This person is one of my dearest people.
There are hundreds of words to describe her, but I'll stick with just a few. This is a friend of mine who put together the entire San Diego series. She used her resources for good and helped raise enough for me to fly out to her to stay for the week. Without batting an eyelash.
She's good at that kind of stuff, I've found. Adapting and excelling and creating. She is one of the strongest souls I know, no doubt. Having been through her own plethora of hard times; she gets me very well. Which is not an easy feat, mind you. I'm not one to go around claiming my trauma as some unique marker, but it does tend to alienate me from others. Make me feel, disconnected from reality. But while I was with this friend of mine, there was only connection and creativity and a general warmth I wish from my own Mother. She is a sister to me, and I am deeply grateful for her leadership as an example. She has taught me I deserve better, I am a whole person, and that even when we make mistakes we are worthy or forgiveness.
Enjoy her session, she is one hell of a person and an even stronger Mother.
How would you rate your self-esteem from 1-10?
I would say its like an eight.
What goes into that?
I feel really good about who I am inside. I am a little bit hard on myself physically. I feel like my physical self really reflects how hard the last two years have been. I've been really stressed and I've comforted myself with food and I haven't worked enough to keep myself strong and that's really reflected in my body right now. But that's changing. It's not like I don't like my body, it's just sometimes I feel like it doesn't represent who I am on the inside well enough.
Why did you want to participate?
I just really like what you're doing. I think it's been empowering for me to read other peoples stories. I'm a lot more aware of my relationship with my body as a result of your project and feminist reading. If I can contribute to your body of work at all, I'd love to be of help.
My eight year marriage recently started to dissolve and I've been in the process of figuring out who I am now that I am completely in charge of my life. I think that participating in this will help with that.
What body part are you least comfortable with?
My tummy. I have a fold of skin that's partly from being over weight and partly from having babies. When I was younger, i was very judgmental of people who had rolls on their body. I am over that now and I have so many friends whose bodies look all sorts of ways and I think they're all beautiful but...I have a harder time being gentle with my own body.
Are you nervous? If so, why?
Yeah. Hahaha. I'm not nervous about sitting for you. I'm a little nervous about sharing myself in a public way where friends can see. But I feel really loved and supported. And when I really think about it; I feel safe.
How do you feel?
Great! I feel like I should sunbath more.
Being naked in the sun is one of my favorite things.
Was it different than you expected it to be? How?
Yeah! It was a lot easier than I thought it would be. I feel like my body is in transition and sometimes I get impatient that things aren't happening as fast as they should but I felt really mindful of my body when we were shooting. I felt really aware of what I can do right now.
How did you expect it to be?
I think I expected to be more negatively self-conscious. Maybe I felt more embarrassed about all my bruises and blemishes but I really didn't think about them.
What distracted you from that?
I think it helps that I trust you a lot. Playing with Jack during the session really impacted my attitude toward my body because...I think...he...my pregnancy is the source of the tummy issue. Holding him and playing with him reminds me that it doesn't matter what my belly looks like because he came out of it. Both of my kids did and they are awesome!
How would you rate your self-esteem now?
I think I'm maybe a nine. I definitely still...there are times when I'm moving and I can feel the extra weight on me and I'm so looking forward to that changing but I don't dislike my body right now.
How do you incorporate body positivity into your life?
Well, I have two kids and I think setting an example of self-love to them is important to me. I try never to speak negatively about myself in front of them. If I put on makeup and Ada asks about why I'm wearing it; I say that it's fun. We talk a lot about the importance of a bodies functionality. The more I explain that all bodies are beautiful to my kids, the more I believe it too.
I had a lot of fears about my body after my divorce went underway. My husband said some really unpleasant things about my body. I had a couple of weeks where I went to a dark place with that but I think spending time with my kids, shooting boudoir, talking with other people about their bodies, and being able to get things done around the house reminds me that my body does everything I need it to and it does it well. It's hard to be unhappy about that.
How do you educate your children on ableism in respect to body positivity?
One of the cool things about little kids is that they don't have a filter. So, if were out at the store and we see a paraplegic in a cool wheelchair; Ada would ask questions about it. When she was little, I was afraid she would embarrass them by asking questions. Instead, I found people are really willing to talk about how they accommodate what their body can do.
How do you think asking a disabled person about their disability makes them feel?
My experience so far has been pretty positive. Ada will see someone in a wheelchair or with braces and ask, "Ohhh! Why are your legs shiny? Why do you have wheels?" And they'll explain that they need wheels because their legs don't do what they tell them to do. Like, they say "My body doesn't do what I tell them to do"
I always get this sense of power from people who talk about their disabilities. Sometimes I get a sense of relief when kids ask, because they do sometimes feel like the elephant in the room. And kids diffuse that. It must be freeing for someone to address that for them. But that said, I've never talked to a total stranger out of the blue about their disability. It's only when we're grocery shopping or something that we encounter people who we strike up small talk with.
As someone who is disabled herself, I really enjoy educating people about my disability. Especially children who may grow up around very ableist thinking. I like to be the person who opens up and shows them that some of us, not all of us, are open to sharing. All you have to do is ask politely, and if they say they aren't comfortable with sharing or look frazzled or like they are struggling to do what they're doing; don't ask. Respect it.
Tell me about your childhood?
I moved a lot. I went to a different school every year. I got to do a lot of cool stuff though.
What were the downsides?
I never really stayed in one place long enough to grow roots. My times in San Diego is the longest I've been in one place. I didn't have a lot of social accountability as a child, because we moved so much. I think living in one place has made me a much better person.
You've mentioned you have a few groups you frequent. Tell me about them? Why are they important to you?
It's such a vital resource for me to have safe places I can go to to discuss concerns I have with people I really identify with. I have a Momma group. I have a breastfeeding tribe. I have a couple of photography groups. I have an atheist Mom group. So when the kid at school tries to convert mine I have someone I can talk to about how to tackle that tactfully. Haha.
I can't imagine raising children without groups. I sincerely believe that one of the biggest sources of stress we face as modern Americans is the loneliness of trying to conduct our lives without these groups.
Because inevitably, we all have these interests and life experiences that we can only celebrate in the presence of those who have encountered the same.
You're a successful business owner of a photography business here in San Diego. What emotional obstacles did you overcome to get to the place you're at right now with your business?
I think admitting that photography is vitally important to me was very difficult because I haven't always felt supported in that. It's been an important outlet for me for a long time. My previous partner had some resentment about my business and my practice so it was a big source of conflict for us. I feel like I have to be emotionally available to make the work I want to make.
What does that look like?
It means that I have to love them. I think if you really want to see someone as beautiful as they can be you need to turn an eye of love on them. You really need to be open to emotionally investing in them. That's been challenging, especially over the last year, because of the drain on my emotional tank at home.
But an empty tank doesn't stop you from doing what you need to do.
Right, I just learned how to fill it better. I don't feel drained anymore, and when I do face that in the future I now know how to fill my tank now. Learning how to take care of myself has been challenging but it makes it a lot easier to express myself in my art and love my clients.
We've spent a whole week together now, thank you for hosting me! With that said, we've also had a million lengthy emotional conversations whenever possible and I'd love to share with anyone reading what you've learned about yourself.
I'm leaving this visit with a greater weight on emotional honesty. When we were talking about the point of a wedding, and involving family and friends in it, preserving their memory and involvement; it really had me considering what is important in relationships and my work. The ability to invite others into our lives and be honest with them and allow them to hold us accountable is invaluable. I'm excited to bring that perspective to my work and life going forward.
I'm starting work on a personal project about how we keep our homes. We were talking about all the scraps of paper and yarn on the floor when they play all day. I really like them. I like the way it shows the way we've been exploring the world together. How the mess tells a story about our day. I'm so actively engaged with my kids sometimes that I rarely take notice to the bread crumb trail behind us. Society has a lot of support for the way our bodies change after we have kids but there's a lot about how our bodies and relationships change but not our houses. Society generally doesn't see the value in a messy house. We're judged by others for not spending all our time tidying up. But there are so many hours in the day. Being meticulous with my house cleaning is not important enough to waste those hours.
A messy house is a house well lived in.
Anything you want to leave with the readers?
I feel like right now what's important to me, as an emerging theme, is that it's okay to have goals but it's okay to love where you're at throughout the entire process. I will probably be spending my entire life being in the process of evolution. Who am is always evolving. Finding the value in growth and putting my focus on measuring growth as opposed to valuing a finished process has made it easier for me to be happy with life. It's better to say, "I was more patient than I was yesterday" than it is to say, "Am I a patient Mom?"