I sat in one of the five green fuzzy cloth covered chairs in the front row. We were outside near a giant oak tree and row upon row of white headstones as far as the eye could see. As I stared at the black box of her ashes I had this realization. This is one place I would never have imagined myself to be in my life. In the front row saying goodbye to my god mother while sitting next to my brothers and father. I wasn't born into family. And yet, here I was. Exactly where I was supposed to be.
I guess the lesson is one my birth mother taught me that I love. She always said "You never know where life will take you." She was right about that. When I was first adopted by my god family twenty years ago I had no idea what direction it would take me in my life. I knew they were amazing people. They were the kind of family that you always hope for. Not perfect, but damn close. Coming from my world of chaos, the total instability of having moved over 60 times, and some real scary stuff these people were just so easy. Years of stability and happiness with this new family (and my friend family) has shown me that these kind of people really do exist. I wonder sometimes how I got so lucky. But then I realize too that I wanted and searched and was open to the opportunity when it came along.
The realization that my life could have gone so differently was so apparent yesterday. I could have not met Catherine. Then I would not have watched her go through cancer twice. And I wouldn't have had to lose her. I wouldn't have spent the last few months in a deep sadness. A place where it feels like there is constantly a hole in my heart and in my life. I could have avoided all this pain and not watched her body and life, all placed in a small box, be lowered into the ground. I always had a choice. I chose the pain.
The fear that I had growing up feels like something that is palpable. A thing I could hold onto and keep with me everywhere I went. And boy did I keep it. I operated from that place of fear for many years and still often do. Though it is so much better now. To be taught over these many years by my god mother all the ways to accept yourself, to face pain and fears then choose to use them to grow, and to learn to trust, has really has changed me. I believe that you always have a choice. In every part of your life. You can chose to have an open heart and trust that there are good people and that life is a good place or you can chose to remain closed off, fearful, and ultimately alone. I am grateful that I chose to trust and to grow. Even though I have had to say goodbye. I agree with the age old saying that it is better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.
When I was 16 I found a box of photos beneath my moms bed. She had always told me there weren't any photos of me growing up. In a long series of events I ended up with just a few of those images. The rest are gone. I am grateful for the ones I have.
I do think all the things we go through in life shape who we are and the choices we make. I know that part of the motivation for becoming a photographer in the first place was in large part to give families their memories and history. To give them beautiful images that show them their existence is important. That they matter. That they are loved. Even if the images are only for them. Self love being just as important to me and my journey and something I feel compelled to encourage in others.
Now my photography is beginning to morph. Turning into a dream world more and more. I am excited by the journey. And I am still afraid. Afraid of failure. And of the falling down. But less afraid than I used to be. I know that the fear will happen. It's guaranteed. I also know that any failure, fear, or pain is something I can chose to use to create and to grow. And that makes me really excited to keep trying.
I guess from here I go forward. Feeling fear everyday. But also feeling the love that I have been given. Exactly where I am supposed to be.
In dreams - Jen