For the eyes. For the heart. For the ears. For the feet. For the soul.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Following your dreams, and a clean kitchen sink.

Yesterday I went on strike. Michael and I had a small argument in the morning about time management. I swear sometimes it is like bribing a child to get out of bed and get off to school. In fairness to him, we never seem to stop and when he finally falls into our sanctuary of a comfortable bed, he's out cold and down for the count. In the morning, I try and gently wake him up. It goes in stages. It starts out with a gentle shake, the aroma of a hot cup of coffee I've made him. Then, I send the dog up to greet him. I turn the fan off as that is what puts us into our deep sleep. As time goes on, the awakening gets more gruelling. The lights are blinding and switched on. I turn my hairdryer on full blast until he is so annoyed that he finally wakes up. Then, he'll dilly dally around the house. So, I've tried something else as of late. I figured if we could get up and out of the house to walk the dog, this would help wake him. It only made him more sour. We started the day off in an argument and my knee was killing me. I decided to go on strike from cleaning the house yesterday. When he came home from work, he was mortified to find out that he had to work all day, make dinner and clean the mess that he made. I got bored of being silent and gave into his snuggle demands. We made up. And I awoke to the stinky smell of leftover fish left on the counter all night. The kitty I'm sure had a feast while we slept the night away.

I sent him a text today and let him know the strike was over. I told him he was lucky he had a wife who couldn't stand to a) stay mad at her husband and b) leave a dirty house for longer than a day. He called me back and said he was smiling from ear to ear and that he realized how much I did around the house.

I spent four hours this morning cleaning the house from top to bottom. I blasted the new Coldplay album through all of our speakers in the house. When I was smelly and finished, I took a long hot bath and came downstairs to fix myself some lunch. I marvelled at my clean kitchen sink. We all have our own idiosyncrasies, but mine is leftover crumbs or food in the sink. It is not clean unless it is clean and free of junk and stinky dishrags. That is just who I am. A clean freak. Or some may just say, just a freak. Either way, this represents a small bit of my happiness.

When I quit my job, we were both worried, although Michael often commented on the fact that he loved coming home from work to a clean house and a smiling and stress free wife. When I started my business plan with Enterprise Brant, one of the the first things they told the room full of new entrepreneurs is that if you're a perfectionist, you better learn to get over that quickly. Running a business always takes the forefront and things like a social life or a clean house will have to give. Something always has to give, right?

I'm going somewhere with this. Please give me a chance.

I'm not sure if it's the time of year, a closing of a period of time that allows people to reflect on their joys, struggles and triumphs and make such exclamations such as "next year has to be better." I've been recently contacted by so many people.....friends, strangers, clients and fellow photographers giving me props for quitting my job and following my dream. I wish it was that simple. It sounds wonderful when read and written like that. Giving up unhappiness for happiness. Life should be swell, right?

It is, mostly.

This year we had to make some hard decisions. Should I pay my house taxes or buy a new lens that I really needed to rock that dimly lit wedding? I needed to pay my car repairs but didn't have enough money to do so that day. The problem was, I needed my car to get to Toronto, to pick up my deposit from my bride, to pay for my brakes but as you know, you can't buy now, pay later in the service industry. Fortunately my kind hearted mechanic let me go a day to pay him (which may I add, I did so promptly the next morning, coffees in hand and an extremely sincere "thank you".)

I had some meltdowns at weddings, albeit private in the washroom (I would NEVER let a client see me stress) and even writing about it worries me a bit, but it's important for me for future clients to know that no matter what is going on in my personal emotional state, you will get the shots you paid for. Whenever I feel like this, I am reminded (and sometimes reminded gently by my loving husband) that the day is not at all about us and we must put whatever stress, fatigue, hunger and ego aside to make the couple's day go as smoothly as possible. I have learned that I am resourceful. Weddings put you immediately into survival mode. Everything possible that could go wrong usually does and you have to be prepared for ANY situation whether it's lighting, weather or equipment malfunction. You have to play fair with other vendors or photographers and find ways to work together without competing, yet still ensuring you get the shots you want to. At the end of the day, as long as the couple gets the shot, it's a win but let's face it, we all want to be the one to get "the" shots. The shots that last only seconds like the first kiss, the walk down the aisle, the running outside as the newly married couple. Those moments cannot be redone. Note...even though I may be having a meltdown, you will NEVER know it....see? We were testing our lighting here and I was choking back tears because my camera was NOT all worked out. All smiles on your day from Wendy Alana Photography.

I've often thought of quitting photography. I'm a quitter; a runner. I run from fear, failure and frustration. Well, I used to anyways. Now I use those emotions to fuel me. My clients this year have paid minimal fees with the knowledge that I was new and unsure of myself. They only cared about the final images, not how I got there. In a sense, I feel like I've learned to run before I even started crawling. I've met some terrible assholes in this industry but I've also met some extremely talented and helpful people who selflessly build me up when I am feeling down, help me with my technical questions and most of these people I have never even met in person. To you, Rachelle, Silvanna, Jasmine, Scarlett, Natalie, Kathy, Adam, Annie, Janette, Cristina,  Tyson, Melissa, Jill, Jesse, Liz and have each answered my questions, given me guidance and helped me along the way and it will honestly never be forgotten. I hope one day I too can help out if asked. A special thanks to Mary who started out as my wedding planner, turned friend and now turned colleague who pushed me forward in this creative direction. At the risk of sounding like I'm making some sort of award speech, I also have to thank my patient husband, my family and friends and of course clients who have taken a risk on someone new when even I didn't believe in myself. You trusted me to capture the most important moments in your lives. You have no idea and you could never know just how grateful I am for your leap of faith.

After last weekend's wedding and almost a 24 hour day, we were physically and emotionally dead. I booked Michael and I a 90 minute massage. I warned the bubbly masseuse that we probably were going to need quiet time to unwind. She politely obliged and after an hour into my heavenly massage, we got to chatting about life and spirituality. We talked about fear, passion, hatred. She told me that any other voice in my head that was anything but positive is the ego and bullshit. She said it is the inner child who is afraid but it is the adult who can take that fear and do something about it. She asked me about evil people and quipped: who needs love more? Hitler or Mother Teresa? I pondered this for a few days and  decided that our haters need our love the most, because they are the ones who are the saddest inside.

All of this has a point. The point is, we can all live our lives unhappy if we so choose. I truly believe that a chain of events got me to where I am today. A series of unfortunate or should I say misfortunate events followed me during my ten years of living in Toronto; some self inflicted, others by sheer accident. After that, just when I met Michael and I thought things were moving in the right direction,  I went through a terrible harassment case at work. I planned two weddings, we bought a house, I started a new job. My aunt died. I hated my job and the people around me. Michael's Addison's disease was flaring up. We were stressed about money. I was crumbling. My Sunday nights were filled with dread at the thought of going to my beige cubicle. I cried for no reason. I lost sleep over nasty people and their nasty ways. My aunt's death, albeit tragic to our family, was really a wake up call for me and my life and how I chose to live it. We all have a pivotal moment in our life that we can honestly say we remember the day, the moment, the minute everything changed.

I went to my Doctor, I told her about my anxiety, my inability to keep my emotions in check, the fact that I was crying over nothing and everything. The fact that I wanted to crawl into a hole at most social functions. I told her about the things going on in my life. I will never forget what she said to me. She said to me, sometimes, it's not the fact that you're depressed, it's just that you're around assholes. Sometimes, removing yourself from the hostile environment is enough to make you feel better.

I still don't know if it was the pills, quitting my job, divorcing the assholes in my life or a combination of all three but I know that it feels that photography found me. I often muse that if I had found this passion years ago, during my dark and down years, the masterpieces I could have created by pouring my heart into an artistic craft such as writing or photography. I still wonder how I made it out alive.
But here I am. And I'm here to tell you it wasn't easy. It isn't easy. But I'm living the life I was meant to be living.

Sure, I work three times as hard as I ever did at any desk job. Sure, I've had some tantrums and meltdowns that have felt like I was going to have a full blown heart attack. But here I am. And here you are writing me daily about how you don't know me but we have shared some tears together, or I've inspired you to write a blog, or just live your life with the passion you used to have when you had bounce in your step as a young teenager full of hopes and dreams.

I've said it before. Where there is a void in the world, and you have a talent that people respond to...this is what you are meant to do. Whether it's a writer or a teacher or a mother or a friend, put your whole heart into it. Never stop dreaming or finding that passion that brings your soul joy and makes you want to leap out of bed on Monday morning and get to work.  If I did it, you can too. Think back in time to the simple things that made you happy. It's funny how I can see distinct moments in my life that brought me to where I am. I used to sit in my office at work and day dream at beautiful images. I would make folders for pretty photos I would see. I would gravitate to old cameras at rummage sales. I never really made a connection, except now in reverie.

I somehow found a way to do what I love, love what I do and have a clean kitchen sink to boot.

And I'm happy. You can be too.  Life is mostly swell. What's your dream? Stop thinking about it and live it. You won't regret it.



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