twelve to eighteen months

Could you imagine if all you had was twelve to eighteen months…to live, to breathe, to give your children all they need to grow into adults, to be with friends, to love…

…to live.

One year is five hundred twenty five thousand, six hundred minute (525,600). That sounds like a lot of time, but not if it’s all you have.

I watched a good friend live every one of those 525,600 minutes. And then she was gone. It was fast, too fast.

Last year I started to hear about a girl named Jen. She is a lot like I was 4 years ago…same age, two boys the same age mine were, diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Our stories diverged quickly though. Both stories were sudden, scary and overwhelming, but mine ended quickly, with the best outcome I could hope for. Jen’s hasn’t ended yet, but it did not go the same way as mine.

I hid my journey until it was over. Jen invited the world to be part of her’s.

I watched. I hoped. I crossed my fingers and toes and arms so tight…I believed she, like me, was going to be alright. It might be a bit tougher, take a bit longer, but she was going to be fine. It was just too much to believe anything else.

She’s not fine. Not ok, not health wise anyway. She was given her sentence – 12 to 18 months.

And still she fights, and her community fights for her, trying to raise enough money for Jen to attend a clinical trial and maybe, just maybe, kick cancer in the ass.

No risk factors. No reason to believe this was coming. Nothing she could have done to stop it…

I don’t know Jen, but she is me. She is my story with a different middle. She is my biggest fear come to life, the bullet I dodged at the same age. She is my hero in how she’s handling this. She is living her 525,600+ minutes with the kind of determination and grace I desperately hope I would have. She is not quitting, not waiting for her minutes to run out.

Help her fight. Help her win. Help her raise her boys to men, dance at their weddings and one day hold her grandchildren in her arms.

If we all do a little bit, it will be a lot.

I gave today. And I will give $50 from every single sign up for the What If Conference and What If Lift and each wedding I book from now until Jen gets her clinical trial. It’s not a lot, but it will help. It will all help.

Jen is each of us, Jen is me. I am Jen. And I’m going to help her fight, however I can.

a different ending

Sports parents are nuts. Not all of them, but a lot of them.

I am just home from three days of an intense selection camp. Logan made it to the Team BC Lacrosse camp for PeeWees (11 + 12 year olds), so we made the 4 hour trek to Kelowna, BC and settled in for a weekend of lacrosse.

Designed as a way to whittle the top 60 athletes down to a team of 20, this had the potential to be a high pressure situation for the kids. And for many I’m sure it was. But for many more kids, it was about playing the game with the best of the best, having fun on the floor and making new friends.

The parents, though, were a whole other thing to watch. I’m as competitive as it gets – when it comes to my own life. I like to succeed and when I choose to compete, I want to win. But that’s my life, my choice and my chance to shine, or not, in my efforts.

I want my kids to always showcase their very best, whatever their best might look like. The key words there, though, are “their very best”. Not mine – their’s. I have no desire to live vicariously through their success – that belongs to them and only them. My kids have to succeed because they want to, and they have to live with what their efforts bring them. I just have to congratulate or commiserate, as the case may be.

Too many parents sat with tense shoulders and frowns on their faces, noticing every little thing their children did wrong this weekend. Missed passes, dropped balls, poor positioning – those things happen, but for some it was like the world ended. Parents left the rink, heads low, grumbling about how poorly their boys played, and I found myself both amused and bemused by what I was seeing, sad that those parents were putting their own hopes and dreams in front of their children’s. The truth is, these boys are 12, caught between boy and man, and the pressure put on them was enough to crush adults.

Don’t get me wrong, I wanted Logan to shine, to choose greatness on this weekend. But what I wanted more was to see him fall in love with his sport again, remembering the joy of the game, regardless of who was watching. I wanted him to make new friends, try new things, and be twelve with 59 other boys the same age. I wanted him to fit it, to stand out, to be a team player, to be selfish enough to do something amazing. I wanted him to want it and to show how good he can be. I wanted him to laugh, to be excited about getting to the rink, to be proud of what he was doing, and to have fun.

Fun. That’s what sport is supposed to be. Fun.

But it’s not my choice, never my choice, how he plays the game. When Logan walks onto the floor he is completely in control of what happens next – it is up to him, completely up to him, to chase greatness, to be a team player, to be selfish, to be generous, to love each moment, and to trust his teammates. No one can play his game for him. This is, perhaps, the only place in his life right now where he is in charge of what happens next.

So I watched quietly, wanting him to make his dreams happen. Wanting so badly for him to be proud of his efforts and to be rewarded for that. I wanted him to know the joy of having a dream come true.

And he did . He wasn’t interested in making the final 20. For a lot of reasons, he did not want to play for this coach and with some of the boys he knew would make it. He wanted the experience of the camp, and he got that.

Logan reminded me of something very important this weekend – the finish line isn’t always the destination. Sometimes, the journey itself is more important than the finish line; the journey is the destination. Logan’s dream for this weekend was different than mine…

His dream was better, his ending different. And he did exactly what he needed to do.

He laughed as he left the rink and got in the car. Laughed, and joked with his brother, and told stories about his new friends.

A different ending….a better one.

snap

Breaking up is hard to do.

A cliche, but true.

Sometimes, though, the only way forward is to leave something behind. You gotta break away from everything holding you back and be…you. Whatever that is.

Don’t panic, wonderful readers, I’m not breaking up with Steve or you. But I am breaking up with all the “shoulds” I’m truly sick of.

I am a Creative (with a capital C…that’s right, a capital C). With that comes all sorts of scary stuff. Like not seeing the world like everyone else. Like not wanting the same things as everyone else. Like not doing the same things as everyone else. Like taking big risks and sometimes falling down. Like getting back up and doing it again.

That’s not to say I don’t have obligations or toe the line in lots of ways. I get my kids to school and practice on time. I have a strong (almost too strong at times) series of beliefs about right and wrong. I keep regular business hours, eat three meals a day (most of the time) and try to workout. There are definitely ways I conform, especially on the outside.

But the older I get and the longer I do this (whatever *this* is) the more I break away from what everyone else is doing and the happier I become. I make the rules of my life, along with Steve and the boys. We don’t have to be like everyone else.

I broke up with the conventional office and the regular pay cheque a long time ago.
I broke up with the idea photographers have to have a studio, and the idea that working moms have to have a nanny.
I broke up with the notion you can’t have your cake and eat it too.
I broke up with the pressure to be a super woman.
I broke up with what it means to survive scary shit and the notion that a life without ovaries is less satisfying.
I broke up with the contrived checklist of success too many people subscribe too (married by 28, kids by 32, house in the country by….blah, blah, blah)
I broke up with the part of my family that was toxic and sad while staying close with the rest.
I broke up with the idea that my self esteem was hinged to what others think of me.

It is so hard to break away from everything you thought you knew, or everything you were supposed to do. But do it.

Do. It.

Snap it, bend it, break it….walk into the life you want for yourself. It’s worth it.

trading on tools

“How did you get into photography?”  “Did you and Steve meet in photography?”

Conversation starters or genuine curiosity, these are the two most common questions I’m asked by those with “conventional” jobs or, really, any non-photographer jobs. The creative incites curiousity already, but a creative in business is something of a novelty to many.

Those questions are invariably followed with something like this: “I saw your site, you guys do beautiful work. Do you only do weddings? Weddings must be SOOOO inspiring. You are so lucky to be able to do this.”

Yep, I am. I am lucky, blessed, fortunate and grateful to do what I do for a living. But what I do is not who I am, and I work damn hard, every single day, to make a business out of my creativity.

These conversations typically wrap up with something about “passion” and the idea that I must be “passionate” about photography.

Bleh.

Passion is such an overused word, especially when it comes to wedding and portrait photographers. If you consider why you make a living as a creative, and you are really honest in your answer, how many would say “passion” is the reason?

Are you really passionate about photography, or are you passionate about the “why” of photography?

Let’s flip that for a moment. Do you think doctors are passionate about medicine per se or are they passionate about healing people, solving problems, and improving lives? Are lawyers passionate about the law, or about using the law for some purpose? Do you see the difference?

My passion, bliss, joy, whatever you want to call it, comes from telling stories and facilitating the success of others. Right now, my stories are told through my lens, but they were not always told that way. As a child and teen I told stories through words. As a grown up I use image making instead. The “why” is the same, the tools are different.

The past two years have been filled with introspection as I look at options for my creativity. I could, for example, decide to write full time and tell my stories that way. I could turn to teaching and mentoring as a means to be part of the story and satisfy the “teacher” part of me. Or I could continue to use my camera to forge ahead. What will it be? Will it be more than one?

When you are a creative and you give a piece of yourself to all you do, joy is a necessary part of the process – if you don’t love it, why do it?  This joy-turned-job will suck you dry, taking all the enjoyment, and ultimately creativity, out of what you once loved, if you don’t find ways to stay joyful.

And so What IF and What If Lift were born – two endeavours that combine my love of teaching with my love of creating and building. I am part of other people’s stories, an integral part, and that is inspiring on its own. I’m about to start my next work with Wiley, my publisher, creating a new story that will facilitate creativity in others. And I still photograph weddings, satisfying the need to create something visual and lovely for others.

It’s not the tools, it’s why we use them. Too many trade on the tools and forget why this path called them. Odds are you have many tools to choose from, many ways you can create. You don’t have to stick with one tool forever. Choose the tools necessary to create the why…

…but trade on the why before the tools.