This spring I found myself on a bit of a personal pilgrimage through Europe, tending to myself after a long, hard year. It was such a gift to be able to travel (literally and figuratively), to see a new part of the world and spend time with myself. I shared the journey with my Aunt, and I introduced her to this new thing I’m into– taking pictures of myself instead of the landscape. Or me/us with the landscape. But never just landscape.
I’ve always shied away from being photographed. I think my exact words were probably something like this: “I know what I look like, I don’t need any pictures of it.” I used to think selfies were kinda dumb. To be more to the point, I thought they were just incredibly vain.
I recently cleaned out my mother’s home after she passed away suddenly this Winter. She had mountains of photos– she had mountains of everything. Everything + everyone in her life to her was worth remembering. And in going through those photos I noticed– it wasn’t her shots of the Great Pyramids, or the photos of 1970s (80s?) England that I kept, it was the different pieces of her in her adventures, in her life, that I needed to keep close to me. Her joy, her frustration, her sideways stares, her imperfect smile, her body. And I’m so grateful that she had evidence of her in her life and that she didn’t always hide herself away, even though I know she often wanted to.
This realization– this feeling of loss on top of loss– has stirred up some things within me.
In my mind, I look like a rolling belly. A weird half smile, maybe a bit of a double chin. A fuzz of hair that does what it wants. Small, squinty eyes that barely beam out from behind big plastic lenses. And sometimes, I’m quite complimentary of myself… If the angle is good, the lighting just right, the clothing falling the perfect way.
Taking the lessons I learned from my grief, I decided to turn the camera around and really capture my journey, not just the landscape.
The feeling of looking out over the walls of a ruin in Germany at the breathtaking landscape and history. The moment my body felt like it could breathe again, deeply, for the first time in months. The salty moment of joy I experienced just watching the world go by and knowing that some huge weight had finally lifted. The day that I fully remembered that I had nothing to prove and had only to enjoy the gorgeous landscape and the feeling my strong + beautiful body propelling me by bike through the countryside. The moments of gratitude for being given such a gift + the simultaneous pain of the deep cost it bore.
When I embarked on my “selfies across Europe” journey, I didn’t really know what it would bring me.
Three months later, I’ve finally grasped it.
The truth is that I’ve always felt like I needed to hide if not all of me, big parts of myself. The bits that are weird. The jealous bits. The bits that wobble and shake. The bits that are angry + unforgiving. The soft bits. The ugly bits. The sacred bits.
The truth is that I’ve been hiding because I was ashamed of my wholeness. I convinced myself that I was too much or too little of what the world wanted.
What I’ve learned is this: I’ve robbed myself and everyone else of truly seeing me. And, I’m worthy of being known now in my fullness, and I’m worthy of being remembered later, as I am.
And so are you. Do you want proof? Let’s chat (click the link here)!
PS- here are a few of my selfies!