Surrender Is The Key To Happiness

Jo Johnson writing on her living room floor, pen in hand, contemplating life.

Creature of habit.
Even though I am not a planner, I am definitely a creature of habit in the mornings. If I vary from my usual routine, I just can’t get my shit together and my productivity and purpose plummet drastically.
I do the same thing every morning, in the same order and
if I stray from that routine, even a little bit, I’m fuckered. I never realized how habitual I was nor how much I depended on my routine until my Lyme symptoms became so debilitating that they bounced me out of it and I was constantly flailing, scrambling to get shit done, and feeling quite lost and despondent about it.
It’s taken me months to accept that I can only expect to be my usual energetic, productive, intelligent self around 50% of the time right now. 🤷🏻‍♀️I take heart that on the days when I DO feel good, I speed around like a hummingbird, crossing tasks off my list, writing up a storm, getting outdoors to ride or hike or whatever else I feel up for.
My point, once again, is that surrendering is the only way to find true happiness. The moment we start rebelling against our circumstances, hating them, longing for something different, we up our anxiety level, trigger sadness and depression, and actually take ourselves farther from where we want to be.
If we struggle against our circumstances and refuse to accept them, we make it harder to deal with them because we take ourselves out of the present, out of the moment. The trick is to BE here, in the moment, looking at it and saying, “Okay, self, this is happening right now and we can handle it.”
Capiche? On the days when I wake up with too much pain to function or a brain too stupid to think properly, I surrender. I accept. I find ways to do whatever I can and stay relaxed and rested so that my body will heal and I don’t waste time stressing that I’m not at my best or lamenting that I won’t cross much off my list.
Having that mindset makes those days much easier than spending the day pissed off that I can’t function.

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. 😉

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!

 

Angela & Kevin – First Okanagan Winter Wedding of 2018

When I first met Angela back in 2012, I felt her energy long before we were introduced and I knew instantly we would be friends. Flashback with me to the day before a wedding out in Cherry Creek. I was walking down the stairs to a beautiful backyard garden and I felt a warm and happy feeling rush through me. I looked over at the ceremony site and there was Ang, chatting with the bride and groom. My feet bee-lined for her and we instantly hit it off! Ever since we’ve had a connection and I LIVE for weddings where she is performing the ceremony! She’s warm and funny, but more than that, she’s all about energy and she’s an empath, like me, so we totally understand each other. Also, like me, she wears her heart on her sleeve and isn’t afraid to show her dark side just as much as her light. These are the people I’m drawn to – the ones who keep it real, admit when they are angry or down or being less than stellar, but also know that their light balances them. Ang is part of my tribe, even when we don’t see each other for a long time or keep in touch as often as we could.

I touched base with her a few weeks ago to see if she was available to marry one of my couples and she hit me with the best news ever – SHE was getting married! I was over the moon happy for her and, as she told me her story, my heart swelled up to bursting and I was so thrilled to be part of her day!

There is something so satisfying and heartfelt when twin flames, who have been separated for more than half a lifetime, finally find a way to burn together. This is how it is with me and my guy and this is how it is with Angela and Kevin.

Best friends and inseparable in high school, they were in love then, but didn’t realize it, and they lost touch over the years and went on to live their lives. Marriages came and went. Children were born and raised. Life happened. But through it all, they never stopped thinking about each other and wondering what life would have been like had they taken the leap back then.

And then, unexpectedly, it happened. They reconnected and the moment she saw him, 30 years disappeared in a blink and she knew that she was home. It was the same for him and they decided that they’d waited for each other long enough.

Maybe they were rushing? Maybe they were acting like two crazy kids in love? Maybe they were being irrational? No way! I believe they were meant to be separated for those 30 years so when their paths finally came together again, they could easily walk in sync with open hearts and a perfect understanding of what real love is – raw, open, at times messy and painful, but also sprinkled all over with little moments of pure fairytale and feeling of coming home at last.

Welcome home, you two. So much love coming your way and I can’t wait to share moments with you for many years to come!

 

 

Destination Wedding Woes & The Shit We Carry With Us

wedding couple destination wedding cuba
If you know me, you know I’m not afraid to share my thoughts and feelings and, often, after I’ve had some time to process, I need to blog to get it out and forget about it. This one is long, so if you have shit to do, this will probably distract you…
A couple years ago, I had one hell of a shitty experience shooting a destination wedding (due to both my own shit and others’). It was the straw that temporarily broke my wedding-shooting back and I gave up shooting weddings for awhile until I could find my way back to a healthy wedding-photography mindset, which I’m happy to report, I have.
And, ironically, it had zip to do with my ability to shoot a wedding and everything to do with my ability to allow self-sabotaging insecurities creep in and overrun my creativity and talents. Ya’ll know what they say about hindsight, right?
Although this wedding was in Cuba in 2015, the story actually starts wayyy back in high school (think early 90s…yah, I’m getting up there) and it carries on into the present. It’s not pretty or easy to talk about, but I’m going to spit it out here and then let it go.
In high school, my main crowd was made up of what is probably best described as the “In Crowd”. Of course, that’s totally tongue-in-cheek because our graduation class was a whopping 34 people so how many crowds could we actually have? Amiright! Anywho, this crowd was made up of a core group of ladies and, at the head of those ladies was a quintessential Mean Girl. Let’s call her Penelope.
Caveat: High School sees people put up with a lot of shit that our adult counterparts wouldn’t put up with for ten seconds, so try to keep in mind that these days, I wouldn’t keep people like this within a mile of my day-to-day life.
Penelope was pretty and popular and, as these things go, had minions who followed her lead, no matter how shitty and cruel it was. Penelope would, essentially, “allow” the rest of our girl group to like me one day and then shun me the next. I spent my entire high school experience walking around on eggshells around her-always fearful of what I would say or do next that would change my status with her from “friend” to enemy. One day she would laugh when I was being my quirky, outspoken crazy self and everything would be good and the next she would shun me and call me a loser for being the same way. It was a constant roller coaster of being accepted and rejected and I rode that shit for years. Sometimes I would be accepted and allowed to hang out with Penelope and her Posse and sometimes (for months at a time) I would be shunned, ignored, or, even worse, publicly ridiculed. Like that time, for example, in Grade 10 when I was, once again, on the “you’re not cool enough to hang out with us” list. One day after gym class, Penelope and her bosom buddy Petunia (who I will introduce below) and the rest of my so-called friends made fun of the way I pulled up my pants (because, apparently, I did it “weird”), pantomiming (pun-intended) me pulling them up over and over again and laughing hysterically until I left the locker room (and school) in tears. I stayed home for two days, pretending to have the flu so I wouldn’t have to face all those chicks while I was still so hurt by their teasing.  I think it was around the start of Grade 12 that I reached my saturation point and I finally began to activly seek retaliation for Penelope’s mean girl behaviour. I sought out opportunities to undermine her, embarrass her, and hurt her feelings whenever I could and every time I managed to stick it to her, it felt really good.
[NOTE: This was ridiculous and utterly childish vindictive bullshit behaviour, but I was 17 and didn’t understand the world the way I do these days. I did what any kid would do and I fought the pain of being treated like shit by treating her like shit. I felt justified at the time. It seemed only fair that after being shit on for years, I was finally starting to give her a taste of her own pain-inflicting ways. I don’t regret it and I’m not ashamed of it. It was simply how I coped without knowing enough to learn and grow from the life lesson behind it.
Strangely enough, we even hung out for awhile after high school. I can’t tell you why because I didn’t even LIKE Penelope and our relationship was strained and unfriendly a lot of the time, but we did have some good, genuine laughs now and then and perhaps thats why I stuck with it. She finally just phased me out of her life and I was totally okay with it. Kind of relieved, actually. It wasn’t until after she phased me out that I realized how dysfunctional our “friendship” had been and how much easier it was without her in my life, but I learned A LOT from that relationship and learned to recognize my vindictive tendencies. If someone hurt me, I retaliated. I hadn’t yet learned the “just forgive them and forget them” method of living a much happier life, but recognizing my patterns through that relationship helped me to learn it.]
Petunia was another gal in the same crowd and she was, by far, the one who followed Penelope’s lead most often. Petunia has a giant heart and has always wanted to see the best in people, but she’s also really easily led and didn’t even realize how cruel she was to me so often while we were growing up. And, despite all the shit of high school, I’ve always loved her.
In 2014, Petunia called me up and invited me out for lunch and told me she was getting married in Cuba. She wanted me to be part of the wedding and, thinking about Penelope who was going to be the MOH, I politely declined, but said I would definitely attend. We ended up agreeing that I would shoot the wedding so I could still be a part of the day.
However, by this time I was pretty jiggy with my intuition and, from the moment Petunia told me she was getting married, my gut alarm bells started clanging to the tune of, “JO! Stay away from anything to do with this wedding!” And, like the ridiculously stubborn Scorpio I am, I shushed my gut and told it that everything would be great – after all, 20+ years had passed and we were all very different people. It would be a much different experience than high school. We’d all grown up and had some life experience to change us, right?
Nope.
To make matters far worse, Petunia said something like, “Peter (let’s pretend Peter is the name of Petunia’s Fiancé) isn’t going to be super excited about the cost to get you to shoot our wedding, but I’ll convince him that it’ll be worth it.” Great! Can’t wait to rise up and meet that challenge. Ding Ding, gut alarm. Ding Ding, gut alarm.
I tried to psych myself up for a week hanging out with Penelope, Petunia and another friend of ours (let’s call her Poppy) whom I love all the way up to the moon and always have. I figured that if Poppy was there, any shit that happened would be worth it because I would get to hang out with her after so long.
I also invited my Sis-In-Law and another friend to come for the week. I figured that I could hang with my own peeps if I didn’t want to hang with all the wedding guests and it would be a good opportunity to chillax and get some much-needed bestie time in.
Nope again.
Firstly, before I get into the point of this entire post, let me just fully disclose my giant fuck-ups with this wedding.
1) I told Petunia and Peter that I would be happy to shoot them doing other things besides the wedding – if they went on excursions or whatever. What I totally forgot about and didn’t really think through was that I get brutal motion sickness, so when they decided to take a bus tour through Havana and a catamaran tour, I couldn’t go on either. Trying to shoot on a bus would have done me in, but trying to shoot on a boat would have put me where I’ve been too many times (arms wrapped around a rail, supplying a never-ending stream of chum and bile to the happy fishes). When I say I get motion sick, it doesn’t even really describe how brutal it is. I end up feeling like death for days afterward. (I tried to make up for it by shooting a bunch of photos during their stag/stagette night).
2) I completely ignored not only my gut about what a terrible idea it was to even attend the wedding, let alone shoot it but I also ignored the concrete realization that my own marriage was done and I was not in a good mindset to shoot a wedding. My husband and I had been down a long road of shit and heartache and inability to comprehend each other after our daughter died and we were separating. (I tried to ignore that feeling because it was much too late to back out of shooting the wedding and I was trying to pull up my big girl professional panties and do my job).
3) I foolishly believed I had dealt with all the shit feelings I had about Mean Girl Penelope from our younger days and trusted that I was capable of being my usual self –the chick who doesn’t give a fuck what others think of me and who trusts in her creative and artistic talents.
That last fuck up, on top of everything else, is what did me in. I may have believed I had moved on and was fully capable of being my adult self and recognizing and dealing with my insecurities as they reared up, but I had never actually been around Penelope to test that theory and have some practice with it.
Triple nope.
Do ya’ll know what ignoring your intuition and insight gets you? A shitshow, that’s what.
The first night we were all together in Cuba and everyone was drinking it up and having a good time, I let myself relax and thought that it was all going to be all right after all. Everybody was getting along well, we were all laughing about funny things that happened in high school (because despite the emotional roller coaster, I still had some good times), and enjoying ourselves. I woke up feeling happy and excited to do a rad job on Petunia’s wedding, yet still, my gut was not having it. 
The next night there was a stag/stagette and, near the end of the night when she was a bit drunk, Penelope was kind enough to tell me, “Peter really didn’t want you to come to shoot the wedding, but both Petunia and I convinced him it was a good idea and that you will do a great job. I hope you do.” She giggled and walked off and I stood there, feeling a flush creep up my face and insecurity begin washing through me. I fucked off back to my room, put my camera away and journaled the entire night, in an attempt to analyze my feelings and get them under control. (This is what I do when I need to process, I write it all out and analyze it until I find the hidden meanings, the lesson, or the solution).
The following day, I was sitting with Peter, waiting to meet with their wedding coordinator while Petunia was up chatting with some other people, and Peter and I were chatting about weddings and my wedding experience. I mentioned that I had heard that he didn’t want to hire me because I was expensive, but I wanted him to know that I was good at my job and he wouldn’t be disappointed. I was still feeling insecurities creep in from Penelope’s comment the evening before (and, truthfully, journaling about it had not helped take the feeling away) and I was also feeling a bit annoyed because I had already given them a HUGE discount (I halved my regular price, actually) and here I was, dealing with how “expensive” I was, yet again. I was feeling fed up with people not realizing my worth (ah, the Ego eh…) and when Peter made a comment about Petunia mentioning I was thinking of retiring from shooting weddings, I lost my shit for a sec and snapped at him. I told him that weddings were too much stress and too much work (which they aren’t) and I was tired of people bitching about how expensive wedding photography is and being completely ignorant of the amount of time and work that goes into photographing a wedding. Needless to say, that conversation didn’t go over very well with either of us and totally left me looking like an asshat who hated shooting weddings (which I didn’t and still don’t). It wasn’t my best professional moment, although it was a raw and true one, but at that point, my anxiety level was rising about a meter a minute and I was already in danger of drowning.
After that, everything snowballed.
By the morning of the wedding, I was stressed-the-fuck-out. I told my Sis-in-Law at breakfast that I could feel that it was going to be a shitshow and, well…what we focus on, we create. Simple concept. Profound result when we allow shit thoughts to take over.
It was, literally, one thing after another…
It started out, right off the hop, with Penelope telling me what she thought I should and shouldn’t shoot. “Oh, no, don’t get a shot of Petunia brushing her teeth in her wedding dress. That’s just tacky.” “You should get a shot of such and such while they are doing such and such.” This happens to me ALL THE TIME when I shoot weddings and I just smile and nod and, if their idea is good or will fit in with what I’m doing, I’ll happily snap a suggested pic. However, after about the sixth suggestion, I was fucking annoyed that Penelope seemed to think she knew how to shoot a wedding better than I did. (yes, hell again, Ego, fancy seeing you here again so soon…;)) Moreso, though, there were now regular looks being exchanged between Penelope and Petunia and I was picking up on all of them. Looks that said, “Are you seeing this? The photographer is refusing to shoot photos. Can you believe it?”
Here are two of these look moments that stuck out to me and completely unravelled my confidence (even though I knew the shots WOULD NOT work and had proven it by trying it during other weddings and failing):
The wedding party wanted to do pics at the beach, mid-day. I told them that, from my experience, there would be too many people, it would be stiflingly hot, the light was too bright and would cast too many shadows under their eyes, etc. I suggested we shoot at the beach near sunset when the light was good, there would be next to no people, and we could get a lot of good shots in a short time. Penelope gave me “Don’t you think you should taking the kind of photos the bride and groom are asking for?” to which I replied, “She hired me because I know what I’m doing and I hope she trusts me enough to know the reasons I’ve given her are true rather than wasting time at the beach when we could be shooting elsewhere and getting good shots.” And that was followed by “the look” between Penelope and Petunia again.
I was chatting with someone while we were waiting for a few wedding party people to meet us at a room and a sweet moment developed between the Peter and his stepdaughter. I heard Penelope said to Petunia, “You should get Jo to take a pic of them ” and Petunia immediately nudged me and said, “Look at them. Can you take a pic?” but by the time I turned around and brought up my camera, the moment had passed. Petunia asked me to re-create it and I explained that, if I asked them to do it again, it would not have been a genuine shot and it would have shown in the photo. I told them there would definitely be other moments and I would catch one of them. Again, that look. I’ve tried to re-create real moments after the fact and, trust me, they are ingenuine. That’s not me. I’m not going to force a moment just because someone sees me with a camera and tells me I should. There are HUNDREDS of moments during a wedding day and we can’t be expected to capture every single one. We grab the ones we see – the genuine, unscripted ones – and they end up being spectacular.
The rest of the day continued along the same lines…
I realized around dinner time that all the insecurities I had taken away from being around them in high school had come back full-force and that I had completely reverted to that “please just like me” pathetic person I had been back then, willing to put up with any of Penelope’s shit just so I wouldn’t have to be shunned or see her give that fucking look to Petunia. It was at dinner that I finally decided to have a glass of wine and just say, “fuck it” and go with the flow. I don’t normally drink at weddings until the end of the day and, even though I had tried to drink a beer earlier that afternoon, I’d only made it through a few sips before setting it down and forgetting about it. The wine helped a bit and at least relaxed a bit of my anxiety. After dinner, I tried for an hour to wrangle the wedding party to get them down to the beach for sunset photos, but it was like herding cats and, by the time I finally got them down there, we had about 15 minutes of light left and I was completely exhausted after a day of fighting my own shit and theirs. The pics weren’t my usual caliber and I was completely defeated.
In a nutshell, it fucking sucked.
Ironically, during the reception, I somehow found myself standing with Poppy listening to Penelope while she told us about how much her daughter struggled with her little school friends. “One day they like her and the next they tell her they don’t want to play with her. Girls are so mean and it’s so hard to see her struggle like that.” Poppy and I stood there, mouths hanging open, looking at each other in complete disbelief that the Queen of the Kingdom of Mean Girls still didn’t have a fucking clue what a colossal cunt she had been all through school. At that point, which was near the end of the evening, I’d had enough and I didn’t need to be there to shoot anything else, so I packed up my shit, grabbed another glass of wine for the road, and headed back to my room.
I went to bed that night and cried myself quietly to sleep. I was mortified that I had allowed insecurities and anxieties ( from more than 20 years ago) completely rear up and take over. I was frustrated because I knew that the photos of the day were not the amazing, creative, happy quality I usually produced. And, mostly, I was pissed off for allowing my ego to get my back up when faced with a semi-drunk (and a few completely drunk) wedding party peeps who were pushy, didn’t want to hear my advice, and made me feel like I sucked and didn’t know what I was doing.
So how did it all end, you wonder?
No surprises here.
Petunia didn’t like her photos.
Peter wrote me a scathing email about how I was an “amateur masquerading as a professional”, how I’d “misrepresented my abilities and duped his wife into hiring me” and how I’d spent the entire trip in a “tequila-infused stupor” (even though I had only consumed tequila or been drunk on the first and last day of the entire trip and had barely drunk anything for the rest of it). It bothered me that he could say such shitty things, but I was also expecting it from him, so I wasn’t surprised. If a person doesn’t want to hire you from the get-go and you hear it from multiple people, it’s not a stretch to receive an email about how much you sucked.
The one thing, out of the entire email, that yanked my chain and made me feel genuinely angry was that he also said I didn’t make his wife feel beautiful at all during the entire wedding. That one pissed me off. Petunia had been ridiculously insecure about her looks since we were in Elementary school and, during the day of the wedding, I told her (probably 25 times) how ridiculously gorgeous she looked, how she made such a stunning bride, how she chose a perfect dress for her body type, how gorgeous her hair and makeup looked, etc. If there is something I’m going to do while I’m shooting ANY WOMAN, I’m going to make her understand that she is beautiful in as many ways as possible. I purposely sought out opportunities all during the day of shooting to let Petunia know how amazing she looked. So when I read that bit, my head blew off my shoulders and spun in circle like that chick in the Exorcist…for a few minutes anyway. BUT, ironically, looking back, I realized that if a person is focusing on an insecurity, they don’t hear the truth of what’s being said, they hear what they want to hear. Just as I was focusing on my insecurities surrounding high school bullshit, so Petunia was focusing on being uncomfortable with her body and being the center of attention. She probably didn’t hear my words of admiration at all. It also explained why she didn’t like any of her photos, even though she was a fucking knockout in all of them. In the end, I couldn’t change any of it, so I let it all go.
I responded by editing all 300+ photos anyway, refunding all of their money, and sending them a short email that said I was sorry that I didn’t meet their expectations and I hope that they can still look back on and enjoy the photos anyway. I didn’t try to defend myself because, really, they wouldn’t have listened or understood anyhow and it hardly mattered anymore. People believe what they want to believe, so why waste time trying to convince them otherwise. And, obviously, there went that 34-year friendship with Petunia. That stung a bit, but the nature of life is that people come and go.
Then, in a huge dramatic fit, I decided that I was done and I gave up on weddings “forever”, had a slight mental breakdown, and went to a “few” (ahem…nine or so) counselling sessions to learn how to deal with all of the baggage I’d been carrying around since high school. That’s how I learned about “Playing the Victim” and how to prevent myself from ever falling into the trap of giving my power away to someone else by allowing them to dictate my emotional responses. It’s how I learned, for good this time, that people can be assholes and definitely deserve blame for the heinous shit they do to us, but WE are 100% responsible for our reactions to that shit, not them.
So, all in all, it was a rad life lesson about listening to my gut (which I now do regularly), owning my shit (which I do 100% of the time), and forgiving assholes for being assholes and moving on.
And I’ve come to my senses about giving up weddings. I’m good at them. I enjoy them. I’ve come through the grieving process of my own marriage ending and I can look at love with a clear heart again. Time to get back at it. 🙂