This morning I went for a hike out on the ranch scouting my next location for a photo shoot. I started out at a particular dry creek bed. Parked the truck, walked down a shallow slope and stood a moment taking in the world around me. This was where Drew first taught me how to shoot a gun. Back when I was so terrified of them that my hands would shake just to hold one. I have only been back here twice since he died… always I can feel the absence so strongly here. This time was no different.
This past week, a friend of mine shared a story with me about a woman she recently met while out shopping for boots at a western store. As they looked through the sale rack, the woman told her how she got through the death of her husband by promising herself a new pair of cowboy boots every time she had to do something hard in relation to her grief… like going to the mortuary, or collecting his will. Eventually, she had a whole shelf of them and she wore them everywhere she went. "Even to church" she said. "I medicated myself with old western movies and cowboy boots". My friend, who is actually a grief counselor, fully endorsed her grief medication.
Ok. So. A LOT of things have happened in the past week for me. And just days ago, one of the biggest new firsts happened. One I have wondered about and feared and dreaded for two and a half years. I can't even believe I'm going to share this... like, PUBLICLY, but it's part of the journey. So here goes.
I'm writing you tonight from my hotel room in Seattle – en route to a four-night stay in Alaska. I hadn't really given any thought to what I was going to write today for this post, as I've spent the better part of the day running around like crazy. It could have been about the usual stuff of Valentine's Day... like how bitchy I've been all week leading up to today. Or how I went into Walgreens yesterday for some picture hanging wire and was assaulted by the pink and red décor that vomited all over the store interior. Or about how sad I was when I woke up this morning or how hard I've tried to stay off of Facebook all day.Read more
Something I feel many people don't understand about losing your partner is that there are many, many subsequent losses. It's something all of you understand, or will come to. Like aftershock from an earthquake, they continue to shake our foundation for YEARS after the initial tragedy. It can be the smallest things, like the first time you have to take out the trash or eat alone. Or the really big things like first holidays without them or moving from the place you called home together. But it's also the joyful things, like landing a new job or winning an award, making new friends or dating someone new. Every single event or change in your life from the moment they die is another loss - another layer of having to come to terms with the fact that they aren't here and aren't coming back. Another small step of letting go in order to move forward. Not letting go of them, but letting go of what would have been to make room for what is and will be.Read more
It's been a few weeks since I shared about going on my first date with someone since my fiancé died. I have been through every wave of emotion imaginable since then. I have cried buckets of tears for how much this experience has made me miss my fiancé. For how much all of this is bringing up old familiar memories and joys I shared with him those years ago. For how much it makes me miss the safety and rock solid trust that I had with him. I have felt paralyzed by the fear of being vulnerable with another man in ANY way. Of allowing any man into that space in my world again - the space where I cry, the space of allowing myself to be comforted. The space my fiancé has held so powerfully in my heart all these years. His space.
I have also felt joy, and butterflies in my stomach, and a giddiness that has been so delightful. I have felt excited by the idea that someone is thinking of me in this light. And I have enjoyed thinking of them in this light too. So all of this, both extremes, have been rushing through me at the speed of light.
This morning I was watching the news and saw a feature about a young girl - 14 years old - who is working hard to achieve a very special Christmas goal. Her wish, is to put a wreath on every single grave at Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery here in San Antonio, TX. To date, there are over 144,000 graves of fallen soldiers buried here. To say it is a big goal is an understatement. They have yet to reach that goal in a single year, but she is relentless. Partnered now with Wreaths Across America, she does 15 or 20 speaking engagements and fund raisers around the San Antonio, TX area in the fall to help raise money and bring in volunteers for this massive effort. The focus and resolve are nothing short of incredible to watch - particularly in someone so young.
I could not help but be completely inspired by the boldness and determination of her spirit. It allowed me to put my own pain aside for a moment and think about just how many ways on any given day there are to do something to remember or appreciate those who have died - whether as soldiers or otherwise.
SO. After two and a half years… it finally happened.
I had my first date this week.
I can't even tell you how this happened. I had no idea this person would be interested and I've never much been interested in him either. It sort of came out of the blue… no real warning, no time for planning how I want to feel about this step. Just… bam, there it is, you're going on a date today.
I thought this week I would share one of the images from my self portrait series and the story behind it. While I was out shooting on the beach for last week’s photograph – wandering the grassy, windswept dunes – I came across a peculiar sight. Every plant on the beach was bright green and vibrant with life that day. Rich olive green sea grasses and succulent fat-leaved emerald vines with ripe yellow flowers. There must have been an unseasonable amount of rain recently because everything was really blushing. You could feel it – like all of nature had just taken in a deep breath.
But then, right in the middle of it all, I noticed this one particular type of plant. They were large – towering over me by at least a few feet. And every single one of them, as far as my eyes could see, over each rolling dune down the beach, was dead. All of them. There was such an eerie metaphoric nature to it… these clusters of death pitted right down in the midst of so much life. It seemed almost deliberate. Certainly hard to miss when you are closely observing a landscape as I often am.
With mosquitos biting boldly at my ankles and arms, (I will remember to add insect repellant to my camera bag from now on!) I grabbed my gear and climbed into a thicket of these otherworldly dead plants to explore. The leaves were a silvery blue-green hue – like faded sage. I had no plan. No idea what I even wanted to capture. I just began shooting, trying different ways of interacting with this mesmerizing space.Read more
Thanksgiving was easier this year. I think. It was certainly less terrifying than the first year. I still remember that first year, when we changed the tradition from being at my in-laws' house to Drew's aunt & uncle's house near Houston. His aunt did assigned seats… and I was sat next to the ONLY empty chair in the whole room. Which also happened to be at what I affectionately call the Widow table. Myself, his grandmother (widowed), his aunt (also widowed). Now I know it was accidental, but I had to laugh at the complete irony of the whole situation. Sometimes you have to laugh or you'll cry, am I right? I was paralyzed by the fear that I would cry during the prayer (which I did anyway, so fearing it was futile). It ended up being a fun table to be at in the end. We had plenty of dark laughter to go around, after all. Still, I remember wanting nothing more than to be alone and just erupt in tears for hours on end. The feeling was literally a pain in my heart. You all know that pain.Read more