Love is the Ultimate Elixir

Friends in Shadow, Friends in Light, Canon Rebel xsi

I'm beginning to believe that there is no wound that love cannot heal, no doubt it can't chase away.  The more I reach out and invite it in, the stronger my steps as I walk through fear, or all the way out of its territory.  Love makes me brave as it weaves a net below to catch me.  It tells me I don't have to go it alone. I can have my hand held in the scary places, and I can have dancing partners when it's time to climb up on the furniture and celebrate.

Those who love me catch my tears in their palms.  They kiss my forehead.  And then they hand me my pen.

 

Bursts and Stops

Diana Instant+

I feel like a quirky faucet these days; the words come out in strange bursts and stops. One moment I'm sure I have ten blog posts and a couple books already written inside me, if I could just get the time to get it all down.  The next moment, I can't do anything but listen to music and stare out the window.

My friends tell me I'll get better at managing the flow over time.

For now, I'm thankful for the pieces of my life that pull me out of my head and into the moment.  Every interruption is a small safe-guard against a manic, workaholic binge.  I'm thankful for the freedom to ask the Universe, "Are you sure? Can't someone else write that one?"  For all the ways I'm learning to be patient, to wait.  And most of all, I'm thankful for friends who see me clearly and our together spaces, where I return when I'm questioning it all.

My Ticket to Magic

Squam Art Fair, by Kirsten CrillyI'm so thankful for Kirsten Crilly, and the way she captured the magic moment that the Squam Art Fair was for me.  It was one of many things I had never done before at SAW, and getting me there and ready was a labor of love for so many of my friends.

My sister, Meg, came up with the table's overall design and concept (I lack this skill set completely). She coached me like the people in What Not to Wear, and then I went shopping by myself, armed with her advice and my phone camera for her final approval.  Tilky labored with amazing thoroughness and attention to detail on my signs. Hula hooked me up with packaging supplies for my first photography art prints ever available for sale.

My friend, Jenna, devoted herself to me for the evening, driving me, parking the car, helping me set up and run the table all night long.  Having her by my side helped me relax and have fun, like we were third graders playing with a lemonade stand on the corner.  So did all having so many of my students, cabin mates and new friends stop by with their encouraging smiles. They all held me in love, when self-consciousness and nervousness were lingering at the edges, grumbling that they weren't invited.  

By the time we ate our dinner and got to the venue, we only had 20 minutes to set up the table, which was three feet longer than I expected it to be.  But still, everything kept working out.  Andrew helped us unload heavy boxes from the car.  Susannah pulled the photos out of their baskets and propped them up for easier viewing.  I counted at one point, and no fewer than eight of us had somehow contributed to the table design, decorations, signs, the last-minute appearance, and even taking photographs to remember it by. 

That was a huge accomplishment for me.  Only a year ago, I was doing projects by myself (or trying to) because I didn't want to wait to collaborate with anyone else. Speed was my primary concern back then, and few people could keep up with the pace I was keeping.  It resulted in work that felt thin, even to me.

Now, a year later, I don't believe in doing anything alone.  I believe that being together trumps getting things done. Always. And the person I get to be in the world when I'm being together instead of going it alone is so much more joyful and healed than before, I wouldn't dream of going back.

Friendship and love. They are my ticket to magic.

the long table, by Kirsten Crilly

How to Hold On to Love

When everything seems foreign, let go of The Way You Like It. 

When all your values are violated, let the values go. 

When you are uncomfortable, kiss comfort good-bye. 

It is as it is. No commentary or judgement is required.

Inhale love, remembering it is what keeps you alive. Open your lips to tell a story, and then open your ears to receive one.

Love requires a two-handed grip.  If you want to hold on to it, you have to let everything else go.

The Way They See Me

Tracey Clark takes my camera for a spin, Chicago 09, Diana F+

This last year brought me many opportunities to find myself, to pull something of myself into focus like never before, as I was seen by communities and friends who welcomed me with love. It's clarifying to be thrown into a mix, like a crew of actors on a rehearsal stage because you see what you bring that's missing when you step behind the curtain. I play a good sage to her queen, or I am the wild woman in the woods. This is a point-of-view that's hard to get when you're alone with your life and your work.

"Listen to who we say you are," I tell her now. "Can you just step inside that picture of yourself long enough to play in it a little--try it on to see how it feels?" I know she will feel like a child trotting around in high-heeled shoes, but I ask her to trust us. To trust that just maybe (or quite likely) we see her more accurately than she sees herself.

"I want to tell them about this," I tell Jen later, "about how we find ourselves through each other's eyes. But I'm afraid. I don't want to cause despair for anyone who doesn't have this experience yet."

I need not worry, she says. "The desire to see comes with it a willingness to be seen. Desire is the beginning of everything, don't you think?" We are like old ladies when we talk to each other this way, knowing more than our present selves could ever claim.

Nodding, I think it must be so. I know plenty of people happy not to be truly seen (I have been one myself), but those who desire to see and be seen seem to get what they wish for, even if a small dose of patience is first required, like a faith offering.

How about you? Are you willing to be seen? Can you pry those clenched fingers open, smooth them flat against the table top so when love brings you your first morsel, you have a surface on which to receive it?

Receiving the love is the hardest part of being seen.

I feel you cringing. Yes, it might sting, because it won't let you keep that distortion you call your self-image for long. But it's the pain of healing, and the relief and balm that follow are worth every risk you take, and then some.

I've known this healing, and I'm becoming more whole and true all the time. It doesn't happen as often now, but I still have spells in which I'm waiting for someone to notice me, feeling like a quiet wallflower at the the party--holding the fireworks behind my back and just waiting for someone to clear a space on the dance floor and invite me to set them off.

But how can I keep convincing myself that no one's noticing me here, when they keep seeing me and putting me out there for the world to see? (Not very well, that's how.)

[I just want to make sure our photog/visual arts friends understand the priceless gift they give us when they see us, and let us see ourselves through their eyes.]

My friends, old and new, teach me how to be seen. You don't have to smile, they school me. It's safe to let the curtain drop. So I look deep past their lenses and their skin, and I let them see my intensity, my love for them, the way my heart looks when it's been dismantled by raw, wild love.

After all these photos of this woman, try to believe these old thoughts she once harbored:

  • I'm not really beautiful.
  • I'm a wallflower at the dance of life, and no one sees me.
  • I'm not good at being myself, just a master role-player.
  • It's too scary to be seen; I should keep hiding out.
  • If I show them the Real Thing, they won't appreciate it.

Do you see how the way they see me is remaking my vision of myself? This is how even when I am lost to myself, I am found in their presence. Their eyes. Their love.

This is the opportunity we have (no cameras required) in every conversation, with our eyes and with our words. We can really see people, and tell them who they are: to us and to the the world. And when others do the same for us, from a place of love, we do well to believe them.

Desire is the beginning of everything, she says. Do you desire to see? Are you willing to be seen?

You will never be the same.

a post in which i say "you" because it's easier than saying "me"

Ticket booth at Coney Island, Diana+After a year apart, I'm in the homestretch now, just a week away from being with friends again on the Pacific coast.  Close enough now to be thinking about it a good portion of the time.  Close enough to feel like I'm coming apart a little at the seams.

Have you ever noticed this phenomenon?  When you are in sight of an opportunity to let your hair down, suddenly hair pins start spontaneously popping out on their own accord.  Locks fall in your face, and as the pin-popping trend continues you start to look tousled and disheveled.  What is happening, you wonder. I've been holding everything together so famously for so long.  But that's just the point. You know soon you won't be required to, and the part that's been holding in its breath can't help but start to exhale in little bursts at the sheer anticipation.

I can't be a mess when I arrive. Deep down you're worried about the embarrassment of being seen in such a state: human. Full of paradox. Grateful and grieving. Lost and found. But you cover it up with thoughts like these: What if someone else needs to fall apart, and she needs me to be the strong one? This is the kind of justification you always use to keep your own experience at bay, so you don't have to really inhabit it. 

The truth is, no one needs you to be anything. You will be all that is needed simply by being present.  By being there.

You know this is true about these people, and this place, and it makes you wonder if it could be true in the rest of your life, too.  If the coifed hair and held breath are ever helping, or if they are just encouraging others to do the same.