I’ve been away from my studio for many months. Making the decision to cancel everything and accept the fact that everything I was doing was giving me anxiety and making me very, very sick was so hard. It was hard because I’d done it to myself. I’d backed myself into a corner and I was absolutely fucking miserable.
In the months since I started my sabbatical, I’ve driven across the country and back and I’ve flown to the other side of the planet to visit a country in Africa. My perspective on love, work, home, value and happiness has shifted permanently.
When my kids were small, I felt like my job as a stay at home mom wasn’t enough. I knew that it was enough for them, in their small world of home & school but for me, it felt like I somehow missed out on something. I felt like I *should* be/do/accomplish more. I think I told myself that in order for my life to have real value, I needed to achieve great things in a traditional work context. So when my youngest son started kindergarten, I also started a business that ended up taking more than 50 hours per week to meet deadlines, get clients’ orders processed and booking enough shoots to meet the demands of my very expensive studio.
When our house burned down in the spring of 2012, I pushed my work demands into overdrive. I was trying to run from the pain. I became a work-a-holic. My marriage was paying the price, my children were paying the price and my health was definitely paying the price. I was working day and night and I couldn’t find anything to be joyous about. I hated who I was becoming – driven by cashflow projections, overhead, marketing goals and profit margins.
This year, two years (almost to the day) after the fire, I reached a breaking point. My health had deteriorated to the point where I was dealing with chronic hives, nausea, anxiety, sleep problems, and a general dislike of where my life had gone.
I made a very painful decision to cancel my commitments to many clients – old and new- to apologize to clients whose orders were in the queue, telling them that I needed to get healthy and that I would do my best work on their orders as I was able, and I later moved my studio space to a brighter, more positive environment. There was a lot of crying and saying terrible things to myself about my failure. In the thick of the emotion and the fear of what I was going to do next, I was very cruel in the things I said to myself. I didn’t think I was going to be able to discover creative joy ever again. I thought I’d made a horrible mistake and that somehow if I’d pushed through the universe and my body telling me I needed to stop (impossible, I now know), that it would all be ok. But deep down, I knew I needed to make big changes.
So now, after a summer of rest, personal creative projects, long walks/hikes/runs, drinks with friends, boat trips on the river with my husband, afternoon naps, dinners with friends, and some very big trips to warm and sunny places, I have a new found clarity for what I want out of my life.
I want to experience joy. I want to feel light. I want to be nourished. I want to relish in the abundance of my life. I want to honor that within me that is divinely feminine.
I have learned that I do have a gift in my portrait studio that I can and will share with a smaller number of people each year. I don’t have to work countless hours for my photographic work to have tremendous value. I have beautiful clients and I’m deeply honored to work with them.
I have learned that when I am in my home, with my family, I am my absolute happiest. I make unbelievably delicious food and I love doing it. I feel closest to my departed Gran when I’m in the kitchen. I channel her every time I make food to share with friends & family.
I have learned that making things with my hands reminds me of my exceptional value in this life and the things that I create – the things that didn’t exist before I called them into existence – those things are evidence of my abilities and that I am here. I am truly part of this life and these things are my legacy.
I have learned that I don’t need to make millions with my work. The things I make – portraits, quilts, socks, cookies- I don’t need to monetize them. When I experience the joys of creation, therein lies the value. Value and money are not synonymous.
So while I’m continuing to operate my portrait studio on a very limited basis, working by choice with only women in a context of celebrating their individual value and worth, I am also writing, knitting, baking, quilting, home schooling, reading, napping and living a free and joyous life.
My greatest wish is that every person affords themselves the opportunity to declare this and to make it a sacred commitment. It is my wish for you.