Monday, November 27, 2017

#love

*Names have been changed to protect the innocent...and maybe the stupid, too.

Dear Life,

I just want to let you know that this love gig is rough. Yes, I know that it's supposed to be the foundation of all good things, right? It's supposed to lift and heal and soothe and be the miracle amidst pain and turmoil and have unicorns and rainbows and like, Neil Diamond in the background or whatever...but sometimes, it flat out bites. It hurts. It sucks. It turns the world stark and grey. Sometimes all of the risk and rejection associated with the 'TRY' of love is just...cruel...and disheartening...and makes you feel straight up broken. And foolish. And it makes you never want to 'TRY' ever again. Because it hurts...and it hurts hard.

#love sucks
I don't want to get into the finite details of my love life (or maybe the lack thereof - I'm making no admissions...yet). It's it's own equal brand of hilarity and plain sad. Fine, I'll tell some stories to illustrate, but that's not the full focus of my rant today. I will say, it's kinda not where I wish it was. I will say my track record shows I pick in a way that makes me feel kinda stupid later. I will say, that I've had my fair share of putting myself out there (because that's who I am) and a few instances where the response/reply was not what I had hoped it would be. I've had plenty of conversations in my head about the signs...about being gullible...ugh. I've shed plenty a tear...some completely out of my control. I've eaten many a log of cookie dough (thank you, dear girlfriends for introducing this ritual), or pint of Haagen-Daas coffee ice cream...and then thought I was going to die from the remedy a few hours later (the different brand of tears of pain and regret). I've foregone many a comforting meal because my heart felt shattered and nothing helped. I'll also admit that, of my own accord, I've turned down a hopeful boy or two and felt badly, but did it...knowing it had to be so because it was the right thing to do...I've allowed myself to like two people at the same time (don't judge me - that was WAY early in my life)...and suffered the sorrow and humiliation of that choice. I've fallen completely in love a couple of times...and I consider myself lucky to have had them genuinely love me back for a blissful, but short, while. For now...that description...that status...or experience is not the case. And I find myself in a position where I've reflected a LOT on this whole LOVE process...what I want...why I want it...and, surprisingly, arriving at the conclusion that I really may NOT get it...and taking it a step further by coming to a place where I'm genuinely ok with that probability.

So, the cruel but laughable ongoing joke with my peeps is that my mattress is my boyfriend. Yes, it's pathetic. But it's kinda true. I LOOOVE my mattress.He's always there for me. Supportive. Gives me the space I need. He's warm. Inviting. Comforting. And ALL MINE. I have a friend who reminded me that we both knew I could do way better than a mattress...or way better than crushing on a celebrity that I've never met but whom I adore (let me introduce you to Edgar Ramirez...you're welcome)...BUT, I say, I don't think I want to. I don't think I want to put myself out there...and drag myself through mind-numbing small-talk...and/or be a face amidst THOUSANDS. It overwhelms me. And it makes me grouchy. Sometimes I think I'm cool to just stay on this path and be alone...with Matt Ress...and my dreamy celebrity guy (Hi, Edgar Ramirez). I mean, yeah - I'd love arms (particularly celebrity guy's) around me all the time, and laughter, and that unique kind of friendship. Sometimes I miss love. And then other times, I realize I've got it, just in a different way, because for the first time in a LONG time - I realize, I'm good. I'm really, really good. Anything in addition to this brand of happy - it's icing. Granted, it hasn't always been this way. For the longest time, love was my definer...it was my pinnacle.

#Hello...is it me you're looking for?
When I was young(er), I thought the one thing I was missing in my life was the affection of another person. I had my Mom, my family...but I wanted a love...and an adoration that was 100% my own. I thought that if I could JUST find that/have that in my life, I would be/know happy. The real problem was that I had very little true love for myself, so love in it's various shapes and forms and methods made this need very confusing. My own voids added to the chaos. I could conform to just about anything that another person needed me to be. Really. It's the whole Gemini thing. I would pay attention, deliver on making them feel special (because they were), and initially ask for nothing in return. And I would ultimately find myself miserable. I could give and give and giiiiiive...and then get bored because: a) I hadn't allowed them to get close enough to me...and they really had no clue who I was. Most of that was because of self-guilt. But I didn't accept myself and I was worried if my true colors were shared - they would reject me...so arms length was the only comfortable proximity...even though I wanted more...b) they couldn't access my need because I didn't even know what that was, and c) if they gave, it was never truly enough because I was a void. SO MUCH messed up stuff...that took years to open my eyes to, and accept in it's ugly forms...and then discern between what I was giving/getting and what I really needed.

The media and the world exposes us to so many different varieties of love. In my case, I knew what it meant to be physical from a VERY young age (not recommended). I saw things and connected it with the brand of affection I was looking for. When I gave it/got it...it left me sad, and empty. Not all love given or received is done so equally. Not all forms are meant to express love. And I was too young to figure that out.

Image result for edgar ramirez
This has nothing to do with the story right now, it's just a pretty picture of my celebrity crush.

#one less problem without you
While, yes, the concept and power of love offers the ideal of wholeness and completion...or this perspective that if you have it, it heals...if your objective in looking for love from another person is ultimately to fix YOU...the reality is that it almost never will...at least not fully. Case in point, I met a guy once who expressed interest in me. I want to say from our first or second conversation, it was about what dreams might be fulfilled if we pursued a future together. This was straight out the gate. I didn't think he was serious at first, but then it was clearly evident that he meant it...and I was not game. Those kinds of discussions are not normal or comfortable for me...I was genuinely flattered, but..the feeling was not remotely mutual. At the time, I really REEEAAAALLLY liked someone else with all my heart...and to my dismay it didn't pan out. So, I did what I do and shut my heart down for awhile. I lacked the willingness to try love with anyone else for awhile. My ego had been a little wounded and, in my head, I consequently hated boys for a spell. I still wore a good face. No one would know that I lost the battle or the war or whatever, but I did...I knew...I could feel the effect. This is my way to deal - good, bad, right, wrong; I don't care. This is the way I cope. For the boy I wanted but couldn't have, I shed an alligator tear or two privately. I held counseling sessions with myself  and offered sound advice that it was WAY better like that, right? - sure...for reasons unbeknownst to me...I had to put that want and hope...that pining...away. I had logic. I had reason. I had all of the stable methods of dealing with the issue...but when I was alone, I could hear the softness of his voice in my head...I could close my eyes and quite vividly see the details of his face...like the way his eyes shined when he smiled...or the ring in his laugh...and it conjured a colossal lump in my throat whenever the image was mustered. My love for this boy was unrequited. My heart ached...and there wasn't a replacement. I knew I couldn't just snap my fingers and be over it - even if there never was an 'IT' to speak of. I still had to let him go...because holding a candle where it's not wanted is parallel to torture...and I don't/won't do that to myself if I can help it. I needed the time to heal. I clutched to the distractions - embracing my work, diving into things that were meaningful to me, loving my peeps a little harder, and doing things that restored that strong feeling in my soul. I wasn't going to find the answer in this other guy. There was no rebound to this feeling...and I told him the straight truth...but that didn't stop him, however, from asking me consistently, diligently for my time, for my emotions, for my attention. Overzealous. Harmless, but overzealous. I finally relented and agreed to go out with him, if only to prove that I was not/could not be what he needed...a fixer/a magician.

That evening was difficult. MOST of the conversation was good...except the too many to count parts where he verbally bludgeoned and gouged himself over and over again. I actually had to tell him to stop - the self-deprecation was hurting my heart and making me angry. Suddenly, it was HIS fault that I wasn't into him. It was HIS fault that I wasn't attracted. It was HIS fault that the sky was blue. It was HIS fault that there was too much ice in my water. It was HIS fault for all the things...and I couldn't handle it. Just. Stop. Already. Pleeeease. omg. Stop.

While he very well MAY have had this perception of himself, what it intuitively felt like, to me, sitting across the table from him, was fishing. Fishing is a tactic where I cut myself down and I tell you how lame I am, and YOU tell ME (out of kindness and mercy) that it's not the case - that I'm AMAAAAAZING and brilliant and blah blah blah. And then it seems like YOU like ME because you're pouring compliments over me. It's a stupid approach. But peeps do it. In this case, I wasn't biting, but I also didn't want a front row seat to this self-harm. The more he'd clobber himself with his self-proclaimed incompetence, or his self-surrendered lack of intelligence, or his self-declared twisted self-perception...the more I was inclined to sit there with my brows knit together...wondering when he would have enough and be done already. Exhausting. Pointless. Banging my head on a spiked wall would have been more fun...and less painful.

Image result for edgar ramirez
Again, totally unrelated image to the point, but just a public service. 

#i am beautiful no matter what they say
WHY are we gentler with strangers than we are with ourselves? WHY is that?? I don't get it. I am HAPPY to extend kindness and grace to people I don't even know...and yet, I cannot forgive myself for weakness...No. I must. Because at the end of the day, I'm all I've got. Right? I have to look in the mirror and take account of all of my junk...I want to be happy...how can that truly be if I self-loathe? The two sentiments cannot exist in the same space. It's either one or the other. One will seep into the other and vice versa. Overall, I think Other Guy would be more content in the world if he was his own ally FIRST. Rather than looking to someone else to fix him, give him validation...or define him externally as enough.

#send me an angel
Being a fixer...being a Savior to another person is an almost impossible role to magnify and fulfill. And I acknowledge that during early stages of my life - I was perfectly willing to try to be that. I was able and ready to pour love over whatever wounded soul entered my life...ask my Mom - so many friends would come home with me who were from horribly abusive situations. I would offer kindness...and compassion...and friendship. In some cases, I'm still a rescuer...still a healer...but I can see where it's really useful (mainly with animals...not so much with people any more). Now that I'm in adult relationships, I'm not at a place where I see wisdom in being an emotional Savior.

Have you ever been a lifeguard? At first, you think, I will SAVE EVERYONE!!! And then, in training, you realize that you also have to protect yourself...SAVE yourself...be smart about approach and technique, because peeps in survival mode...in their own fear and desperation, will take you down to save themselves. I know that sounds harsh - but it's the only example I can use right now to illustrate my explanation. Someone drowning is not going to wait patiently...when they have a chance to grab hold to something/someone else who is buoyant, they will...even if it means the Guard is going under. They're not thinking about mechanics, or how much air the guard has, or that their ride is suffocating. Nope. Stay alive. So, I bring it back to day-to-day relationships. Peeps gotta figure out their own ish...and fully taking on the pain of another is often unhealthy if it's one-sided and you don't have the support you need to tread through it. Truth: I don't want to be someone else's fixer. I don't want to be a Savior. I don't want to be your mother, either...and I don't need you to be my father, or to save me. Period. I'll love you/take you for who you are - flaws and all. I would expect the same approach in return. We're people, we're human, we ALL carry baggage. In an ideal situation, we'd be cool to work our stuff out together.

My first marriage was all whirlwind. I mean, I was so beautifully wrapped up in what I thought was the romance and it was magical. My second time around, my approach was more about foundation - friendship and trust. I took WAY more time to get to know my second guy, to be sure I was asking the right questions - all of it. I've learned that in love, agency is always the wild card. As much as we claim to know the heart of another...we really can't. We can have intimate familiarity, we can observe patterns, we can have indepth conversations...but peeps still have choice. They can choose to be loyal, to be faithful, to be true...or not. This is always a reflection of THEIR agency, regardless of you.

When my first marriage ended, I took on a LOT of the fail because it was who I was. It must have meant that I wasn't enough - not pretty enough, not giving enough, just not...enough. Because, (in my mind) if I WOULD have been enough, he would have loved me enough, right?? The response to that sad perspective is No. Whatever my ex-man's choices - they were HIS, not mine. I could have been made of gold and that STILL would not remove his control of his choices, or maybe even the outcome...I took the time I needed to look at my part - to be responsible for my piece of that half...and acknowledge that despite the finality, I DID love him fully. I could take comfort knowing that I had given him my all, no matter what.

Image result for edgar ramirez
This is my celebrity crush looking at me like I'm crazy when I think that I'm not enough. 

#the only exception
So, basically even with two failed committed relationships under my belt (ugh, the admission), I still feel like I've been relatively lucky in love. I've known love - even in boyfriend relationships - that has been profound, and amazing, and powerful. Loved to the extent that I really did feel that ANYTHING was possible...that the world was a perfect place because they were in my life. I've had love that has challenged me as a person; partners who have seen me in my truest form, and accepted, and supported me to grow...and relationships where I have known indescribable joy. Again, despite the end result, there WAS love at the origin of those stories. Well, at least for me there was. And I'd like to think it was present for them, too...but the reality is that I can only control/base this post-thing on what I know...aaaand...yeah, in my head, I'm saying my heart was in the right 'love' frame of mind.

With that, can I say that I've had a handful of friends who have known the worst pain and suffering in their relationships because of choice/agency on the part of the other? Can I explain that it's senseless? I mean, yeah, there are reasons...but sometimes, even knowing the 'why'...it never makes it fall into place where it takes away the pain. Beautiful people...who were hopeful, and loving, and devoutly faithful to their significant others/spouses...who feel like their hearts have been ripped out of their chests, put through a meat grinder and are actively working to try to make sense of the mess. Choice is the wildcard. Sometimes you cannot explain. Sometimes you cannot make this right...I can only tell you that whatever you decide - to stay or to go - it's completely your call based on what YOU can live with. And that's all. You don't have to stay and deal with the residue if you can't. You don't have to leave that person if you don't want to. But it's YOUR call, and noone can take that from you...even if you may want someone else to make that choice on your behalf/tell you what to do. You have to decide what you can live with. ALSO - you'll live. I promise. It may not feel that way today or tomorrow...but in the wise resounding words of my mother...one day, you'll wake up and it won't hurt anymore. I say this with firsthand knowledge. It's true.

#talk
At some point during my marriage, we were talking divorce more than we were talking togetherness. And again, I'm not going to slap the walls with all of my business, just this story in particular. I knew I needed something to NOT lose the last shreds of my mind. Our personal dysfunction was starting to make me crazy and I wasn't feeling like myself. I sought therapy. I found a male therapist (in the event that my man would go - he totally would have discredited the opinion of another woman...and I thought that the difference in opinion would be helpful/insightful for me in the journey) and we started to meet. After a few months, my man agreed to come to one visit. It was painful. He was a total wall and missed the point of the whole thing. From a pride standpoint, counseling was a waste to him - he needed to talk to noone (not even me) and it shut down any potential from that resource. I went back - because it was genuinely helpful for me. After months, the therapist asked if he could give me some advice. He asked if I had ever waterskiied. I told him I had. He asked me what happened when people fell. I wasn't sure where he was going with the example, and I told him to tell me. He said, usually when people fall, they get dragged behind the boat for who knows how long. People actually tell themselves that from that prone position - in the process of the drag - that they can fully get back up on their feet. I could see the visual in my head. He went on to say that all it takes, though, is to let go of the rope. It's not about fixing or changing HIM...this is totally about recognizing where my control lies in all of it. I get to control how long I hurt. I get to decide how long I'm dragged behind the boat...or not.

In recent articles and posts, I've come to really appreciate Melissa Hartwig. She's the founder of the Whole30 and regularly posts personal bits about her journey, her life...and she has this style that resonates with me. Today, actually, she wrote about the steps we take to deal vs. not deal with our stuff. She says, "So I did something. And it WAS hard. But listen: It was not harder than the path I had chosen by doing nothing."

In the course of all things that frustrate or hurt...in any process we endure...in any relationship...we have choice. Hang on...or let go...and in so many instances, they both bite. Both paths impact you. The opening or closing of your eyes to a situation...both are gnarly. The let go can be in any situation where you feel like you settle, or don't have control...just let go. Start over. Position yourself. Try to get up. If you fall, let go. Only you can decide how long you hold on to the rope. Your call, your standard, your specifics, your choice, your life.

#respect yourself
Love, first and foremost, to be healthy, to be real, has to come from love of self (in some form). Acknowledge issues, yes, maybe you screwed up and you screwed up badly; yes, it probably could have been done better or you could have used better judgment; no, you have no idea why you did that and you probably never will; no, he/she didn't dig you, that doesn't mean you're not worthy or that NOONE will love you...whatever. Learn. Move on. You do yourself a wretched disservice in withholding love from yourself and wallowing in guilt, like being a pit with no PERMISSION to get out. Guilt is like the smell of campfire - it permeates EVERYTHING. The only way to get rid of it, is to wash that ish away. Showering, washing clothes, airing it out, tears if you must - just STOP DRAGGING THAT STUFF AROUND. If you did it, you did it. It's part of being human. Get over yourself already. Go back to the beginning and start over - this time, you know more. So, do more. Be better. Stop being your worst enemy already. Dude, be your own hero. Do things that make yourself impossibly proud of who you have become EVERY DAY. But for real, do it differently. Continuing to make the same choices, the same mistakes, following the same patterns...will never land you in a different place. If you think you're a bag of poo - do whatever you need to do to change that perception. BE YOU...in the best possible version based upon who you are today...with the aim to do a little better. For yourself. In a way that nobody else may ever know.

I may never find or be graced with the type of romance that I dream about...and, in reality, that's ok. I can choose to apply that definition to myself however I want...and in the long run, I want that lovely satisfaction and peace that comes with acceptance...with defining myself as worthy. I'm on my own side. I'm my own protector. I'm my own rescuer, my own personal savior because I can make those needed choices to save myself from pain and anguish and discord. And MAYBE, just maybe, if something knocks on my door one day, it'll be more about just seeing what kind of magic can be made one step at a time.

You know what's beautiful? Peace. Peace of heart, peace of mind...and there are moments where I feel that...like when I'm with one of my kids and they laugh whole-heartedly. I think to myself then - I'm lucky. There are moments when I'm laying in bed in the morning, and the curtains are wide open, and I have the most amazing view of the very tall trees behind my neighbors house that are bathed in the light of the rising sun and look gold at the tip tops...and I think to myself - I'm lucky. I may not have what I had initially hoped for, but looking at what I DO have - what remarkable blessings and grace exist in my life...I'm good. I'm happy. I'm healthy. This path is me-specific...yours is you-specific...so let's walk it. Find happy or joy in the different steps we take. Freaking out over the trips and falls...and then letting them go instead of sabotaging the journey with play by play from 4 trips ago. I'm NOT at ALL saying 'look at my life!! (flipping my hair) it's SOOOO awesome..." I'm saying 'look at OUR lives (pointing between you and me) - look at how different they are (opening my arms and hands up wide)...and how uniquely beautiful they are (shaking my hands emphatically)...look at what you've overcome (grabbing you by the shoulders)...look at what you can DO...for reals! look at how special you are...look at how full our lives are because we're connected as people and friends.'

Whatever your relationship status - whatever your current love situation - to have a successful relationship is not the sole defining factor in a meaningful life. It's ideally wonderful to have, yes. It adds a wonderful texture to this experience in life. It's just not a black spot upon you if you don't. Love of self, however, IS a defining bar. It will guide you through your decisions, through your paths...self-love is different from conceit or pride...it's loving this distinction, this personality, this life that is uniquely yours. So, try to be nice to yourself. Try to stop bludgeoning yourself, your heart (in its fragility, or even its fierceness...or it's tenderness), your loveliness (your kindness, or your humor, or your shiny eyes)...just start over if you need to. Use your sensibility. Lean on spirituality. Find your giggle that rings brightly when you use it. Read every day if that's what does it for you. Indulge your personal happy. Find your glow and let it SHINE. Unrestrained. Unbridled. Just be, baby. In the words of Billy Joel, 'I love you just the way you are.'


Unless you're my celebrity crush...then, I DO LOVE you. I'll adore you FOREVER. ;) just kidding. kinda. ok, fine. maybe not kidding. And I'm not sorry, either, for plugging in a bunch of pictures of him. You're welcome.

xo,
j.

Friday, April 21, 2017

#confessions of overwhelm

Dear Life,

Thank you for making April one of the hardest months of the year thus far. I think because you've given me my fill of jerks, pranksters, a**clowns, and imposters, I should be given a "Have a Great Rest of the Year" card. I've paid my dues for 2017, Life. Make this happen. Pretty please.

#straight shooter
Do you ever have that realization? The one where you are smacked in the head with the cold, hard fact that you're tormenting yourself? That it's not that guy, or that girl that's doing this TO YOU, but rather, that you're kinda doing a lot of it to yourself? Yeah...me either. Fine, for reals, I maybe sorta a little bit know what that's like.

#the rocky theme
So, I've said this before, but I'll say it again, my life is a little bit nuts. I'm positive yours is, too. This is not a competition. This is my admission of personal overwhelm. Work is a lot, single-mothering is a lot, and trying to keep my perspective all at the same time is not often a piece of cake. I'm not whining. I really do feel like even with all of my chaos, I'm pretty centered, but the truth is that recently, mainly April, it hasn't taken much to push me off kilter, to dent my zen, or to make me lose my cool...at least tip/dent/lose me for a moment. I try my bestest to get back to reality and fight a good fight. Let's just say that I don't always feel like I win.


#lay me down
This morning as I was rushing around, saying good-bye to my bed (really the only relationship I have right now - don't judge me), I distinctly noticed the night stand on the side on which I don't sleep (passenger side)...


Empty glass jar (not mine), my glasses and work out book, and a small handful of legos (also not mine). This made me stop for a second. I stepped back over to my side...


Computer bag (mine), book (mine), book in progress (mine), books to study (mine), mail (mine), glass jar (mine), all the things (mine). So much more happening here. This is my life, Life. That passenger side glass jar and those legos - my youngest left those there. For me, actually. At least, that's what he'll tell me. "I left the legos there for you to play with, Mom. They're lots of fun." (It's really because he didn't want to put them back in his room...and it makes me smile when I see them, so I'll leave them there.).

#Saturday
Sometimes on a Saturday, when I pretend that I don't have anything going on, I REALLY like to bury myself in my (amazing) bed (don't judge) under pillows and blankets and take solace in my only friend, Hulu. Sometimes, my kids like to join me at playing this game. We've watched many an episode of Stranger Things (in one sitting), many a series of Harry Potter, or Lord of the Rings, or Star Wars (well, we try to get through them, but then it gets too hot...or we need a drink, or need to grocery shop, or I have to do some form of adulting)...Please don't misunderstand, it's not like the only way my littles see me is if they burrow into my bed. We see each other every day in a meaningful way. It's just Sunday through Friday, there's a lot of business. There's a ton of managing, and many commitments, and an equal amount of follow up. So, I admit, I'm not as structured on Saturday as I am on all of the other days. All of the other mess on the driver side of my pictures shows that I'm making an effort at having a normal (ha! that's funny) life...but like, no...it doesn't work all the days. For anyone.

True story, I used to HATE Saturdays. My mom traveled a bunch for work and the weekends were all we had to clean and clean and clean and laundry and clean and clean. Mind you, while I was home during the week, I chored. Every day. I used to try my most hardest to get out of Saturday chores. UGH..but sometimes it didn't work, so I did them. Begrudgingly. Well, mostly, I mean, I could/would/should not cross my Mom. I put on an agreeable face and grumbled to myself. Maybe cut a few corners. Meh.

#buggy
My mother taught me (many, many things, but in this story, she give me the skills) to really clean. My brother is a cookie cutter version of my Mom and he has the "I must clean" bug, too. It's kinda sick - I mean, when I'm sad or overwhelmed, I clean. Correction, I clean regularly, but when my mind is buzzing, and I have something I need to work out, my bathroom and kitchen usually reflect that even more so. (No, I don't want to come over and clean for you - my issue is not THAT extreme.)

Another true story, I had to have been 12 at the time. My mom and I were in New York. We checked in to this 4-star hotel close to Central Park. I was excited to be there. It was summer and we were going to do a bunch of stuff for my birthday. We got into our room and the FIRST thing she checks is the bathroom. NOPE. Dirty tub. We're not staying in this room. We switched 3 TIMES during that stay. And finally, after all of the switching, she sent me down to the corner store to buy a bottle of bleach to do it herself. Yup. I don't know where my mania comes from, do you?

So, yeah, I hear you out there, judging (even though I told you not to) - making this a simple fix - just say 'no' more. I was with someone once who said actually said to my face, 'it's your own damn fault that you're like this.' Ouch. (No, we're not together any longer. And no, he didn't get me.) But true, I suppose...depending on how you see things. I get it. The easy solution IS to put more things down. Put more things away. Right? No. I mean, yes, it makes sense. But do you understand that I'm intrinsically this way and have been since childhood? The issue is that I've ALWAYS ALWAYS been like this. I think I'm non-diagnosed ADHD with a little OCD mixed in and a sprinkle of attitude and a splash of I don't Care. I don't know how to do JUST ONE THING at a time. I'm working on it (being fully present, being mindful of the moment - all yoga-like). Mine is a mind that needs feeding - reading, trying my hand at new things, drawing, planning, wrapping my thoughts around whatever is at hand. This is who I am. And writing about it - AIRING it out to you, Life...this is just another way of discovering. Another way of being painfully accountable. Another way of trying to tell the other lives out there that they're a) not crazy, b) not alone, c) straight killin' it in their own way...even if it's unconventional, even if it's wacky. Even if no one else does it the same way. You're all good.

#hard things
This gig is a lot, but I get it. I can play it to my own degree. I say this more to confirm to myself that I'm capable - this is not a 'look at me' rant. This is a reminder...most of my/our hurdles are mental. Doubt. Distraction. And yes, this is who I am, but I'm still working through things to be a better version of myself. I can train for a half and do a crazy eating program at the same time and not lose my mind. I can make difficult decisions, knowing that my intent is to do what's best. I can raise kids to be healthy, good people who have the perspective to become the best versions of themselves, I can give. I can work full time and NOT be married to my job...(yeah, I keep telling myself that one, but more and more I'm not sure of the total veracity of that statement). Ok, maybe I'm a little bit married to it. Maybe. Regardless, I can be all of the things that I am in days - like last night, my cousin needed me. I was standing in the grocery store in the middle of the detergent isle walking her through the good things and the hard truths because that's who we are for each other. And because this is ALSO who I am. And because really, that's the only place we could hear each other over the phone in the store. I'm not EVER going to say "I don't have time for you" or "I can't play friend right now, I'm shopping." No, I'm always going to listen. I'm always going to take the moment. One of these days, it's going to be me. I'm going to need a voice of reason...and there's never a really good time or place to be that because we ALWAYS have something happening. You just have to roll with it. And I feel like that's the theme of my days so often - roll with it. I have 20 things on my calendar, but someone needs time - ok, I'll make it work. Yes, let's talk. Yes, I can walk out for a minute to look. Yes, you can call me. No, it's not a problem.

I feel like the best medicine for what ails me is not cutting things out, but rather adding meaningful connection to others. It grounds me. Gives me a sense of healthy perspective. I've seen intense circumstances in other's lives. Serving them makes me forget about all of my stuff for a moment - and that's a rare gift. It gives me a taste of gratitude when I may have forgotten. It brings me back to fundamentals, like the need to love, and the freedom found in unselfishness. It also gives me a moment to step away from my self-harshness and give some gentle to myself. This life experience is not a simple feat. I need to be friends with myself, or I'll fail miserably. There's a try in my life to find that 'place' inside of myself.  Also not easy, but overall, a better mindset for me.

#fishy
No, I'm not losing my head. Not yet. Yes, it's a lot, but there's happy, and that's what matters. The madness does offer me some satisfaction - some joy. If I wasn't happy, I would stop. I would make it different. I would alter the course, but the what all of this has taught me - the various experiences, the passes, the fails, is that the rough waters don't scare me. If anything, I'd like to believe that I've learned that swimming through them will make me a stronger fish/mermaid.

SO, hit me up with that card, Life. 'k? I can manage my own stuff...even if my driver side looks out of control, it's not too bad for me...it's all of the other peeps and things upon which I sometimes/lots of times/all the times can firmly, emphatically check a 'No' vote. Work on THAT, will you? Pretty please, again. I'll just do my deal over here. Away from all...of...THAT.

Greeeeaaaat.
J.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

#take me home

Names have been changed to kinda protect the innocent.

Dear Life,

I'm back in Virginia after spending a week and a half in California...and it's rough. It's not that one place is better than the other - they're uniquely beautiful and diverting. It's not so much about comparing which is more...all of the aesthetics are like apples and oranges to me. Southern California is my home. I was born there. Raised there. She was my rebound state when my life fell apart for awhile. Hawaii is my visiting favorite, but Cali is my home.

This was the first time I've been back since my littles and I moved to Southern Virginia in October. I was recruited to the East coast for work. We didn't go home for the holidays this past year because of my job newness. It was a little surreal to be so far away, a tiny family unit, for a holiday that is usually so dynamic and traditional because of the magnitude of my family...but that particular season was almost careful. Simple. Deliberate. And lovely...I think a little comforting for the four of us, specifically in seeing and knowing that as long as we have each other, we'll be fine. And, thus far, we have been.

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#ch ch ch ch changes
This relocation experience has not been without it's knocks. I am a sore thumb here - they make fun of me for what I drive, the music I listen to (which is an eclectic mix from multiple genres and artists), for eating weird (clean), and running, and doing what I do. I can deal with all of that. Really. I think it's actually pretty funny. The more pressing issue comes with the emotions that have crawled up into my heart. Where once that space in my head/heart was too busy and loud to pay any attention, with the new stillness, there is no way to ignore the demand to face facts. My facts. There have been questions staring me in the face in earnest. Questions whose answers will force-change the course of some aspects of my life. I'm not afraid of change, I think it's healthy. I'm more afraid of how the ripple effect of those answers will (not may, WILL) hurt people. Ugh. That one bears on me.

The truth is no matter what I choose, there will be an impact. And the equal truth is that some of my sustaining decisions have hurt me/myself. There's no hiding from agency or the results. I'm also not a fan of making a choice based on the least amount of potential collateral damage, because, again, if it means that everyone else is happy but you feel like your own heart is being cut out, that's not a win - for anyone. Sometimes the hardest choice and the right choice are the same...And this is gospel according to me, I think the win comes from being true to your heart...and knowing that in following that truth, the other facets will work out somehow. Maybe not immediately, but gradually. Eventually. There's no peace in being held hostage to a choice that really wasn't what you wanted to do.

#what about your friends
Since I've been here in Virginia, honestly, I've been a little slow-going in making friends. I've never really been like a bar slinger or attended social things just for sake, you know? My life here is basically my work and all of the collective sides/activities/interests of my small family. I'm actually OK with that, but now that I've been home - and have had some moments to talk and visit with my friends and my beautiful family, I realize how intensely I have missed them. I have some dearies here who run with me, who don't judge me for my weird obsession with a certain actor - these relationships are new. Nurturing real/true friendships takes time, for me. And experiences. And then trust is earned. We're getting there, you know? And I know a part of it is me...it's like if I don't put myself out there, I won't get hurt...but, really? I remembered on this trip that I've never been one who withholds...ever. I've been told I'm too intense, too direct. Only, the part that is best about that is the fact that you never have to wonder where you stand with me. If I love you, I'll tell you. I'll show you.

#never can say good-bye
When I was a kid, my mom traveled a ton. It was just the two of us, so those moments were considerably felt. My mom was my world when I was a kid. Seriously. When I was small I used to go to her closet while she was getting ready and put my small hands between the long-hanging fabrics. They smelled like her...and they were soft. I asked her if she would give them all to me when I grew up. She kind of giggled and told me gently that when I grew up I would be able to buy my own dresses. She didn't realize that I hadn't asked because I was worried about what I would have to wear when I was older...that maybe all of the clothes I would ever own would be inherited or something...it was because these were all of her things...and I never wanted to be without her.

Because it was just us, it was always important to her to let me know she loved me. Even if I got in trouble; even if she was mad at me; even if we were super rushed or in some kind of situation where the expression was odd or awkward - she always ALWAYS told me that she loved me. It was the last thing she would say to me, or me to her. It's still this way to this day. Love. Without a doubt, this has poured into my other relationships.

#don't want to miss a thing
I don't want to regret. I don't want to find myself in a position one day where I wish I would/could/should have told someone how I feel about them...I mean, I HAVE had that happen and I hate it. There ARE people who have come into my world and moved me profoundly, and I was too scared to say anything. Too scared to say the words...and maybe have them freak out and judge me. I have thought on that...and I don't want to be that or magnify it. Life is so short...we only have these moments...so, I conscientiously try to speak my heart. For some of my friends who have experienced this, I knew it was off-kiltering initially. In fact, in one scenario, when I told a long-time guy friend that I loved him, it took him aback (not figuratively). "But," he said, with a scrunched up face and a whispery voice, "you're MARRIED." Duh. I rolled my eyes and giggled because I could see that he didn't understand, but then explained that it wasn't that I loved him to date him or get with him - which was NOT/NEEEEVVVVEEERRRRR my intent, but rather that when I saw him, I could see this map of his life...and this feeling...this...this...PRIDE just radiated out of my heart. I felt that he needed to know this - URGENTLY. And that's what I better articulated - that I loved him as a person, for the amazing things that he had overcome, for the goofy individual what was him, that I loved our crazy, bizarre, but very candid friendship. To which, after he had a moment to take it in (as indicated by the look of concentration on his face, and then the slow un-knitting of brows), he seemed genuinely relieved...and then said,"Well, then, I love you, too!" and smiled widely, like a buffoon.

My close friends know that this - expressive, open, feeling - is very much who I am, and despite the awkwardness at first, it's become a very natural and consistent part of the comfortable fabric of our friendship, from both sides. To be clear, the expression of my feelings to this group of people/in this manner, has never been about the response or even about a mutuality. It's not about fishing for someone to feel the same way about me...it's about me needing (in a compelling way) to give/express/share love to/with others...to let them know they're important and valuable to me. That's not to say that EVERY time has been that way - because there have been a few where I've said it and hoped with crossed fingers and toes that they felt the same way...and some have...but others have not, and the lessons that come from those experiences have been part of my growing up, of knowing myself, of questioning and coming to my personal 'why'...but also with learning how to be alright with what I feel in any given circumstance. I don't want to deny my feelings. When they come and they don't have a place, relative to loving another person, I can then let those emotions go because I've been honest...and let those feelings cool to move on, but not retain bitterness for that individual. Sometimes unrequited love isn't all bad, especially if you can learn that loving yourself is as important, if not more, than loving someone else.

#there you'll be
There was a time when I lived on the other side of the world for a while. I was in a group with other Americans. There was a guy who was known for being disciplined, but kind of hard. For sake of this story, we'll call him R. He would permit no excuses when it came to discussing the work. He had driven expectations. For some, that created a barrier. I liked him. He cared about what he did. He felt the distinction of the limited time, and wanted to make sure we were seeing the same goals, pushing toward the same desired outcomes.

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R left the field a little early. I heard it was because of his acceptance to school and just the way the year was falling into place. Many years thereafter, I learned that he had a terrible illness. I don't know if the departure had to do with that. It didn't matter. Fast forward by years - I'm married, I have 3 small children, and I'm elbows deep in being a mother and figuring out this life-gig. Facebook is kinda new - and I think we find each other through that platform. We call - we connect. He's doing amazingly well. He's been in remission for years. He's happy. That's what's important. A few months later, my world comes crashing in with betrayal and divorce. My life felt quartered and strung-up. I went home to California to be with my family - to figure out the next move, to figure out how to recover, to figure out exactly how and what to feel...which was everything and nothing at the same time.

My friend K invited me to her side of country (North Carolina). I found out my favorite band was touring there. I combined the reasons and went. As it turns out, R lived there, too! And we were able to connect face-to-face. K, R, myself, and another one of our mutual friends were able to get together for a bit. I think it was R's idea to go bowling...and I'm the worst bowler alive. It was in this alley that was still manual - so all of the points calculation had to be done by hand. We left it to him...because, to him, this was serious business. If there was winning involved, he was all over it. R and I drove from Raleigh to Charlotte to see Coldplay - and I got to use that drive time back and forth to fill in all of the missing years between. I was able to tell him all of the things I thought about him. He was able to tell me, too. That trip was healing for me. I had a better sense of clarity when I returned. It helped me remember that I was a risk-taker, that I could do impossibly difficult things and thrive, that I was talented, that I was my own kind of beautiful, but mostly that I was reminded HOW to see that in myself. AND most importantly, not to take things for granted. That trip was my catharsis.

Not too long thereafter, I learned that his illness had returned in raging force. K called me from his room at the hospital so that I could talk to him. This was the last time. I didn't want to believe it, but I could feel it. It went like this:

Me: I know our time is short.
R: It's ok.
Me: You already know everything, R. This is a rare instance where I don't have to cram in all of my feelings...I've told you everything. You know how grateful I am for you. Still, if it's the last thing I ever say to you, it's this: I love you. I'll miss you.
R: I know you do. I love you.
   
There were other things he said to me...to be brave, to believe in myself...that he believed in me. But above all, I knew that my friend loved me...and I knew that HE knew that I loved him. There was no romance. There was no weird tie or other intimacy...we were friends. I am grateful to this day that I didn't miss that chance. There's no 'should have' regret connected to that relationship. And if there's one thing I can articulate and encourage through all of this, it's to take the moment to express the things you feel. It matters - even if just for YOU to speak the words.

#no puedo vivir sin ti
My favorite actor guy posted a picture on Instagram earlier this year. I've been crazy about him for a long while, but seeing this took my obsession to a completely different level. "edgarramirez25I love my dad and he loves me and we both express it • Amo a mi papá y él me ama a mí y ambos lo expresamos"


There's no question. And this is the way I feel about the special people who surround me...the people who are in my life...the people who move me to be better - to discover - to jump - to consider - and to move past whatever was.

#don't you forget about me don't don't don't don't
I remembered some things during this trip - that no matter how much time you set aside, there's not enough time to see/do/eat everything you want. That I miss and long and have more holes in my heart because of the distance than I allowed myself to know...but that it's more of an indication of how much I love these people than anything else. That there are things I need to let go of/choices I need to make to be healthy and happy. That happiness is possible - that it comes in unexpected packages, but it's there...and that I don't want to be afraid to embrace it. That this move has impacted me/my littles way deeper than any of us realized or understood. That Virginia may not be my last stop in carving a career. That the stage holds a huge piece of my heart - not just the being on it, but even being behind it was so fondly reminiscent...if I could find a way. That LOVE is the answer in my personal pursuit of happiness. That the draw home is powerfully, undeniably magnetic, but that there are things that need to be done here - and that I am a girl who must finish what she starts. That this life is so completely about the journey...that NO one can come through it unscathed, but that so many have been placed in our circles to serve as medics, therapists, cheerleaders, butt-kickers, and case studies. I remembered that I am loved...that I am grateful for the dear network of people who support my endeavors. That I am still reaching in so many respects...that I may touch one or two, and not others, but that there is more beyond what I can currently see - and that's OK. That I can make peace with the past and not lose an ounce of who I am or what I stand for. That regardless of our differences of beliefs, we can still respect and be kind to each other...and walk away peacefully.  

Ultimately, I have to be who I am. Ultimately, I have to love.

I remember.
xo
j.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

#recalculating

Dear Life,

I know you don't miss me (because we spend so much time together), but lots of fun things have changed and I'm having a moment, Life; a moment where I'm recognizing the errors of my ways! I'm recognizing my HUGE LACK of gratitude...and so, dear, dear life - I'm changing directions. For now. I mean, if I have the occasional hack that demands (self-declared) wittiness or dripping sarcasm, I reserve the right to hash that out publicly. But right now, I have more thoughts in my head relative to the small, simple things that I LOVE LOVE LOVE...and I must share these precious things with you. MUST.

I wish those trees were fruit trees, but they're not. 
#launch disclaimers
*Names have been changed to protect the innocent.

**Yes, some of these will be mundane, but it's my bloggity...and that's the fun of it.

***These things are NOT in order of priority or favoritism.

#seasonal greetings
When I was growing up in California, the grocery stores my mother and I would frequent were smaller. They did seasonal fruity displays. Granted, they always had that orange juice making monstrosity RIGHT.IN.THE.DOORWAY of the jedi-mind-trick glass doors. It was improbable to get something as delectable as a peach in December. Or strawberries. Even raspberries out of season were super rare...and then when you COULD find them, they were first-born expensive. Back then, it was like REGULAR harvests - not 3 rotations a year. And not flash-frozen and refrigerated. Even back then, it seemed apples were always in season...and I'm not a big fan of red delicious apples. I do, however, have a keen affinity for mango, and watermelon. BUT. My forever favorite is the apricot. I crazy love apricots. I do! We used to have a tree in the front yard of  my parent's house...and every time it bloomed it was like magic. My mom used to say (in her high pitched voice) "put them in a bag - we'll share them - there are too many to eat." Which was simply not true. And I would protest. And steal the bags back. And gobble them up. And get sick. And eat more. Just to be right that we didn't, in fact, have too many. (Fine, I'm embellishing, but you get the idea.) There are NEVER too many apricots.

So, while I don't like candied apricots, I LOVE raw, freshly picked apricots. And jam. And jam. And jam...on fresh bread...or biscuits. That are hot. But the likelihood of finding tiny packets of apricot jam in Virginia? Slim to none. They like grape here. And strawberry. And orange marmalade (funny story - I met a guy in high school once who said that when he grew up and had kids, he would name his daughter 'Marmalade'...well, ok.) And mixed fruit - whatever that is.

Thank you, Life. Thank you for apricots. That blush on one side. That fit in the palm of my hand and make me smile with dimples when I take a bite.

Monday, May 16, 2016

#ISO...

Names have been changed to protect the innocent...well, the slightly guilty, but we're spinning it as innocence...maybe the better word is ignorant...to the fact that I'm telling their stories...anonymously. 

Dear Life,

Craigslist is a scary place. Personal ads. Political venting. Weird, vague ads that may or MAY NOT be what you had in mind. I had a friend who bought bunk beds off of Craigslist once...bunk beds. Really. How dangerous could that be? Apparently VERY. Especially when your children break out with crazy bites from bugs that hid in the crevices of said bunk bed set. Ugh...makes me want to dip my laptop in bleach just thinking about it. 

I know that things in my life are super busy, but I always decide (DECIDE) that I need to add a little more chaos to the mix. You know, for fun. And to make things more interesting. So, puppies. Not puppY. PuppIES. Yes, that is plural. Yes, that means more than one. Yes, crazy. Yes, deliberate. 

#must love dogs
I have this weird animal magnetism thing. It's kind of been an annoyance in my family. I should be terrified of them because of a rogue accident injury when I was 3, but the truth is I completely love dogs. I've been raised with dogs. My boxer bulldog mix (Max the destroyer) died last July. It took a LONG while to get past that. Well, mostly get past it. I think a part of me will never get over it. When we reached the part where we thought we were ready to have a dog again I started looking with shelters. We actually adopted a dog from a local shelter - went through the process of the home inspection, etc...and then the poor dog just couldn't adjust. And by that, I mean that he tried to bite a bunch of people. No can do. Especially with kids. We just weren't the right family for him...although, truth be it told, I don't know who/what scenario would be right for that kind of dog. Stress and adjustment, I completely can roll with. Biting - not so much. 

#call me, maybe
I didn't want to go the route of a puppy mill. I don't need a purebred dog. Max the destroyer was a mix and he was beautiful, smart, well-natured. I started looking in the weird recycler/penny saver ads where the listings are super vague because to get the almost free ad, you can only have like 5 words. "Dog. Cheap. Ventura. Call 888-8888." Mainly because I don't have the time to call mystery numbers to hash out if there's a remote possibility of interest, I moved on. Craigslist became the next step in finding. Craigslist similarly has weird, imaginatively spelled, but consistently vague ads...but my favorites almost always have something like 'must be real.' Or 'must not be a time-waster.' lol. 'k. I totally know what they mean, but the literal take on those phrases creates, for me, mostly comical, ridiculous imagery. Not that I need a whole lot of help to get there on my own, but that's not the point.

#the dealer
I found a simple ad for boxer/lab mix puppies. Locally. I made an appointment by email to meet the puppies and see if anything clicked. I know what you're thinking, "riiiight. "MEET" Good luck with that." But for serious, I wanted to be sure before I took one home. I've been through enough shelters, etc. and didn't feel that pull. I met Jones in a McDonald's parking lot in the back by the drive through. It almost felt like a drug deal. Maybe I should have had someone go with me. Don't worry - I had someone tracking me. I let 5 people know where I was going. But it was funny - he drove what looked to be an unmarked cop car. Only, there was a large bin in the back seat with 5 black/brownish and white labs in it...and it was over. I had to get two...because having one alone during the day while we're all at school and work is sad. Because teaching a dog that they're biting too hard is often a hit or miss...but when they're playing with each other - the message comes across loud and clear. The companionship was the main idea. And the fact that I loved them both. So there. 

#padding, please
Puppies are really, REAAALLLY like caring for human newborns. I mean, I was SUPER lucky. My own babies/children slept through the night almost immediately and were fairly easy. Having two baby dogs is like having infant twins. I find us saying things like, 'Shhhh!! You'll wake the puppies!' or 'Oohh, I need to change that." Or, 'do you think they're hungry?' I also get to experience the mid-night care involved. I am summoned to get up at 12, at 2, at 4 to clean dog poop tracked all over the bathroom floor - thank you for almost howling to get me up to take care of this. Can I tell you? Puppy pads. Brilliant. I love them. They're like floor diapers. Yesterday, when the puppies ACTUALLY used them of their own accord, it was like winning the lottery. For reals. Celebratory shouts and all. Even a few tears. Even dropping to knees to thank the heavens above. AND this morning, I was going to get up to run at an ungodly hour before my day started...I second-thought it. Because going into the bathroom to brush my teeth and pull up my hair (NECESSARY) would wake the puppies. And they need their sleep. They're growing dogs. There's also something singularly sweet about having a tiny bitty super soft baby animal all curled up by your heart. It makes me all melty. AND now they're starting to recognize their names...and that makes me possessive-like. MY puppies. MINE. 

I feel lucky - lucky that my Craigslist experience was relatively uneventful. I don't know that I would look for bedding or shoes or a potential date from that resource, or even recommend it to others in search of such things...in this particular case, I can just be grateful that it was a total find...and that I am completely in love with what I got. :)


Monday, February 29, 2016

#lifehacks, no I mean like hacking, like coughing...

Dear Life,

I want to take this opportunity to thank you, most sarcastically, for the illness with which you so charmingly bestowed upon me for the last two weeks and counting. Sickness is about as fun as sitting motionless on the 405...in the worst summer...in a car that has no air conditioning...with a passenger who is loud, sweaty, needs to floss and smells like old chili, but doesn't know it. There's only so long that you can be amenable with the mentioned circumstances before you really badly just want to push the car over the Hollywood sign, or lay into the passenger (from a distance, please) about simple logistics relative to hygiene. But having a cold, and then the flu, and then strep (and other fun sinus infections simultaneously) is not fun, nor fair, nor equitable. And this vicious strain of illness, Life!?! It just won't let a girl go! It grips ambitiously to any weakness in bronchioles that lead to alveoli (part of the lungs), or remote propensities for a throat to become infectious. I don't need to give the boyfriend-who-doesn't-want-to-let-go analogy, Life. You should get this pretty quickly and easily without my gnashing of teeth or wringing of hands - even though it's amusing to watch. Bottom line? Boo, Life. Just boo.

Did you know, Life, that like, 4 people in my office also succumbed to your ruthlessness? We're going to install a lysol tent at the entrance of our building. All employees, visitors, EVE.RY.ONE. will have to walk through it and be sprayed/hosed to limit/hopefully completely eliminate/no, violently dissolve in an invasive fashion the spread of communicable viruses/germs/microbials. Yay for email, because if we actually had to talk to each other face to face, it would be like the toy bin at a preschool - we'll pass those germs here and over there and everywhere - but for wretched, definitely unwelcome colds. I actually wrapped my door knobs with tape. And I am going to wear a face mask and gloves when I go into my management meeting. Because I'm sick of being sick! It's wearying. And annoying. And expensive - thank you EVERY KNOWN DRUG for coughs and flus and sinus pressure that makes you want to cry. Ugh - illusive. And feeling like you've been hit by a truck is only amusing in theory. All those remedies that vaguely promised relief...my poor liver.

Yay for technology and being able to work from home for the last two weeks in pajamas. When my codine-laced cough syrup (that was supposed to make my throat NOT feel like I had swallowed a bottle brush) kicked in, it was nice to pretty much pass out, and come-to a couple hours later, and not miss too much. I think my work-peeps appreciated that payroll still happened despite not sitting in my chair, and not being in my office. Yay for my sidekick, Ham, who made sure I was connected even though I was way out there.

Yay for my kid who is currently home-schooled, who would peek his head in every so often to ask if there was anything that I needed. Yay for his compassion and hospitality. Yay for the orange tree in our back yard that magically produced a glass of tart deliciousness. I have no idea who did it for me, it just appeared between my periods of black-out.

Yay for past episodes of Criminal Minds. Yay for kleenex with lotion in it. Yay for watermelon. Yay for my mom giving me a super soft blanket that made me feel cozy but not suffocated. Yay for my friend who brought me delicious chicken soup. Yay for my man who would let me talk to him about geography and weird curiosities for hours on end because I accidentally took a day-time flu relief pill instead of a night-time flu relief pill - you know, the one that would have made me comatose for 10 hours...whoops. Let's talk about Holland! Achoo. Poor man.

So, dude, Life - I think I've met my quota for sickness for a LONG while. Can't we do sickness like jury duty - at maximum once a year - and I may miss for a few years while other people take their turn? That would better, I think. And more efficient. Just think it over.

xo




Tuesday, January 26, 2016

#posers...no, really...I pose people. that's my job.

Dear Life,

Now that the holidays are over and I finally put the stockings away (YESTERDAY), I can come back to some humorously ironic sense of normalcy. Humorous AND ironic in a sense that only a primarily single mother of 3 children-who works more than full time-and is finishing a second graduate degree-and has a photography business-and is trying to get a music career off the ground would readily understand. But I know you feel me, life.

So, speaking of photography business, let's talk photo gigs (as this will nicely segue into my rant)...service oriented professions CAN be wonderfully gratifying. I mean, being privy to a front-row view of major life events, or even capturing real-time memories...pfff...there's nothing like it. It's also a tremendous responsibility. And getting paid to make art from nouns that can transform into something that shows unique beauty is flat amazing. The flip side is that in some cases, sometimes, generally, people are/can be a little crazy, a touch inconsiderate, and flat out not so nice...I won't even touch the bridezilla topic, other than to say yes, I've totally worked with them...and no, I'd really rather not again in the future.



#art for minimum wage
I think it positively HILARIOUS (in a harshly sarcastic way) that people are (more than once) under the mistaken impression that photographers 1) are obligated to take their event. And then think, 2) that said photographer must discount that time. I've had a handful of people over the years who have tried to wheel and deal the photography aspect of their event like they were buying a car. It's crazy. Ask yourself what you would like to be paid if you were spending anywhere between 4 to 8 hours on-site, only then to have to go home, upload, sort, edit, and post all of the images you've collected...for EACH job. What would your time be worth? What would your end product be worth? Perhaps you would reconsider offering your photographer $10 an hour. Don't get me wrong, there are a TON of peeps with cameras out there who think they've got an eye and can do what a professional does. I'm certain they would be stoked for the/any opportunity. But I also can guarantee that you will very much get/not get what you pay for.



#it's an investment in memories
Life, there's not a fellow respected photographer that I've ever met that doesn't spend deliberate, dedicated time processing, reviewing, even editing (for their client's sake, even if the client didn't pay for retouching - they just do it because it improves the overall), before they turn those images around. For a work-intensive project (like a wedding, or senior photos, or portraits, or, or, or...), it adds up to HOURS of work before you receive a site link or an appointment for a viewing. A SEASONED photographer goes for at LEAST $100/hour for a shoot. That's a per-hour minimum. That's someone who is has a candid/photojournalistic style. Someone that is more fashion-photography oriented will go for much higher depending on the experience and effort that they pour into your project. Some will/won't charge for travel time (depending on the location), but you should know that this whole process is their livelihood. Photographers are generally IN the business because they love to do it. But these hours matter. And they will work to make sure that they capture and create something that will take you back to those exact moments every time you glance at that photograph.



#the help? huh?
Some people also will treat photographers like they're sub-human...which is ridiculous. You WANT us to catch great moments, right? When you treat us like we're less...well, it may coincidentally happen that you end up with lots of photos of your guests with their mouths full, or blinking, or whatever. Not really. A professional will be annoyed by it, but will totally maintain. Even if we want to give you an album full of blinks and oopses in reply to your poor attitude. We may just save those photos for ourselves to giggle later. Not that I've done that...right?

#that's stealing
Despite all of this (wait, I'm saving my last peeve for last, but this is a good one), it's APPALLING that people think they can steal work! Ever had a photograph with a watermark that was on a website mysteriously appear on facebook in a weird cropped format that was clearly taken by a cell phone from a computer? Scandalous. If you made a deal with the photographer, they would probably allow you the rights to use fully on facebook. But come on. If you haven't paid for the work, it's not yet yours.

OKOKOK, I know you're saying that some photographers are REALLY expensive and I just really wanted that ONE image and and and. NO. There are THOUSANDS of photographers that are out there are are reasonably priced. Some will ask you what your budget is to see if they can work something out. If you have a relative, they may even do it for less. And if you have a friend who is a photographer, they may do it just because they love you. MAYBE. But that's for them to decide. I've given plenty a session as senior gift, or the like. It DOESN'T mean that I will do it for every client. (Some one that was referred was annoyed that I quoted her full price. Her friend had only paid "this" much. I had never met this person, didn't have a working relationship with them, but I had the referrer as a long time client.) I've also discounted work because people will allow me to use their images on my site as portfolio work. I've also have photographers discount their work because I've advertised for them by way of a blog, etc. There is an honest way to use work that is not yours. Get permission. Work it out. Just don't pirate images from the little guy. That $10K that you agreed to/invested in for your wedding - that's paying for a mortgage, for braces, for a family to live...it's paying that photographer to pour their heart into their work and give you something remarkable. Don't think they have a gig like that every day. And be respectful of that contribution. Again, if it was yours, how would you react?

#magic camera
So, I think the most common funny is when people comment on my camera. In the following context: "Wow, that's such a beautiful picture! That must be some camera!" Yep. Yep, it's COMPLETELY my camera. My camera just magically creates art when I click this little button thingey on the top. Never mind that I've been handling an SLR since I was 11. Never mind that I've been professionally shooting and in the market for the last 15. Nope - thank mercy and heaven that I have a good camera! That's like someone making the most exquisite dinner and someone correlating the result to the quality of the oven. Wow, that must be SOME oven. Yah.


The truth is that someone could have the BEST CAMERA ON THE PLANET and still take shoddy, non-descript pictures. A camera is a tool/instrument. What makes it work and create results is the talent/skill/ability of the operator. Think of it in a cooking perspective: when, say, Bobby Flay uses a pan, HE works it. When a novice uses the same pan, for the same dish, it may have some noted variations or results. The pan in and of itself cannot make a dish, only aid in the the means. It's the same concept with a camera. Likewise, a master could create amazing results with a point and shoot, or even an insta-matic, and for fun, sometimes photographers do. It alters perspective. It limits some aspects of the process, but the challenge is good for growth and thinking outside of the box.

Case in point, I did a photo gig for my company. I took some manufacturing-esque photographs of items totally unique to our shop. People off of the street would not recognize some of these items, in fact many of them have an abstract feel to them, but employees walking through the plant know what they are - handle them every day. This was an artistic expression of these, sometimes mundane, articles that were posed in a different light...and noticed through this medium. I had them blown up and then it was decided to have them installed all over the facility. And that comment came out, "Wow, that must be some camera." Not really. I used my iPhone to take the images. And not a fancy 6S. My little, non-spectacular 5 series. Maybe I just got the magically-special iPhone.


 Do you think somewhere there's also a computer that will draft my work for me, or shoes that can run for me, or where can I pick up that stove that makes my dinner for me?? That would be greeeeeeat.

Say cheeeeeeese,
j.