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.
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.