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

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The Waiting Period

For years, I have had a day job while running my business at the same time. Most of these jobs clearly did not fit with my values, heart, and desires. With this last job, I prayed about it so much, I think God Himself was sick of my voice. I was sick of my voice. Should I stay or should I go? I had so much fear and felt that I would always be in this trap. I couldn’t see any way out. I now had a house to worry about, with piling bills. My photography business finally had a few years where it could be my sole income. But what about next year? And the next? The expenses for this business surpassed anything I could ever imagine. Three types of insurance, advertising, multiple sites behind the scenes, and all the normal everyday expenses… Y’all, I have to pay for a fake address because I’m online and that’s the way it goes. All those little things add up, and my dream… is extremely expensive- without equipment even involved. As I prayed, I heard nothing. I couldn’t get an answer. I finally got so frustrated, that I found myself praying angrily. “Just PUSH me already. Whatever Your will, just PUSH me.”

My last day at the day job, frustrated with no clear direction or answer, I was sitting at my desk and just kept repeating in my head, “God is for me not against me”, over and over. When I am struggling with trust, that seems to force my mind into it. What happened next was Divine Intervention. The details do not matter here, but I had no choice other than to stand up for myself and leave. I definitely got the push. In one way, I felt such a relief- to finally have an answer. On the other hand, now came the fear. Instability. Full-time entrepreneur. Could I do this? Did I mention that I was supposed to buy a car the next day because mine was kaput?

On my way home, I saw two signs on the side of the road, in front of a house, on a residential street, that had no business being there. The first said “It won’t be long”, and a little way down the other said, “So don’t despair.”

The next day, I was greeted by a cardinal and a blue jay in my backyard, hanging out together. These have always been signs to my family. A blue jay reminds me of my brother. It’s a longer story, which I will probably write about someday. The cardinal, because my grandma had just passed and there’s a thing with cardinals… I felt like they were telling me I was going to be fine. It always feels like a pause. Like they’re telling me I’m on the right track and that they see me. They’re there for what I’m going through. I have never seen cardinals around my house before that day.

These last few years I have had to put so much trust in my faith. It has been a struggle. I’ve grown through some pretty difficult situations. Presently, though, there’s nothing like clearing out your desk, driving home for two hours, and then sitting in the lobby of a dealership with your dad looking at new(er) cars, knowing what that monthly payment is going to be, and you have no steady income coming in for the first time in your life. That is Trust.

ADD IN the class that I NEEDED to turn my business in another direction. I knew that if I didn’t invest in this, I would regret it. Because I did that last year when it was offered. ADD IN household appliances bailing on me, a leaky roof, etc. All of this in mind, my dad and I were laughing and cracking jokes in that lobby. What else can you do but laugh at it all? I’m so grateful for my family. The panic always ceases when I’m around them. After the dealer put in my information, because in his eyes, I was still employed at the day job, I got the car. While he was walking both of us to my new beautiful chariot, he asked me, “Why are you so nervous?” As I was thinking, ‘Because I don’t actually have that job,’ I replied, “Well, it’s just such a big decision!” Side-glance over at my dad.

I have seen amazing things since that time a few months back. Clients hired me with urgent timing, needing a wedding photographer that same month, willing to pay in full. Guys, that just does not happen for weddings and it happened twice that month. People ordered prints from me when they already had the digital images. That never happens, either. A friend of ours sold my old car without me even having to list it. Also, my new pivot in my business gained some hits and gave me hope to continue. I have not only met wonderful women entrepreneurs, I am helping them grow THEIR businesses. I have gained a close friend through this venture, who I believe my soul really needed. None of the things that have happened lately would have happened if I did not quit that horrid day job. I have been the busiest I have ever been in my entire life. Other avenues and side jobs that are in my passion wheelhouse have opened up. Who knows where this road may lead…

I found out that my heartstrings are tied to helping bossladies. Yes, photographing anything, really, but it’s about damn time I start listening to what I really want to do and have faith in myself, and even bigger faith in God. Even writing these little blogs… It feels so good to do this at 2pm by the water. I’ve worked in the lobby of a mechanic (which I would’ve had to take two vacation days for, at a corporate 9-5). I have realized that freedom means more to me than “stability”. “Stability” can be a prison. What if I can actually have the life I’ve always dreamed of? What if?

Since that defining day, I have dealt with more wrenches. I am confronted with more responsibilities, that I have taken on willingly, which I realize means more monthly bills. I am calm. I still have to fight the fear some days. I fight downright panic on some days. But I am reminded that I have overcome obstacles before and I will keep doing it. “Do not fear” is written in the Bible 365 times. One reminder for every day of the year. “I have not given you fear.” I was listening to the radio when they were talking about how worry is actually a sin. That hit home. I never thought of it that way. I come from a long line of worriers. Of all the miracles that I have seen in my life, and there are a ton, that COULD ONLY BE Divine Intervention, why does my trust still waiver? It might be because I trust God but not in my ability to hear Him correctly. I analyze endlessly, scared to trust myself, to make the wrong decision. I love that quote, “God’s Will will happen in spite of you, not because of you.” It just may take a different route to get there. But there will always be essential events and people, whatever route you take, that are necessary for your growth and meaningful to your life.

During that time that this all went down, I entered this piece into ArtPrize. It is called “Politics Erasing / Erasing Politics.” I started it when the politics of our nation turned tumultuous, and at the same time, I was resistant to the corporate world, its confines and limitations. What was happening in my little day to day environment was a sampling of what was happening in society as a whole. When I started, it came from a place of turmoil, anger, and defiance. When I had finally made the decision to fight the fear, go forth as my own boss, and to help other women entrepreneurs, it shifted into an expression of strength and beauty.

Isn’t that always the case? Out of a time of turmoil and chaos comes strength and beauty.

And in the waiting period, is God.

charcoal drawing lisa shaw


Wishing you all a happy holiday season.
Be grateful.
Let your heart be light.
XO,

Lisa

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

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