On the drive to and from my photography class today, I listened to the first two chapters of the book, Rising Strong, by Brene Brown. This isn’t a typical self-help book. There are no tips or recipes or plans to a better life, only knowledge and truth that changes everything.

The last few months have presented great challenges for me. My mother’s dementia progressed to the point she was unable to live safely on her own. As her power of attorney, I made the heart-wrenching decision to move her to a long-term care facility. This was a hardship for which I was prepared. But what I didn’t expect was that my younger sisters would be so deeply mired in denial that they would fight against this choice. I’ve always been a peace-maker. I’ve avoided conflict like a plague. And, above all else, I’ve sought the approval and reassurance of others. I’ve tried so hard to be perfect, led my life with should and have-to as constant companions. I dared to love my mother enough to do what was best for her, even if my sisters did not approve, even if they became angry with me, even if I lost their love. I chose to be brave.

I felt as though I was standing in the middle of a wide-open field and everywhere I turned, someone was throwing rocks at me, with perfect aim. Not being able to keep everyone happy felt as though it might truly kill me.

Brene writes of some basic tenets for overcoming adversity, simple but powerful truths that help us understand why courage is transformational.

Once we fall in the service of being brave, we can never go back . . .  What makes this more difficult is that now we have a new level of awareness about what it means to be brave. We can’t fake it anymore. We now know when we’re showing up and when we’re hiding out. Our new awareness can also be invigorating–it can reignite our sense of purpose and remind us of our commitment to wholeheartedness. Straddling the tension that lies between wanting to go back to the moment before we risked and fell and being pulled forward to even greater courage is an inescapable part of rising strong.

Listening to Brene, I nodded my head in agreement. "Wow, she really gets it."

Taking this photography class is a risk for me, but I am able to say a hearty yes to my adventure. Our next assignment is to use photography to document an event, person, activity or object. In this way, photography is a kind of visual journaling.

“And, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.” –Paul Coelho, The Alchemist

Day 15

Day 15

I made an impromptu stop on the way home to explore a shop in Ashland – The Thrill of the Hunt. The owner, Cathy, and her staff up-cycle old furniture giving each piece a new look, a new purpose, and a new home. I watched Cathy work as she talked about her passion for design, form, and color. I knew I wanted to document her work. If only I could call up the courage to ask permission to take pictures.

Facing the hurt from the situation with my mother has helped me to embrace all of life’s experiences, even the falls. And to get back up.

And though it doesn’t come easily to me, I am walking into my own story.