I was sitting around a table last week with a group of really amazing women, all of whom had started working for themselves in some capacity or another. Each of us was taking a moment to share about what was present for us, and what we were “bringing to the table” that night.
Listening to these women, I heard varying degrees of a feeling that I just wasn’t dialed into in that moment: energized. Some spoke about their business and all they were doing with a sense of deep passion, while others noted that they were surrendering to a big change, and they found beauty in that surrender. There was a pulse of energy within each of them, shining.
Meanwhile, I was simply…tired.
I wasn’t tired in a defeated way. I was actually content to be sitting there, sipping a glass of wine and hearing their stories. I liked being part of connection without having to perform–but then it was my turn to speak about where I was at, what I was doing, why I was coming to that table, and I felt afraid, because now a bunch of other people had expressed energy, and I was feeling…tired.
Part of me wanted to go on default, and dive into an elevator pitch. How much simpler that would be–to simply say that there are new and exciting things on the horizon for me, transitions I’m excited about, and leave it at that. It would all be true. At the same time that I was tired, I also knew that I did have excitement about what’s upcoming for me. I’m working on a new e-program, one that rivals the Courageous Living Guide in scope, and I could’ve chatted that up.
I just didn’t want to, though. I simply wanted to be where I was at: tired. And I felt tapped into this little inner kid voice in myself that wanted to ask the group, “Is it okay if I’m just tired, right now? Will I still be enough?”
Will it be okay with you?–will I still be included in this group?–will it be enough if I’m…Tired of talking business. Tired of putting a spin of excitement on something when I’m tired. Tired of the internet, and tired of launching and tired of seeing anyone else’s launch. Tired of dissecting the “journey” of working for yourself.
It wasn’t just a fear of fitting in that arose. It was also a fear of being misunderstood around what I was really thinking, because the truth is that alongside being tired, there’s this:
I am learning that it is absolutely possible to be both tired of talking business, and yet wildly excited about it if the right mojo gets to be flowing. Tired of putting a spin of excitement on something and yet seeing that it can incredibly enlivening to do that. Tired of the internet, and then two clicks later, inspired by what it has to offer. Tired of launching, and then connected to me because I’m stepping into creating something from my own truth and seeing it resonate with others–what can be better than that? Tired of dissecting the “journey” of working for myself and simultaneously eager to share it, and share stories, and talk all night about what this is like.
Sometimes in my own life I hesitate to share my rough edges with people, not because I’m afraid that I’ll be met with shame or rejection, but because I find it difficult to have the experience of not being fully seen and witnessed.
I know that people probably won’t shame me for being where I’m at, but I don’t always know that people will fully see me, seeing the beautiful contradiction of “here’s where my rough edges are” sitting right alongside “there’s nothing wrong with me that needs fixing.” It’s probably one more thing that we can blame on Hollywood–compartmentalizing people, until they are either this or that, evil or heroic, in love or not, sad or happy, tired or energized.
It’s something a lot of Coaches struggle with, too–the projections that Coaches live life without a shadow because we choose to help others stand in the magnificence of their own light; the accusations that the Coach is a fraud if they fail to live up to their own vision of what they want their life to be.
You already know what I did at this gathering, don’t you? I practiced courage.
Feeling the fear (I was definitely present to it);
diving in anyway (I did divulge both that I was tired, things are in flux, and my desire to be fully seen for all that I am);
transforming (having done this, I feel enough freedom about it to own my truth to thousands of people on the internet).
It takes so much more energy to deny where we’re at than it does to simply embrace it–and I’m particularly saying this to all of you entrepreneurs out there, because there can be such an enormous pressure to keep things upbeat and perky.
Upbeat and perky has richness to it; I always appreciate people who offer this gift to me. At the same time, tired and taking a break is also its own richness. And really, just being wherever we are, BEing in our lives fully, is all the richness we’ll ever need.
I think Darrah Parker is the bee’s knees. She is the cat’s pajamas. She is a good egg.
We originally connected over becoming entrepreneurs and making the transition to working for ourselves. I love popping into her blog and seeing how she continues to grow what she does, most notably with her Slice of Life Project e-course, which is going to be starting up again soon (I’m psyched that I’ll be participating–it has been so long since I’ve had any joy time with my camera!).
I just know you’ll see her goodness come through in these interview questions.
1.) First, tell us a bit about who you are and what you do.
I’m a photographer and beauty seeker. I like to say that I make people feel good for a living. I specialize in what I call “Slice of Life” photography, focusing my camera on the everyday details of life and what makes people unique. I also teach an online photography workshop called the Slice of Life Project, in which I encourage people to seek out the beauty in their own lives, even when it’s buried beneath piles of laundry, too many kids’ toys or dirty dishes. The class is for people with any amount of photography experience with any kind of camera and is a total blast! I live in Seattle with my sweet hubby, our cat Gilly, and am expecting my first child this fall.
I’ve noticed that the more people trust their own instincts and photograph what delights them, the more confidence they gain in their photography skills. But really this is a life lesson, isn’t it? Besides it being a photography class, the Slice of Life Project provides a gateway for exploring gratitude and embracing what makes your life unique. My favorite moments in the class come when people discover things they never noticed about their own lives – like when they say, “I never noticed the way the light comes through my windows in the afternoon.” or “I never noticed the pretty tree on my walk home.” I love that photography can help people really see and appreciate their lives.
3.) How have you grown, shifted, or changed since starting the Slice of Life project?
In so many ways. By seeing the world through other people’s eyes and what matters most to them, I always learn something about myself. People from all over the world have participated in the class. I’m always amazed that as unique each of our lives are, we share common experiences. Despite our different ages and cultures, we have so much in common. We share similar joys and sorrows. We all have hopes and dreams and fears. And we all have to eat, sleep, breathe, and do the laundry. I don’t know why, but there is so much comfort in that realization.
4.) What’s one of the challenges that you’ve faced since working for yourself as a freelance photographer, and how have you met that challenge?
One of the biggest challenges of working for myself has been accepting that I can’t do it all. I have so many ideas for projects, but as soon as there are too many things on my plate, my world feels out of control. I’m a one-woman show. Not only am I a photographer, I’m also a marketer, an accountant, an administrative assistant, a blogger, and sometimes my own cheerleader. This means that I have had to focus on only one or two things at a time, concentrating on what I’m best at and what I enjoy the most. In the end, coping with this challenge has been a huge asset. I don’t spread myself too thin and am able to give more of my attention to my clients and photography students.
5.) I see that so much of your work is about making the ordinary, extraordinary, simply because of a willingness to get present with your subject. Do you view photography as a kind of meditation or stillness practice? If so, how so?
I absolutely view photography as a meditation practice. The simple act of lifting my camera and acknowledging what is happening right before my eyes has a way of slowing me down and appreciating the simple things in life. It’s easy to get caught up in day-to-day obligations and to-do lists, but photography has a way of instantly bringing us to the present moment and helping us to acknowledge the extraordinary in the ordinary.
6.) Where can people go to find out more information about the Slice of Life Project?
All of the info can be found at http://www.darrahparker.com/slice-of-life-project. The next session starts July 11!
BIO: Darrah Parker is a Seattle-based portrait and family photographer and creator of the Slice of Life Project, a gratitude and photography e-course for anyone with a camera. Armed with her camera and her curiosity, she is on a constant search for the joy in everyday life, beauty in the over-looked and under-appreciated, and the magic in simple moments. She shares her photography on her website and thoughts on living a creative life on her blog.
“When you have done all that you can do, give it up to the part of yourself that is divine.” –Oprah Winfrey
You want something to happen.
You really, really, really want it.
You want it more than you’ve ever wanted anything, before. Perhaps you’ve worked harder than anyone else you know, or perhaps you know more, or you deserve it more because you’ve had the shittiest year ever and it’s time for life to cut you a break.
Then someone says to you, “Surrender,” or “Accept,” or “Let go,” and perhaps you think: “Ah, yes. I need to do that. I will start working on that.”
But you can’t force the release.
(This is the bad news).
If reading those words causes your hopes to fall a bit, or perhaps gets you a bit pissed, I’m right there with you. When I’m “in it,” it really pisses me off, too. It feels unfair and wrong that someone such as you or me or everyone else we’re friends with should be intelligent and loveable and hard-working, with access to resources or full of ideas–and yet, we can’t seem to get unstuck from this one bit of stuckness that’s showing up in the form of really, really wanting something and suffering in that attachment.
We can “live in a space of letting go.” I learned this lesson when, for about a year, I attended weekly Al-anon meetings. Again and again, people came and shared their stories of how they were living with alcoholics. They came into the first few meetings so pissed off and tired and worn out. Often in the initial meetings they would introduce themselves and share that they had come because they wanted more ideas for how to “deal with” the alcoholics in their lives, perhaps “get them to stop drinking.” Over time, they’d slowly realize what all of us regular attendees were working on–we were powerless to control anyone else’s behavior.
Nope. The release cannot be forced. Forcing is clenching, not releasing.
So what tends to come next when someone realizes they’re not releasing? Fretting. Stewing. Why am I not releasing?
Probably because you’re fretting and stewing. More to the point, you’re fretting and stewing rather than being in your process, which would involve even being open and accepting and curious and observant of the fretting and stewing.
And even more to the point? You’re not releasing because you haven’t yet had the gift of whatever is coming. As far as I can tell, we release when:
a.) We’ve already shifted something internally and thus no longer need a tightly-clenched fist,
b.) We’re going to see lessons/transformation, as part of the process of releasing,
And often, there’s c.) Both are true; both will happen.
“Live in a space of letting go.” –Oprah
A release comes over you. I experience it as a wave of energy that washes through me, and once it does, I just “know” that I’ve let go and surrendered.
I always loved those weeks when someone who had been attending Al-Anon for awhile weeks would say to the group, “I realized that if he’s going to drink, I have to just let him. I can’t make him stop.”
We’d all look at that person, perhaps some man or woman or teenager who’d been grappling with the fear and sadness that accompanies living with an alcoholic, and I’d sense that we could all feel it–a little ray of light had just entered through a crack in that person’s life, and they were going to use that light to see themselves the whole way through.
That little bit of surrender–you can’t force the release, you can only keep working on you and keep “giving it up to the part of yourself that is divine.”
But when it happens? When that opening happens? It’s everything.