To be or not to be...a good friend :: our haven, denver documentary photography

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“Authenticity is a collection of choices that we have to make every day. It’s about the choice to show up and be real. The choice to be honest. The choice to let our true selves be seen.”

-Brene Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection (aka - my favorite book maybe in the whole world.)

A few days ago I went for drinks with one of my closest friend. It was one of those, 'I haven’t showered in 4 days and all my clothes smell musty because my washing machine has been broken for a week, so I really need a drink and girl talk' kind of nights for both of us. I sat, and unexpectedly poured out my heart to her, emotionally and without even knowing where all the words were coming from. My mind and heart had been processing words from a book I’d just finished that I didn’t even think was great or had impacted me, but then all of a sudden I was crying in the bar and saying some of the most vulnerable things I think maybe of my life. (Embarrassing.) In response, my dear friend just said three little words that were maybe the most impacting I’ve heard in a very long time:

“You make magic.” 

Now I don’t share these words to brag that someone in the world thinks this about me, and I’m not even going to go into all the details of the context of her words. I read in a Brene Brown book many years ago about the importance of vulnerability and sharing our story, but only with those who have earned the right to hear it. I live my life by those words now, especially in light of the world of social media, but that’s another post for another time. I share her words only with you though because when she said them, it was like my heart took a HUGE leap forward in my journey of self-acceptance. Ever since I’ve been thinking about how relationships move our journeys of self-acceptance forward or backward with words that those who speak them might not even count as special. 

A HUGE part of my journey of self-acceptance has been determined by the friendships in my life at any given moment. I am very blessed to have met and married my life’s partner when we were young. We’ve grown up together over the last 11+ years, and he has never been anything but accepting and affirming of the woman I have grown to become. Many marriages that start off young can’t survive all that change, but ours has. (Again, another post for another day.)

Friendships in my life though, gosh, that is such a hard one for me. I think it began in High School and has continued over the last 10 years. I’ve always been a BFF kind of girl, with a handful of close friends vs. a crowd of acquaintances. And over the years I’ve lost many of my so-called BFF’s. I am admittedly a harsh person. I am a very loving, caring, servant-hearted person too. But, I have terrible timing and often lack tact. I look back on my list of friendship casualties over the last 10 years and don’t often regret the things I said, but how and when I said them. We all have people in our lives that hurt us and we have to walk away from. I hate that that I am that person for a several women. And it wasn’t until my mid-20’s that I started meeting a small number of women who stuck around, even after I hurt them. I was shocked. I didn’t do it on purpose, hurt these friendships. I hope no one would ever call me malicious, but I do have a bad track record of not learning my lesson. So, when these stellar women came into my life and weren’t afraid to fight back, work through conflict, be hurt but continue on in relationship, well I thought I’d finally broken through! 

Then, in the last year, a new revelation came. While yes, I’ve had conflict with many of these women and our friendships survive and thrive and they are my rocks, this number is very small because I live in fear now for all my friendships. There are probably two women who I don’t live in fear of my friendship with them, maybe even just one, and for all the others I am constantly weighing my words and my actions. I’ve been shamed by those dying embers of past friendships, whether by their actions of walking away and staying out of touch, or their explicit words that I was not worth their friendship because I’d be hurtful, and now I hide. I hide my opinions. I hide my truth. I hide my style, my likes and dislikes, my opinions and my passions. I learned my lesson by going to the other extreme and becoming meek and agreeable, or making you think you know the whole me, but you really only see a small part, thinking that that would be the way to keep friends around. Sadly, that hasn’t always worked either. And being made to feel shame for who you are, instead of what you’ve done that is admittedly wrong, well that affects everything in your life. 

I’ve been coming out from the cloud of shame of who I am for a while now. Motherhood, for some blessed reason, has never been cloaked in shame for me. I don’t know why, because I know it can really be a source of shame and shaming for so many. I guess we all have our strengths, and weaknesses, and we should probably just share our journeys to encourage each other in those areas. I've also stopped shaming myself for my artistic expression. This blog, this passion, the evolving style of my work, and the ideas I want to share here, this is all the most authentic version of myself and what I’m passionate about that I have ever shared. I will continue to fight through my words and through my photographs that families embracing who they are authentically should be captured through photography every day, even if it’s not bright, airy, with the perfect film grain and styled to a T.  Joy does not live in those images if you ask me. Joy lives in the ugly. Joy lives in the authentic. Joy lives in our Havens, existing in the perfect equilibrium for OUR FAMILY! Not the perfect Pinterest family and not the next door family and not that perfect Mom friend’s family. OUR FAMILY! 

“You make magic.” 

Those words will always mean so much to me. They sunk deep down into my heart, because they are true. And because I believe them, maybe for the first time in my whole life. For my calling, for my passion, for this message, I can make magic. And from my soap box in the paragraph above, I hope you can see how passionate I am about this idea. 

But those words will also always live and beat in my heart because they came from a true friend. A friend who sees the best in me, and who has never shamed me for being who I am, for having a different calling than her, for sometimes hurting her with my lack of tact but knowing the words I said were from a place of love even if they seemed hurtful because my timing could not have been more terrible. Because of her, and a handful of others, I’m done being shamed for who I am. I will always be a truth-telling, brutal-honesty-seeking, come-wash-your-dishes, let’s share-our-hearts-over-too-many-margaritas-but-watch-out-for-my-shitty-timing-and-bitch face, bad-ass, love-you-so-hard-you-can’t-breath, kind of friend. I will always work on being better, which I think is the key to not being a hurtful and destructive person, but I’m done hiding. And I think my community, my household, and my work, will all benefit from the authenticity that can thrive when women really, really, really love each other this way.  

If this message resonates with you, I hope you will pass it on. We are all growing and getting better at this thing called life, friendship and art so don’t be too hard on yourself today. Remember that in your own way, in your own world, you’ll make magic today. I truly hope you have someone that will reflect your own magic back to you. If it’s not a friend or a partner, take a minute to look into the eyes of your children today. It’s always living there.