Space Mountain

For Damary

When I was eight years old, my dad and I stood in line for Space Mountain, at Disney World, for THREE HOURS. I remember the waiting area vividly. All the stars, all the people… We got up to the very point of getting on the ride and I said no. He tried to get me to go, but I was adamant and stood up to my father. I was petrified. So, we walked right out the door and outside.

Thirty years later, I was back at Disney World with the family. This was my “relaxing vacation”, a time to unwind after a bunch of wrenches thrown at me simultaneously. A new furnace, sewer backup and descaling of pipes, new car, new loans, new job, pivoting my business and loads of new responsibilities and to dos that won’t quit and keep getting larger and more frightening… I tried to see this trip as a blessing, to see the world like a kid again, like my nephews and my niece, the magic and all that. I am not a Disney World kind of vacationer, even though I’ve come to love roller coasters. Too people-y. I also do not deal well with other adults’ anxiety. Then I feel bad because I know I don’t deal well with their anxiety. Anxiety creates anxiety.

Families are funny. We may get annoyed with each other, snap sometimes, and then move on five minutes later and it’s all ok. Most of the time we can just accept the quirks that make up the people we love.

It’s so hard to see your parents getting older. Somehow they’re seventy, having trouble walking. Mom has those purple bruises on her hands like Grandma did. When did this happen? Sunrise, sunset.. (I don’t remember growing older-when did they?”) I see it in the kids too. Seems to have happened overnight.

I always remember when my irritations are high that we aren’t going to be together forever and someday I will desire to have them right here, doing whatever they’re doing that’s pissing me off (and I am well aware of my many quirks that bug the hell out of them too). This is my anxiety, my guilt. I am so scared of the thing that will eventually and undoubtedly happen. So, I pray. I pray so much for their health and protection, that we all get to stay together for as long as humanly possible. I’ve had morbid thoughts on this since I was a little kid. Thinking this may be the last time we kiss each other goodbye… It’s just my mind. Anjelah Johnson does a whole skit on this. I fully connect with it. At least someone else gets it. So, turning quirks and acceptance into gratitude is not new to me. Doing this in the middle of a herd in Disney World is another matter.

Then I looked at my phone. My friend called a few times and asked me to call. The next text shook me. A friend of ours had passed away. She didn’t want me to find out on Facebook. There I was, crying at Disney World. Just like the kid next to me crying for not getting what he wants. It’s different but the same, really.

My heart was so heavy, trapped in a swarm of sweaty irritated humans. I had to be present at the same time because my niece ran up to me at that moment all excited about her big debut on stage with Belle. In the midst of shock, heartache, and incomprehension, I knew I had to be present and just be grateful. That’s all we can do.

I knew, in a way, that was honoring her. For all the people who leave us, all we can do to truly honor them is to enjoy, be present, and be grateful.

I thought of my friend’s face. Here was a soul so beautiful, fun, lively- here yesterday and gone today. She was young. I wasn’t even that close to her, but we had JUST had an amazing time out to dinner recently, laughing and sharing stories. My heart went out to my friends, who were family with her, truthfully. Her son. I hated that I was so far away and couldn’t comfort them. I couldn’t wrap my head around this. All she had left to do, to give, to be…

Of course this made me look at my family and just want to hold them all so tightly and never let go.

A work colleague of mine recently lost her sister. She said how hard it was to not have that daily conversation, as she was used to talking with her on the phone everyday. She feels her presence still and sees the signs, the God winks. Those winks speak loudly. She said, “I just need to learn our new language.” I thought that was beautiful.

Where my head went next was all those silly fears I was worried about in my day to day tasks when I got home. All the things I had to do that I was resisting. Being more visible in the business sense. Writing. All of the things. And it all became so stupid and so small. The videos I have to do because my brand expert is making me… became really small when I pictured my friend’s face. Here one minute and gone the next.

I usually thank God for my problems. Because if I have problems, I’m still here and that’s an amazing thing. It puts it all into perspective. I’m no stranger to being slapped in the face with perspective. No one is. Life throws us unfathomable jolts, and we gain perspective. But how long do we hold onto that before we get sucked back into our own little bubble? Our own little world with the problems and narrowed vision?

These jolts tell us we are not invincible. We are not promised tomorrow. I know, I know— we all hear it, we get the quotes, people say it all the time. Yeah, it’s common knowledge. But it doesn’t hit you the same as something like this smacking you in the face.

I am well aware that I take time for granted, knowing this truth that we are not promised tomorrow, thinking somehow that we defy mortality. I think I have all the time in the world to write that book, to do this and that…
I vow to take better care of myself for her. She was so young. What am I doing? I can do better. Why am I the last priority on my list? I won’t take it for granted.

So, thirty years later, my seventy year old dad and I were trying so hard to make Space Mountain happen. It was closed for most of the day. I had no idea when I was young that it would be a once-in-a-lifetime decision. Nearing closing time, it opened up and we darted off to again stand in line and wait. Oh, that waiting room! Vivid detail locked in my memory. As we chatted, I looked at this man, knowing this was the last time he, or I, would be here. I thought of the rest of my family. I was leaving a day earlier than the rest of them, because I was shooting a wedding. The fear that everyone I loved was going to be on the same flight, apart from me, was looming in my mind. I thought of my friend, struggled with a dark scary spiral of thoughts, wanting to hold onto my family as tightly as I can, knowing it’s all out of my control. I remembered the movie Parenthood, when the grandma is talking about how some play it safe with a merry-go-round. Nothing. Boring. The ups and downs of the roller coaster is real life. That is truly living. I prayed a lot that day. I have never been one for God’s will over mine. I’m continuously learning that one and continuously struggling. Why some things work out for some people and don’t for others— I don’t think it’s our place to understand. Just trust. Faith. Let Go and Let God.

The fear and the darkness can really get to you. But, then… it was time. Just as we were stepping to that pivotal point, we had the biggest smiles on our faces, both of us little kids. This is what it’s all about. Getting on the ride and enjoying it while it lasts.

Be grateful. Let Go. Trust.

XO,

Lisa

415613586a.jpg

Boudie Call

Back to the business of silliness. I took a bit of a break (if you read Happy Turtle, you get it).

So, I didn't expect to intertwine this blog with my business. This goes against my own rules. But, they're MY rules, so... I do what I want!  My photography newsletter subscribers may have read about this, but this blog is where I can elaborate and get personal.

During my break, I went to an adult  camp in Canada. I know! It was not the typical conventional photography conference/workshop experience. Combine a community of amazing photographers, world renown speakers, shoot-outs, talent shows, dance parties, and campfires.  This was only for members of the Do More boudoir community. It was such an amazing experience.

One of the biggest reasons for shooting boudoir, for me, is to empower women. To switch the default mode in our heads, our own body shaming that we do to ourselves. It's about freedom, finding your strength, confidence, and loving yourself- just as you are now. Radical self love and acceptance in every stage of life.

It was really interesting to see how many of us photographers- who empower others and truly believe that all body types are beautiful-- have a hard time doing this for ourselves when getting in front of the camera. We all need a little help sometimes. I wasn't planning on getting photographed. We had to give permission for all online use and that scared me a bit, even if it was hypocritical of me, because I desperately want people to let me use their images on my website and really struggle with it. But I'm beyond grateful that I just went for it. I let go. I trusted. Strength in vulnerability. That experience I cannot put into words. I haven't even seen any photos yet. I truly feel empowered just by the experience. It's funny how it even reaches the fears in life that have nothing to do with body image. Strength. Confidence. It's been different since I've been back. I've been different.

What stood out as "silly" to me, was that I've been in Al-Anon for about three years. (Al-Anon is for friends and family members of alcoholics).  The program is a life-saver and I wish everyone had this program inside of them. It's the best therapy anyone will get for $1. My past experience goes beyond this into other difficult realms. I agree with Elizabeth Gilbert in the fact that I've learned not to sentimentalize mental illness (page 480 of Big Magic: "I’ve also been around enough mentally ill people to know better than to sentimentalize madness"). It was difficult for me as a woman, nurturers and empaths that we are, and a Catholic in addition to that... Lots of off-balanced ideas about love and empathy. So, this part of my psychological onion left me with feelings of fear, mostly. I could write a book on that, as it is unfounded, but needs to be dealt with none-the-less, so I'll just spare you and leave it there. I also had someone else's words still stuck in my head. These were never my thoughts. I needed to get that girl back.

Working through so many issues and layers, I just found it funny that after all this time, and all this work, you throw me in some pretty underoos in front of a group of photographers and I'm all good. My head changed there. Since I've been back, fear isn't a companion anymore. It's funny to me. Silly. And yet, not silly at all. Many women shared past experiences and grievances that they've been working through for YEARS, and how boudoir has pushed past all that. It's kind of funny what reaches you to really drive the message home.  

We all have our own backgrounds and experiences that shape how we see ourselves, in addition to what society forces onto us. The girl I needed to get back to always had a higher vision, even in my youth, in which outside physique was in there somewhere, but very low on the totem pole. I was too busy with things that really mattered. I was more concerned with what I was DOING. I wanted to do everything, make a difference, even as young as I was, and I still have that mindset. "Imagine if people stopped trying so damn hard to change their bodies. They could use that energy to change the world." - Teri Hofford, Do More photographer and educator, "Babes Against Bullshit" promoter

Also, it's all just temporary. I've fluctuated with size all my life, since I was a little kid. It never once changed the way I viewed myself. I've been skinny, bigger, all the in-betweens. In high school, I had a medical condition and was on steroids that made me swell up a few sizes. My face was huge. That's senior pictures and prom, y'all. Look at the bigger picture. It's just temporary. I was more concerned about my health and that I could keep playing sports and doing theatre and art. I knew that my mom's fears and tears had nothing to do with my weight. I was more pissed that I couldn't travel. I missed a trip to Paris.

Yes, there were douchebags. One of them said something right in front of the whole class. That threw me off, sure. In the midst of my reaction, I remember thinking that my situation was temporary (even in the HIGHEST of meanings, as I am a spiritual person), but people like that will always be assholes. Fast forward to present day. As adults, we still deal with bullies and ignorant simpletons. Their judgement says more about them than it does about you. Many women and I have shared experiences  about narcissists, alcoholics, the mentally ill, abusive loved ones- be it verbal, mental, or physical... or even just the judgment that people dole out onto other human beings automatically, without much thought. The emotional sickness can take root if you let it. That onion has many layers, no matter what your story, and boudoir has been tremendous therapy for thousands of women. The effect of an intimate lifestyle shoot is strong, with themes that also include individuality, independence, sensuality, and intimacy. It's kind of a big deal.

MY ADVICE ON BODY IMAGE THAT I HAVE BEEN GIVING TO MY FRIENDS FOR DECADES:

Last week one of my friends who has been battling with weight for a while had a hard day because someone made a horrible comment specifically about her weight. She is a fitness instructor and I was just telling her a week before what a role model she was for me and she actually helped me stop smoking years ago. This was my response to her day, which I've been saying to all of my friends for decades:

"The reason you were a role model to me had nothing to do with your outside package. I've always believed that OUR WORTH IS NOT IN OUR WAISTLINE. I get what you're feeling, because we are human and that's just a default mode we need to adjust. It was your sass, your feistiness, your positivity and confidence, and you made me feel good about myself! That's a big deal in this world.
I feel sorry for people who don't get it about weight. They don't get anything, really. PRIORITIES off much? Excuse me, miss, you dropped your VALUES. We all have SO MUCH MORE TO US than that one stupid thing. It's temporary too! What are they going to do when they're boobs are down to their knees? What about when they get old? What happens if they lose a limb? A bit SHALLOW, am I right? They'll never get it. FEEL SORRY FOR THEM AND MOVE ON.
I love you for YOU. Even when your boobs will be at your knees.
And yes, you will still be gorgeous at that time."

Another friend has done the battle with weight for years and necessary medication is a factor. She didn't want to go to her reunion. She didn't want to put on a bathing suit on her vacation.  It was heart wrenching the way she was speaking about someone I loved- her!

I told her these same things, essentially, but also that she needs to talk to herself like her daughter was listening. She is the ROLE MODEL that girl has, and her daughter's vision will be shaped by that, whether she likes it or not. So PAY ATTENTION. How you view yourself, how you talk to yourself... maybe you need to put yourself in timeout for a bit.

I wrote a while ago in a photo newsletter,  Wake Up Call , that some moms won't even get in the family photos because of their body image issues. I've had too many people ask if I had something-anything more of so and so, could I look again... Always needing as much as they possibly could hold onto after a loved one passes. I had a daughter ask for photos of her mom, when sadly, mom had done what way too many moms do and decided she only wanted photos of the kids. She hated getting her picture taken. That always breaks my heart. The kids don't see a double chin, they see their hero. (And a professional knows how to work with angles so that wouldn't even be the case. It's not like Aunt Betty taking a photo with her phone.)

I would like to add a little note, as I'm writing this for women because they are my usual clients, this applies to men as well. In my experience, they have the same damn default mode too. So, keep that in mind and lift them up as well. 

It's time to change the distorted perception of beauty that has been driven into us for far too long. It's time to stop the judgment. When I think of beautiful women, the first that come to mind are of all shapes and sizes, most are "bigger (curvy) ladies" by society's standards, and three of the top ones are over 45yrs old.

Helen Mirren is amazing for crying out loud.

Embrace who you are right now. Celebrate it.

XO,
Lisa

Did you like this post? Do you know someone who needs to hear these words or just needs the reminder? Please share this and sign up for my newsletter!

Source: https://www.google.com/_/chrome/newtab?rlz...

THE Happy Turtle

More lessons learned from the littles in my life. I get pointed messages from my nephews and niece all the time. My teachers have gotten smaller. When I lived in Maui, I had a kumu- teacher- named Uncle Sonny, who was about 70-ish and took me under his wing. So, that one's obvious, but teachers came in all sorts of ways. They were often strangers. People at the bar stool next to me while I was waiting for my friend to get off work. Some lady next to me waiting in line. Some random person I interviewed for the paper. A hoity toity at the gallery says something that she doesn't even know is profound. Sometimes, now, it is in the form of nature, a billboard, or the radio... It's so funny who your teachers are, if you only listen, remain open, and have the ability for introspection. 

We were at Joshie's skating/hockey practice a few weeks back. He just turned 6yrs old. He was in his poofy winter down jacket, with the sewing making horizontal lines across his body, and a bike helmet as the protective shell. He was smiling and just so happy out there on the ice. He reminded me of a cartoon character, or the main character of a children's book. "He looks like a happy turtle," I told my sister. "He does!" She confirmed. Later, when they were trying to skate backwards, all the older kids were flying past him, he was barely moving. He did not care one bit and kept on smiling, excited as all get out, concentrating and laughing in intervals.

                                  THE HAPPY TURTLE

                                  THE HAPPY TURTLE

Fast forward a few weeks. I'd been having a rough time. Projecting into the future for my business, how the field was changing, I was contemplating going in a different direction with it. I called an old mentor whom I admire and received an extremely negativite outlook instead of hope for this field that I have chosen. 

Not only that, but that deep dark spiral had already set in. When I go down this road of trying to get a clear path in my head, I tend to analyze every area of my life, and at that moment it was not shaping up as I imagined it would by this point. The day job, personal endeavors, artistic endeavors, goals, aspirations, wanderlust, even relationships (which I always forget about until my extended family asks me. "Oh yeah, I have to put that on the list too"... I am still fighting that battle of yearning for freedom, adventures, my own dreams and ambitions, and the other side- intimacy, comfort, and family. This struggle gets dusted off, then sits on the shelf again, then drops in my face again, in a viscious distorted cycle. Most people know for sure one way or the other. I just wish I had about twenty more years on this bastard of a clock). It was just one of those times. They happen. I can look back on how far I have come, what I have accomplished, the crazy, amazing adventures I've had, all the wonderful people in all the chapters of my life, even old passions that I've pursued in the past that I don't currently that made me ME... Even though I can see all of this and be truly grateful, and proud, still, those days, the dark spriral, they will still happen. I know this. Sneaky bastards.

After that phone call, I leaned my head back and just thought to myself, "Why did I pick this field"? Why am I doing all of this, spending so much energy, and putting so much into all of this? Even things like just writing this blog... Images of my high school counselors warning me to go for something else popped in my head. I opened my eyes and saw the shimmering leaves above my head in my backyard, with the prettiest golden sunset backlighting them. And I thought, "because I see the beauty in the world. I see things that others don't. And I want to share that. That is all." I smiled. 

The Happy Turtle came to mind just then. Why can't I be The Happy Turtle? Who cares how slowly I'm going? At least I'm doing it. All the things. I'm still doing them... I complained to my mother once that having too many passions is a curse and I have a hard time seeing it as a blessing. There's never enough time to actually DO all of the things. You can't really excel or find "success" at any one of them when you are so spread out. What if I never get anywhere "REAL" with any of these things? "When you’re doing them, do they make you happy?" "Yeah." Point taken. Why can't that be enough? It should be enough, right?

Once you hit a goal, there will always be more. Always more striving. Where I am now in my own business- I longed for this a few years back. Mark Manson says the striving is where happiness lies. I can see that. The process is the thing, not the result. The motivation, the inspiration, the expression, the action. I also love his words on "mediocrity". Creatives put so much damn pressure on ourselves. Meaning, purpose, worldy change!, leaving your mark, helping others, making a difference...  It's all so fucking heavy. Having this conversation with a friend who is left-brained, an engineer, I asked her if she does this to herself. "No. I work to pay bills. I do that to love up on my kids and enjoy the lake on the weekends." Period. Wow. I was so jealous for that simplicity. I am a different breed, and it's inevitable to feel low when you have more and more goals than you could possibly ever achieve. (And on another level, when you have kids, BAM! You automatically have purpose, meaning; you are making a difference. So, that definitely is part of the psychological onion for me.) But Manson made me think when he talked about the idea that most people in the world are "mediocre," by our crazy ass standards, when you think about it. He asks if that means that for MOST of the people who have ever lived-- that their lives didn't matter? Huh. Is Mark Manson giving me permission to calm the fuck down? I'll take that.   

So, this post is automatically scheduled to come out on my birthday. I never work on my birthday. I will be at the beach before any evening plans take way. On my birthday, every year, I immerse myself in nature. Water, green luscious scenery, and I get lost in just being a human, grateful for the beauty. "Just be". For a short amount of time, I am no one’s daughter, sister, aunt, friend, girlfriend, coworker, boss lady... I’m just me. Feeling the wind, smelling the smells, taking in the wonder and awe of it all. I don't give a shit about accomplishments or how productive I'm being. I try to turn the creative brain off. It's tough. (Even when I take vacations, I am now thinking about how I could turn it into a travel article, with photos.. So, how is that time off, really?)

I used to do this so easily in Maui. I mean, how could you not? The simplicity of happiness. I was so relieved to find folks who also did not agree with "You are what you do". No one buys that shit there. They don't even buy that you are a "mother", "wife", "girlfriend", whatever, as your identity. Such a different, wonderful, peaceful mindset over there. I told myself that I would keep this mindset when I moved back. "Across the Universe," by The Beatles, was playing as I made this vow. "Nothing's gonna change my world"... Being back in the midwest, I can't help but feel that while my heart fully resonates with "You are NOT what you do", my ambitions are contradictory and will take on society's logic- that I don't even agree with! But, then again, I actually WANT to do all of the things. I loaded my plate because I want them all. I am the crazy hoarder at the buffet, where my eyes are bigger than my stomach, because I am a mere human. I cannot have it all. I have to choose. The Choosing, I would say, is my nemesis.

So many articles tell us to schedule time to do nothing. We get a few hours a week (if you're lucky)? We wait for vacations and are happy with a couple weeks a year? Even two days, out of seven, a week (which we have personal chores and domestic duties)..? That's some bullshit. Who made these shitty ass rules? That is just not humane. That's not going to be good enough for me this year. I don't want to have to REMIND myself to JUST BE. I don't need permission. I will not feel guilty. I give myself full permission to JUST BE, for a fair amount, every day. I already go radio silent for days at a time. No social media. No more consuming. No more information. No more classes on this, that, and the other. No more podcasts or self-improvement. Take a mental break. I started meditating on my lunch break, which to me, at the beginning stage, means shutting everything down in my brain and listening to the birds, feeling the grass, the wind...

A while back, I heard an older man talking about his walks around his neighborhood in the fall, how beautiful it was and how much he loved it. He was pondering about how many more autumns he thinks he has left. He decided it had to be around seven. Holy shit, that gave me some perspective.

I will make more time to just enjoy. That's a damn good purpose too. Not everyone can do it, either. What if that is The Meaning? And by example, you show others how to do the same? That is the difference that you can make. 

This Happy Turtle is loving life.

Keep It Simple,

Lisa
 

"I DO TOO LIKE YELLOW!" What I Learned From a 5yr old

One weekend I was back home, hanging out with my sister, bro-in-law, and the kiddos, reveling in some cozy at-home time. The kids must've been razzing my nephew, Joshie, 5yrs old, because all of a sudden he yelled, "I DO TOO LIKE YELLOW!!!"  "What's happening?" asked the adults. "She's saying that I don't like yellow and I do!" fumed Joshie. He was TICKED. The anger amplified by the minute. We adults snickered at the ridiculousness of this. They said something parental, which I don't remember, and Joshie moved on.

I thought to myself, wow, how often do I do that too? I'm probably doing it right now. Holding onto things that don't matter at all, really? My situations don't ever FEEL ridiculous, of course, because adults deal with heavier issues, but it still is the same thing when you get down to it. 

"I DO TOO LIKE YELLOW!"  Very much like the key phrases:

  • "Do you want to be right or do you want to be happy?"
  • "How important is it?"
  • "How cheaply am I willing to sell my serenity?"

These quotes help when I find myself over-analyzing or obsessing over a situation out of my control and not giving my energy to the present moment, or what really matters. My thoughts can drift to past conversations, situations as unfair as all get out (narcissists are everywhere here in adulthood! You deal with one and ten more come out of the woodwork!), the woulda coulda shouldas...  Resentments, memories that barge in uninvited, caring about what other people think-in any way, other people's words or behavior, a misunderstanding, a complete misconception of me- or my work, or a flat out untruth, etc. How often am I bellowing out “I DO TOO LIKE YELLOW!”, deep down, subconsciously, instead of letting go?

At that time, I noticed the correlation with Joshie's anger and some floating feelings of mine, stemming from my boss, company politics, which then expands into a downward black spiral of national politics, and maybe some intrusive unnerving memories of an ex-headcase that comes with random instigators once in a while, trying to get an uprise of mental anguish from me. In such a case, I feel like God is the adult and I am the child, and He’s telling me, “It doesn’t matter. The point is that you are out of that situation. Focus on what’s important- what’s in front of you.”

This correlation is also pertinent to interactions with family members and friends. And again,  politics- any situation out of our control. When you feel like people just don't "get it", or, in Joshie’s case, don’t “get you"-- even if it's your circle, your tribe, the ones who should above all others "get you"--- and you have to defend yourself... You really don't. Ever.

I have a wise old friend that always reminds me, "You know the truth. God knows the truth. That's all that is necessary."  I never thought that I needed those words as much as I do. I've always considered myself one that doesn't care what people think. But that emerges for all of us in a deeper sense everyday. There will always be cases where we have to practice this logic. Detach. There are people we come into contact with daily that will just never "get it".  Their behavior and words could really get me seething... Or I can detach from it completely and cut that string. It doesn’t have to affect me. 

We expect our families to truly know us. But, do you know of anyone who actually feels this way? Me neither. We are human. It can feel comfortless and isolating, but that's all a part of it. It's why we need God so much (or whatever you deem your Higher Power to be), and why it's imperative to strengthen that spiritual relationship continuously.
 
Because I am a sucker for quotes, I will also lay down these well-known gems:

  • "Never waste time on people who are committed to misunderstanding you."
  • "Be a good person, but don't waste time proving it."

Now, when I find myself upset or holding onto something that I need to let go of, when I have this awareness, I hear Joshie screaming "I DO TOO LIKE YELLOW!!!"  And I am aware that I am being silly, and I move on.

Silly Monday to you,
Lisa

Did you like this post? Tell me a trick or quote that helps you to detach and let go in the comments below. Please share this post and subscribe below to receive this silly blog in your inbox twice a month.