Today, I wanted to share Rachel’s story.I asked her to write a blog about our time together and why it was important to her to create art and capture all the different facets of herself in a portrait session. Her story is painfully beautiful.
Rachel came to me and said I want to gift this to myself for Mother’s Day, and then she shared her story with me. I listened to her and we created art that visually symbolizes her story. Then, we captured photos that encapsulate all the sides of her as a woman: fun, serious, confident, thoughtful, sexy, a mother and a wife. I loved that she was doing this for herself and to celebrate her own healing. Her husband texted me recently and said, “I’m standing in front of Rachel’s images, you do amazing work!” :)
Thank you Rachel for your brave and kind heart, and for sharing your story.
Rachel’s story of transformation
I wanted to work with Judith to capture the transformation I’ve undergone over the past two years.
My life has changed dramatically, my marriage has changed, my family has changed, and my relationship with myself has changed. I dare say that all the good that has come from it would not have happened had I not started working on myself first.
The old Rachel wasn’t very happy with her life situation. The fairytale I had written wasn’t playing out that way in real life. I had become resentful and discontent. I was a controlling perfectionist with unrealistic expectations. One can imagine how much stress this created in a family with four children under the age of fourteen.
I was harsh and judgmental and easily disappointed. I needed approval from others and felt like it was my fault if something went wrong. I put on a beautiful mask in public. The kids behaved, we were well-dressed, I smiled a lot and on cue, and I made it look effortless to anyone from the outside looking in. But that just wasn’t the case. I was drowning on the inside. This lasted for well over a decade, and I was physically, emotionally and spiritually exhausted.
Then two years ago my husband and I began therapy (the intense kind) at first separately, then together, then as a family. We were desperate for change. We wanted to be healthy and have a healthy family. Not a perfect one, just a healthy, loving family that wasn’t in crisis all the damn time.
The change was hard. It was painful. There were days I thought the old me was just easier. But thank God I survived it. I began seeing myself as worthy of love, perfectly imperfect, full of forgiveness for myself and others. I learned how to love myself, and that translated into a greater love for those around me. I realized I was already strong, powerful, peaceful, generous, gracious, calm, wise, nurturing, gentle, loving, and joyful…this has been my identity since I was created. I just couldn’t see it because I was focused on everything that was wrong with my life.
As I thought about how my story could translate into Judith’s artwork, I wanted to use the ocean because it symbolizes life for me. It can hold so much pain and darkness in its deepest parts, but there's a light at the surface when you break free and find your true self. In the art piece, I’m looking out across the ocean, reflecting on my life, how I surfaced from the depths of despair to find the light inside myself. The light was there all along, I just had to swim with all my might to reach it.
As Judith and I discussed the artwork further, I told her about my transformation. Her first thought was, “Butterflies!”. I remembered the butterfly’s story…have you ever noticed a butterfly flitting around you, whimsical and carefree? Have you wondered what it went through to be able to experience such a life?
The butterfly’s story is one we can all learn from. It goes something like this…
One day a man watched a butterfly trying to emerge from its cocoon. He waited eagerly, ready to see the butterfly flying in all its glory for the first time in its life. But the butterfly continued to struggle so much that the man felt bad for it and decided to help. The opening through which the butterfly squeezed was very tiny, so the man cut it open to give the butterfly more room. It worked! The man was so excited for the butterfly beginning its new life. Then, unexpectedly, the butterfly fell to the ground and died. Why? Because it requires a certain amount of pressure within the cocoon and through the emergence process in order to build strength and circulation to its wings. It’s the butterfly’s struggle that prepares it to be able to fly and survive, to live life to its fullest.
I identified with the butterfly’s story so much that we had to include them. I love how Judith incorporated so many of them! Butterflies are a reminder to me that I’m grateful for the pain. Yes, I’m thankful for all of it. Don’t get me wrong, it sucks and it’s hard and there’s lots of crying and headaches and sleepless nights. But to have learned from it so I can live more fully has been worth it.
In my photo session, I wanted to capture my family on this part of our journey. We’ve come so far in love and healing, and I think that’s evident in our family portraits. My favorite is the one where we’re all squeezing each other so tightly you can barely see my husband. That’s our essence…love, passion and joy. Looking at our photos makes my heart overflow. There was a time when our oldest son didn’t smile in pictures. I’m so grateful that now he has the biggest grin on his face in all of them.
Through her creativity, Judith captured the fun, the serious, the confident, the thoughtful, the sexy, the mother and the wife, all completely different facets of who I am, who I’ve always been but now truly appreciate about myself.
I believe we are all beautifully and wonderfully made creatures for all the qualities that comprise us individually. Each one of us is worthy of love. Our journeys to transformation may look different, but we must find that love within ourselves before we can give it away or receive it from others in its fullest form. Love covers all things, even our worst pain. It doesn’t make the pain disappear or hurt less, but it does give us comfort and healing. Then, at last, as we emerge from our dark, pressure-inducing cocoons, we will see the light within us that’s been there all along and begin to fly.