winner and “The Secret Lives of Color” by Kassia St. Clair. During the shoot I noticed that the sunlight was hitting the lens of my camera just right so that it created this dreamy, sunny, wonderfulness. And maybe these images allow for a better representation of what it feels like to be quiet and present in the midst of all the busy.
I was very flattered and maybe a bit surprised when I was invited to be a part of a yearlong project of self-portraits done weekly. What lured me in was the purpose behind the project. That in doing this I am exercising nurturing self-care, acceptance, and introspection when those things can easily be lost in day-to-day life.
Forgive me for skipping details, but I found an incredible mind body therapist and have been seeing her since September. Whether you call it an issue, burden, trauma, baggage, or any other variation upon that theme, we all have it. Some more profound than others. Some heavier than others. Some so old and deeply hidden that we don’t even know it’s there. This ended up being the case for me, and I was so surprised. But sessions after session unearthed this pain, and not only have I begun to remember and feel it profoundly, but to see it’s reach in my beliefs and behavior.
This trauma stunted part of my emotional development: the part that deals with all of the negative feelings. I did not learn how to feel negative feelings in any kind of healthy way. As a 33-year-old woman, I am just now learning how to not be swept away, but to stay present when anger, frustration, sadness, or whatever it may be happens. And in staying present, that those feelings wash through you verses being stuck and harbored inside. But being late to the game is most certainly better than never.
So when I’ve thought through goals for this year (which I may write about in more depth later) and this project, the word I have clearly in my mind is “heal.”
heal verb \ˈhēl \
1a: to make free from injury or disease: to make sound or whole
b: to make well again : to restore to health
2a: to cause (an undesirable condition) to be overcome
b: to patch up or correct (a breach or division)
3: to restore to original purity or integrity
Healing is a multifaceted journey, and I’ve been implementing many tools to help me. One of these tools is visual meditation. I’ve meditated on places I’ve been, places I haven’t been, being embraced by a mothering God, inhaling color, and being filled with liquid sunshine. This morning a saw something I’d never seen before in our house. Our front doors are pebbled instead of solid glass, and something about that pebbled glass along with the perfect angle of sunlight made the most magnificent display of strips of uniting rays of light. This light felt special, like a gift just for me. When I saw this beautiful, glowing, multifaceted light, I knew this would be a stunning representation of my healing journey.
I don’t think most of my posts will be so long winded, but since this is the beginning I wanted to give it enough depth and understanding so that if you feel so led you can follow me in this journey.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about photography and me, more specifically my relationship with my photography business. I am a photographer. I have been one seriously for the last 8 years, and more truthfully I have been one for much longer than that just not with a fancy camera. I have grown my skill to a place that I am proud of, and I love that my excitement and passion for it continues to grow. It feels like a very natural extension of myself, and to not do it would feel like losing one of my senses.
When one is a photographer, it is assumed that you have a business, and I just rolled with that assumption. However, I have never fallen comfortably into the role of a businesswoman, and having a business and marketing myself as a business isn’t a natural fit. That is not a knock against businesswomen. I have mad respect for those who do it, because there is no way to half-ass your way into a successful business. While I do not love the business side of having a photography business, I love taking pictures for people. I can think of no greater gift than to capture the love, connection, and intention of a period of time for a family/couple/person/project into images and hand that back over to them. Truly, it feels like holy work.
There is no need for me as a family photographer in this world. There seems to be approximately 5 million photographers in Wichita alone and our population is just under 400,000 people. Trying to sell myself to people feels so bad, and it feeds into old, not-quite-healed wounds of desiring acceptance and fearing rejection. When the market is as flooded as it is, you’re not exactly a business-type, and you feel uncomfortable trying to convince people to hire you it is all but a guarantee that you are not going to be “accepted” often and will be “rejected” more times than not.
“Just don’t have a business and shoot whatever you like,” I hear you saying. Yes, I’ve thought of that. That is partly why I have created my new instagram account (@jillnicolecurated) to encourage me to create whatever it is I want to create (like the pictures in this post). But even that doesn’t feel quite right. Is it because I want to be recognized as a photographer? Is it because I desire to be “successful”? Is it because you can only shoot your kids so much without getting bored, and it can be hard to convince people to let them take your picture “just for fun”? I would guess it’s probably a mix of all of those things. Not only that, but I love shooting families.
So where does that leave me? A tentative and not particularly disciplined “business owner” who wants to have success because she’s passionate about what she is selling. I’m thinking of taking a break from calling myself a photography business to see how that feels and to see what would come of it. What would I create if I weren’t a “business”? Would I figure out my niche? Would I take things in a totally different direction? Am I just being a quitter? I’m not sure of any of those things. I guess I’ll have to wait and see.
When it comes to me in my skin, I have two main thought patterns. My obvious favorite is when I look and find the beauty, strengths, and abilities I possess. Duh? Right? Acceptance and grace, it always feels good. Never have I felt this more strongly than after giving birth. I floated around postpartum feeling like a kickass queen: “LOOK at what my body did!” Then there’s the other thought pattern, one of disgust and disapproval. Viewing my body as something that needs to be above all else, visually and socially acceptable. Deep smile lines, saggy/flabby thighs, small hooded eyes… unacceptable. I would do everything in my power to change them– to “fix” them– and believed that I could not be acceptable as a whole until these grievances could be rectified.
I really like to swing the full spectrum of emotions, don’t I?
The older I get the less I care on what society has in mind for us women. However, I am and forever will be a recovering perfectionist. Sometimes that drive toward perfection takes over, and I can become obsessed about this, that, and the other thing. But more times than not I try to appreciate my body/face/self for what it is. Mine. Healthy. Capable.
Never in a million years would I imagine myself willingly taking self-portraits WEEKLY much less to find such creativity and inspiration in them. Choosing to let ideas just happen, and to be curious without expectations. I do not love every picture I take, but I don’t love every picture I take of anyone. Why should I be any different? I know women find it uncomfortable to put themselves in front of the camera. But I posit that if we bump up against ourselves time and again in pictures or otherwise, and we view them with the framework of seeing all that we are versus all that we are not we might begin to like what we see a whole lot more. And nothing has changed but our minds.
If you follow me on Instagram (which you totally should, I post often), you know that for most of this year I have challenged myself with taking a self-portrait every week. With anything that is constrained, you’re forced to look for creativity in new ways. It could be movement, color, emotion, light, subject matter, etc. While this has been a growing and expressive outlet for me, occasionally I would love to use this as a way to share things that I enjoy with you. First up, RMS Beauty.
Lipstick is my secret weapon. It helps me become whatever I feel like being at that time. Chic. Badass. Girly. Tough. Unstoppable. Bold.
Almost all of my makeup is by the brand RMS Beauty created by a veteran makeup artist Rose Marie Swift. After learning that many who work in the beauty industry suffer from medical conditions due to the toxins often found in cosmetics, she decided to make beauty healthy with cosmetics that are not only non-toxic and organic but healing and rejuvenating. I have been using RMS Beauty for over 5 years, and I am the biggest fan. If ever I get a compliment of my glowing skin and lipstick, I’m quick to tell them my secret weapons.
I like my makeup to look fresh and natural with the occasional pop of lip color. Here are some of my favorites of this fantastic brand:
The Uncover Up with the foundation brush – One of my very first purchases, and I’ve never strayed. Depending on how much sun I’ve had I use either the “11” or the “22”
Luminizer X Quad – I started with the original Luminizer, but it’s fun to have options, right?
Buriti Bronzer – Perfectly sunkissed, and I’ve read you can use it for contouring if you’re into that.
Lip2Cheek – I am addicted, but my all time favorites are “demure” for blush and “beloved” for a bright red lip.
Lip Shine – My lips are my favorite feature so I love a good pop of color accentuate them. Try “sublime” for a little pop, and “sacred” for a big pop.
Vintage Cake Liner – On the very rare occasion that I use eyeliner, this is my absolute favorite.
I am in no ways a beauty or makeup expert, but I’ve hope you’ve enjoyed this little something different. Go check RMS Beauty out, and if you love it tell your friends.
September has recently found a special place my heart. Previously, it was just any other month. There. But lately, it has become a time to soak up those last perfect days of weather with the girls, time for cool mornings and warm afternoons, time for birthdays, time for the last of the glowing wildflowers.
I really loved all the special memories we made in September.
I simply cannot believe it is already October. The summer started, I blinked, and now it’s fall. There’s the saying “the days are long, but the years are fast” which I definitely agree with, but something about the past few months felt warp speed. That’s one of the many reasons why I’ve taken on this project. It slows down life for me, not only in the moment where I pressing the shutter, but also in looking back.
August was a super fun month. I felt like we celebrated my birthday for two weeks (which I didn’t hate), we hit up all of the kid places in Wichita (splash parks, gardens, parks, zoo, etc.), and we had a great time with Josh’s family in Florida. We did have to drive back due to all the hurricanes, but that’s small potatoes compared to those directly affected.
Isla also started Montessori which has been such a blessing for my somewhat overly inquisitive little lady.
All in all, I’m grateful for what was our fast, full, and fun summer.
My Darling Poppy June,
In the days leading up to your first birthday, I was stricken with a severe case of bittersweet sentiment. How could you be one already?! Didn’t you just make your debut on this earth? Truth be told, your first 6 months were a bit of a blur. I don’t want to rehash all of the things so I’ll just summarize and say, it was tough. Really tough. Maybe a stronger mother wouldn’t have been as affected as I was, but I guess that doesn’t really matter because I am your mom. All of the good, and all of the bad. Your mom.
Let me tell you about you. You are our supreme snuggler. I mean it. No one can snuggle like you can. At a very young age, you would wrap your tiny arms around our necks for hugs. You pretty much solely napped being held until you were around 7 months old despite our best efforts. And even now you love to lay your head on my chest, or crawl up to my legs while I’m doing dishes or getting ready and give a big hug and a pat, pat, pat. And before you lay down to sleep, I’ll hold you in my arms, sway back and forth, and sing you a song. It’s one of my favorite things I get to do in my day. And you don’t like to just cuddle with people. You love all soft things: stuffed animals, blankets, towels, scarves, my shirt. If it’s soft, you grab it and rub it on your cheek.
You eat more than I would imagine to be physically possible for your young age. I’m trying to think if you have a favorite, but nothing is coming to mind because you pretty much eat everything. However, we learned you are not a fan of cake at your birthday party. There was no convincing you; I even tried the next day. Nope. You were not having it. You’ve recently started to point to things that you want which is pretty cute, and would be even cuter if it wasn’t followed by your shrillish banshee cry you use to get our attention.
You love music. It doesn’t seem to matter what kind; you’re an equal opportunist. We’ll be driving in the car, and we’ll hear you clap, clap, clapping to songs you like. Or you’ll become a conductor having your arms out and bouncing when the music moves you. And when you’re crying in the car, 9 times out of 10, if I put on the Sinatra XM station, you’ll stop crying. No other station, just old Blue Eyes. Man, oh man, was that a blessing to figure out. You particularly like it when they play Barbara Streisand. You must be a sucker for schmaltzy singers.
While you are a smiley baby, you aren’t much for laughing. I can count on 2 hands how many times you’ve laughed or giggled, but when you do it lights up my whole world. When you get excited about something you scrunch up your nose and stick out your lips, and breathe in and out of your nose really fast. We call it your bulldog face. I’ve never seen a baby do that before, and I think it’s the cutest dang thing in the world.
A blessing and a curse at times, I am your favorite. You love your mama to the moon and back. When you’re upset, no one else will do. Obviously, I love how much you love me, but when you were at your most challenging self, it felt like the weight of your well being was on my shoulders. The older you get the more and more drawn you are to your dad and your sister. Just the other day you saw Dad’s car pull into the driveway, and you were bouncing your whole body up and down out of excitement. You sure know how to be adorable. And obviously whatever Isla is doing is exactly what you want to be doing.
I could keep going and going, because there is nothing in this world that I love more than my family. I hold all of those special memories close to my heart, and I look forward to all the more memories to hold dear.
P.S. Some pictures from your special day.
Durham, NC is simply one of my favorite places in this world. It has things to do, places to go eat, and better yet people to meet. I have many loved ones who live in Durham and this is truly why I love visiting this city. We left for our trip bright and early (early, early, early) on a Tuesday morning and thankfully the flights went smoothly even with a toddler and a baby in tow. We stayed at our friends Brendan and Alissa’s house, and they are among the best people in this world. It was particularly fun to stay with them because they also have two daughters. Both of which are about 3 months older than our own.
It was fun to see the girls whirl instantly into a friendship. The giddiness and girliness that exuded from our oldest girls would be hard to match. As our trip went on our girls would turn into what seemed more like sisters, loving each other perfectly one minute and absolute meltdowns the next. #toddlergirls #momlife. Our days were filled with donuts, PB&Js, museums, parks, gardens, and friends. At night we had quality time with old friends. We ate delicious food, drank perfectly concocted gin drinks, and laughed till our stomaches were sore. While not a restful vacation it was most definitely the perfect trip, and I am so grateful for all of the memories we had this July.
Before I end this recap of Durham I want to write about someone who has been beyond special to me the past 4 years. She will probably try to refute everything I’m about to write, but let me tell you now that it’s all true. My friend Alissa is a vision of what motherhood should be. She is fun, calm, present, wise, and almost unreasonably patience with her girls. She embodies love. And while her girls are adorable, lovely, kind, and smart, neither one of them have been easy. Actually, they have been pretty hard. I know because luckily she has been vulnerable enough to be real and raw with me, and when I was at my lowest of lows I hung onto words she gave me.
The older I get the more I view friendships as a gift from God. That sounds cheesy, and I hate that but I don’t know how else to phrase it. I did not deserve this friendship. I did not expect this friendship to what it has become. But lucky for me I received it, and it has done more good for my soul than I could have ever imagined. And for that I am extraordinarily grateful.
An obnoxious amount of pictures from the month of June. Isla started dance class which we often use as our bargaining tool for good behavior (just being honest). Poppy enjoyed her first month of crawling and eating of all of the food. Looking back of the pictures I realize how much we did. Nothing ground breaking or unique but memories nonetheless. Enjoy.