Letting Go of Photography

“You’re a really good photographer! Why did you stop shooting Boudoir? ”
A good friend of ours asked me that yesterday and I had a really hard time framing my answer. I sputtered out, “After trying to convince women of their beauty for 11 years, I just kind of gave up.”


And, since the first answer that comes to mind is usually the real answer, I realized this is my truth. 

I gave up. It lost its lustre and I lost my passion for it.
However, I didn’t give up in the sense that I failed, more that I realized that in a world where 90% of people we see on social media and in print are filtered, what the fuck is point? Women have to have the presence of mind (or find it through life experience) to realize that they are comparing themselves to bullshit. 

I would often do a shoot with a gal, show her the final result, she would oooh and ahhh and say things like, “I can’t believe that’s me!” or, “I feel so beautiful and more confident than I ever have.” But then I would get, “Can you just tuck in my rolls a bit?” or, “ I don’t like the way my ass looks. Can you lift it up a bit?” Uhm, no. If you want your ass lifted, get off it and go to the gym. Boudoir is not supposed to be about digital nipping and tucking, it’s about seeing your body in a new light and learning accept it and love it, even if you are working hard to change it. Then she would start posting photos on IG or FB that were filtered AF and all I could think was, “Do you actually think that people don’t see that you’ve completely changed your appearance? Why are you so terrified of letting people see the real you? Why isn’t the real you good enough?”

Exerting futile effort is never a good feeling.

I know I did make a difference for some of my clients and it is a beautiful thing, but after so many just reverted to that place of insecurity that has existed for so long within them, I eventually just said, “Fuck it!”
I wanted to feel the passion and satisfaction of creativity running through my veins again, so I moved on to the one thing that has never left me feeling disappointed or burnt out—writing. 

I figure if I can’t reach women with photographic proof of their innate beauty, I’ll reach them with my words.

I Have a Love Hate Relationship With Humanity.

husky and dachsunds playing in the snow. A blog about animal abuse and neglect.
I may wrestle with loving people, but I will ALWAYS give my love, time, and heart to animals.

Every morning I wake up simultaneously grateful to still be alive and disgusted with roughly 80% of the human race. I live in a constant state of duality and, even though it is ridiculous on the surface, deep inside me, it takes me to places I would never get to without it.

I recently devoured Ainslie MacLeod’s brilliant book about the soul called The Instruction. When I say devoured, I mean I sat down on the couch at around 7:30 a.m. with my coffee and flipped it open with the intention of having a quick boo…only to look up six hours later to realize I’d read it cover to cover and had barely moved. (This ability to completely withdraw and focus on nothing else ONLY ever happens to me when I’m reading a fascinating book.)

That book REALLY opened my eyes wider than any other spiritual book I’ve read (and there are…uhm…a few…LOL). It left me with a much deeper understanding of humanity and the reasons people do the shit they do. It also gave me a much better understanding of myself and why I am the way I am. Up until reading The Instruction, I had only been able to feel a person’s energy and try to puzzle them out based on that. I was often completely flabbergasted by the behaviours exhibited by those around me because of constantly fluctuating energy.

A quick rundown before I go any further:
According to Mr. MacLeod, the human race is comprised of younger souls (Levels 1-5) and older souls (Levels 6-10). The younger souls haven’t learned how to be introspective, think for themselves, see the connectedness of the world, or seek change for injustice and inhumanity. Older souls are introspective, see the connectedness of the world and advocate for change through all sorts of avenues (including protests, art, caregiving, or, interestingly, pacifism).

I can now sit back and see the whole of every person I have a connection with. I now understand people better than I ever have. I see the reasons behind their actions and words and I finally just get people.

However, this doesn’t help me to like people or feel more compassionate toward them. Understanding, I’ve learned, does not equate tolerance or love. Both of those involve a conscious choice.

After doing all the meditations in his book to figure out what I am, I believe I’m a Level 6 Soul (just making the switch after many lifetimes into a greater awareness of connection and figuring out that change begins within) with a Thinker influence (spend a lot of time within my own head just trying to puzzle everything out) punctuated by a Creator influence (writing, photography, art, etc) and some leadership tendencies. So, as soul ages go, I’m somewhere in the middle.

Hence why I’m living in a constant state of gratitude and disgust. I feel that connection of all of us together, but I still can’t quite let go of my judgement of others—most specifically, anybody out there who believes abusing or neglecting animals is, in any way, acceptable.

Here’s a fine example of how I wrestle with my thoughts and emotions each minute of each day. A few weeks ago, I opened up my Instagram and there was video playing in my feed that instantly enraged me. I wanted blood and my mind immediately ran through about 29,000 scenarios that would bring about vengeance.

The video was about a litter of puppies, in a third world country, who were living in a pile of garbage. One of the puppies—perhaps 8-10 weeks old—had a broken leg and was yipping in pain and trying to hobble away to hide. The man who rescued the puppies (and helped all of them find homes) explained that the puppy had been stepped on, ON PURPOSE, by a young boy around the age of 10. When the man interviewed the boy on camera and asked him why he did it, the boy just shrugged and said, “Because I could.”

As I was watching this, tears streaming down my face, chest constricted with disgusted disbelief and totally fighting the compulsion to throw my phone across the room and collapse in a heap of sobbing blubbery, I was instantly filled with rage. I HATED THAT BOY. HATED HIM. I wanted to pin him down and smash the fuck out of his leg and then throw him in a pile of garbage and stand around laughing while he screeched in pain and cried out for help.

However, at the same time that part of me was wrapped up in this retaliatory fantasy, the other part of me was also chatting away, working out the reasons behind this kid’s brutality…The boy is poor. He is a young soul. He lives in a shithole in the middle of a third world country that has never known peace. He is malnourished and his brain has never been given a chance to properly develop. He is most likely surrounded by other malnourished, angry people who take out their frustrations about life on everyone around them. Malnourishment and improper brain development perpetuate feelings of anger, resentment, apathy. No one has ever taught him to respect himself, let alone the lives and well-being of others. He cannot possibly understand why he has acted this way nor would his mind even try to understand why it is wrong to hurt others. Perhaps this man who is saving the puppies—with his obvious compassion and higher level soul—can help this kid’s soul to evolve faster. Perhaps their connection is exactly what the boy needs to progress and learn to love himself and others.

So, even though I get it and even though my soul intuitively understands the what and why of everything happening in the world right now, it’s still a constant struggle to accept it. It’s still a struggle to stop wishing that anyone who subjects another being to intentional harm or neglect should be given a good dose of their own medicine before being obliterated from this plane. I know that to keep learning and growing we have to have all levels of souls existing together in a big ball of turmoil punctuated with moments of peace. But even so, my heart and logic wrestle with each other all the time. One feeling, the other reasoning, but both working together to make sense of it all. My soul still, clearly, has a lot of learning and growing to do, but I know I’ll get there eventually.

20-30 more lifetimes oughta do the trick. 😉

Letting Go Is Always The Best Choice, For Me.

I’m into writing really terrible haikus lately because, well, they MAKE ME BELLY LAUGH like Buddha! This morning, I woke up with this one in my head:

Standing in the storm.
The choice is here before me.
Resist or let go?

Deep in the core of my soul, I knew it was time. Just as I knew it was time to end my marriage years before I actually admitted it to myself, I’ve known for years that I must let go of photography if I want to be a successful full-time writer and editor. If I hadn’t known this, I wouldn’t have returned to university in 2017 to work on my Masters in Publishing. I wouldn’t have completed a Certificate in Editing, despite how time-consuming it was on top of my regular life schedule.

Sure, being a professional photographer is sexy…on the surface. People ask me, “What do you do?” and when I tell them I’m a photographer, their eyebrows shoot up and they say things like, “Oh! Wow!” and “That’s so cool!” The reality of being a photographer though is that there are thousands of us everywhere you look and the old model of “just be you and your ideal clients will find you” just doesn’t cut it anymore. Nowadays, it consists of keeping up with the never-ending demands of social media and keywords and SEO—staying in the spotlight, posting great content, engaging with your fans, posting a few times a week, keeping up with the changes in rules and regulations and WHAT THE FUCK, Facebook! STOP CHANGING YOUR GODDAMNED ALGORITHMS EVERY 10 SECONDS. Da fuck? Who has the time or the mental capacity for that kind of constant upkeep? I certainly don’t. Plus, there is also the totally unglamorous (and physically painful) aspect of the job that is EDITING ENDLESS PHOTOS.

Truth be told, I’m tired of the game. I’m tired of the constant hustle to bring in new clients and maintain relationships with past clients. I’m tired of being on my social media all the time and I’m tired of having to spend time on all that stuff when all I want to do is read, write, and edit. When all I have ever truly wanted to be is a writer and editor. When my guides tell me EVERY DAMN DAY that writing is my life’s purpose and I need to get on it.

The way of life is that shit eventually runs its course and we have to learn to recognize it and let go of it before we waste years beating our heads against a wall and filling up with needless regret. Why didn’t I recognize how unhappy I was? Why did I wait so long to make this change? What am I hanging onto when I know there is nothing left here for me? When I know this no longer feeds my soul?

So, I’m outta here, so-to-speak!

From now on, my “spare” time will be spent hanging out with my family and friends “engaging” in real life relationships with people in my immediate bubble. My days will be filled with a glorious plethora of words and corrections, as well as blushing sheepishly over my own missed typos and grammar faux pas (even great writers have shit moments). And, the best part, is that I can’t wait to write so much and about so many different things that I fly through shit so fast, I make really silly mistakes so others can send me “helpful” emails letting me know of my erroneous ways. LOL.

Bring it on, writing world. I’m so fucking ready for you!

Soul Guides, Channeling & Change

Do you know that anyone can access their soul guides? All you have to do is practice listening until you get really good at hearing them!

And, Holy Shitsnacks! Do you feel all the turmoil and upheaval and change floating around in the air these days? The energy in the world is swirling and, although it can be heavy and difficult to process at times, it’s also being caused by a major collective shift in consciousness that is leading us all to better times.

At least, that’s what everyone keeps telling me!

A lot of my energy work lately has been consciously calming my tits and constantly reminding myself to breathe through all the crap that I’m feeling – from within and without. It has been a struggle in the past two months, but a productive struggle. Each time I stay calm through a shitty situation and force myself to look at it from more than one angle, I learn something new and add a new coping tool to the ole spiritual toolbox.

And, even though I understand that consciously connecting with universal energy will lead to a deeper connection and strengthen my intuition, I am STILL surprised at how tuned in I am lately and how non-reactive I’m becoming, all due to spending more time connecting to my energy and opening myself to Source. More and more often I feel like I’m letting everything flow through me and allowing myself to sit with it until it passes, rather than freaking out and reacting with primal emotion.

Don’t get me wrong…I’m still a hot-headed cunt sometimes, just not as often as usual! Ha!

The BEST thing about all this conscious energy work is that my connection to my soul guides has amped up and my channeling has progressed so far that I’m sitting back in awe every time it comes through with ease.

Lately, it has been almost daily and all I have to do is close my eyes and breathe for their messages to start flowing. 

After struggling with my Masters for 15 months and fighting the constant stress of an ADHD brain that makes it nearly impossible to handle the pressure of intense courses, I chose to walk away from the program with only six months left. I did enough courses to allow me to take the exam to be a Professional Copy Editor and pass, but after that, it was a daily struggle to get my brain to function, remember, and assimilate all the info being thrown at it. I was always feeling stressed, wrestling with huge feelings of inadequacy (which is NOT like me), and feeling like a failure getting mediocre marks. Yes, I have always been brilliant at English and I was getting passing grades in courses that were all about English. It came down to a choice between struggling every day (to work full-time, find time to fit in my courses AND get my sluggish brain to work for me) or letting it go and finding something that didn’t drain my life away and allowed me room to breathe.

So, I took a deep breath and let it go. Hard as fuck.

Hard as fuck.

This morning, I woke up feeling sad and lost (as I have every day for the past month). I sat and meditated, asking my guides why I’m feeling this way and what I can do to perk myself up.

Here’s what they sent me:

The change of seasons always brings some sadness with it. It is an ending and endings usually cause us to feel somewhat empty. However, they also usher in new energy and growth. You are at another crossroads where big change stands before you and awaits your decision and action. Understandably, you are wary. You are fearful that you won’t be able to make change work for you based on recent events, but you are dwelling on past outcomes and forgetting that every new change is a chance to improve and learn. To grow and develop. Even if this change scares you, there is an opportunity for growth and freedom that comes with it. Remember, as you prepare to step down this new path, we are with you and all you need do is listen to us and follow our signs and we will help. You need to accept and realize you are capable of succeeding at anything. The only thing holding you back is your fear and holding on to past beliefs and outcomes. Let go. Fill yourself with new hope and possibility, and step forward with an open heart.

Wanting to solidify this message, I also pulled out my Ancient Animal Wisdom tarot deck and asked the same question.

tarot cards, labradorite rock, channelingI pulled Wildebeest. Here’s what the message that goes with the card says:

Wildebeest says it’s time to go! It’s time for a clean break, a fresh start or a change in location because abundance and renewal are just around the corner. Perhaps you’ve reached your peak or exhausted your resources in your current position and it’s time to embrace something new. Wildebeest encourages new beginnings on your journey ahead toward renewal. Use your intuition and life desires to guide you on this divine exploration. Your future glows with the potential of the bright days that lie ahead.

Everything I ask from them lately is spot on and makes perfect sense. It’s time for a change and I have the power to make that change work, whatever it is.

It’s funny how we allow fear and shit that has happened in the past to freeze us in place and keep us rooted in situations that are no longer healthy for us. This is a repeating theme in my life and, even though I try to recognize it and consciously work to stop it from happening again, it still sometimes mind fucks me and sets me back a step or two. All part of the dance of life, yo!

In this case, I’m going to listen to my wise ones and trust that the latest big change is going to be exactly what I need. I’m going to trust that it’ll work out and that I’ll continue to learn and grow with the experience.

Enjoy this coming change in season, peeps. Embrace the feelings that come with the change and sit with them until they flow through you and show you what you’re meant to see. Then tell your fear to get bent and take that first step into the unknown. It’s the only way.

Winter Solstice 2018

winter solstice 2018 soap bubble frosted with sunlight behind it

Happy Winter Solstice 2018! Bring on the change to lighter days, I say! This is what solstice represents to so many—change—and lately, it’s all I’ve been focussing on.

I recently completed the Gratitude Masterclass with Tamara Leavitt on the Calm App (check it out at https://www.calm.com/) and, I have to say, things are shifting at a rapid pace for me again.

I had been practising gratitude for years and truly believed I was doing well at it.

I wasn’t.

As Tamara says, it’s easy to feel grateful when things are going well (which is when I’ve always been best at feeling grateful), but it’s the days when life turns into a three-ring shitshow (I’m clearly paraphrasing that last part) that a solid gratitude practice is the most difficult.

It’s the days when everything feels heavy and difficult that gratitude exercises can lift us up and bring us back to the important aspects of our lives.

I’ve been jumping over some health hurdles lately and a couple days ago my orange fluffball cat decided it would be a great idea to try to get carried off by a giant ass owl (who promptly punched him full of holes and then dropped his heavy, fat ass to the ground and busted up his face). #owlscanbeassholes

It was a kick I wasn’t expecting (a very expensive kick) and my stress level immediately exploded, to the point where I got light headed and felt dizzy. Normally, I would get into a bit of a funk over this and it would take me a few days to process it and find my way back to happy times. This time, however, I sat down and immediately did an exercise called Gratitude Countdown, where you list 10 things you’re grateful for, in detail, to bring back the warm and happy feelings you felt while experiencing items on the list.

It worked. My body and mind calmed down and, by the time I put my pen down, I was ready to tackle this new challenge.

I sat there, IN TOTAL AWE and WONDER, that such a simple exercise in a hella stressful moment could have such a profound effect on my stress level.

And then I realized the true impact of this gift I’ve received from Tamara Leavitt and the Calm peeps. This is a new growth tool that has the power to change every aspect of my life. A simple tool to help me shed my stress-perpetuating, destructive habit of festering thoughts.

Hallelujah! 😉

If you haven’t checked out the Calm App, get on it. I’ve downloaded many apps over the years for meditation and awareness growth, but this one is a game changer. It wasn’t voted Best App of 2017 for nothing. It’s the best $60 I’ve ever spent…even better than blowing money on delicious craft beer!

 

Hitting the Spiritual Wall [Building Self-Awareness]. Part 2.

No! Wait!

You know what that is? That’s fear and the ego trying to make me forget my self-awareness and talk me back into my comfort zone, disguised as a namaste nicety. “Seriously Jo, you should slow down and smell the flowers. You work too hard. You are just fine here, sitting in the grass, holding Greg’s hand and feeling the sun on your face.”

And, yes, it is 100% true that I need to slow down and breathe. We all do. Regularly.

But is that what my life is really about? Have I ever been that person who puts a little effort it and then sits back and says, “Ooooh, I did a great job! Time to just chill for a few years.”?

Uhm, no thanks.

I’ve never been content to just sit and watch the world do its thing. That’s not me. That will NEVER be me. I want more – I will ALWAYS want more – and that’s okay. There is nothing wrong with wanting more, wanting to learn and grow, wanting to improve myself and my surroundings.

I don’t give a shit what spiritual teachings say about letting go of material things and not attaching to anything.

Fuck that noise.

I like my shit and I love my lifestyle and I’m not giving that shit up so I can be more enlightened by breaking my attachments.

What’s NOT okay is burning myself out because I think that I can do it all and have it all in a short time. It’s important to remember that this incarnation – any incarnation, anywhere – is about finding balance and when shit gets unbalanced, everything starts to unravel.

I’ve lost my balance and I’m experiencing that unravelling full force right now and, of course, this is NOT the first time this has happened. My life has been a fairly consistent succession of falling apart and piecing myself back together. It’s my thing. It’s how I learn and grow, how I build my self-awareness. I’ve learned that this is my pattern – periods of pure joy interspersed with periods of kaka, tragedy, pain, and huge spiritual growth spurts.

However, recognizing, accepting, and finally embracing my pattern was not easy (and still isn’t sometimes), but I had help – in fact, I ALWAYS have help. This is where spirit guides and dearly departeds come in. They are our greatest teachers and all we have to do is listen to their guidance.

When I died and hung out with my dearly departed mama, we had a very animated conversation about self-awareness. She said that during those moments in life when we find ourselves figuratively beating our heads against a wall, our guides have been trying to steer us down a different path but we’ve simply been ignoring them – deliberately or subconsciously. We are ignoring our gut instinct (aka our guides) and being stubborn AF, just trying to “power through” or ignoring our well-being.

During these times, when our guides are knocking on our door (aka our intuition is kicking in) and we’re ignoring them, shit starts to unravel. If our self-awareness is present and/or developing, we usually start paying attention before we spiral down too far and really fuck our shit up.

And this happens to all of us. Some of us recognize it quickly enough to learn and grow and become more tuned in to ourselves…and some of us are slow learners and wallow down there in the shit for much too long.

Apparently, I used to just LOVE wallowing down there in the shit, but as the years go by, I’m spending less time down there. Sometimes – during my most aware moments – I’m not reaching the shitpile at all and just the smell of it is enough to snap me into awareness.

Think of a time in your life when you were absolutely miserable, but then you made a change and everything righted itself again.

Perhaps you were in a relationship that was bringing you down or a job that felt like it was sucking your soul away. How long did you stay in that situation? How miserable did you get before you lost your mind and got out of it? Or perhaps you’re still in this situation, waiting for a miracle to get you out of it? (Sorry, kids, that’s a whole ‘nother blog topic for a different day, but I hope this blog might help you a little anyway).

And, when you did get out of it, did you notice that, even though that change created some difficulties and new struggles, it STILL felt better and easier than staying in that situation? When you look back on that, do you feel like smacking yourself in the forehead for staying in that situation for so long?

If the same feelings started cropping up in your life tomorrow, do you think you would stick it out as long as you did last time?

If not, you’re learning and growing your self-awareness. Feels nice, doesn’t it!

My unravelings used to be a lot more epic and knitting myself back together used to be a long, tedious task. Now, each time the threads start to get yanked out of my soul fabric, I notice them quickly and gently tuck them back in before I end up naked, exposed, and covered in the kaka.

This time around, it’s taken me only two months to become aware that I was beginning to fall apart and, once I became aware of it, only a few weeks to evaluate my thoughts, emotions and physical manifestations and make a plan to restore balance.

What I marvel at most these days is how much easier it is for me to take a step back and pinpoint the areas that need to change. I used to get caught up and deeply overwhelmed by the big picture and I could never pinpoint the shit that was causing the issues. Now when it happens, I step back, breathe, focus on the main emotion that keeps cropping up and trace it back to all the areas that cause it. If it’s a negative emotion, I know that I need to make changes in those areas. If it’s positive, I know that I need to keep that shit up. This is what self-awareness is all about to me.

So, yes, I’m unravelling a bit right now because I’m unbalanced – too much work and not enough downtime, exercise, meditation, and activities that fire up my soul – but I see it and I’ve already made a plan to change it up and restore that balance. It will definitely involve more time to just hang out and do the things I love with the people I love, but it will also include a healthy dose of continual learning and growth, work, and ambition.

Balance.

Everything is about balance.

TO READ PART 1 of this post, click here

Hitting the Spiritual Wall [Building Spiritual Self-Awareness]. Part 1

Last night, while trying to center myself enough to connect with my guide, Linc, without success, I became extremely frustrated my thoughts immediately began to spiral down the rabbit hole…

With all that I do to work toward growing and strengthening my spiritual connection – the meditation; the self awareness; the trust and belief that I can get whatever I want just by believing it already exists for me; the faith in something I cannot see or touch; the hours of visualizing; the readings I do for others; the years of overcoming; and the sheer scope of effort I have put in to take all the tragedy in my life and create something good out of it – what the fuck gives, here? When does this get easier?

When does LIFE get easier?

All I have ever wanted to do is write and reach people with my words, so why, after nearly 40 years of having this goal, am I farther away from it now than I have ever been? Why am I working two jobs (actually, four if I count my one remaining social media client and the editing I’m doing on the side) and NONE of them are full-time writing? Why am I seemingly making choices that are steering me farther away from the one thing my soul has had a lady boner for since I was in 4th grade?

Maybe I’m not supposed to be something greater or different than I am right now. Maybe I’m exactly what I’m supposed to be and letting go of wanting to be more than I am is the key to happiness? What if the idea of manifesting and connecting with Source is all just mumbo-jumbo and all this work to connect with my highest self and my guides and others is just pure bullshit?

What if this moment, right now in my life, is simply as good as it gets and all I have to do to find some peace is to accept it and stop chasing something that keeps leading me in circles?

How would it feel to just work one job with good people – even though it’s not really feeding my creative soul – and then come home to Greg each day and just enjoy his company?

Does it matter that I’m not making a ton of money or that I no longer have the freedom I used to have working for myself? Do we really need more than what we already have? Is it worth this constant, seemingly exhaustive effort to always improve myself in some way and to always keep learning and growing?

Lately, when I try to trust that the universe will bring me what I want by steering me in the right direction and placing my feet on the right path, it feels like I end up walking farther away. It’s a constant battle between my heart and head to trust that what I’m asking for will find its way to me. It’s a constant fight against complete exhaustion as I remind myself that all these extra directions I’m being pulled in are totally necessary to reach my end goal – becoming a well-known, published writer.

But how long do I wait for my guides to help me reach the end game? How long can I stretch myself before I snap into pieces? I’m constantly beating myself up for not getting enough done – not writing enough, not editing photos for clients fast enough, not editing manuscripts for clients fast enough, not getting enough done at work; not working fast enough; not living up to the expectations of others.

And while battling all that, I’m losing the part of myself that shines the brightest – the dreamer with a head full of truth and fiction; the essence of who I have always been – the writer who moves people and feeds her soul with words.

But what can I do? Something’s gotta give.

What if…

What if I just let it all that pressure go?

What if I let go of all those expectations (self-imposed and otherwise) and I just set out to just accept simplicity?

Let go of the idea that I need to create a better life and just enjoy this one.
Let go of the idea that I’m more than this and just be happy with what I am now.
Let go fo the pressure to grow spiritually and just roll with any connection that comes…or doesn’t.
Let go of the constant effort to trust and believe.
Let go of the idea that I need to be anything more than I already am.

What if I just let all that shit go and slowed everything down?

To relish each breath and heartbeat.
To immerse myself in nature.
To enjoy the feeling of Greg’s hand in mine.
To laugh with him and drink him in with the sun on our faces.
To let love flow, if I feel like it, and keep it to myself if I don’t.

What if…