On challenges…

and friendships.

dsc_3519-editYou’re going to find out who your friends are. Anything that happens in your life is one of those challenges. It may not be at the level of celebrity, but everybody’s going to travel that road.

Stanley A. McChrystal

There’s nothing quite like a divorce to give you clarity on the people in your life. I suppose the very nature of it forces choices upon people and that’s been the interesting part for me. And yes, I think it’s important to talk about this stuff, really important.

We’ve had some fascinating conversations lately delving into stories of friends old and new, and finding that while some have a “best by” date, others are the true definition of a friend. The experiences of the past two years have taught me things that I will use going forward and hopefully as a result, I will be a better and more supportive friend to those still in my life.  Interested in becoming a better friend?? Read on for three key points that could make a difference…

Top five most stressful life events include death of a loved one, divorce, moving, major illness or injury, and job loss. Any one these things can be extremely stressful, combine them and that’s really cause for alarm.

The narrative of the event can change and become something that no longer even     remotely resembles the truth.

We’ve both experienced this one where the reality gets white-washed with a fresh coat of paint and becomes the new, less incriminating version of what happened. Got a question about something? If you value the friendship at all ask, don’t assume that what you’ve heard is the truth.

Don’t know what to say?

How about a message or voicemail saying “Hi, I thought about you today, how are you?” We don’t always want to talk about “it” either, sometimes it’s nice to get out of our own heads and hear about what’s going on in your life. Moving forward from a traumatic event is an important part of healing.

Be aware that just because a person looks okay it doesn’t necessarily mean that they are okay.

Uprooting your entire life is tough stuff and the emotions go deep, some of us just hide it better. I’m grateful for my support team of friends who not only believed in me but looked after both my physical and mental health needs.

The image above was taken on New Year’s Day, one of the days that I make a tradition of photographing, often by myself in years past. For me it had all the right elements…bitter cold, blowing snow, and beautiful wintry colors. The symbolism of the empty road obscured in the foreground and vanishing into the distance was not lost on me.

Where some might see a bleak landscape I saw a clean slate, a road less travelled, and I took it, and as luck would have it I was with a friend.

Moving forward…

while purging the past.

We cannot tear out a single page of our life, but we can throw the whole book in the fire.

George Sand

A note about the post that follows:

It’s not my intention to give the impression that the last 37 years of my life didn’t matter and that they were filled with bad memories. That simply wouldn’t be accurate, there were good times and we become the person that we are by the sum of the parts. I doubt that this story is unique, I’m fairly certain that there are others just like me out there; putting on a brave face and acting like their life is oh so normal. It’s easy to see now that the choices I made in my late teens were motivated by emotion and not a lot of practicality. I wonder if at some point in the future I will regret being so transparent about my divorce. The flip side of that is if my words could stop someone from making the same mistakes that I did, wouldn’t that be worth it? If I could share one piece of advice with another young person it would be to choose your partner wisely: it is one of the most important decisions that you can make. Don’t make a decision based on potential and never make excuses for behavior that you don’t like. Those behaviors are likely to never change and are more likely to get worse over time. The  people in this story weren’t fundamentally bad, they just didn’t belong together and if you’re reading this and it hits too close to home, know that you can change the course of the rest of your life. Understand that, no matter how badly you want to change or help someone, some things are not fixable. I used to take pride not in the quality of my marriage, but in its length. Ending a long marriage is an invasive, unpredictable, expensive, and highly stressful event. Know that getting out will be one of the hardest things that you do but that it will be so worth it.

Fire has long been a method of purification and for me there is something deeply satisfying about watching flames dance and reduce an object to ash. As a photographer it’s important for me to have visual images: it’s how I process things.
Stepping back a few decades, I would never have envisioned that object would be my wedding gown.
Looking at my wedding photos I find it difficult connecting with the girl in that gown with the monstrous train. It’s not me and even as I try to reconcile myself with my wedding day it still feels like an event that I got caught up in.
The dress looked like something that could be replicated to top a wedding cake. The bridesmaid’s dresses were not the color that I wanted for my December wedding. The song sung by the groom’s sister at my wedding was not one that I had chosen. I spent the afternoon ignoring the voice that said  you broke up five years into this relationship for a reason and marriage won’t change what hasn’t changed after getting back together. You know that right?

What occurs to me as I look at my wedding pictures now is that I don’t see the moments that I would capture today as a photographer who specializes in moments.

I write this not from the viewpoint of that young girl in the photos but from the viewpoint of a woman who finally got the courage to leave a dysfunctional marriage. That girl believed that with enough nurture the nature would change.
That girl had no idea that without the sacrifice of her own values and principles her marriage could never be a true partnership. That girl would never have imagined that she would one day read words that would chill her to the bone. Words describing how she would die because she dared to choose to move forward and live a life of love, honesty,  and simplicity.

This girl after 31 years of marriage finally walked away and on a dark, snowy, December night, set fire to the dress that lingered at the bottom of her closet.
As the flames moved up the dress I exhaled and felt the beginning of closure.
There are many things that should be recycled and passed forward for someone else to make use of but for me it was important that the symbols of my marriage be laid to rest alongside my marriage.

A good friend once said to let go and that the universe will provide.  Turns out it will and it has and today finds me in a relationship based on an old friendship and shared values and that has been the biggest surprise of all!

If there’s a young person in your life that may be struggling with a relationship or if you know someone who thinks that there is no way out…please share this post.

I’m so sorry…

is the first thing that someone says when they hear that I’m getting divorced.

DSC_6609-2When two people decide to get a divorce, it isn’t a sign that they ‘don’t understand’ one another, but a sign that they have, at last, begun to.

Helen Rowland

I used to think that divorce was the easy way out. That it was something that you did when you no longer felt like “working” on your relationship. That it was a self-indulgent cop-out.

I’ve always been that girl who takes commitments seriously and thought that when I was 17 years old I knew what was right for me.

I thought that the issues that have always been there in that relationship would miraculously change for the better.

Year after year I lost a little bit more of who I was and found ways to cope and convince myself that staying was the right thing to do.

There were many times during that 37 year relationship that I tried to leave but always got pulled back in. I knew deep down how difficult it would be to break free so it just became easier to stay in a dysfunctional marriage.

Last December I took the first step towards righting this wrong and today, almost a year to the date, my divorce is final.

So when you see me next…don’t say “I’m so sorry” but say “congratulations, I’m so happy for you”.

This coming year will be a very special one for me. I hope to complete my book “A Legacy of Lies” and have the time to focus fully on my passion for all things photographic.

There have been many people who have made my transition possible and I am incredibly grateful to each and every one of you.

Collectively you have offered me places to stay, shoulders to lean on, and been patient when I haven’t been able to fulfill every commitment. You’ve watched over my health and reached out when the stress became almost overwhelming. You’ve shown me how to protect myself and you’ve given me my confidence back. And always through each step along the way, you’ve given me love and shown me that it’s okay to be the girl that I am.

This year has been full of unexpected twists and turns which only serve to reinforce the concept that we are never completely in control of our destiny and often the better choice is to stay fluid and roll with what comes your way.

Thank you…