They came in and threw themselves on my bed. All of six of them. I was sitting working at my computer when they arrived, but climbed up on my desk with my camera after a few minutes. They didn’t even notice. In these moments, all is right with the world. I know that if six young teenagers can feel comfortable sprawled out across my bed with me in the room, discussing their plans for the afternoon, I’m doing ok in the parenting department. They went off to a movie, and I went for a run in the sun, happy to free of any responsibilities for the next few hours. I quickly changed hats and was actually free of my stay-at-home mom identity.
The photographer’s hat was next. A quick stroll around the block gave me some of the material for an assignment for my class, but I wanted to be quick, so that I could get to the fifth anniversary party for Soulumination, a non-profit organization that provides photographs to the families of children and adults with life-threatening illnesses. I went on my first shoot for them last weekend and wrote about it here under the heading “It Started With an Omelette”. Since I’m new to the corps of volunteer photographers, I didn’t know a lot of people. At one point, I stood by myself, leaning against a wall, listening to music, my eyes slowly meandering from one photograph to another up and down the walls which were covered floor to ceiling with black and white images. A bald head, a baby with a nasal tube, a family portrait… These are not sad photographs. They are a beautiful celebration of life. They affirm and honor the mostly abbreviated lives of these human beings. I stood there alone, feeling completely surrounded by love. The music continued, people walked in and out of the room, For a moment that I didn’t want to end, I just stood there and took it all in, grateful to be included, and humbled by Lynette’s confidence in my ability to capture the precious moments of fragile lives.
From there I went to Vertical World to see if I still remembered how to climb. I’ve been so wrapped up in working that I hadn’t been in weeks. I think having my purse stolen messed me up more than I was aware at the time. If I track back to what triggered my most recent “spin”, I can trace it to the days following that incident. I’m not sure why it was so hard on me, but I felt like I was “on a roll” that came to a screeching halt that day and I’ve been struggling to get back on my feet ever since. Everything got turned upside down and reexamined. Am I on the right track? Can I do what I want to do? How come I ended up here at this age? All of the questions about my life that I’ve ever had come back to haunt me. It took stepping back from it, as I’ve done in the past couple of days to get some perspective. And then today… being at the Soulumination party.
Driving home from Vertical World, listening to Elizabeth Gilbert read Eat, Pray, Love, for the 4th time, something dawned on me. In quoting her guru’s guru, she says, “God dwells within you, as you” and, “the only thing you need to renounce is your delusion that you are somehow separate from God.” (I’m not sure these quotes are exact – they are from memory) What became clear was this: I don’t have to make these two parts of my life see eye to eye. They are discreet and separate. Yes, they need to have a conversation about who gets more of my body’s energy and time, but they do not have to agree and they most certainly do not have to merge. Maybe its because I’m born under the sign of Gemini… There can’t be just one of me. Maybe its because, for some crazy reason, I feel compelled to live two lives, but whatever the reason, I could finally be ok with the fact that maybe I’m not supposed to make sense of it. I’m just supposed to do the best I can at living it. All of it; all the ridiculous pieces of it; and enjoy the wild ride. My challenge is to be at peace with my inability to do it all at the same time and to allow the inspiration to ebb and flow, to accept that in being called to all of these areas, I cannot set unrealistic standards for myself. Its funny where answers come from, and timing is everything. As I have been mulling over all of this for the last couple of days, its been Elizabeth Gilbert’s wisdom that resonates repeatedly. Last night, after signing off on my blog post, I opened an email from a friend containing a link to a TED talk that she gave. I had been writing about how it wasn’t coming together and how I was sick of my own voice. I sat back in my chair to watch.