I have a tattoo on my back. It’s about 10 inches tall and I got it about 6 years ago. The tattoo is a fern. It is dark green and its leaves are wide at the base and get narrow as they stretch out. Why a fern tattoo? Well, I have always loved ferns. They are very common in the wild fields and forests of Alaska, where I was raised. Because of that, they have always reminded me of the comforts of summer and youth and a world wide open.
But that’s not why I got it as a tattoo. I chose to ink this particular fern forever into my soft skin because it's known as the Resurrection Fern.
This fern is capable of living up to 100 years without any water. It hibernates during difficult times. It rolls up its little fronds, and it sits and waits for water. It grows out of old fallen trees and when it is ready, it breathes new life into itself. Well like my beloved fern, I too have been hibernating during difficult times. In fact, I have been hibernating since exactly November 21st, 2015, nearly five months ago. That was a day when my husband came home very late one night and out of the blue announced that he no longer wanted to be married to me.
Earlier in the day we had gotten into an argument about dog food. It seems so trivial, but I guess it was the last gallon of water that broke the dam for him. That night, when he spoke the actual words there was something in his voice that sounded so foreign to me. “I don’t want to married to you any more.” It was void of anything recognizable. I saw his silhouette in the dark and I could hear the bass in his voice emanating from his side of the mattress but all I could really hear was a ringing in my ears. Like in the movies when there has been an explosion and the actor is crawling around in the dust and the chaos and there is that incessant high-pitched vibration. Nothing made sense. The disorientation was real and tangible and lasted for the next five-six weeks. I floated along in horrible pain and misery, surviving on adrenaline. I lost 20 pounds in five weeks and am still not sure how a human can actually endure with as little sleep as I got.
Wow. Wait a second. Why am I writing this for the world to read? What could be the possible reason for airing my dirty laundry on my business blog? Well, first I feel that at least a vague explanation is appropriate as to why I have dropped my married name and have rebranded my entire business back to my maiden name. New website, new email, new blog, new logo, new social media... all with a new (old) name.
The second and real reason that I am sharing these private details with you is because I want you to know that I was utterly shattered by the unexpected breakup of my marriage. In the months that followed November 21st, I peered into the ugliest and darkest parts of myself and I will admit that what I was affronted with was no freaking picnic.
Here is the deal ~ I had spent most of 2015 working my fingers down to the bones to build my business. I will remind you that I am in the business of empowering women. Sure, I take nice photos of my clients and I have some really lovely images I am proud of, but photography isn't really what I do. What I do is transformation. I spend time with my clients and I show them that they deserve high self-worth. My clients leave their experience with me feeling empowered, confident, strong, and most of all, they feel worthy. Worthy of love, worthy of goodness, worthy of beauty and worthy of a life filled with happiness.
And here is the kicker. What I have been preaching and providing to my clients is not something I have been doing for myself. When my husband drove off down the street and into a new life, with a new home, a new wardrobe and a new girlfriend, he took all of my self worth with him. All of it. Every last granule of it. Like a tornado that sweeps away an entire city. I looked around my room and I looked inside myself and I didn't see any value. I was black inside. I had given my whole heart to someone who just walked away. What did that say about me? What did that indicate about what I have to offer?
I had to come to terms with the fact that I had spent the previous year booking public speaking gigs and presenting on how to increase your self worth when I clearly did not have high self-worth myself. At least not in a real sense. Real self worth doesn't brilliantly exist but then suddenly disappear at the utterance of a single sentence.
A fake, a phony, full of shit... these were a few of the self-descriptors that cycled through my head. How can I possibly be in the business of empowering women when I myself am obviously so powerless? There I was, standing at the pulpit, encouraging women in my community to not base their self worth on a man. I said, "Don't calibrate your self-esteem based on what other people think of you." I encouraged them to build up their own foundation, independent of society and loved ones. Hell, I even listed out a five-step program to increase self worth.
But the minute I had to actually look for my own self worth... it was nowhere to freaking be found.
As soon as one person in my life indicated that I was of no value to them, I allowed all of my value to evaporate, in its entirety. I felt like a steaming pile of human garbage. I felt incredibly unworthy of my life's accomplishments, I felt shamefully unworthy of the love from my friends and family (of which they were pouring onto me) and I also felt painfully unworthy of my profession.
And THAT is why I am sharing my story.
In fact, it’s more like I am getting bucked off that horse. Pitched off it even. No matter how hard I gripped those reins, and no matter how hard I dug my boot heels into its flanks, I didn't last 8 seconds on that damn high horse. Life wanted me flying through the air, spinning circles, begging me to orient myself as to which way was up.
So, here I am, vulnerable, raw and most days, sad as a motherfucker. But if I don't share, then how can I live authentically? How can I look my clients in the eyes and say to them, "I am fine and dandy, I always have my shit together"? I can't. That is the simple answer.
I can't help other women realize their value if I hide my struggles with my own value. No one can learn from my life if I hide. How can I help to inspire if I am not honest about myself, my insecurities, and my journey. I now understand that growth begins with vulnerability and I am willing to grow. I am aching to grow. In fact, it is all I think about.
So, if it took the death of my marriage for me to realize that I need to spend an insane amount of time getting to know myself again so that I might one day feel worthy, then so be it. If life wanted me to crash and burn in a flaming pile of gasoline bombs so that I can inspire just one other woman, then so be it.
This isn't a happy ending. This is just the beginning. I have so much work ahead of me. I have so much icky, muddy, nasty shit to wade through. Ahead of me stretches out hours, days, months and years of practicing how to find my equilibrium on the balance beam of self worth. It is not going to be easy. In fact, I am five months in and most days I am just as exhausted as if I ran a half marathon. Some days I just cry and beg for the heartache to relent. Just 'effing relent already.
But, in the meantime, remember my tattoo? The fern that hibernates, the fern that resurrects, the fern that that uses death as a platform for new life? That fern tattooed on my back reminds me that I am no different than the woman next to me. So here I am, after 5 months of hibernation, ready to begin to resurrect. I am here to say to women, "Oh really? You feel broken? Well, I do too. Let’s do something about it together." I'll use my camera and you use what you've got. You can help me with your tools and your lessons. You can share with me your journeys, your search for beauty.
I have a tattoo on my back. It’s about 10 inches tall and I have had it for about 6 years. The tattoo is a fern. It is dark green and its leaves are wide at the base and get narrow as they stretch out. I got this particular tattoo to remind me that like ferns, we can all resurrect.