The young woman behind the desk asked me to check the form and make sure everything was correct: name, address, date of birth, phone number. And then as if written in the red ink reserved especially for school teachers, my eyes fell upon what was surely some kind of practical joke. My eyes narrowed, squinted, then rose to meet her impatient gaze. Occupation: Housewife.
That was the day I became a photographer. Doing my best to remain slightly less snarky than usual, I explained the occupation listed was incorrect. I gave her several other options ranging from stay-at-home-mom to rocket scientist, but we eventually settled on “photographer.”
Looking back on that morning, I was probably a tad more riled up about the situation than I needed to be, but it opened two doors for me: The first one was the door to a coffee shop where I felt completely justified in self-medicating with an iced frappuccino for the gross mistreatment I had clearly just suffered. The second was a door labeled: What You Want to Add to Who You Already Are.
Who I really am, as seen through my eyes, is a woman living the most fulfilling and rich season of her life to date; motherhood. It is my most treasured gift. Let me just take the bloom off the rose here, however, and say it is also the most smothering adventure I’ve ever enjoyed.
In the early years of raising kids, the daily self-sacrifice for even the most basic needs of a child can make a person feel guilty for having dreams outside of parenthood. As the years go on, there is almost no time to devote to one’s own evolution when consumed with sibling mediation that makes the Middle Eastern peace process look like a fight over who called dibs on the remote first. But at the end of every day, I give thanks for the gift of being beautifully smothered. It holds me accountable to what I am: a mother who lives every day to teach her daughters that confidence and imperfection are symbiotic friends.
Therein lies the deeper work for me this year. I can think of a lot of things I’d rather do than step in front of a camera – starting with making a list of Things I’d Rather Do Than Step In Front Of A Camera. Like eat a Twix or ten. Or scrape princess stickers off the front window of my house. Or even teach the kids a little bit about the piano.
With this hope in mind, Brian and I recently purchased a 60 year old piano. It is a beautiful instrument in need of deeper work; the kind of work that requires each component to be removed, examined, repaired and perfected. The keys, for example, look typical enough on the outside, but a closer look reveals their imperfections, signs of wear, and weaknesses. Somehow, though, they become more approachable, less intimidating, and unquestionably authentic when extracted from the rest of the piano. It’s this deeper work that has given an old, neglected piano its voice once again.
Just as the piano technician unpacked every component of our piano to restore and improve the instrument as a whole, this exercise has challenged me to unpack my insecurities, weaknesses, memories, old ways of thinking through a challenge, creative limitations, and plans for the future. At this beginning point in my journey, a conspicuous roadblock to my improvement as a photographer, artist, and woman is my lack of confidence in front of the camera, which too often rears its sagging head in my results. I’m big on “best practices,” so this exercise is getting added to my toolbox as a regular check-in for my creative and personal vital signs. My goal: To finally look a lens straight in the eye and say, “Gotcha.”
I really want to know how this exercise went for you. Click on over to the forum and spill it, girls.