2018…wrap it up in a pretty little box and tie it with bow. It blew in on hopes and dreams and left on fumes of failure. That’s the trouble with setting goals, you might not be successful…but then again…
It could be that you look back and in the midst of all those incomplete or failed attempts you start to see patterns and instead of the blanks you notice the string of check marks, the small but significant wins. Sure you didn’t meet your goal of drinking 80 ounces of water everyday but you did develop a habit of starting your day with a full glass. Perhaps that stack of books you intended to read is now collecting dust on the corner of your desk but you did manage to unclutter a closest and your office space.
These are just a couple of examples of how I was not successful, but 2018, for me, was a huge success and I owe it to all of my failed attempts. It was through the disappointments that I began to really understand myself and what truly matters to me and those around me. Perfect example…I decided that I wanted to jump on the bandwagon of improving my marriage. Nothing wrong with that, right? My goal; set aside one evening every two weeks to be designated date nights. So far, so good? Not really. By the end of February we had managed one single, solitary date night. At first, I was furious with myself and with him. The more I tried to push the idea the more damage I caused. For several months I tried to make sense of why we had failed so spectacularly. Here’s the thing…wanting to improve is never bad, setting goals is important but when you’re talking about improving and goals that include another person, you really need to make sure you include them in the planning stages, not just the finished idea. By simply telling my husband that I wanted to improve our marriage and here’s how, what he heard was, “I’m not happy”, and here’s what you’re going to do about it. The result…date night was not something to look forward to, but something imposed upon him. Add the idea that he thought I was unhappy and well…Date Night Disaster 101.
More importantly, be sure the goal is right for you and your circumstances …I jumped on a bandwagon. I kept seeing all these people talking about set date nights and well, why not? What a great way to spend more time together and work on our communication and talk about our future, and…and…and…but what it really did was make me take the good in our relationship for granted and instead focus on everything I thought was wrong. Of course it’s not perfect; we’re imperfect people but we have an easy eb and flow. We get along and seldom argue. We both have our own hobbies and neither of us is completely dependent on the other. We joke and kid around and have fun together. There’s nothing wrong with setting a goal to improve but the goal needs to fit the circumstances and it needs to be set for the right reasons, not because it seems to be what works for everyone else. This year my goal for our relationship is to appreciate it. To focus on the good and instead of looking for the bad, it is my goal to be brave enough to confront it when it appears.
At the beginning of 2018 I was so excited about the goals I had set for myself. It had taken me a couple weeks to work through the process provided in the planner. It was the first time I had ever really taken that hard a look at my life and I walked into the new year confident that I was going to succeed. I didn’t. The number of blank boxes far outweighs the sporadic colored-coded check marks for each completed task and that’s a huge disappointment but the knowledge and clarity I gained about myself, my relationships and dreams is so worth it. This year my goals are simple and authentic to who I am. This year my goals are not to impress or to improve others. This year is about owning what I’ve learned, forgiving who I’ve been and moving forward.
“No one gets to tell you how big your dream can be.” Rachel Hollis
A couple months ago I somehow stumbled across the title of Rachel Hollis’ latest book, “Girl Wash You Face”. Little did I know the impact it would have on me and my life. So much of what she says just hits me in the gut. Deep down, I know these things she says, but for some reason I desperately need to hear them…over and over.
I am my own worst enemy. I allow my negative self-talk and the opinions of others to decide my dreams, my next steps, my limitations. I let my perceptions of what other people might think of me to keep me frozen in fear. I spend hours planning and making lists and planning some more. Filling out goal sheets and writing down my biggest dreams. I work very hard on paper but in real life…I’m a slug. A capsized turtle, waving my feet frantically but getting absolutely nowhere. The worst part is that I’m terrified to do anything about it. Or, I was.
I’ve stayed in a relatively safe little box, knowing that as long as I didn’t push the lines too far, everyone would be okay. I could have some small wins but never really accomplish the dream and if that meant that no one was inconvenienced or made uncomfortable then I was able to talk myself into conceding. After all, isn’t that what you’re suppose to do? Compromise. Dream a little but stay inside the boundaries of what’s practical and makes sense to the masses?
Meanwhile, another year is passing by and where am I? Still inside the comfort zone, not even straddling the fence! No closer to my dreams. The problem with compromising the dreams laid on your heart is that no one wins. That’s what I’m learning. Trying to keep your plans inside what makes sense to everyone else is an insane way to use the gifts you been given. It robs you of any joy you may have felt when you first discovered your passion. It drains you of inspiration and motivation and it produces halfhearted work that you’ll never be proud of.
I do think it’s important to take into account the people in your life that are affected by your choices. I think it’s vital to be considerate and find ways of achieving your dreams fully without being negligent and irresponsible. I also think sometimes you have to be selfish. When your dream is taking you places you never imagined and your not compromising your integrity you have to let it take the lead. Not everyone in your life is going to agree or understand it. That is okay. Those who love you and support you are going to do so even when it doesn’t make sense. Those who don’t, won’t.
You won’t know, if you don’t try and you’ll never find your mountain top if you don’t start climbing. I have no idea how this little caterpillar happened to find himself at the very top of these dried up weeds but I’m impressed. If this little guy can get to the top of his mountain, then why shouldn’t I?
I heard myself say the words and I felt the sting of tears.
Sitting at the coffee shop with my best friend, the previous weekends memories flooded back. I had gone to Kansas City and spent the entire weekend walking around places that I had not been in almost six years. I was not prepared for the emotions that overwhelmed me with every step. Days gone by, spent with my kiddos on assorted adventures, discovering new places and making memories that were now bringing me to the brink of tears. Vivid pictures of them walking in front of me as they held hands and giggled…driving through tree lined streets, telling silly jokes and laughing till we cried…exploring open houses and fighting over whose room would be whose even though they were homes far too large and rich for anything we could possibly need or afford…moments long gone but now so precious to me.
I had gone with the intentions of taking in the Plaza Art Fair and just spending some time to myself to sort out some decisions that I needed to be making about the future. Instead, it was an unexpected trip down memory lane, and to be honest, it was exactly what I needed.
I arrived on a Saturday and headed straight to the art fair. The weather was perfect and the fair did not disappoint. As a photographer I think it’s important to pay attention to other people’s art from time-to-time and see what others are drawn to. It was wonderful to witness so many photographers selling pieces of their work and the crowds that spilled in out of their tiny spaces. It’s intimidated and exciting to see such beautiful pieces on display but as I walked up and down the aisles and spent time really taking it in I was surprised at the shift I noticed in my own attitude. A few years ago I had walked through this art fair and left feeling completely dejected and unworthy, believing that I would never have work good enough to display. Now, I find it inspiring and while my work still isn’t up to the standards that were on display that day instead of it leaving me crushed I can see it as something to aspire to.
Leaving the art fair with my confidence in tact was unexpected but not as surprising as the hit it would take over the next 24-hours. Tired from the drive and walking I went to bed early. The next morning I was up early and found myself in an area outside Kansas City that I had only ever been to with my kiddos. When we first moved to Missouri in 2006 my husband found himself hauling cattle. This meant that he would be gone for at least a week, most often two weeks at a time. It was a huge adjustment for our family. The weekends he was not home I would take the kids on “adventures”. Open houses, hiking, exploring all the different suburbs and finding activities that kept us busy. Revisiting one of those places, on this particular weekend, brought up so many memories and emotions that I quite simply was overwhelmed by it.
That perfect Sunday morning I sat at a little table in front of this beautiful door and allowed myself to dream. My dream was big and when it began to scare me, I just kept dreaming bigger until I had a sudden moment of realization that brought me crashing back to earth. A week later, while sharing it with my best friend over coffee I crashed again as I choked over the words “…that is a part of my dream that I will never have.”
My dream was about my future and who I hope to be. It included vivid details about where I lived, where I worked, what I wore, what I drove, the people I would know and what my typical day would be like. It’s meant to be an exercise that gives you vision and motivation but it also made me face some realities that I have been ignoring. I really do believe in living your best self and that the only personal responsible for my life, my joy, my successes and failures; is me. However, part of that joy and accomplishment means that I cannot just go and do whatever suits me or whatever I dare to dream up because I’m not going to have joy and success in my life if I disregard the people in my life who matter to me most. Seeing my dream completely crumple around me based on the realization that there were certain aspects that I would most likely have to forego because it would be a detriment to some of my relationships was hard but then I heard someone on a podcast talking about this very thing. They used the example of how we think if we move to a certain place, live in a certain kind of home, etc. that we think it will make our dreams come true but the reality is that, that is just geography. You’re still going to carry all the same baggage into that new place. God really does work in mysterious ways sometimes. While I allowed myself to dream in vivid details, that does not mean that every detail matters or has to be a reality in order for my dream to come true.
My kiddos are no longer little. My oldest is about to have her own baby! Going back to this place, and remembering those wonderful moments made me realize just how quickly life is passing by. In just a couple short months another year will be beginning and when I look back on this past year I see a lot of growth but I also am aware of the fear I continue to allow to keep me from moving forward. Sitting in that space on a Sunday morning, surrounded by memories of time spent and gone was hard and bittersweet but it was also a chance for me to take stock and listen to my heart. I had gone believing that the art fair would help me find my direction and in some respects, it did, but it was my time spent reminiscing that continues to impact me as I begin to plan and make choices about what lies ahead. Maybe, sometimes, the best way to figure out what you want for your future is take a little trip back in time.
“Exploration comes before expression.” David duChemin, The Traveling Lens course.
How you feel about a place cannot be completely known until you have had time to explore it. Walk around it, take in it’s sounds and smells. Feel it’s rhythm. Learn its history. Sure, you can get a feeling or a vibe almost immediately but until you spend some time and peel back the layers, your initial impression is shallow and surface-level at best.
In a lesson from David’s course he talks about spending an hour or two just sitting in a place, wandering around, getting lost (my favorite), and just allowing yourself to become a part of it before you pull out your camera and just start snapping pictures. I loved the advice and decided to put it into practice the next time I went out with my camera. Now, I am one who loves to wander and get lost and spend time in a place, but doing it intentionally and paying attention to the place itself instead of focusing on what I was going to snap a shot of next was, quite honestly, completely frustrating, at first. Old habits are hard to break and so are certain mindsets.
Once I got out of my own way and just gave myself permission to relax, I started walking a little slower, stopping and staring a little longer or closing my eyes and just listening and feeling. That’s when it became amazing. My first priority was no longer about taking photos but instead became more about my surroundings, how they made me feel and what drew my attention. What inspires me and makes me want to get a closer look. That’s when I started to feel a more natural connection with my camera. I was reaching for it less but the action itself became more natural and instinctive.
This is the kind of photographer I want to be. I want my expression of a place to be more than just what I see. I want it to be what I feel. I also want it to be the kind of person I want to be. Taking time with someone, getting to know them beyond first impressions and dismissing snap judgments, I think would make great photography but also makes for a better life and a better world.
This weekend, I played in the rain. Twice. Actually three times, see picture above. This was suppose to be a weekend at the lake with family and friends. Instead, I found myself spending the entire weekend home alone with only the dog and cat and a massive migraine to keep me company. I have to mention, I am a lake girl. I love the lake!! If I could live there, I absolutely would but for now we manage a visit a couple times a year. So missing out on a trip to the lake…complete bummer but not as big a bummer as trying to ride 6 hours in a truck wishing you could remove your head from your body and heave it out the window. So, I stayed home.
Over the weekend we officially entered the month of September. One of my favorite months. Fall is starting to set in, school is back in full-swing and my world starts to come alive with color. The rainy days of fall are magical to me because the gray skies just enhance all the beautiful color. Pure gold to a photographer…well, to this photographer anyway.
Driving is not an ideal activity when you’re in the midst of a full on migraine. So, I couldn’t go to the lake, I really couldn’t get out and take photos and as I’m not much of a homebody I was going a little stir crazy. I was sitting on my bedroom floor going through a few little things left over from my closet clean out. I had the windows open so I could listen to the rain. As I reached to pick up an old pair of flip-flops I was throwing out the skies seemed to just let loose and I couldn’t help but throw on the flip-flops and run outside.
If you have never played or even stood out in the rain, a really good rain, the kind that just falls straight from the sky and soaks you through…you really need to try it. It. Was. Awesome. Soul cleansing! The only downfall (pun intended) was that it ended almost as quickly as it began. It was so good that the next day when the rain got so loud on our roof that I couldn’t hear anything else, I knew I just had to go out again.
This morning I woke up on the other side of a bridge that I’ve been crossing for…years. I have camped out…no, taken up residence on this bridge for over two decades and finally…amazingly, I’m able to turn around and see where I’ve come from.
As a young girl I was a victim. As a teenager I was a silent sufferer. In my early twenties I took all my pain and anger and created a path of self destruction. Since then I have lived in a bubble of insecurity, negativity and self-loathing but today…today I know that I can look at all the bad and see everything that I’ve overcome.
We all have trauma’s in our lives. We all lose sometimes. We all suffer shattered hearts. That’s just proof that we’re alive and finally understanding that means that I have control of how I live. I believe in God and I believe that he has given me dreams and desires for a purpose. I believe we all have a bridge to cross. It’s about learning what you’re truly capable of and discovering that we are fearfully and wonderfully made. Allowing the bad to keep us stuck is simply allowing the bad to win.
I once had a very vivid dream of what my life was going to be like. It was just a short dream but it was so clear and realistic that I awoke just knowing I had caught a glimpse of my future. A few months later that dream was shattered by a simple letter. I don’t know why or how exactly but somehow I believed that I was no longer deserving, that the girl in that dream was no longer able to exist outside of it. I allowed that situation to decide who I was, or wasn’t I suppose. I was wrong! Who I am should never be dependent on someone or something else.
All the things we go through, the good and the bad, they may affect our perspective but they should never define who we are. Be you. No one else gets to.
“We are either defined by memories of our past or the vision we have for our life in the future.” Author unknown.
In the midst of summer, between the blanket of humidity and the cricket chirping induced sleep I have found direction, confidence and a little peace. Starting off the summer listening to a mantra of “I am lost” playing over and over in my mind was not a great start but when I was finally willing to just come out and admit that I was lost, I was finally able to get my bearings.
I’ve always loved heading out on unknown roads and getting lost. I love how it always gives me a different perspective and increases my need to really pay attention to my surroundings. Understanding that has helped me understand that this feeling of being lost and having no idea which direction to go is a reminder to pay closer attention; that maybe I need a new perspective. Giving voice to my “lostness” has also allowed me to be more open to possibilities and to peer a little closer into the journey that I’m on. Finding my direction has meant making difficult choices and being honest with myself in ways that I have avoided for fear of disappointing myself and others.
Another benefit of being honest and admitting I was lost is that it gave me permission to look for help. I truly believe when we are real and sincere about our needs and hurts, God opens our hearts and minds to receive exactly what we need at that time. For me it was a book written by Rachel Hollis (Girl Wash Your Face). From there I began following her on Facebook and Instagram and listening to her Podcasts. She resonated with me so much that I felt like we were friends who have just never had the pleasure of meeting.
I love this thing called photography. I love the adventure in it, the learning of it, the creative freedom it gives and I know that I want to be a photographer, I just have to stop getting in my own way. I’m still working to find my way but I now appreciate that I’m making these choices for me and no one else. That “other people’s opinions of me are none of my business” and, that I “didn’t come this far only to come this far”.*
*Quotes courtesy of Rachel Hollis’ movie ‘Made For More’.
“Fear has two meanings; ‘Forget Everything and Run’ or ‘Face Everything and Rise.’ The choice is yours.” Zig Ziglar
On Saturday, June 16th of this year, wearing my favorite shoes (see previous post) I took a step towards my fears. I entered four photos into the Iowa State Fair Salon. Standing in line, white knuckles hesitating to hand over the work that represented hundreds of miles of gravel roads and hours of preparing not just the photographs but also myself, I was just excited to be facing my fear of simply entering. Seeing the stacks of pictures already dropped off by hopeful artists, I couldn’t help but feel a little overwhelmed. I appreciated the simplicity of the process at that moment. Already past the first check point, there was no turning back. I handed over the four prints, paid my fee and walked out congratulating myself on doing what I had set out to do.
To some, it may seem like no big thing, entering photos in a local photography contest. Big deal. Yes, for someone who often finds themselves paralyzed by her own fears, it really is a big deal. For someone who struggled for years to even share my photos with family and friends for fear of being laughed at, it’s a big deal. For me, it’s not just about the contest, it’s a step forward towards a dream I’ve had for years. It’s a chance to really put myself out there and win or lose, learn from the experience. And maybe even more important, right now, in this moment, as I sit here looking at the postcard that just arrived in the mail, telling me that one of my “photos has been accepted for display”, it’s a big deal to just be excited. To be proud of the work I’ve done and allow myself to celebrate a goal achieved. Every journey begins with a single step, right?
So…I just finished a book. I read lots of books but…as corny as it may sound…this book was different. This book felt as though it could have been written by me. It could have been written by my best friend. It could have been written by so many women that I know. It resonated with me so much that I often found myself cheering out loud at particular paragraphs and statements. Thankfully no one was around in those moments, but even if they had been, I don’t know that it would have stopped me.
Now that I have finished it and because it so plainly was exactly what I needed to hear I cannot help but follow through on her advice. The first of which is to write down my dream. More specifically she says…”Before you continue reading, take a few moments to focus on a specific dream. Get out a piece of paper and write it down…Come on, girl-no one is watching. There’s nobody here to judge.”** Yikes!! I had intended to write it out on paper because writing things down helps you remember and gives your conscience connection to what is being said. Though possibly foolish, I have decided to take it one step further and type it out for anyone to see. Here goes nothing.
It is my dream to wake up every morning grateful for the blessings in my life and go to bed each night knowing that I have lived my day as authentically as I can. Two things I cannot say that I have ever done, at least not for a long time. I get caught up in the everyday and forget or take for granted all the wonderful in my life. I live afraid of not being good enough, and so sure that I’m going to fail that I don’t even try. I’m a perfectionist and since I am far from perfect I’m always afraid to allow the real me to be seen. The real me is…broken but fighting. I am good enough and I know that I no longer need to depend on other people’s opinions to define my self-esteem. (Thank you Will Smith!)***
I recently completed a mid-year review of the goals I started in January for 2018. Call it what you will but me finding this book and witnessing some amazing changes of a close friend, and so many other little things have culminated to bring me to this place. I finally feel like I’m finding my own way.
I have a dream beyond just the things I mentioned here but that one I’m not quite ready share. That one I do need to write on paper and sit with awhile. These shoes pictured above are a symbol, of sorts. I’m not a shoe person but I adore these shoes. I am looking forward to all the places they are going to take me and I cannot wait to share that journey with you.
** © 2018 by Rachel Hollis – Girl, Wash Your Face I highly recommend this book to anyone needing encouragement and inspiration to follow your dreams.
*** @willsmith SELF-Esteem. Instagram post.
I don’t have a bucket list. In the back of my mind I have a list of things I think I would like to do in this lifetime but I’ve had enough experiences to know that plenty of those things just simply will never happen, not because I don’t believe they can but because…well…life. I’m okay with that, most days. What I seem to struggle with most are the moments and experiences that I didn’t realize I wanted until it was too late. I was always busy rushing about life hyper-focused on what needs to be done and how others might feel or think about what wasn’t perfect. I seldom took the time to slow down and really pay attention to what I thought or felt or wanted.
That’s one of the things I love about photography. For a few moments I get to really stop and focus in on one thing and in that moment I get to pay attention to what I think and how I feel about it. How does what I’m seeing affect me? Does it affect me? I sincerely appreciate when my photos catch other people’s attention but it starts with just me and my point of view. I get to decide what I like, what I appreciate, what I keep and what I crop. When I’m in that zone I get to appreciate my own unique perspective and it has taught me that I have worth and that I am capable of having and sharing my own vision.
Of course life isn’t exactly the same. I can’t go back and crop back in the parts I thought I could live without. No, I have to accept what has passed though the lens of my life. I can however take a lesson from my photography and apply it to my life. I can learn to slow down and pay closer attention, not just to those I care about around me but also to myself. I can zoom in and focus on the parts that really matter to me. I can learn to value myself and the gifts and blessings I have been given. I can embrace the imperfections and see that by trying to edit or cover them up I lose the true beauty in the pictures of my life.
Some days I wish I could just turn off the constant whirring in my own head. Just a quick little flip of a switch and all the to-do’s, plans and random musings could be replaced with…quiet, peaceful nothingness.
At the beginning of the year I started working on a process of setting specific goals. With larger dreams and plans in mind, I set monthly, weekly and daily steps to help me work towards those bigger dreams and plans. Oddly, or at least to me, I like organization but have never really been one to plan. Even when I worked as an event planner, my own life was lived pretty wide open. I just went with whatever needed to be done, when it needed to be done, which admittedly, sometimes led to things not being done and an overall feeling of discontent and frustration.
Now, after 6 months of trying to be more focused and intentional about my life and the days and minutes that make it up, I still find that I’m just as frustrated. In May I found myself so disheartened that decided to take a little break. I still set goals, I still practiced my photography a bit but I didn’t make any of it a priority. I reverted back a bit to just living each day with whatever it brought. It also helped that I work full-time at a garden center and with the late spring May was incredibly busy.
My PowerSheets that I use for goal setting has you do a review at the end of each month, so at the end of May I took a little extra time to evaluate my attitude towards the whole process and how I wanted to proceed. While it has been frustrating to be reminded each month, in my own handwriting, how many goals have gone unmet, I focused on the positive and I discovered a few things about myself. I love the process. I love thinking about and planning and writing…the process. When it comes to putting it into practice, I freeze up and avoid. I sabotage. I have become so comfortable with frustration that I actually fear accomplishing my own goals.
May was a blur of work and little sleep and quite honestly, completing only one goal on my list but May also brought some answered prayers and what I’m hoping is a more grateful attitude towards the life that I have been blessed with. I want to accomplish my goals and I want to break some long learned habits that are keeping me stuck in this comfortable frustration but I also know that I can only take one step at a time and that I need to be present and not take what I have done and do have for granted.
When I married my husband I knew I had found a great guy. Stable, capable and funny…I really felt blessed. Then I met his friends and I knew I must be the luckiest woman in the world. A lot like Chris himself, his friends are an amazing collection of big hearts, loyalty and character.
So it was a huge privilege to be asked to photograph the wedding reception of our good friends son and daughter-in-law. Unlike the weather that weekend, the Beaderstadts are just good, fun people. With ready smiles they brighten any gathering and are never short of hilarious stories. The newlyweds, Brett and Ashley, are slightly more reserved and were so sweet, graciously meeting and mingling with their guests.
The reception was a perfect representation of the couple and their families. Held at the Copper Creek Golf Club in Pleasant Hill, the decorations were beautiful and understated. It was a perfect evening spent doing what I love and hanging out with people I feel blessed to call friends.