Along with being a writer, many of you know that I'm an artist. You may also know, as I've sometimes shared here, that I've been working on a photographic series for the past year all about my journey through grief. What began as just a small idea, to take a self portrait every week and share it on my blog, has snowballed into something of a whole new direction for my life. I was only a hobby photographer before I set out on this journey
Now, a year later, I am looking back and seeing just how much has changed... how much I have changed. I am just this week kicking off my first international show, in Rome. What the hell? And have won quite a few awards at recent shows for my work in this series. Looking ahead, I have goals to publish a book of the series and begin speaking about death and the healing power of creativity. A year ago, none of this was here. I was completely and utterly lost. And still very broken. Somehow, this project put me back together. It rebuilt me into someone new who has bold things ahead of her. It's exciting and really daunting all at the same time. I am frequently terrified of where this freight train is taking me and of whether or not I can handle it all.
"Still, Life" has been easily the most significant, most difficult and most life-changing project I have ever worked on. It has taken every ounce of me... creative, conceptual, technical, physical, emotional. There have been many many weeks when I just wanted to give up entirely. I cursed enough to make a sailor blush because the burden felt too big. I hit walls of resistance and would inevitably have no choice but to force myself to get up and shoot something, anything. I was consumed by anger for the fact that I am even in the situation to be doing a project all about death and grief. It has been a long and difficult journey. I don't think I need to make it apparent just how much this project has aligned with the challenges of grief itself. The struggles of creating this have so deeply gone hand in hand with navigating the waves of emotions from losing my fiance.
There have also been good things. The small glimmers of hope when I finally begin to see an image taking shape that I have worked hard on. The bright and brilliant moments of winning awards for the work that I could and would not be doing if it was not for him. The quiet moments of deep meaning when someone writes or shares with me how much one of these images resonated with them on their own journey with grief. It's those quiet moments especially when I realize that telling my story is helping someone else to tell theirs. Which also aligns with the journey of grief itself.
Reflecting back, I realize that this project has been not only a physical manifestation of one woman's inner voyage through grief, but also an example of the simple power of telling our stories... however we choose to tell them. It is in telling my story that I've been able to journey deeper into it, deep enough to find the gifts within the darkness. Telling my story is what pulled me back out of the darkness - by connecting me with others who feel it too. Allowing my story to be heard heals me, strengthens me, and teaches me all the time that death has given me something very valuable - knowledge and wisdom and experience with which to help others. Death has given us all that.
This project came to a close for me this week... quite unexpectedly. I sat down to write about the next image, and instead, a final statement ended up pouring out of my fingertips - which you can read here on my blog. By the time I was finished typing, I was in shock. It happened almost without me... as if some part of me willed the thing to come to a close. It was a sharp reminder not only of how I cannot control the creative process, but of how I cannot control life... or when things may end or begin in my world. It has of course stirred me up. I've been emotional the past few days. I'm sensing a need for some time to grieve and let go of the project itself (or at least the initial year of it) just as I would let go of any chapter of my life.
I know deep down I was ready for this to come to a close. I have been ready for a new chapter to begin in my artistic world but scared to initiate the change. And so I suppose I just got pushed into it somehow. It was certain: I was done being at the end of something, and ready to be at the beginning of something else. A very very huge statement in this journey as a widow. I'm not even sure what I am ready to be at the beginning of yet... or what this new chapter of my life will be or look like. All I know, is that I am ready for change again... or at least as ready as I'll ever be.
You can view the full "Still, Life" photo series on my blog: 12moc.com