Alternating waves of excitement and terror.
That’s what I felt in the days leading up to the big moment. It’s what I felt that bright, sunny morning when I donned a freshly pressed blouse and crisp black skirt, packing assorted bottles and beakers and long flowy dresses into the trunk of my rental car.
And it’s what I felt as I drove through the fresh green hills of Northern California, destination Point Reyes.
A year prior, I’d been idly clicking through the vast expanse of the internet, no doubt procrastinating on my to-do list. By happenstance, I followed a link from a friend’s website. Immediately, I was captivated.
Photos beckoned me into a fantasy land of time travel, mysticism and skyward ascension. Each image seemed to reach forth from otherworldly realms.
What’s in YOUR imagination? the page taunted.
Every cell in my body stood at attention as my eyes soaked up the rich and colorful images.
I desperately wanted to do this. I wanted to sign up for an experience where I could let surface the creative fire fomenting in my core.
I wanted to let creativity flow, unchecked, unedited, uninhibited.
But it didn’t make sense. Such a photo shoot wasn’t on the check list of business building in my industry. There was no practical justification for hiring a photographer to coax out my alter ego(s), to capture these deep threads of my essence.
I did it anyway. Not because it made sense, but because I wanted to and this was the year I’d made a pact with my soul.
“Soul,” I told it, “You just give me a clear yes and I’ll be on board, okay?”
And my soul was all kinds of into that. So that’s how I found myself purchasing a wine-red dress with a train long enough to double as a blanket. It’s how I came to be perched on a director’s chair in a sun drenched parking lot, having make up artfully painted on my eyes and cheeks.
In the moment, the terror vanished. A feeling of rightness seeped in, a feeling of being totally me without performing any role, without playing a game of smoke and mirrors to preserve someone’s idea of who I should be in the world.
This is me, and that’s okay.
What I wasn’t expecting was the emotional backlash once the the shutters had quieted, the make up removed and dresses tucked away on closet shelves, when I’d returned to my home and my work and my everyday life.
When I had time to wonder what I’d actually done.
If I used these photos in the new branding of my website as planned, if I let the world see the full depth of who I am, would I lose everything I’d worked so hard to establish?
Because this was a departure, and any tangent taken is a risk.
So often, we stop ourselves from showing up as we desire because of what we might lose.
Dignity. Respect. Reputation.
If they see us as we really are, will they still like us?
This flickering fear is the lava-filled trench occupying the space between who you are and who you want to be, how you really want to show up.
A lot of people tell me, “I know I should….”
What fills the blank after the should is unique to each person. Stretch more, do yoga more, work harder, wake up earlier, be more grounded, slow down, speed up, tuck my pelvis, put different energy out into the universe.
You name it, everyone has a should.
Let me offer you a different strategy: what if you followed your body’s cues?
What if you listened for the yes and the no stemming from your cells, and let that be your guide?
What would happen if you stopped fighting yourself and instead just did what feels damn good?
Followed your own breath in yoga, let your pelvis hang however it hangs, let the layers of tension and obligation unravel, falling from your limbs like the dusty muslin wraps of a mummy.
What if you let what’s in your imagination surface into the light?
I can’t promise you it will be easy. I can’t promise you that there won’t be something lost — but what you stand to gain is often far richer, far more fulfilling that what you stand to lose.
I put my photos out into the world. First, I leaked them slowly over social media. And then, all in a whoosh, I unveiled the whole website I’d quietly crafted (with the help of a ridiculously talented designer).
And the response wasn’t what I’d feared.
It was positive. People asked me who did those photos, they asked me the story behind them. They were drawn in, as I had been.
The more I embraced my embodied urges and desires, the more right my world felt. I took a writing class, which by strange coincidence led me to a woman who has been a profoundly influential teacher and mentor over the past six months, helping me crystallize my ideas in ways I never could have on my own.
I am currently in such a different space in my business — in how I view and approach my work, in what I see that’s possible for myself and my clients — than I was a year ago when I embarked on my photo journey.
In retrospect, it was the catalyst for coming into a space I didn’t even know existed at the time. And all it took was acknowledging a deep yes.
So let me ask you this:
What are you doing because you think you should?
What burdens are you carrying because you think you have to?
What stories are old and tired and gluing your feet to the treadmill of life?