2014 | It's All About Balance

2013. What. a. year. I always find it overwhelming to look back at 365 days and draw up some overall conclusion/feeling/concise thought about an entire year. My 2013 was exciting (It was my first year as a full-time photographer, and Nathan and I explored lots of new places together). My 2013 was surprising and enlightening (I learned something new almost every day). My 2013 was busy (Did I mention I went full-time with photography?). My year was these things. It was also SO much more.

If I'm being 100 percent honest, 2013 wasn't necessarily easy for me. The craziest, most exhilarating thing I did was choose to dive head first into photography. I'd thought about it a lot. It wasn't a rash decision, and I'm so thankful that I was able to ease into it so that by the time 2013 came around I had my ducks in a row. Or so I thought.

Let me tell you something. Running a business is not a walk in the park. It's hard work … especially when it's a one-person show. You probably all realize this. I was still grasping at that truth while I was immersed in it. For me, a lot of 2013 was about struggling to find balance and set boundaries. It was my first really, really, absolutely full season, and while I'm SO unbelievably grateful for (and completely amazed by) it, I was not prepared for it. I was more than halfway through the year before I realized I was completely consumed by work all the time.

Sometime around the middle of August, I was only seeing Nathan when he would come into my office to clear away the dishes on my desk and bring me new ones (I wish I was joking; it sounds so ridiculous). I wasn't seeing or interacting with my family and friends nearly as much as I would have liked, even though a lot of them live within a one-hour radius and the phone was always sitting on my desk. I wasn't eating right (at all), I was exhausted, and the summer was flashing by without a proper bike ride, long walk, or good book devoured on the back deck.

I tell you all of this not to wear my busyness as a badge of honor (although I was certainly doing that just a couple months ago), but to bring complete and utter honesty to the table. I want to share that the most important lesson I learned was that a one-dimensional person is not a happy person, no matter how much work you have, how many features you get or how many Facebook "likes" are currently staring you in the face.

I thought that constantly being busy and stressed out meant I was making it. I thought that saying "yes" to everything was the only way to show that I had it all together. Well, guess what?? I didn't. I don't. And I realize now that that's OK.

I recently read 7 by Jen Hatmaker and was completely awakened to the truth that stress can take over your life if YOU let it.

"We are short fused, stressed out, overextended, and unrested. This pace is not sustainable. I don't want it to be. This season of life is passing me by, accelerated by a lack of boundaries. Most days I just try to keep the wheels on, not living in the moment at all; I'm just getting it done while thinking about what's left ...

"This biblical concept of rest is whispering to me, 'You're ignoring me.' And I am. Not only do I not take God's command for rest seriously, but I act like its not in the Bible. Ah, Sabbath. How cute and archaic."

Yes. That's me. How did you know, Jen?

After much self-reflection, I now realize that balance is going to be my saving grace in 2014 (that and a little prayer :) ). I know that I need more than one thing (work) to keep me happy/creative/motivated/content/excited/[fill in the blank]. I know that I don't nearly have it all figured out, and I will stumble and fall more than once, but I am on the right path. It's not about being perfect, it's about making space for myself to appreciate the moments and then live in them. Imperfect and all. I'll let you know how it goes.

St. Lucia

Thoughts: Being Present Over Being Perfect

“Sabbath is the discipline of rest. It’s practicing our belief that we’re not the center of the universe. Sabbath is practicing the belief that the world will keep on spinning even without our very productive selves working our tails off seven days a week.” —Shauna Niequist As a photographer, there’s this pressure. I know it might seem ridiculous, and maybe I’m imagining it, but I feel this pressure to create the most awe-inspiring pictures, to have the most Facebook likes, to write the most witty blogs. The most, the best, the funniest.

I know this doesn’t just apply to photography. It’s life. There’s pressure to be perfect. To be the most successful, to make the most money, to work the hardest. And I get caught up in it when really, to be more human is to be present in life. Real life. Not some made-up perfect life that I’m constantly chasing. Because it doesn’t exist.

“Our world is bent on making us less and less human. Less and less connected. Less and less imperfect and fragile and raw and messy and beautiful. Our world values speed and perfection and performance and technology.” —Shauna Niequist

If you know me, you know I love Shauna Niequist, and especially her first book Cold Tangerines. I just really identify with her writing style, subject matter and honesty.

She recently did a message on “Present to Perfection” where she discussed this notion that we’re always running, always adding things to our to do list instead of slowing down and really being present in life.

This is me. I feel so blessed that I’m able to be a photographer, and there are so many good things about working for yourself. One thing I really struggle with though is setting office hours and sticking to my pre-determined time off. I’m always looking to the next thing, instead of what’s right in front of my face.

Yesterday, I had a client meeting (hi, Hailee and Stefan!). We sat, we talked, we drank coffee … and I found myself loosing track of time. I was present in the moment. I was there learning about them and not checking my planner, worried that I was missing out on time to get stuff done. When I left that meeting, I felt fulfilled. Like I was truly embracing my purpose of being a photographer.

This season, I’m going to embrace Shauna’s challenge. I hope you’ll join me.

“I’m going to choose less. And, in turn, be present for more.” —Shauna Niequist

Lilac Flowers

Thoughts: Breathing Deeply

He asked if I wanted to have a picnic at the beach. Honestly? My first thought was No, I can't. I'll never make up the lost time. But I knew he wouldn't accept that answer. Nathan's a lot better than me at taking a deep breath every once in awhile, and he knew I needed it. I was still talking myself into going as we drove to the beach through the warm summer night. We found a bench and ate crusty bread and sweet berries. The breeze blew our hair and we sat without saying a word.

This is how we balance each other. Me working too much, Nathan forcing me to breathe deeply and enjoy the moment … away from a screen. And we don't have to say anything to know what the other is thinking: that we're thankful to have balance. And each other.