Sometimes (no wait, strike that. ALL the time) I am just truly awed & amazed at the incredible doors that open when you least expect it. Of the people that come into our lives and the places we get to go because of it....all when we least expect it.
Lately I've just been realizing more and more that the best things that happen to us in this life are never the ones that we're tying ourselves up in knots for, striving for, or trying MAKE happen by our own force of will. They aren't the ones where we're beating our heads agains the brick wall just trying to get where someone else has already gone or check another item off their list. And they certainly aren't the ones that we think we're "supposed to do" based on what success looks like for someone else.
No. What I'm starting to learn about this life is that the best things that happen to us are the ones we don't even see coming. The ones we couldn't possibly plan or strive for. They come out of nowhere, land in our laps, knock down our front door... and that's how we know that they are ours. That they're part of our story, and how it's meant to be written. Not just a bad copy of somebody else's. And guess what? Those things that are meant for you, that are actually meant to be part of your story? They are WAY better than anything you thought you were striving for to begin with. World-rockingly, higher-calling, purpose-driven, "oh I can see it now, that's how it all fits together" BETTER than anything you were striving for to begin with.
More than anything what I've been learning, is that when you loosen your grip on how you think it's supposed to go, when you let go of trying to plan every step to get you where you think you're going, when you pry your fingers out of that comparison game ...that leaves you with an open hand.
And the fact is, it's just a whole lot easier for God to give a gift to an open hand than a closed fist.
Today, open your hand to what you're being called to do, not what you're supposed to do.
Open your hand to the better story that's being written for you.
We are just wrapping up an incredible week in Seattle (but not before one last adventure to take the Bainbridge Ferry & channel my inner Grey's Anatomy!), and then we're headed down to Portland to attend the World Domination Summit! The WDS was actually the original reason for this trip out west & we signed up for it about a year ago. Every time we tell people that's where we're going, they ask us if it has something to do with Mussolini or Dr. Evil, lol! But it is actually this incredible conference put on by Chris Guillebeau, the author of The Art of Nonconformity & The $100 Start Up, and every year it sells out in a matter of minutes! And we were two of the lucky few who got seats!! So yea, we're pretty pumped!
I'm in this really interesting season of my life where everything could just not be going more amazingly with the business & photography and all of these BIG amazing things keep happening. We honestly could not ask for more & I feel so incredibly thankful and grateful and just don't believe most of it has actually happened most of the time, actually! Like I said, we couldn't ask for more....and yet at the same time, I'm in this season where I feel like I'm being called to more.
See for me, the dream always started out with writing. I was that weird kid who would walk around thinking in her own narrative ("She picked up the toy & walked through the yard.") And I'm lucky in that I get to do a good bit of that here on this blog and through things like The Guide. But I'm definitely walking into a season where I'm feeling called to have a part of my life where the writing stands on its own two feet, not necessarily photography specific. In truth, I think that part of the dream is to write business and/or motivation books and then to get to go around and talk to people about them. To look at them face to face and hear what's going on in their lives. I want to give a Ted Talk. I want to have people read or hear my words and know that in, at least some small way, those words and that work helped somebody and made their lives at least just a little bit better. Basically, people like Brene Brown and Gretchen Rubin and Jon Acuff and Christine Caine are my heroes. And I'm feeling the call to take at least the tiniest "toe in the water" step into that arena. Whew. That just got real, really fast you guys. I'm sweating over here putting that out for the world to see! Talk about listing out some big ole' hairy AUDACIOUS goals! Yikes! :)
Anyway, the WDS for me is the chance to get away for three days, not have the pressure of speaking at the conference ourselves, and just let people who've been there & are living the dream pour into our tanks for a while. It's kind of a chance for me to take this dream of mine "to the mattresses" (not to go all Godfather on you) and see if it has legs to stand on. My hope is to do a lot of dreaming. And a lot of thinking. And come out of it with at least a vision for where to go from here.
Dreaming is scary you guys. Putting it out there & saying what you want for your life is super uncomfortable. It's that sweaty palms, pit in your stomach, "who am I to say I want this" icky mire that all of the dreamers out there have to take their own turns wading through. Like molasses. It's slow going and a lot of times it feels like you go it alone. But just know that you are not alone. If you are out there & there is a dream in your heart that kind of makes you want to throw up a little....just know that I'm right there with you. And honestly, I think those moments in life where we have the sweaty palms and the shaking hands and we want to throw up a little....those times when we stand right on the edge of the arena and then take that step....those are the times when we are most alive.
If you and I were sitting across from one another, if we had coffees in one hand and were close enough to reach out and touch the threads of one another's sweaters with the other. If we could look each other in the eye and see the hopes and the doubts that live in there, right behind the green into gold windows of who we are. If I could say these things full of all the thoughtful pauses and comfortable silences that would surely fill our conversations...then I would tell you this.
You & I....we forgot how to lean in.
A few weeks back, when Justin & I were in Antigua, we were out on a boat called the Old Bob. On the trip out to the cove we were going to, the water was choppy. Forget that, it was karate-choppy. It was Daniel-son standing on one leg on that wooden pylon with both hands in the air, forget you Billy Zabka, karate-choppy. And the waves of woozy washing over me were more wax on than wax off.
With each time the boat hurled itself to one side, I would go with it. Scrambling to grab for ropes and grasping for last straws, I was doing all I could to just hold on. It was exhausting. It was scary. I felt like I didn't have a leg to stand on. Until Justin leaned over and quietly whispered, "whichever way the wave is coming from....just lean in to that."
We like to withdraw don't we. We like to turn away from the waves crashing down on us. We like to give in to the tide. We like to do our best impressions of a person barely hanging on. Rather than taking the place that we have truly been called...Leonardo DiCaprio-ing it on the front of the boat, screaming "I'm the KING OF THE FREAKING WORLD."
See here's the thing about the waves and the world. They are going to happen to you regardless of which way you lean.
They are going to crash down on you from every side. They're going to rock you. They are going to roll all over you. And they're just going to keep on coming.
The criticism will come. The job you thought was a sure thing won't happen. The call won't be what you thought it would be. The answer you've been praying for will still be a no. You might go out and give your absolute very best...and still fail.
I know, we've been there too. We all have our time amongst the tides.
But here's the thing. We don't have to be afraid of the waves. The waves weren't put here to destroy us. That is never what a wave was created for. The waves are just here to take the rough edges off. To push and polish us into who we're meant to be. A stronger version of ourselves than we ever knew existed.
Think about a piece of glass. There is pretty much nothing weaker than that. It's as if it was born to break. That's how it ended up in the water in the first place. But let it spend a little time amongst the tides. Let the edges get worked on. Let it get tossed around a little bit. And just see what it becomes. Hold a piece of sea glass in your hand and try to break it, and you'll see the kind of strength I'm talking about. But more than that, you'll see just how beautiful it's become. How it's a thing to be found and treasured. And how it's softer now to others, for having gone through trials of its own.
Yea. If you & I were sitting across from each other, I would reach out and grab you by your neutral-toned cable knit clad arms, look you in your green-gold eyes and tell you, FRIEND, IT'S TIME TO LEAN IN TO THAT.
Lean in to the version of you that's waiting on the other side of the these trials. Of these unforeseen, turbulent, pressure-filled things that keep crashing down on you. That have knocked you from side to side. And washed over you in waves. Lean in to the work that they're doing on you. Lean in even when it feels so heavy you think you might break at any second. Lean in when you're choking and sputtering and gasping for air, and the words just won't come. Lean in. Don't you dare give way for even a second. Be ALL in. Push back harder. Let those sharp edges of yourself fall away. The broken pieces you were never meant to be anyway. The shards of who you thought were supposed to become. These shattered pieces of a you, you only told yourself the world wanted to see. Let them all wash away.
Lean in. Lean in when the waters get rough. With everything you are, just lean in.
For just on the other side, there is a stronger, more precious version of yourself than you ever knew existed.
On the last day we were in Antigua, we went out on a chartered sailboat with Lauren & Gary and some of their bridal party. The name of the boat was "Old Bob" and she had Nantucket red sails and a cream colored hull. And when she cut through the crystal blue waters of the Caribbean it was like she had been built to be there. In the warm sun and the salty air, she was home.
We spent the morning making our way through some choppy waters, steadily steering our way around the point of the rocky coast where we knew there would be much smoother waters and even smoother sailing. But during that rough patch, I found myself really scared. The boat would jolt far over on its left side just until the top of the main deck would kiss the water, and then it would over correct all the way over on the right side until it too was dipped in blue. The twelve some passengers on board held on to ropes and rails and whatever we could, to keep from joining her.
About an hour (and a few Saltines) later, we found our way into the calm. And just like that, the uncertainty was over. We found a little cove with sea turtles and we jumped off the boat and swam and floated and laughed our way into the afternoon. Just taking in paradise.
On the sail home, we went the long way around to avoid the choppy waters. Which as it turned out, took us right by a little place right on the beach called OJ's. When we realized the water wasn't deep enough for Old Bob to make it all the way in, our captain, Captain Dave, said "Oh no worries, we'll just swim!" We were about a 100 yards off shore going against the current, it would require us coming into the restaurant dripping wet in our bathing suits, I wasn't even sure where we would put our MONEY....and he says, just swim!
We hemmed and we hawed. We tried to laugh it off. But this guy was serious. So swim we did. And you know what? It was one of the most AMAZING things I've ever done in my life. All twelve of us cheering each other on, with me & Lauren screaming out "YOLO!!" to each other every few minutes as we doggy paddled through this water. When we made it on shore, we were panting and exhausted.....but we had DONE it. We had seen it through! And you know what else? It was the best pina colada I've ever had in my life!
I guess my point in all of this, is that sometimes we fear the rough waters. We don't like that feeling of not being on solid ground, and sometimes we're downright afraid that the whole bottom will fall out and we'll find ourselves in over our heads. But we just have to keep reminding ourselves that we were built for this, we were born for this. And just on the other side of this rough patch, paradise is waiting.
Sometimes we wish we could go faster, that we could just arrive at the darn destination already. We feel bad for having to take the long way around. But we just have to keep reminding ourselves, that sometimes the long way around is the one with the prettiest view. That veering off course will usually put you smack dab in the midst of your next great adventure.
And sometimes, sometimes we want to stay right where we are. Follow the rules we've been given. Stay where it's safe and we won't risk looking stupid. But I promise you that it's in those moments where you take the leap, where you go the distance, where you swim against the current, scream YOLO, and come panting to the shore...
those are the moments, when you are going to know what it is to really feel alive.
And not just be going through the motions.
Take the leap friends.
**And here are a few of our favorite memories from our Antigua trip from Instagram !!
Last night I sat in a new Belgian coffee shop that just opened in New Haven with two of my closest friends. And over steaming mugs of caffeinated frothiness... we let it rip. Because lately, all three of us have been feeling the exact. same. thing.
Call it the tank being empty. Call it the fuse being short. Call it Chronic Self-Employed Creative Fatigue Syndrome (or CSCFS as it shall now be known).
But it all boiled down to one thing: boundaries. Or rather, as it applied to us, the absolute and utter lack of them.
Not that we didn't have them in the first place mind you. Not that we hadn't all at one point or another sat down and scribbled out office hours on the third page of a notebook with golden retriever puppies on the front of it. Or typed out auto-responders about how we answered email between the hours of 2-4pm, so please, please pretty please don't feel the need to follow up again to see if we've gotten your email before then, thankyouverymuch. No, it's not that we didn't have them. We did. It's just that we hadn't ever really figured out the whole enforcing them part. The sticking like glue to them part. And it's been taking its toll. With those mugs scattered checkerboard between us, we laid it all out on the table.
We were exhausted. We were cranky. We were empty.
We're living in a world of 24/7 electronic stimulation. It's Instagram and Facebook and the direct messages and the blog comments. And all of this "tweet me the info so I can text you the directions and then I'll snap chat you the location" had been taking it's toll. Lately, my remaining mental space has been down to nill. Null. Zip. Zero. Zapped of all it's innate capacity by a stream of constant demands made in 140 characters or less.
Honestly, lately I can't even sit down to write out an entire thought before the world is interrupting. With all it's dings and beeps and cursed little red bubbles telling you exactly how many messages you have waiting.....it's interrupting. It's plugging in to my very core and taking....and it's taking too much. I feel tired way too often, even though we're sleeping plenty. I feel overwhelmed at sitting down and starting even the simplest of tasks. My brain feels fuzzy & unfocused, like I'm trying to think my way out of some cotton stuffing. The kind our grandmothers used to turn into quilts and pillows with pinwheels stitched on them. Because they had the time to just be. I will start to do one thing only to find myself five layers deep into link-clicking and no recollection of what it was I was supposed to be doing in the first place. At the point that it took me three solid days of not making it to the mailbox on time to send a letter because I had gotten distracted by something or other on my computer, I knew there was a problem.
I think my friend Hannah put it best when she wrote this:
Thereís this strange sort of paralyzing feeling that rushes over when you wake up and realize that youíve got just two hands. And two feet. And only one mouth. And two little eyes. And that there is only 15 or so waking hours. And yikes, just 7 days in a week?
Itís not that we are running out of time, itís that we are realizing we are just one person. That our hearts were not actually designed to be pulled in too many directions. That flesh, spread too thin, hurts more souls than it helps. That we must learn to preserve our lives, and make intentional breathing room, if we ever want to avoid brokenness and burnout to the Nth degree. (you should definitely read her whole post on boundaries HERE).
And here's the real bomb I have to drop here, the mirror I have to hold up in front of my face: it's my fault.
It's my fault for not putting enough value on my own creative space, my own dreams, my own health, my own laughter, my own happiness, my own quiet time, my own time with God, my own time to sit and sip tea without a phone growing out of my fingers.....it's my fault for not saying, "no world, I'm sorry you'll just have to wait another hour before I get to that email you tweeted me to tell me about to remind me that you sent me a Facebook message. Because right now, there was work that I was BORN to do to be done. There is a Calling ringing off the hook that I have to go answer. There is a fire that needs fueling. And a reason I was put on this earth. And I just can't for the life of me believe that the greatest purpose of my one wild & precious life, the crowning reason I was put here, was to bring an inbox to zero. Dear Lord, please don't let me die and have my headstone say, "at least she got her inbox to zero." What a waste that would be. There is more that I was put here to do. And there is so much more that YOU were put here to do too. I say, it's high time we get to doing it, don't you?
So I've decided. I'm taking this life back.
Brick by brick, concrete by mortar....I'm taking it BACK! I'm taking back my energy, I'm taking back my creativity. I'm taking back my ability to go five minutes without being ON for somebody else. It's like Michael Scott in The Office when he declares bankruptcy.....
And here they are...
1. No checking of email before 9:30am or after 6:30pm during the weekdays.
2. I will get serious about responding to email only twice a day, during set times. No more of this throughout the day nonsense. Because you know what happens when you write someone back on email.....they write YOU back! And then you're both just sitting behind your computers going back & forth like some Atari game of ping pong, seeing who can keep their inbox at zero. It's madness!
3. No responding to email on the weekend at all.
4. I will use from when I wake up until 11:30am to create. To fuel my body & mind. To work out. To shower. To feel like a human being with purpose again. Amen.
5. We've had this one for a while, but I'm putting the official smack down on it: NO checking of Facebook messages. EVER!! Email is where it's at, BABY!! firstname.lastname@example.org 6. For 2-3 hours every afternoon, my phone will be turned off & put away so I can crank out the BIG work.
7. Social media off at 8pm. Phones turned off & put away. Holding on to the hand that's right beside me.
8. No more taking my phone to bed with me anymore. Seriously, when did I become the person who goes to bed with her phone?!
9. Unless it's a true emergency, no more honoring the "we need it five minutes from now" or "I know you're on vacation, BUT" requests. In this constantly on, instant-gratification world we're living in, we've ALL started to think that we need everything RIGHT NOW. That is very very rarely the case. I also think it's really interesting to note that it's almost NEVER our clients who are the ones who are sending requests like these. It's magazines, industry stuff, and fellow photographers....so we're doing this to ourselves! It's time we put a stop to it.
10. Even if it's not the popular thing to do (people like you a whole lot better when you're saying YES!) I will say "no" to more of the good things.....so that I give myself the chance to say "yes" to the really great ones.
So here's to BOUNDARIES friends! And taking our lives back, one brick at a time!