I’ve never been a fan of selfies. I mean, yeah I’ve got a whole collection of them, but they aren’t my favorite. My round face always seems to swallow my small almond eyes and I smile like my life depends on it. These kinds of photos never seem to flatter me and I’m always left saying delete, delete, delete. Apparently, I am not a selfie queen which is fiiiiiiine by me. A couple weeks ago I finally said yes to purchasing my first DSLR, a Canon Rebel T6i to up my blog game, as that is one of my goals for 2018. I’ve taken some shots of my kids but was wanting a challenge. I’m more of a visual learner and do best when I figure things out on my own versus reading a book or sitting in a classroom. My creative brain has to touch it, feel it, try it and try and try again. So I turned the camera on myself, without any real expectations other than learning. What I came away with was way more than I anticipated.
See, I, I’m hurting. I’m hurting so bad it feels like it’s oozing out of me for all to see. Pain invaded every inch of my being a long time ago and decided it wasn’t leaving. I very much feel trapped and powerless to constant negative self talk reminding me I’m worthless. Useless. A failure. Miserable. Unworthy of love. Unworthy of abundance. Ugly. Disgusting. Pathetic. Stupid. It’s easy for friends to encourage me to quit it and to just pick myself up and keep fighting. Think for a moment, what it would be like if this constant negative self talk, my unwelcome stank inner critic, said all of these things on her stank ass loudspeaker every damn day for over a decade. Stop and think about it. It changes you. It changed me. I can’t ever take a compliment. My first response is negative to almost all situations. And I constantly feel like my life has been a series of unfortunate events. I’ve felt like a scared passenger in my life since I was a child. Has my life been all dumpster fires? Absolutely not. I have two brilliant children. I have a library named after me in Zimbabwe. I’ve been in love. I’ve experienced joy. But, for me it’s always fleeting. It never stays. I feel it for a minute then I hear the loudspeaker and take my seat. It’s not a way to live. Not for me. Not for anyone.
Last week when I was home solo I turned the camera on me, which felt so ridiculous. I awkwardly tried to pose and take a photo and fell on the floor several times. I didn’t know where to look, if my eyes should be open or closed, I felt like a fish out of water. Pictures to me especially close up feel invasive and too personal. I worried the pain and trauma would be seen and I didn’t want people to know – unless I was ready to talk about it. But, in an effort to try something different I found some natural light and took some pics. I tried not to look at the pictures much when I was shooting to see if I was “doing it right” because that’s not what it was about. My goal was to learn my new camera and to see myself.
When I looked over my photos, I wasn’t pinpointing the fact that I needed to get my eyebrows threaded, or that I didn’t blend out my eyeshadow enough or that my nose was running. I-saw-me. In a way I’m not sure I had before. It was one of the few times my inner critic took my seat and I stood. Proud.
I looked at the shape of my eyes. The shape of my lips. The curves on my nose. How when I smiled my eyes smiled too. I saw Alex, in bloom. This is hard to write. See, I’ve been trying to heal for a very long time from heavy shit in my childhood and I’ve spent tons of time thinking I wasn’t going to amount to anything. And I believed it, that’s the part that hurts. I thought I was too hurt and fucked up to heal and make positive changes for myself and my family. Yet in these photos I don’t see my supposed failures. I saw a woman who has worked tirelessly to provide for her family. Who has sacrificed time and time again without any parents and two amazing sisters. I saw a woman who fought to raise a young daughter at 19 solo while going to school full time and holding down a fulltime job. I saw a woman who ensures she is at every single parent-teacher conference and performance. Who is taking the steps to heal while being present for her family. I saw a woman, not a scared passenger.
I saw someone I am proud of. For the first time. Because despite the challenges she’s faced, the lack of support she’s received, the despair she’s felt, despite depression, anxiety, trauma and neglect her smile shines. Her smile shines so bright. And even though she is hurting she desires to help and support others.
I’m going to hold onto this feeling for as long as I can.