It’s Time to Let Go

I need a break. There, I said it and it’s out there… this post might be a long one, so buckle in.

At this point, those of you who have followed my work for years are now rolling your eyes at me…because you’ve seen me take these “breaks” from my business a few times before only to jump back into it again months later. Some of you probably think “she’s just being lazy” or “she doesn’t have what it takes to run a business” when I say that I need to walk away from this work for a while. Again. But I want to clarify…this time is different for so many reasons that I hope to explain somewhat eloquently.

I am burnt out.

 

Not only am I burnt out, I’m suffering. Dramatic, I know. But the sad truth is, I live with depression and it’s a daily battle. Many of you know this because I have chosen to be very open about it. Fortunately I have an incredible support system, a medication that works well for me, and plenty of outlets to help me cope with this disease. I’ve spent more than half my life figuring out ways to survive with depression, and continue to find ways that make the days easier. With all that being said…this year took a turn for the worst. I’ll spare you the long winded details, but I went from the happiest I’ve ever been in my life, to the darkest place I’ve ever been. I went through things that no one else on this planet besides my husband knows about. I hit rock bottom, for lack of a better phrase, and I’ve spent the last several months climbing my way back out of that hole. 2018 brought me face to face with some of my demons, and introduced me to new ones as well. I lost my mother in April. I think Finley’s birth, and her death, have transformed me into a completely new person. If you could see a side by side view of present me, and me a year ago, the difference is honestly unbelievable. I used to believe people generally just don’t change, but wow I proved myself wrong. It’s still a little crazy to me where life has brought me, but it’s all good. I’ve grown and opened my mind, but with all this change brings difficulties. The new reservations I hold close to my heart, about life and children, birth and motherhood, religion and family…they’ve all changed my view of the world. That change bleeds heavily into my work, as I’m sure many of you have noticed.  And the difficulties that have come my way, they’ve been piling up. Weighing me down. I went from a full sprint in my business, to a slow and painful crawl.

This year was all about births. And wow was it amazing. I’ve known I wanted to add births more regularly to my bookings for a while, but after Finley’s birth I realized how incredibly close birth was to my heart. I belong in the birth world, somewhere. I thought it was photography, but I learned it might be more than that. Attending so many births this year contributed massively to my difficulties, to that weight on my shoulders that was slowly crushing me. Not from needing to be on call basically all year, not from the endless hours in the hospital, not from the long drives home at 3 in the morning 2/3 times a month. Those things I could handle. It wasn’t the work…it was far beyond that. I was leaving every single hospital birth shaking, sometimes having panic attacks in my car. I haven’t spoken in detail on my first two birth experiences, and I don’t plan on it anytime soon, but they were traumatic for me. And since learning so much about physiological birth, I realize even more now how much I was abused during those 2 births. I watched that abuse play out countless times to my clients, some of them not noticing, and some leaving their birth feeling broken and defeated. It began to eat me alive, and I was spiraling. So I made the decision for myself, that I would no longer photograph hospital births after this year. And that helped settle my heart for a short time. But I soon realized that it wouldn’t be enough to just stop there. I began to realize how much of me was consumed with my business, yet I was so unable to succeed in the ways I wanted to.

I looked back at this year, and all the years I’ve spent as a photographer, and finally understood why it is that I keep getting burnt out, why I keep walking away and then coming back for a few years at a time. When I started my business 5 years ago, I was a brand new mother. I was 20 years old, with a newborn, planning a wedding…soon after that I was a wife, I was raising a child, and moving from an apartment to a house. Very quickly after that we were pregnant again, and life kept coming. Fast. Now there’s nothing extraordinary about any of these events, people do this stuff every day. But if you pulled the curtain back just a bit, and saw what I was going through during this season of my life, you would realize how impossibly difficult trying to start a business would’ve been. From the time Jayce was born until about a year ago, I was searching desperately for an antidepressant that could help me. I went through 7 different prescriptions before finding anything that actually worked. That’s 7 separate times of starting a pill, giving it a month, realizing it doesn’t work or makes things much worse, and another month or 2 of weaning back off a pill. This process was killing me. And all the while, I was studying photography, I was reading every possible bit of information I could on running a business, editing, marketing, creating websites, building a clientele, etc. So I was trying to find a way to feel normal and healthy, while also trying to find ways to run a business with 2 small children. This is only the surface. There was also the constant struggle of fighting to save a marriage that needed a lot of work, trying to be a good mother when most days all I could manage to do was sleep…the guilt. So much guilt. Guilt from not getting galleries sent out on time. Guilt from not playing with my children enough. Guilt from all the screw ups I had with clients. Guilt from yelling at my 2 year old because I just needed to edit and all he wanted was to play with me. The guilt has been overwhelming.

 

So that brings me to now. I’ve found a medication that helps so much. I’ve found some stability in business and in motherhood, but I’m not really growing in either. Things have calmed down for the most part. And I can see a little more clearly now that all the noise has faded. I want to be the best business woman I can possibly be. I want to do all the things. I want a beautiful website, I want to blog every single session I shoot, I want to post on social media daily and increase my reach, I want to book clients, I want to fill my calendar and stay busy all year long, I want to learn new editing techniques, I want new gear (more like NEED) and I want to insure myself and my belongings in this business. But this requires time, energy, and money I don’t have. I also want to be a better mother. I want to solidify my parenting choices, and stop tinkering in different discipline methods trying to figure out what works without really being consistent. I want to learn to control my anger with my kids and my family. I want to learn to work through my emotions in a healthy way, when I’m having a harder day. I want to be able to keep my home clean and comfortable for us. I want to master being a home school mama, and do the very best I can for my kids so they get the most out of their time with me. I want to make memories with them, memories that aren’t rushed, memories where I’m fully in the moment with them, not letting my mind drift off into work related stuff. But this requires more time, more focus, more energy, and probably some therapy that I just don’t have right now. I am too divided. I believe one day, when I have figured out how to be a mother and wife now that my mind is (mostly) healthy, I can do both. But I realize now I have to give myself time, and LOTS of it, to train myself, to teach myself, to give myself grace, to stop and take a deep breath, before I can do either to the best of my ability. I have been tearing myself in half for years, and I think I just need to stop and pick one thing to focus on and improve on. The obvious choice is going to be my children. I will do anything for them, and that includes sacrificing my business that I love very much.

This is the text I sent my husband when I finally decided to even consider “quitting”, and I think is sums up pretty well where I’m coming from:

“I think I need to stop photography (the business part of it) for a while. I want to pursue art and painting, and use those as a tool to bring in extra cash while I take my “business break” from photos. I just feel like right now, I need to put all my effort into the kids. I want to be a better mother so badly. I want to give homeschool my all. But I’m torn in so many different directions already, with trying to keep a clean house, trying to manage my depression and anger, trying to keep friendships stable, etc, and then adding trying to run a real business while being on call for births all the time and busy weekends shooting and trying to market and so on…it’s too much. I can’t be a great business woman and a great mother right now. I’m mediocre at both bc I can’t give my all to both. And my family comes before my desire to build this business. I have so much time to do that, and very little time to be a mother. I just don’t won’t to regret not giving everything I have to them when I needed to. And putting my all into changing and growing into the person I want to be, before it’s too late. It’ll never be too late to really dive into being a photography business owner. I can put it off a few more years. But there will be a day when it’s too late to be a good mother. And I just can’t let myself miss this time anymore and waste it away bc I’m trying too hard to be too many things.”

We spoke the next day about it and he told me that he thought about mentioning to me that I should take a break, but never wanted to interfere with my success and happiness doing the job that I love. I think that solidified even more for me that this is something I need to do. My husband could see my internal struggle clear as day, and despite us probably losing a big chunk of money every month by letting go of my work, he is supportive and happy for me to make this change right now.

So where does this leave me? What will the next how every many months or years look like? I’m not sure. Like I told Jamie, I know I want to spend more time doing art work. It’s more relaxing for me, it’s much easier to do with my kids, and I can still contribute a small amount to our bills by selling it. I also know I will never be able to stop using my camera. I will hopefully be able to focus more on documenting my children as they grow, and spend any extra time I have learning new things to prepare me for the future, without the pressure of learning fast enough to implement it in my business right now. I will still photograph my very close family and friends, because there is very little pressure when working with the people I love the most. I will probably offer a session here and there on my business page, if we get into a crunch and need some money. But other than that, I’ll be taking my time to better myself. And when I come back…I’m coming back strong. I want to be the most professional person I can be for my clients, and provide a service worth paying for. And I plan on spending plenty of time bettering myself in that department before officially coming back. I will still blog. I will keep my website and Facebook updated, I’ll try not to disappear. But it’s no longer going to be an equal priority as my family. They will be first no matter what.

I think this change is going to be so good for me, and for this business one day. I’ll be able to look back at this sacrifice and smile, knowing that any success I have is thanks to this. Thanks to taking care of myself. Thanks to putting my children and husband first. I can’t imagine ever regretting that.

I’m really sad that I’ll have to turn down clients, but I have a handful of photographers who I’m so happy to support and send clients their way. I also have a handful of clients who will receive a message, stating that I’ll be here to document anything they want. Those of you who have supported me through very difficult times, who have become dear friends, you probably know who you are, but I’m not letting you go lol.

I have learned so much about myself this year, about what it takes to be a photographer (it’s so much more than you think…) and about self care. I hope that everyone I’ve worked with can understand how important it is for me to let go, and trust my heart. To drop everything else and hold fast to my family. To work on myself, in order to give them the very best lives they can possibly have. I love photography so much, that it tends to compete with the truly important things in my life. It’s time to put it to the side, and give myself a chance to enjoy life with my kids now that I’m healthy and happy again. To form new, productive habits as a mother. To learn with my kids as I teach them at home. To put more into my marriage than I ever have before. And to just thrive. I owe it to my family. I owe it to myself. And I owe it to you all. If I don’t do this, I’ll never be more than a mediocre photographer who’s disorganized and sloppy. I have to be better. And it starts at home.

I’ll be finishing out 2018, shooting everything I’ve booked and maybe taking on a few more sessions to finish out strong!

Happy 4th

We spent today (and last night) celebrating the 4th of July with food, family, and fireworks. I loved spending time in my sister’s gorgeous new backyard, and watching all our children play in the sun. Days like these are the ones I’ll be missing so much one day. Happy I decided to document it!

She’s gone

I woke up Monday morning, got the kids breakfast, fed Finley, and put the TV on. Pretty normal routine for the first day of the week. That quickly changed when I received a text from my cousin, saying she had some news she needed to call me about. I instantly knew what it was. I don’t know why, I just knew. But I told her to go ahead and call. She said exactly what I thought she would, but for some reason it still shocked me.

“They found your mom this morning”

The phone call went silent for what felt like an eternity, I just had no idea what to say back to her.

To really explain how this news is effecting me, there is a lot of backstory to be told. I share a lot of my personal life online, and I wear my heart on my sleeve. I believe that the more open and honest I am, the more I am able to cope with what I experience, and I find that I start to better understand myself as well. So here is the story about the woman I called Mom.

The memories I have of her are so faint and foggy. My memory is already awful as it is, my dad says it’s genetics because so is his. But I think I suppressed quite a bit from my childhood. The strongest few memories I have of her, aren’t good ones, to put it simply. They’re painful to recall, and I don’t think I need to go into any sort of detail with them. I think it just needs to be understood that my relationship with her was almost always bad, and my sister and I experienced some things no children should ever have to go through. We watched as our mother slowly deteriorated in front of us, and one day she just disappeared. We came home from church (she didn’t join us that morning) and I found a note in the bathroom. She’d left. To England. For another man. There had been other attempts to leave, other instances of cheating, so this just didn’t surprise me. I was angry at her that morning, and I was 11-years-old, so I thought to myself “good” and wiped my hands of her. It took YEARS to realize how much that moment actually effected me. And even longer to stop and think about what it did to my father and my sister.

After a while, she started to reach out, and I would speak with her on occasion. Online, that is. I think I had one phone call with her, ever, after she left and that was it. It’s been almost 13 years since Ive seen this woman or even heard her voice. She never came back. Eventually I cut all communication with her bc the toxicity of the conversations were not good for me at all, and I had to take care of myself for the sake of my own family.

If you knew me from that point on, and thought I had a bad attitude, and a submission problem with any woman in the entire world, now you can understand a little bit why that was. I spent years before she left, and years after, depressed, and so confused. My life made little sense, and the older I got, the more jealous I grew of my friends and their mothers. I never had that kind of person in my life, and I didn’t know I wanted it until I was much older. Of course, even when I was approached and subtly offered this kind of relationship by different women I grew up around, many of whom were parents of my closest friends, I pushed them away quickly. And who could blame me really?

Anyways, I could truly go on and on about my years growing up without a mother, but that’s not the point of this blog. Why is the passing of a woman I barely know, someone I haven’t seen in over 12 years, someone I chose not to speak to for half of those years, effecting me so heavily? I wasn’t sure at first, and when I hung up the phone with my cousin, I just starred at my reflection in the bathroom wondering why. Why was my heart racing, why did I fee like I could cry over this person who truly was not apart of the majority of my life.

 

A few days have passed, I have had time to process (after confirming that this was actually true, unfortunately there have been a few instances before where attempts for attention were made, and we weren’t sure for a day or so if this was another example of that…try “processing” a death you aren’t sure actually happened) and there are quite a few reasons why I think this hit me as hard as it did.

The first moment I had some clarity about it, I was holding Finley. Looking into his eyes and laughing at him being so sweet and silly like he always is. Suddenly I just thought to myself “my mom had moments like this with me, when I was Finley’s age…she loved me this much…she had a normal life at one point, full of family and love…and she died alone…in a country where none of her family lived”. Her husband (the man she left us for) died last year. She was truly alone. And it hurts to know that. Although she caused a lot of pain and destruction for so many people, it still hurts to know that she paid the consequences of that for the rest of her life. She passed away, alone in her apartment, with no children and no husband in her life.

I am and will continue to remind myself that I cannot live with any guilt over this. Guilt is one of the reasons I had to stop talking to her in the first place. It’s unhealthy, and where she ended up, the fact that she never came back, is not my fault. But I can’t help the gut wrenching feeling that she had to feel so alone in the last moments of her life. And that maybe I could’ve changed that for her, even just for a moment.

Another reason I am feeling the way that I do (which I’m not even really sure how to explain) is because in my mind, I always thought some day I would go visit her. Make her real again. Confirm that she really does exist, and isn’t just some character from a dream I had as a child. My sister and I both feel like any memory we have of her doesn’t seem real. It’s been so long, and it was such a dark time when she did live with us, that it seems imaginary. I always thought she would meet my children one day. That maybe, she would get her life together, and be able to be a part of our lives again. That’s not a possibility anymore, and it’s honestly heartbreaking.

The one reason, however, that overwhelms me and brings me to tears, the reason that any time I even think about her I have panic attacks, is my crippling fear that I will end up just like her one day. This fear has burrowed its way deep into my heart, and has been there for many many years. I noticed it first when I became pregnant with Jayce. And it has only grown stronger with each child I have. I struggle severely with anxiety and depression, as did my mother. Most of what I deal with I believe to be passed on from her genetically, so therefore it makes sense for me to be afraid of taking the same path she did. I am always reminded by people that love me very much, that I’m not like her, that I have already done so much for myself and my mental health, and that there is no way I will self destruct the way she did when I was 11 years old. But it still scares me. I don’t have an 11-year-old yet. I haven’t experienced the life events that she had at the time it all fell apart. And I’m not saying I would ever, EVER leave my beautiful family. They are everything to me. I just get scared that my bad habits, that my poor judgement, that my selfishness, and all the other  qualities I seem to share with my mother, will put me in a place where I do end up alone. And facing the fact that she never came back from her mistakes, that her life ended and her children won’t be at her funeral, that she’ll never meet her grandchildren, that she had chance after chance to be grateful for the life she had here and keep it, but chose to walk away and lived with regret the rest of her life, makes my stomach turn. I look in the mirror and I see her. I see the patterns in my life, and I see her. When I get angry with my children, I see her. And when I pictured her, alone in her apartment, I pictured myself too. It’s a dark place to go…and I’m trying to move past this fear and shake myself, show myself that I am not anyone but myself, there is no doomed destiny set in stone for my life, I will pave the path and live the life I choose to live. But it’s difficult to see clearly sometimes, it’s easier to believe the worst of things for me.

My heart hurts this week. I don’t know how to cope. I didn’t have a funeral to plan or attend. I don’t really have anyone to miss or cry over. But a part of me is gone. The woman who gave me life, has left this earth forever. She’ll never meet my children, she’ll never see me in adulthood, she will never experience the love of our family again. And I will never truly have a mother. Someone to call when my kids are being crazy. Someone to laugh with about how sassy of a kid I was, and how I really had it coming with Lilly and her attitude. Someone to advise me on how to deal with Jayce, because she’s experienced the same exact things with me. Someone to talk with about breastfeeding Finley, and how on earth she did it for a whole year with me. Someone to beg to watch my children, who wants to babysit all the time because she loves her grandbabies. Someone to go get dinner with on a regular basis and just talk. Someone to be best friends with, the way so many of my friends are best friends with their mothers. That chance has been long gone for years, but I don’t think I really accepted that until now. And it truly does hurt.

I’m angry. I’m angry that I can’t mourn properly. I’m angry that the situation is so complicated, and I had to spend days making international phone calls to find out if she really was gone and this wasn’t another hoax. I’m angry that I can’t just tell my friends “my mother passed away” and cry, that I have to say things like “I think my mom died, I don’t even know how to feel”. I’m angry that this is so weird and unconventional. I’m angry that this will probably take me months to truly process, and that I’ll never really know how to feel about it.

But I’m grateful. The moment I told my husband, he came home and he took most of the week off of work to give me time to really think things through without being solely responsible for 3 small children (one of whom had a birthday during all of this). I’m grateful for a sister, who is truly the only person on the planet who can fathom what I’m feeling right now, and who has checked in on me every day since I called her and told her the news. I’m grateful for a father, who wants only to comfort me and my sister, and make sure we are handling this well, someone who has every reason to say “who cares” but has graciously helped “investigate” and get as much information as possible about my mother’s passing. I’m grateful for a step mom who has stepped in every way humanly possible, to be a mother to us the very best way that she can, and who has tried her best to make this easier on us. I’m grateful for my medication. I have been more fortunate than my mother was, to have found an antidepressant that works for me and has turned my life around. I am grateful for the circle of friends and family that I have, who will never let me make the mistakes she made, and who will constantly remind me that I am in control, not my mental illnesses. I am grateful for my 3 beautiful children. If anything makes me crazy but keeps me sane, it’s them. Becoming a mother has grounded me in a way I just can’t explain. There is NOTHING that could uproot me from my kids, just nothing. I don’t understand how anyone could walk away from their babies.

Life is weird. Nothing really makes sense. Especially this whole situation. It’s been a painful, and confusing week. I’ve cried, I’ve gotten angry, but mostly I’ve just floated through the days, watching the passing thoughts of my mom come and go. I wish I had a happy memory with her, that I could hold on to from here forward, and maybe one will come back to me one day. I have photos, and that’s what I’ll focus on for now. The way I chose to cope, the day I found out, was to take photos with my own babies. I want to be in hundreds of photos with them. I want them to have countless happy memories with their mommy, and to never ever doubt the love that I have for them. So I’ll take this experience, and let it motivate me to be a better mom, and to document myself with them as often as I can.

Our Easter Weekend

 

Our Easter weekend this year was one to remember. We spent most of our time outside. The kids have been requesting (aka begging everyday for a week) to plant a garden. So we went to Walmart and let them each pick out a few packets of seeds, dug a questionable garden hole in the backyard, and let them plant their vegetables. Jayce has asked us multiple times why the “smush” hasn’t grown yet, and soon we realized he meant squash. Lilly simply wanted to dig holes in the mud with no intended purpose other than to get herself filthy. Of course, I did not get photos of this sweet little family project because, as you can imagine, I was quite busy and had my hands a little too full for my camera. I did capture a few other moments this weekend though. We (and by we I mean I) made some all-natural egg dyes with beets, cabbage, and onion skins. We colored eggs and made them floral wreaths. We had multiple Easter Egg hunts with friends and family. And we spent our days and nights outside, together, making precious memories. I love days like these.

 

What does 2018 hold for me?

I am so excited for this new year. I am using 2018 as a stepping stool into the world of birth photography. Although I have filmed my share of births, I want to focus wholly on that, and gain as much experience as I possibly can. I hope that by next year, I’ll feel grounded and confident in myself as a birth worker, and really be able to build a thriving business. For now, I have booked 11 births for a very low price. In offering such low pricing, I have been able to fill my calendar and will be building the best portfolio I possibly can, in hopes that the year of experience and lots of work to share with future clients will help me sell my work for a price that I believe I’m worth! I am so excited to be working with so many new faces, and learning the ropes of birth photography even more, while meeting other birth workers along the way. I hope to make a small name for myself in this year of “testing the waters” and that my business will take off stronger than ever in 2019!