We are stronger than we know.
This refrain echoes + magnifies recently. Friends navigating through life-shattering losses, my own family losing foundational members, projects with amazing and courageous people who themselves find gifts in loss and strength in hope.
I once thrashed in the face of feeling lost.
Now I experience it as a cocoon of becoming. A magical chrysalis which protects us as we shift from who we were to who we are becoming.
There is vast strength in lostness, when that is our truth.
I succumbed to lostness (after a convergence of loss on personal, financial and creative spheres), and likely will continue to meet lostness, as it is woven inextricably into being alive. But from that place, that passage, I found me.
From the beginning, my shy self found safety in hiding. I literally hid behind my mom as a toddler when my dad came home from business trips.
Early on, teachers would shine a light on me because I excelled academically. I loved learning. I am curious. I loved feeling my brain stretch to meet a new challenge. We are partners, it and I. But when the other kids made fun of me for being “smart” I decided to hide that light a bit. Standing out got me noticed and not in a way I was fond of.
As a pre-teen, mom took me to my pediatrician for a back brace to correct my hunched posture. In a fast mental strategy to avoid the embarrassment of a back brace, I blurted my truth, “Maybe I don’t feel good enough about myself to stand straight.”
But now I know it wasn’t about standing straight but tall.
I learned how to stand up and stand out wearing a mask of strength. Faking fortitude to navigate professional insecurities.
Finding my two feet and claiming where I planted them in mother earth took lifetimes, years, minutes.
It wasn’t until a personal photography series I began last year that I was prompted to see in my own work, how much I hid. And how much I ached, attempting to feel whole when I knew parts of me were running for their hiding place. Bravery wasn't the solution. Lostness was.
I was so averse to feeling completely adrift, I fought the question I didn't have an answer to. Exhausted and listless with not knowing where to look for clues, I let go of trying.
Once I began to look myself in the eye through my camera lens, I could truly own my voice, my space in life.
Now at 49 I stand tall, in peace, in resilience, in strength. Even in uncertainty I feel more steady.
We must stand in our own truth, open to our own lostness and disconnect. Be with the not-knowing until we know, until with every cell we declare, "This is our Yes. I have found what is meaningful to me, this is my wholeness. This is my freedom."
Perhaps rebuilding a society that values healing, wholeness & liberty comes from first standing tall in our personal truth. In honor of our recent day of independence, I penned my new freedom declaration:
There is no mark I am supposed to hit
No script I am to perform
No way I need to be
And to find the truth of myself
Is my infinity
My ongoing way, my why, my yes, my how, my light
My unlocked, cracked open expansion
In which I can welcome, anew, this world.
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