The Next Thing

We all have these moments. Moments of possibly standing at the brink of something vast, your toes curling the edges, your breath catching and rattling in sharp and uneven inhales. You have a nagging feeling that there is something you should be doing, a direction you should be moving, a plan of action that will propel you towards your goal, your purpose, your passion.

But you continue to stand there, feeling rather blank and somewhat foolish for not being busy and inspired. The world around you echoes with words like hustle, big-picture, long-term goals, and life’s passion. It clangs loudly, an awkward dinner bell calling what feels like everyone forth to feast but you.

I often find myself in this constant, toe-curling pattern, and my impulse is to shrink, to raise my flag of defeat at being successful or creative or driven. It’s the beginnings that paralyze me. The myriad options that are too vague and hazy, the edges too undefined. The possible trajectories at once trace the ground in a busy and veiny map and yet are uncomfortably absent, rooting me paralyzed to the spot where I stand.

I used to find myself frantically bobbing in the open water during races, gasping for breath, unable to see the immediate and logical solution of simply beginning: a few clumsy strokes slicing through the water, a few bubbles, and a few kicks. Over and over, until the entire process feels less overwhelming and much more reasonably accomplished.

And so it’s gone with pushing the shutter button and writing and having big ideas and moving forward in business.

But what I’ve learned (and often struggle to remember) through the multitude of open water panic attacks is rather than envisioning the entire race course, the huge and audacious but hazy idea, or the carefully crafted photography career, it’s much less terrifying and overwhelming to simply do the next thing.

The next thing might be one clumsy stroke in the water. Or a frustrating brain dump of awkward and simple sentences to reclaim the rhythm of fingers on the keyboard. It might be one email sent. Or finding the courage to shoot a session differently. And while disconcerting at first, the next thing might be embracing the discomfort of not knowing exactly what to do next or where you want to go and instead choosing to rest for some time in gratitude with everything that already is.

Because all of the single strokes and awkward bubbles propel you to the finish. The end becomes clearer, the strokes a little smoother, your confidence more palpable, and suddenly your toes brush the sand at the bottom, and you emerge from the water. Rebirthed and ready.

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Do What Lights You Up

Much of my daily thought process is consumed by thoughts that contain the word should.

Big life thoughts that say maybe we should finally get our wills together. (Really though. This is a big, important, adult-like should that warrants some serious thought.)

Or littler, everyday thoughts that quietly nag that I should probably drink more water and less coffee. (I’m not sure that will ever happen.)

Business owner type thoughts that weigh on me and say maybe you should choose a narrower focus and pick a niche, define your style more clearly, post to Facebook more often, and figure out exactly who you are once and for all, please.

There are mom thoughts that tell me that I should be more creative, do more arts and crafts, get messy and let her paint. (When the truth is that sometimes the arts and crafts bug hits, and we do, but most of the time? We don’t.)

And then those simple maybe I should get out of yoga pants today and put on some make-up for once thoughts.

This endless cycle becomes a checklist of sorts. All of these should do, should be thoughts quickly tally up to a very large you-aren’t-enough list that becomes quite unruly, and we begin to feel very small and powerless in comparison to all of the ways we’ve expertly determined that we just don’t measure up.

And that moment right there, just at the point when it feels a little hard to breathe, is when my impulse to shut down begins. Because it’s much safer on the couch and much easier to close off to life (preferably in yoga pants).

Solitude is chosen separation for refining your soul. Isolation is what you crave when you’ve neglected the first. -Wayne Cordeiro

It becomes very, very tempting to sit in that isolation and brew in all of those shoulds that expose our perceived limitations.

And sometimes that brewing time is needed. Sometimes we need to sit in those tough, sticky moments before we can muster up enough energy to move past them.

Even if the only realistic movement we can imagine is to make the bed well after lunchtime. My grandma said a room is always better with a well-made bed. Maybe that can also be expanded. A day is always better with a well-made bed? Perhaps.

And that freshly made bed might urge you to tackle a fairly non-essential, though good it if it’s done kind of should, like putting away laundry. And maybe that’s the extent of the day and the rest is simply surviving and trudging through the muck.

Or maybe it’s just enough momentum to glimpse beyond the list of ways you don’t measure up to the actual you that’s perfect just the way you are (even if every one of those should be thoughts are maddeningly screaming otherwise).

Because when you can see just a few rays of light beyond the murky darkness you’ve created in your mind, you can begin (and begin once again) to move in the direction of what feels right for you, what makes your heart sing, what fulfills your soul. What lights you up. Because that will be your most important work. That will be the work that truly matters.

What lights you up? What shines the light beyond that mountainous, not-good-enough checklist? Do more of that. Even if it simply begins with a made bed and folded laundry.

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Choose Courage

We’ve been living in our new house for about three months, and there are still boxes. Flattened boxes. Half-unpacked boxes. Still tightly-taped boxes full of random bits and pieces that I can’t quite find a place for. It’s a funny thing about boxes. They are at once useful and confining. We can pack away those bits and pieces. Store them later for different times of the year. Useful!

Boxes become confining when you create them for yourself. At first it seems a safe way to live: compartmentalizing and packing emotions and thoughts into neatly cushioned boxes. By defining so clearly the expectations of the world and our place in it, it seems safer and more sensical. Until suddenly it’s not and the packing materials and styrofoam peanuts become suffocating. The neatly placed and taped boxed world you’ve created for yourself no longer functions as it once did. You scratch at the underside of the taped flaps, aching for new light and new air.

The world can feel overwhelming without the limits we create. For me it becomes a loud static and some days I wish for a pause button, a chance to stop and organize and plan. Functioning in the midst of life’s speedy timeline is quite challenging and my protective response, my styrofoam, is to function minimally. To exist rather than live and create boxes of space to define what I believe and do.

My word this year has been limitless: a chance to see if I can break out of the boxes and live more fully in this world. A chance to believe I’m capable of a multifaceted approach to life and a chance to trust in the order of the universe. The process of building a successful photography business has been at once exhilarating and terrifying. It has highlighted a confidence I would have never believed I could muster. And in the way things have of bringing along a counter balance, it has also exposed my lack of belief in myself, the fear of being visionary, and my tendency to exist in one space. I’ve realized recently that for most of my life I have lived believing that my voice isn’t worthy to be heard. That my ideas must be silly. That story has filled the empty spaces in my head and my heart. I’ve woven it into the tapestry of me, and it is so hard to break those threads.

I’ll stare blankly at the computer screen hoping for the words to find me (like today). I’ll have moments of terror behind the lens wishing for inspiration to come. Sometimes I’ll shut down, believing in the boxes, but lately I’ve begun to scratch through the cardboard flaps and see the light beyond them. The more I grasp at that light, the more I see that it takes courage to live a limitless life. It takes trust to believe that life will bring what is meant to be here for me.

Brene Brown believes that, “We can choose courage or we can choose comfort, but we can’t have both. Not at the same time.” I may have had a comfortable life before this adventure, safe within my boxes. It might have been a lot less scary, though a lot sadder, enviously watching other people do amazing things and building the life of their dreams. Some days I might feel slightly paralyzed by all of the options, by the wish that grand ideas will find me more quickly and easily, by the notion that by putting myself so bravely out there that now things are expected of me. That now I can’t so easily retreat into my quiet box. And I’m finding more and more that that’s okay.

My new impulse is to push forward, to thrive, to grow, to dream. And happily the boxes aren’t quite so appealing anymore.

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Love this image that is now a part of Elizabeth Henson’s Live Happy Creative Stock shop on Etsy! Check it out– lots of great stock images for blog use and more!

Grasping Time

I’ve always been keenly aware of the passing of time. The boys’ rooms are sparse now and bare little resemblance to the rooms they once had: the rooms that were overflowing with action figures, stuffed animals, and lego creations. Now they require very little in the way of toys, and packing up their rooms for our recent move made this painfully obvious. While Rowan’s room required many, many boxes, the boys needed just a few to store their childhood mementos and video games. It’s a funny transition that as their bodies are growing, their need for space is shrinking significantly.

Time’s relentless forward motion is sometimes suffocating, and suddenly I’m frantically grasping at moments before I look around and realize high school is about to end. I’m pitching my thoughts back to when I thought it sounded crazy to say I had a 5 and 3 year old when now we are on the brink of 14 and 12. To accept that I’ve been home with Rowan for three years is madness. She’s entering her last year of preschool, and I can’t quite figure out what we’ve spent the last three years doing. As much as I wanted to hold onto her toddlerhood because I learned how quickly it receded with the boys, it has also become a blur of memories and moments.

So I sometimes sit and watch our lives pass by in images on my computer screensaver. It’s a mesmerizing meditation that reminds me that we have, in fact, lived and experienced so much together despite the tendency for my mind to lump it together into one, messy blur of emotions. And this is when I am so grateful for my historic tendency to document so many moments in images. Because, as we are all so intensely aware, time does continue trudge forward no matter what.

I am so grateful for this little mommy and me session from my dear friend Erin Ammons. Her heart is always in the right place, which means her images exude poignant emotion.

My sweet girl has been such a perfect addition. Her sass, her heart, her personality, and her love is the bond our family needed. She’s made me a more confident woman and a more patient mother, and I love watching her life’s story unfold.

I’m so glad to have these to add to my screensaver timeline! <3

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This is my absolute favorite!watertable-virginia-beach-wedding_0020watertable-virginia-beach-wedding_0025

Rowan scripted this one… not surprised, of course! My little posing girl! <3watertable-virginia-beach-wedding_0026

This is so totally her. She talks with her hands… just like her mama!watertable-virginia-beach-wedding_0023

Oh, I love her so. <3watertable-virginia-beach-wedding_0022

Finding Words | Personal

I’m not sure why writing comes in ebbs and flows. It pulses. Faintly underneath the fear and muck of this life, it’s the draw that gently nudged me. To come back to focus. To come back to clarity in my mind instead of blindly navigating through.

I often feel restless and dissatisfied. There’s a deep ache and yearning for something that’s not there. Something that should be there. It always seems so grey and fuzzy this should be there but isn’t feeling. So I sometimes flail about recklessly dismantling things until the newness buries the anxious tension.

I’m sure that isn’t the smartest practice. And as I lie here, the rush of traffic swelling behind me continuously rising and falling. Rowan is beside me. Safe in her warm, middle spot in our bed. Secure in her girly nightgowned world, I wonder if it isn’t the world I am restless about. Maybe it isn’t the changes that anchor me to something secure. Maybe it is this. Maybe it is a writing practice. Maybe it is getting all the jumbled words and thoughts into a slightly coherent space and stepping back and seeing what has become of them.

I feel rusty. Especially in this early morning, the words feel pedantic and simple. Flat and lifeless. But it’s a start. It begins with one. Then two. Then ten and more. Maybe it is a free flowing of words that will start the upward climb to consistency. Maybe it is writing just for me in the grey light of the early morning. Maybe it is being totally incoherent and rambling. Maybe it is the journal-style brain dump that is the foundation for a more consistent practice. And in the end a more secure view of myself and the world.

In the rush of this business over the last year, every ounce of my creative energy has been poured lovingly into photography, and it has been a necessary care-taking process. I simply have not had enough left in me to write more than short snippets before image-laden posts and maybe a simple personal post here and there. But now that the business-life dance is finding some sort of consistent rhythm, I feel ready to find words again. Because I am not only my pictures and my work. I am not only my running, biking, and swimming (or lack thereof this year), and in words I find the meaning to frame this crazy and beautiful life.

I look forward to once again sharing them with you. <3

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