Today is a very big day. In just a few hours, I will be loading up nine of my large framed photos and delivering them safely to the local hospital for my first solo art exhibition. It is a lifelong dream come true. And mostly, it has been incredible. I told my counselor the other day that it feels like a dream… that it feels like I got dropped into someone else's life all of the sudden and that I got really lucky, because their life happens to be all the things that I always wanted my own life to be. Like, hey, I could get used to this!
But of course, it's not ALL the things I wanted my life to be. We all know that. He is not here. I may 100% believe that he can see everything I'm doing and he is working overtime to help align things and forge this new path for me… but that doesn't change the fact that he cannot stand next to me for this moment.
Yesterday was my fiance's 30th Birthday. I don't say "would have been" because it doesn't make me feel like I am allowed to still celebrate it when I saw that. So instead, I say that it was, and is, the day he turned thirty. Even if he isn't here physically, saying it that IS his birthday helps me have permission to still celebrate.Read more
Yesterday was a hard day. Exactly a week until Drew's birthday, perhaps I don't remember how hard it was last year… but I could swear it's hitting me harder this year. My body seems so much more aware of the lack of his body, but also just the feeling of him in the space is far more distant now. I downplayed that first sentence… it was a hard week actually. And next week I'm sure will also be hard.Read more
Since I lost my fiancé almost 2 years ago, I have been acutely aware of how uncomfortable my very presence makes people at times. I talk about it less and less on Facebook, and even with my closest friends and family. It turns out people really don't like being reminded of death. Who knew? I've started to feel like I am carrying around some bad omen on my back - like some I'm some messenger of death now that brings a black aura everywhere I go. It's definitely a shitty part of this journey - feeling like my very identity upsets people or makes them uncomfortable. Which is made to suck even more by the fact that I am one of those people too - I also don't want to be around my own pain and this new unwanted identity of "widow". It is a constant battle for me to try and make peace with this new part of who I am that reminds me of everything I do not have.Read more
It's actually Monday as I write this... I'm heading out this week for Camp Widow, where I will likely meet many of you! So I decided to get this one in early.
A lot of us talk about various times during this horrible journey where a shift begins to happen. It's nothing concrete or tangible, it may not even be something we can easily define… all we know is that something has changed in us and the way we view what has happened to us. That is the shift.Read more
Since Drew was a helicopter pilot, helicopters and anything to do with flying are always the biggest signs I get from him. I even found a tiny toy helicopter in this shack on the island of Barbados last spring while vacationing there with his family. It had washed up on the beach and the guy collected it to sell in his shop. No joke!
And just a few months after he died, in the fall of 2012, I stumbled upon this artist's creative business e-workshop that was called "Flying Lessons". Drew was also a flight instructor, so it was all too obvious that he was telling me something. I signed up immediately. The Facebook group for the course truly carried me through those early months. Because of the theme of the class, all the women in the group would write cheesy encouragements to each other like "keep flying!" or "I'll see you up in the clouds!". It always made me smile, and confirmed he lead me there for a reason.
All things flight definitely seem to follow me around now, but it's been a while since I've had any signs that made me stop in my tracks. Until yesterday…
I was tinkering away on a new sculpture at a local clay studio I just started working with. It was midday and pretty cold, so the place was empty. After about an hour, I took a break to take some process photos of my work, and as I framed the picture, I noticed something written on the worktable just a foot above where I was working. As I read it, I'm pretty sure my jaw dropped to the floor…
Last night just before going to bed, for some reason I felt called to go back through some really old journal entries from the years leading up to when I met Drew. I don't always pay attention to those little cues, but last night for whatever reason I did.
I smiled to read some of the entries about our first days together... about how safe and natural and trusting it all felt. How much fun we had together. The adventures we went on, like sky diving and hot air ballooning. But where I ended up reading more - and where my truth really was - was a bit different.
I've been going back over a lot of my old journal entries lately and picked one out to share a part of. For some years now I have been doing this inner-child dialogue technique... Basically having a conversation with that deepest, most vulnerable (and sometimes most wounded) part of myself by asking her questions and allowing her to share until I get to the real root of some emotions.
I know. It sounds WEIRD. And at first it felt really weird to do, but the results have always been profound at revealing some very deep emotions that I can never seem to get to so clearly any other way.
This entry was in Nov 2012, just a few months after he died:
Today I read a beautiful article that really got me thinking. During a commercial photo shoot for a show on the Oprah Network - near the end of the shoot - one of the actors requested the photographer to take a few more shots for him. As he stepped back onto the backdrop, the actor began to sob. The photographer captured about a dozen or so shots before finally feeling uncomfortable with remaining uninvolved and then walked around the camera to give the man a hug. The actor went on to tell him that his father had died that day, and he had just gotten the phone call while on their lunch break during the shoot. He had been holding it in all day - without anyone knowing - and finally, at the end of the day, he just wanted someone to record what he was going through. The images are beautiful… I have shared one below.
As a photographer, and as a human being, this story touched my heart and really got me thinking. I have taken many many self portraits since Drew died… and the vast majority of them seem to end up being on my phone while at the cemetery (including the two below). I don't know why I do this, but nearly every time I am there, in the quiet space where his body lay, far out in the countryside, I seem compelled to get out the camera and look back in at myself. I want to see myself going through it. I want to capture it - all of it - the pain, the tears, the anguish. I want to have a conversation with myself and explore it from a different point, from a point where I am suddenly outside looking in on that moment. I don't know why, but I want that. I'm guessing a lot of us for one reason or another want to capture the pain in some way. After all, even pain is sacred… especially sacred.Read more