This week I’m lucky enough to have an old friend, Christine (Sass) Organ, guest blogging here! We’ve known each other since freshman year of high school where we became friends after many conversations near our lockers. Those lockers were in an infrequently used hallway near the photography darkroom and one of the English classrooms. Little did either of us know we’d end up being a photographer and a writer, but it seems maybe those locker placements foretold a portion of our futures…
Each week, for the last several months, Christie and I have been collaborating on a photo inspiration challenge…I email her a photo and she writes a post inspired by that image. And every single week I’m blown away by her writing and how she can put into words what that image inspires in her and how relatable that is to each and every one of us. Her writing is raw, honest and always thought-provoking.
If you haven’t read Christie’s blog or pieces on the Huffington Post, then I highly recommend you start subscribing to her blog and Facebook page!
This week we’re sharing our photo inspiration challenge here on my blog with a recent series of images. I hope you enjoy our collaboration as much as I do!
Thanks, Christie, for always bringing life to my images…and being an amazing friend!
I almost drowned once.
It’s hard to pinpoint the exact moment when I slipped under the water because, like most waves, the darkness settled in slowly, quietly, and gradually. Waves can be stealthy like that. But I think it probably happened the very minute my first son was born.
A long and less-than-ideal birthing experience, an extremely difficult recovery process, a bout with post-partum depression, and your run-of-the-mill new mom anxieties all grabbed a hold of me and pulled me under. It was as if a giant wave of despair were pulling me further down with its tenacious claws.
I tried to fight for a while, sometimes with denial or misdirected anger, other times with an artificial façade. But eventually, like all waves, everything came crashing down. I spent most days crying or fighting back tears. I went to bed angry and restless and woke up sad and confused. I avoided phone calls and conversations with friends and loved ones. I grew increasingly obsessive and anxious. My husband and I began the bitter game of Keeping Score, in which there can be no winners, only a couple of beaten and weary souls. I was angry at just about everyone and everything, including my baby, but most of all myself.
The waves crashed around me, the undertow sucking me deeper and deeper, until my lungs were burning and my mind was foggy and I thought that I just might drown.
One day – I can’t remember when exactly – I realized that the only way to survive might be to stop fighting and surrender, and hope to God that the waves would eventually carry me to the surface.
Like surfers who fall from their board and find themselves under the churning and bubbling waves, I let myself stay under the water for a while to catch my bearings before trying to resurface. Instead of denying my unhappiness, I welcomed it with an enveloping hug. Instead of battling my husband in the war of Who-Has-It-Worse and Who-Is-Doing-More, I acknowledged that we were both desperately lonely, scared out of our minds, and working our asses off to figure things out with this new little family of ours. Instead of thinking that I was defective in some way, missing that essential “mom gene” that all the other little girls were given, I realized that hormonal imbalances and sleep deprivation were responsible for the void that I felt. Instead of crying alone or fighting my tears, I wept with close friends and family. Instead of avoiding the vulnerability that comes with a heart broken open, I let my exposed humanity lift me like a raft. Like Joanna Macy said, “A heart broken open can contain the entire universe.” Yes, my friends, indeed it can.
Eventually I came up for air, only to be caught by another wave. Except this time the wave was one of acceptance and connection, carried forward by the compassion of dear friends and the unconditional love of my husband. Just like the previous swelling wave of despair that continued to grow and build and breed more negativity, the cumulative effect of this hope-filled wave gave birth to more positive energy. I smiled, authentically, a little bit more. I was kinder and gentler to my husband. I made an intentional decision to take control of my life. I made a deliberate attempt to offer peace and understanding, and in return, I received the same.
The human experience is a deep, vast ocean of emotions and connections, filled with a million waves of experiences and circumstances. Waves of compassion and love build into cresting waves of hope and faith. Waves of anger and resentment can build into crashing waves of desperation and hostility. Some waves are ripples; others are swells. Waves advance and then retreat. Waves meld into other waves until you can’t tell where one starts and the other ends.
And the tides turn, shifting the course of the bouncing waves with them.
It is a dangerous and magnificent sea that we are in. May you have a sturdy lifeboat to buoy you, a life vest to sustain you if the boat ever capsizes, and the knowledge to know when you need to sink down below the waves and when to float on top of them.