Some day I would like to travel around Europe with my husband, drive on the wrong side of the road and drink proper tea, again, with locals. Maybe even have some mushy peas. Some day I would like to learn a second language and speak it fluently. I used to know a lot of Spanish. The older I get the harder it seems to find time to learn things. The harder it is, also, to remember things. Though, the older I get, the more knowledge I crave. I care more about history as an adult than I ever did as a child. I care more about understanding the way the world works. I am a part of this world and I want to contribute. That's why I love creating. I love creating things that speak to the heart of those who come across it. Something that is meaningful. Some day I would love to be published, for either my words or my photos, or maybe even both. Who knows. Some day I would love to visit Napa Valley, drink wine, walk around or swing in a hammock, in the shade. Some day I would love to eat cheese and a hard baguette in France, ride a bike through the markets and find things to buy to carry around in my bicycle basket. Some day I would love to go with my girlfriends on a girls-only trip, to a secluded beach, pretend to be a little kid again and build a giant castle in the sand. Some day I would love to take each of my children on a special trip, just the two of us, wherever they want to go. (My son asked me just last week if I could take him to Paris and we could take photos, together. My heart nearly leapt out of my chest at the mere possibility.) Spend time getting to know them, letting them get to know me. The real me. Not just the mom, with the structure and the routine and the rules that keep them safe, blah, blah, blah.
Some day, I might get to do all of those things.
But for now, some day is today. When I look back on my life, and the days that I spent doing whatever it is I was doing, I know I'll feel nostalgic about it all. I'll be old and wrinkly, and I'll look at photos and tell the same stories over and over, forgetting that you've heard it a hundred times, you'll tell me you have heard it but somehow I'll further delude myself into thinking you really want to hear it, one more time. I'll remember the wildly attractive things, that were on my list to do, if I did them. I'll feel warm and fuzzy about them. I'm sure I'll document them and take plenty of photos to tell my stories. I'll also look back and remember the terribly mundane and painfully boring or just plain painful days. The times that felt like they would never end. When I'm old, it'll feel like "it was just yesterday that it happened" and I'll miss it all.
The bulk of my life is not so fun. It's not glamorous. It's mundane and can some days feel like pure drudgery. I juggle a lot, physically, mentally, emotionally. With 3 children, all with some wonderfully, unique and special needs, and myself, balancing work and parenting while living with an autoimmune disorder, often, the world feels like one giant elephant, waiting. Staring me down. That damn elephant just sits and looks at me. It's waiting to be eaten. Almost daring me to try. Except I'm not hungry. I'm rarely hungry. Why is it so big? Who ordered this elephant?!
Some days, I just want to send it back. But there is no kitchen to return it to. No manager to call and complain. It's just here.
I don't feel prepared. I don't feel capable. Little by little. I nibble. Some days, few and far between, I feel a tenacious hunger well up inside of me and I tear through a portion. I devour it. I feel accomplished. I feel tired. But I feel good about it. I should earn a reward for that, right?! I tell myself as I pat myself on the back. There's no reward, however. No prize. It's just a regular day, like any other to everyone else. A day when I did what I was supposed to do and I felt capable. My work feels insignificant. I had a small victory but no one knows. We all deal with something, so, I don't really want people to notice, I just don't want to feel alone. I love when I have these productive days, I no longer feel isolated. I feel useful. I feel capable. I feel joy in my accomplishments and happy to share my good news with whoever wants to hear it. My excitement is short lived. My accomplishment has carried me through a few days and bolstered me to last a while. Though, soon, my glory fades. I return to my normal days when I'm not so capable. On those days, I can't get the food down. So, I nibble. Is there another way to survive?
I keep going.
I look forward to the exciting things that life has to offer and I continue to document the mundane, in the meantime. You know why? Because when I look back at my photos of either, they're all the same. They all make me feel something. That's really all that I want out of photography. To look at photos and feel something.
Why do I feel the same, whether I am out of the country or in my backyard, in my photos? Emotionally, it's all connected. Our emotional wires all plug into the same circuit.
I remember how much fun I had when I was in Puerto Rico, shooting on the beach with my friend or when I was shooting in the Snowy Mountain Range of Wyoming with my husband and then visiting family with our kids. I look at photos and I remember all of the fun we had. I feel good about my memories. Nevermind that in Puerto Rico I had strep throat and between my fever and the 95% humidity I couldn't stay hydrated or energized. Or that in Wyoming, my back went out, and we had to find a chiropractor before I could fly home. Somehow, the negative memories fade out to the background. Photos don't show those parts our trips. Similarly, I look back at photos of when we were in our living room or at the park down the street. I forget that it was the day I was running on 2 hours of sleep because my daughter has a mysterious stomach illness that comes and goes whenever it pleases, and keeps us awake throughout the night while she cries in pain and we try to bathe her, massage her, do anything we can to comfort her back to sleep. I forget that it was the evening that I had a panic attack just an hour before when my son followed his bouncy ball into the road and was almost hit by a car, because he often becomes so engrossed in what he is doing to the point that he doesn't hear you when you're screaming his name and you can't get to him fast enough to save his life. How scary it is that he forgets to be cautious of dangerous things the way that it comes so naturally to the rest of us. When I look back, at photos of my youngest, I'm not thinking about the fact that I constantly have to keep my eyes on her and know where she is because she will put almost anything on her face, in her mouth, nose, or ear, just because. She doesn't know or care that she can choke or damage her ear drum or seem to be able to remember that she hates having permanent marker rubbed off of her cheeks and forehead. She just wants to see how these things feel.
You see, the wonderful disadvantage of photographs is that you don't see the negatives (no pun intended). Photographs are like icebergs. You only see a fragment of the story in one photograph. There is a whole lot more under the surface. The truth is somewhere in the back. Hidden away, covered with cobwebs, in places you don't often go. With things you don't like to feel or often remember. You can't get rid of them so you just store them away for when you can handle thinking about them, again.
I know I can't be the only one who feels this way. Especially on the bad days. I crave relation. I want someone, somewhere, to be able to relate to me. (Misery loves company, right?) But seriously, don't we all love a little solidarity in our struggles? Doesn't it make us feel normal? Someone who can say, "Man, I feel for you. I know what that feels like. I have been there."
When I take photos, I look for those things which are real. Anything emotional that is tangible. Moments that make you feel something.
You see, in that place, somewhere in the back, hidden away, covered with cobwebs, the place where you keep the hurts, the anxieties, the griefs, the fears, the traumas, you keep all of your memories there. The memories of those you care about most and any memories of that which has affected you deeply. It's the emotional circuit box. We keep the real emotions there. That means it also stores memories of times when we felt or shared our love, our compassion, our empathy, our relat-ability, our vulnerability, it's all there. That's where our story is. Where the truth rests. But it's guarded. Under lock and key. You don't let just anyone go in. It's too raw. Too honest. It's messy. It's not always beautiful. Some of it might be downright ugly. But it's real. It's true.
I know what's in mine. I don't know what is in yours but when I am photographing, it's what I am thinking about. That place is what inspires me to create the kind of images I love.
My heart longs for authenticity. Genuine truth, told the way it is, transparency without worry of judgement or appearance.
Just being who we were made to be. Sharing our struggles, sharing our small victories. Encouraging one another so we don't have to feel alone. Life is about more than photos but photos are how I find that I can most easily relate to people and communicate my emotions with them.
So, I share my heart and I share my some days. Because all of our some days are worth something. The good, the bad, the wildly attractive and the terribly mundane.
(If this sounds like a bunch of ramblings with too many metaphors, just scroll past the words and enjoy the pictures. It's cool. ;)