Category : Polaroid
It is April. Spring. To say it is a time of transition — in the year and in my life — is to put it mildly. I have been quiet here of late as my whole world has been turned upside down. I’m s-l-o-w-l-y coming back to ground, back to right-side up. Searching and discovering whatever this new version of “normal” is going to be.
Every single day of January and February, and even into March, felt hard. As in “I’ve never gone through anything this difficult” hard. I had a constant wish that my heart would stop hurting, that the pit in my stomach would go away, that I would wake up from the nightmare I felt my life had become. Those wishes never actually came true. Not in the instantaneous way I had wished for, anyway.
But…my heart is healing. The pit in my stomach is subsiding. The nightmare still goes on, yet it is becoming less terrifying. And as these transitions have been occurring, I find that my mind has allowed for just a bit of space to dream. I’m feeling the cracks of openness to glimpse the hopefulness this season brings — of renewal, of awakening. As my birthday comes this week, as I embark on an altogether different chapter of my life, one that I never planned and certainly never expected, I wonder what new wishes I might be making…
I’ve been swirling for the past few weeks. Most days have felt like a struggle. Getting out of bed has been difficult. Pushing through the day has required inordinate effort. I’ve been looking forward to the end of the day when I can come home, change into my pajamas, and pour a glass of wine, with far too much gleeful anticipation.
I’m having tumultuous dreams and flashback images of my mother. A dear friend’s wife died, bringing up all of the feelings associated with the knowledge that friends my age shouldn’t be dying and that I, too, will die. My tendencies toward existential crisis lie just below the surface, and needless to say, have been spilling over. My self-efficacy regarding writing a memoir, telling my story and telling it well, has been dangerously circling the drain. Oh, and Mercury was in retrograde. I can’t see the forest for the trees.
I have been stuck. In a fragile, emotional, crying-three-times-a-day funk. For a few weeks. But I’m coming out of it. I’m clawing my way to the surface. I have to. I need to see the big picture. I need to remember that life is short and I will die, and to use that knowledge to embrace the life I have rather than retreat from it. I need to remember that revisiting my past opens old doors, and that dreams and flashbacks are part of the process. I need to remember that I’ve never written a memoir before, that this is all new territory for me, and that my self-efficacy will grow as I keep writing.
Yes, I’m shaking the devil off. Casting off the stuck-ness. Starting to glimpse the forest again.
I interrupt my re-capping of our summer travels to Spain and Paris to share some of the instant photography shots I recently unveiled for Autumn Polaroid Week. For this now twice-a-year extravaganza of all that is wonderful about instant photography, I saved a few of the portraits I took of my amazing friend, Melissa, to share. I posted my very favorite black and white photos of her that I took during our shoot in Oregon, but was hoarding these color images shot on IMPOSSIBLE Project film to share last week for Polaroid Week.
In my last post, I shared my new love affair with black and white film. The affair is still in full bloom with no signs of fading. I also hinted about a photo shoot with my Tribe sister, Melissa. For her amazing, year-long Project Adventure, Melissa decided she wanted portraits of herself taken in an intimate photo shoot. I was flattered and humbled when she asked me to be the photographer behind the lens. Before meeting up in Oregon for our retreat and the backdrop for this photo shoot, we compared notes about ideas for shots and made our respective packing lists: Melissa’s for wardrobe and mine for photo gear. I knew I wanted to primarily shoot film for these photos of Melissa, so I brought along three film cameras — Polaroid 195, Polaroid SLR680, and Canon AE-1 — and lots of film for each.
Rather than do the photo shoot all at one time, Melissa and I found ourselves allowing some space and freedom for these photos to emerge over the few days we had together. This gave us room to experiment with different locations, various lighting, and divergent moods. It also let us have some fun with costume changes. More importantly, giving ourselves the time to spread the shoot over a few days let us learn that pushing or forcing a photo session when something feels off or isn’t quite vibe-ing does not make for good portraits.
Since I’ve been immersed in self-portraiture for the past year, taking portraits of Melissa also let me hone skills I haven’t used in quite some time. I got to work through posing Melissa and positioning myself for good angles. This included working collaboratively to find the sweet spot of what I wanted as a photographer and what felt good to Melissa in her body.
I practiced how to talk with Melissa during the photo shoot. This might sound odd — she’s one of my best friends, after all — but making someone feel at ease while having her portrait taken is harder than it seems. It’s especially hard when using a rangefinder or other manually-focused cameras, as the process of shooting a photo becomes more of an ordeal, taking longer to get proper focus. Additionally, I became more aware of my own discomfort when taking the time to focus properly with these old-school cameras. I noticed how I start to rush myself out of concern that the person I’m shooting is getting annoyed or uncomfortable waiting for me to get my focus and position settled. This rushing is definitely not good for my process, and I was able to recognize and begin to work it out during our time together.
Best of all, I learned how totally fun a portrait session can be! I’m so used to shooting self-portraits and being alone during the process, I had forgotten the joy it brings me to create photos of someone else who is equally invested and into the session. Despite me being behind the lens and she in front of it, Melissa and I felt like a team. I think that collaborative spirit comes through in these images and makes these photos that much better.
Melissa was so open, so vulnerable, allowing me to really see her. I feel like I was able to capture her beauty — inside and out — in an authentic way. I hope she feels the same. I’m so grateful Melissa wanted to do a portrait session and that she selected me from the many talented photographers with whom she works in the wedding and film industry. It was truly my pleasure and honor.
All of the photos shown here were shot with my Polaroid 195 camera and Fuji 3000B film. This last photo makes me swoon. Shooting this film and seeing these portrait results breaks my heart that this film was recently discontinued. Melissa is sharing many more photos and her experience of being on the other side of the lens over at The Long Haul Project. Check it out HERE.
I don’t want summer to end. The slower pace, the lessened responsibilities, the lack of structure. That all sounds just so very good as I write these words. Yes, it sounds good to me, in theory. If I get quiet with myself and I’m really honest, I know these kinds of days don’t equate to the feelings in myself for which I long. The truth is, I’m restless. I’m antsy. I’m a little down.
Knowing myself — really knowing and accepting myself — is a work in progress. I heard Gretchen Rubin give a great talk last year on this very subject, and I’m only now hearing all of its reverberations. Over time, and particularly of late, I’m becoming more and more clear that my personality is wired for structure. Spontaneity, free-flowing time, and days without set plans all seem enticing to me. It sounds great. But it isn’t great for me. Those type of days make me feel more restless, more antsy, more depressed. I realize I have been holding on to some notion that those kind of days are supposed to be awesome and fun and freeing. After all, I can sleep in if I want. I can stay home in my pjs all day, be with Parker, and work on my manuscripts. I don’t have scheduled meetings, so the day can just flow. Sounds good, right? As much as I don’t want to let the idea go that I could be “unstructured, free-flowing Meghan,” I have to accept the truth that these kind of days are not good for me. I have to know and honor my true Self enough to accept who I am.
This acceptance fills me with some excitement. Getting closer to my truth is GOOD! I’m already thinking through my plans to kick this restlessness to the curb. Although it still only the first week of August, my summer is just about over. I leave this week for the American Psychological Association conference and and when I return, preparations for the semester will be in full swing as classes begin a few short days later. Thus, with the new semester on the horizon, I’m thinking through the structure I want to build for myself. I’m making plans for how and when I want to spend my time — writing my book, working on research manuscripts, teaching class, meeting with students, yoga, lunches/walks/happy hour with friends, dates with Tony. These are all the parts of my life I want to really sink into, and for me to really sink in, I need to prioritize and schedule it all. As well, I need to wake up, get dressed, and leave the house. As a true (and extreme) extrovert, I need to be with other people, even if it’s working and writing at the coffee shop. Staying at home in my pjs all day, alone, is a recipe for disaster. That’s knowing myself, being secure in who I am, and living my truth.