I’ve had a few weeks away from the project with the holidays and other events taking precedence… but am glad to be returning. In week 33, Point of Return, I wrote of the feeling of returning to myself and to life again in a bolder way. And there have certainly been some big events and experiences to come my way since then.
Right away this image made my mind wander into the story of Sleeping Beauty and how its concepts relate to grief. Although this connection wasn’t initially planned, I can’t deny the link. Themes of having something overtake you without warning. Being powerless. Having your life completely interrupted without any say – locked within your experience. And most of all – having parts of yourself that remain asleep within you for years.
It’s been far too cold to photograph myself outside in almost no clothing, so I’ve been forced indoors for a few shots lately. This one was originally shot vertically, looking out my bedroom window. I ran the shower to steam up the room and was experimenting with some shots using the fogged window.
The steam fogged up the glass on my lens initially – creating this lovely creamy effect. After only two shots I wiped the lens clean, shooting the rest clearly, but in the end, I kept coming back to this image. It was weeks before I actually began to understand the story unfolding here. It always amazes me how I may shoot an image and have no idea why or what it’s saying until a future moment when my life catches up to the story of the photo. Which it soon did.
I had a brief romantic encounter over the holidays… the first since my fiancé died. A seemingly ordinary event in anyone else’s life which is made paramount by the situation of being widowed. Now, I have worked very hard over the past two and a half years to separate from that part of myself which knows well and remembers being intimate and vulnerable with a man. It’s a piece of myself that splintered off in the trauma of his death that basically just shut down. And there I have left her all this time, asleep.
I’ve pushed the remembrance of a romantic life so far away that I really can’t even recall what it feels like anymore. And for a time, that has really worked just fine. I’m busy. I’ve got plenty of other things I’m focusing on. Life is generally going well. Easier to just not be able to feel all that. I’ve not even be able to spend time with men as friends for the better part of two years now. It’s only been in the past 6 months or so that being around men in general has become more comfortable for me again.
With that has come a new kind of lonely though. It’s more strongly rooted in wanting someone new than in missing Drew – although I still miss him every day. I can actually feel a desire for someone new now. Largely because I know full well, there are parts of my healing that cannot happen on my own. Healing that can only take place when I open my most vulnerable self to someone new… When I allow someone else to make me laugh the way he did, or hold me tight when I am upset. And also, because after two and a half years, I’m damn sick of not being taken out on dates, or held, or made to feel special in any way. Yeh. A gal gets lonely!
So it’s no surprise to me that this person showed up when they did. Despite knowing it really wasn’t going to go anywhere, and that it was going to be confusing and difficult and upsetting and at some point likely going to hurt like a bitch, I still opened myself to it. I think this is wonderful. Because I could have stayed asleep. I could have said “Nope, I’m not ready to wake up yet.” and just left that part of myself in slumber for however much longer. Left her behind. Safer, protected, but missing out on life. And I didn’t.
And yes, it was all those things – confusing, difficult, upsetting, and it did hurt like a bitch. It hurts to have that part of myself woken up – to remember what it feels like to be in that close space with someone again and then to go our separate ways. But, it was also FUN, really fun. And beautiful to feel it again. And not as difficult as I imagined. I laughed more than I have in ages. I allowed someone to hold me. I allowed myself to be vulnerable and trusting. I learned about another person’s experience of the world. I learned a few things about myself too. I woke up. And for that I am proud. No more sleeping… Life is to be lived. The good, the bad, and all the messy in between.
“Still, Life” is a year-long self portrait series exploring the journey of grief. You can read more about the project in this post. To see the full image gallery visit 2014 PROJECT. Please share with anyone who you feel can relate to the imagery, my hope is that it gives many others a visual for something they are going through in their own lives.