When Words Hurt

I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t overly sensitive to what others say. At times it has felt like that were even more true when others were the subject of criticism, but I later on realised that when I am on the receiving end, I bite down hard and try to pretend it doesn’t touch me. When in fact it cuts to the bone. I just take some time to react. Do you know what I mean? Like I don’t want to face it, or that I try to tell myself it doesn’t mean something is wrong with me — it is just this other person’s opinion of me or of what I do… or don’t do.

thoughtful-in-the-field

So many times in the past when I have found out an opinion about me that made me feel inadequate or that I wasn’t doing all that I should or not doing it well enough, I set it upon myself to do better. So much more than I had to. And it always resulted in abandoning my own dreams.

Some of us, it seems, are able to receive criticism and harsh words and they just roll off like water droplets on feathers. Whereas others, like myself, take them to heart and then try to do everything in our power to gain approval and praise. I should say, I used to.

holding-on-and-letting-go

After my breakdown back in 2014 — quitting my education, going down in hours at work, taking out sick-leave, only to resign and move to Sweden — I had had enough of being weak, being easily influenced, having no sense of self. I simply couldn’t handle even a regular day with regular moods. If I saw no smiles, if the tone of someone’s voice was anything other than light or even happy, I would break on the inside and take it as a personal failure. My entire purpose in life was to make sure everyone around me were content, and if they weren’t, it was my fault. I had to do better. I had to do more.

After years living like a bright flame on a candle, I burned down until there was nothing left to draw from.

But then I started working on it. I wanted to be strong and independent. To live a stable life in which words and criticism, others’ moods or bad days that are such a natural part of life wouldn’t unhinge me.

During this time, I came to understand I had, in fact, been strong. Incredibly much so. So much more stronger than I had to be. Over the years I had built up thick steel walls around myself and tamped down hard on those parts of me that had received so much criticism, weren’t appreciated or were misunderstood. But it was hard work, because I have also been surrounded by empathetic and understanding people. This resulted in a lot of switching back and forth. Walking around like a human mood and emotion barometer to get a reading. How do I act around this person? It was exhausting. Sometimes — and especially in my mid-to-later twenties — I couldn’t tell how I needed to be which caused so much confusion and ambivalence. I would start asking. What can I do? What do you need? Just tell me what I need to do.

letting-it-go-now

That a lifetime of this would go away in a couple of years isn’t something I have had any illusions of. I have consciously told myself it will take time and that I must let it. To force a behaviour that doesn’t come spontaneously is what nearly broke me, and the same goes for getting myself to where I want to be. Where I feel I am meant to be. For myself. Within myself. From the core.

So when I heard today that someone thought I should get a real job, those old, well-used cogs from decades of habitual use began to turn. I’ll start looking for a job. I’ll do whatever it takes. I know I can and I will just have to make it work. Somehow I will. I felt the shut-down. It took over my entire body. Like cold, liquid iron crawling over me and through me to protect me from those feelings of inadequacy. But that mechanism failed somehow and I felt so awful. Like all my emotions and my entire past came flooding over me. Yet I was oddly composed. I told Jay when we got back from Rauma, I am going outside to catch this light before the sun sets completely.

sleeping-fields

Instead of breaking on the inside, and instead of raving and justifying myself as I have in the past, my mind took me to these harvested fields and I had clung to that until we got back to our farm. Let it out. Express it. Let it go.

I used to be full of ideas once, and I couldn’t seem to even stop myself from letting that out in various ways. Some time before my breakdown, I lost all of it. I loved to draw, to craft, to write, to sing, to grab on to any creative outlet and just go for it. Until one day I couldn’t. I was empty. A hollow shell. Even if I felt so full of chaos I might crack open. Those times were my own personal Dark Ages. Music didn’t even move or uplift me as it once had.

Slowly — so very slowly — over the last two years, I have felt it returning. At times it has been like a wild thing crossing paths with a human out in the wilderness. It is curious, it wants to find out, but it isn’t entirely certain of this human. Is it dangerous? Is it a threat? But ever so carefully, it might come closer. And when it does, I get to feel and be that flaming passion to create. I love that. With all my heart and soul. Nothing else I have experienced this far in life leaves me so connected, so open and free as when I get to follow the ribbon of creativity.

watching-the-sky

As I lied there in the field, in-between running back and forth to my camera to press the shutter for another set of timed images (I haven’t gotten a new remote shutter yet), I looked up at the clouds. They were the deepest blue, fringed by illuminated light from the sun. The earth beneath me was cold and the air like chilled wings fluttering across the surface of my skin. I felt oddly warm though. A sense of peace came over me, and I forgot about what I had heard, didn’t get up to press the shutter — I stayed there, unmoving, and just watched the movements of the darks and light above me. I knew then that what had upset me so much to begin with is irrelevant. Words of others are theirs. It won’t change me just as I wouldn’t ever go out of my way again to try and change their opinion. It is entirely and fully outside of myself. Just a passing thing of no substance.

It isn’t what others say that matters, it’s what we do, isn’t it? Words are words and so flighty. They may hurt, but all I can do is to continue this path I have chosen. I know it will be difficult for some to see what I see — especially since this kind of work I do isn’t the traditional nine-to-five and doesn’t produce numbers in a bank account yet. Once it bears fruit that can be seen and touched, it will be accepted, I know that, but I can’t chase those results nor do I want to. I would frighten that beautiful and wild thing out into the wilderness again.

But I also know that what I do is good enough, you know? I cannot shake the sense I am on the right path. It is just a matter of time and I have to and want to be in the now to take it in. I will achieve what I have set out to do, but only if I nurture the connection to that which allows me to create. Belief. Trust. In myself and what I do.

running-in-the-fields

It is now Monday, and another week of opportunities has begun. I wish and hope with all my heart that you, too, dear friends and fellow folk believe in yourselves. Trust in that inner voice, even if it is just a whisper. Even whispers gain strength when moving closer.

Have a wonderful week. Much love. ❤

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Trust And Fear

Writing about my time at Härnösand Folk High is actually something I wanted to do while I was still there. I created a blog here on WordPress back in 2015 but nothing more came out of it. Every time I sat down to write my head went empty and got crowded all at the same time. All my intentions were pushed aside by fears and worries over what you would think about me and my words. I also wondered what I could possibly have to offer in this vast sea of already established bloggers and inspirational people. Of course I am still curious about you, but not because I am convinced you will think I am a complete nutcase or that my words are insignificant.

I also held my visions and dreams locked inside. I thought that I couldn’t write about what has not taken shape yet, that I can’t share what I don’t understand before I myself know how it all fits together. To show you the process, my unfinished or unpolished creativity, was unthinkable. It had to be something worth sharing. But do you know what? How can we hope for the sun to reach us if we hide in the shadows? This is something that I learned to acknowledge, a belief I strengthened during my time at Härnösand Folk High. For every time I let go of my words and share my thoughts and dreams, I grow more confident, no matter how strange or abstract it may be. To share who I am and what I do, what I envision, gives it substance. Makes it real. Like the little baby pines I planted a few weeks ago. I took them out of the cardboard box they arrived in and set them down in the earth. There they stand now, among moss and lingonberry bushes, stumps and flowers, beneath the sky to be nurtured and grow into a forest once again.

In the same way I share my words and my photos, and I love doing it. I believe in it. And that is how it is supposed to be, don’t you think? This is how I believe I manage to fight against the nervousness. I took those first steps, got over the threshold, let go of my fears and made space for what I truly feel and think, deep down. What I truly want.

CliffsAndWaves

I believe that to trust others we have to trust ourselves. I had no faith in my own abilities, and what I thought of myself was lower than low. When we trust someone we let them in, we open ourselves up and give them glimpses of our innermost selves. I did not think much of that person I was on the inside, I don’t think I even knew who that was, so to invite others to take part became very difficult.

CloseByCliffs

The experience I want to share with you today took place during an excursion. We created so called Interest Groups of various kinds which met up about once a week (sometimes every two weeks) during the first hour of school on Fridays. The Outdoor Group I joined did many things together–walking in snow shoes, skiing. To start the day like that was so wonderful, and it gave so much energy. In April last year (2016), we went to a place by the ocean just outside of Härnösand called Smitingen. There is a beach, summer cottages, some trails, places to grill, and cliffs. On these cliffs I went head to head with my fears.

CliffsAndOcean

CliffsAndStudent

At first, I just enjoyed the adventure of being surrounded by nature, and these rocks were a comfortable challenge. I breathed deeply of the ocean air, savoured the scent of pine and resin mingling with that tangy breeze sweeping in with the waves. It wasn’t until later, as we reached the cliffs further up ahead, that my insecurities began to take over. And suddenly I stood there on the edge of a gaping crevice. Waves rushed in deep down below in the darkness, and in my eyes it looked like a death wish. At one point I even wondered if I would survive this or die and never see my family back in Finland again.

GlitteringOcean

The very core of a Folk High is acceptance and equality. The individual. To be met as you are, for who you are right then and to be given the time and be offered the tools you need to take the necessary steps. For you. Because you aren’t there for anyone else but yourself. To work through and take on the challenges you need to get to where you want to go. And to do this, we have to work together. Accept and respect each other. This is the heart, and this is the spirit of a Folk High.

ScalingTheCliffs

TeacherAndStudent

Out on those cliffs, with the waves crashing below, I met that deeply rooted fear and lacking trust. And then my teacher crossed over. Just like that. It’s easy, you can do this, he said. Do you trust me? A man jumping from cliff to cliff like he was born to do it. I told him no, but also that I didn’t really trust anyone. I kept looking over my shoulder to my friends, and argued there had to be another way around. Sure. Up. Which was even worse. I was literally petrified. But all throughout my hesitation, no one said a thing to make me feel I was being a coward or ridiculous. Nothing and no one but my own demons shouted at me.

I can’t do this. It won’t work. I’ll never get to the other side. I don’t want to. What a stupid idea to come out here–I’m slowing everyone down. They won’t catch me, they’ll lose their grip–I will lose my grip. I am such a pain in the ass.

My head was filled with impossibilities and my entire body responded according to my intentions, that I just couldn’t do it. I made a few half-hearted attempts but mostly I just clung to the sides and felt like a deer caught in the headlights of a car. My memory goes a little hazy here because once I made the decision to put my trust in the hands of others–my life, my body–I shut down all thought process, silenced the taunts and jabs of my ghostly persecutors, and gave myself over to the task at hand. The thing with fear is that the more you think about it, the worse it gets. Of course I wasn’t able to rationalise quite so well in the moment. But I am here, alive, and writing about it.

HighUpTheCliffs

Once across to the other side, breathless and trembling, I said aloud from now on, every time I think I can’t do something, I will think of this day. And I have. I will never, ever forget. Not only did I build a little trust that day, but I drowned a good dose of my fears and left them there in those freezing waters. And the feeling that came with breaking myself loose, taking the chance, accepting the help of another human being was so powerful. I didn’t reflect much on it in that day or the weeks afterwards. Not until much later. And after I shared this experience in front of the school those couple of weeks ago, my teacher came up to me and gave me a hug. He told me he didn’t know it had had such an impact on me. How could he, though? I didn’t talk about it openly, not like this, not with these words and these reflections. But I am so glad I finally did.

This was only one of the challenges I met and took on during those two years. However, for each step I took in spite of I can’t do this reverberating through my entire being, I put down a stone. Piece by piece I built a foundation of self-confidence and trust in myself, a trust in the world around me. I took note and recorded proof with which to contradict those voices which always managed to convince me I couldn’t do something. They still try, but I pay them much less mind now because I know differently. I am not a failure. Just as long as I keep trying, keep taking those steps.

TheOutdoorGang

HappyUpTop

The teachers at this school had that special ability to find and help us focus on our strengths. For me, this was the key, since I already was so good at obsessing over my weaknesses. With this help I am now working on turning those weaknesses into strengths. After all, throughout my life I had adapted the habit of seeing so much from a negative point of view. Finding faults and ways to sabotage myself by staring myself blind at all that I couldn’t do, which resulted in one opportunity after another passing me by.

These days, instead of focusing on the possible failures and botched outcomes, I remind myself it will be an experience gained. I will be all the richer for having tried and failed than if I had done nothing. Success lies not within dodging failure but within embracing the opportunity and possibility to learn, gain, and grow. And we all start somewhere, don’t we? When we are little and learn to walk we fall on our butts, on our heads, bump into things and meet that fight with gravity and balance again and again. But in spite of the tears, the pain and frustration we never, ever give up. Failure is not a concept we conceive of at that stage in life. Just because we have that awareness now, why should we let that get in the way of passion and want, or make us shy away from dreams and visions?

I know that some days are tougher than others. Defeat hits us harder, our confidence falters, we see more failure than progress. What I have found is to at such times accept it and let it be so. What I have come to believe is that we have seasons within us just like the nature around us. For me, personally, spring is my toughest time. When everything seems to come to a stand-still, spring might even throw in the reverse. Winter returns and paints the world white, and those buds on the trees cannot seem to reach through to the sunlight, nor be coaxed by the birdsong. But the seasons change, every single year the world bursts into colour sooner or later. As do we. So to get to know ourselves and feel those seasons within, be kinder to ourselves, more understanding and have patience is I believe so very important.

I want to thank you so much for reading and joining me through this experience. If you want to share any of your own experiences that have in one way or another had an impact on your life, I would love to hear about it. For now, I wish you all a wonderful Friday, and a happy Midsummer Eve! ❤

WeMadeIt

Be Louder Than Your Fears: An Introduction

Be louder than your fears. You may have noticed I have this in the header section of my blog. I also have it with me these days in the back of my mind. On the days I have to step out on the battlefield to challenge myself it is my banderole. It is the beat of the drum as I stride forward, head held high and knees shaking. Engraved on my heart too because no shield and no armor is of any use if I want to change. I have to let those challenges hit me so I can feel them, receive them, understand them.

seek-to-understand

Fear. I sit here and think about it, how it once ruled my entire life. Fear doesn’t seem to come alone, though. It isn’t just fear; it is a lack of belief in one’s own abilities. Not much sense of self. The strange need for confirmation and praise from others yet never, ever believing it. No matter how many compliments or how much encouragement I got, the voices and words of criticism and degradation I had ever heard in my life won. One phrase I seemed to love to use once, the one phrase that resonated all through me was you are such a fraud. I used to be mindful of and so very careful with every single word I spoke because sooner or later this new cheerleader or supporter of mine would find out how very wrong he or she was about me. One day soon, he or she would see me for what I really was. A fraud. A poor, pathetic excuse for a human being. Harsh? Yes. But that is how I truly saw myself.

challenge-your-fears

Trust. I didn’t trust anyone. But how could I? I was wholly convinced anyone and everyone I ever came across would betray me. And I never even gave them a chance to prove me wrong. I was always right. It was easier that way–better that way. At least I wouldn’t be disappointed. Which, funnily, I always ended up feeling anyway.

trust-in-yourself

Hope. The crushing weight of hope lost. Yet it never died. Deep down, some part of me never, ever gave up hope. Hope is an odd thing, because no matter how hopeless things seemed, how hopeless I felt–hope was the glowing ember that always ignited and kept me going. I actually used to hate that feeling before things started to turn. With that sense of self-irony I would tell myself oh, what the hell, I love failure and rejection anyway, so why not give it another try? What could be more fun than being totally crushed? The more the merrier! I also used to think it was my stubbornness, sometimes I still might. I remember comparing that sense of keep going as a cogwheel mechanism deep, deep down that forged ahead on the absolutely worst days while I was being dragged behind on a line. I was on the ground, got pulled across gravel and dust and through muddy swamps. It never, ever stopped.

BauerInspired_ForestCreature
I am sharing this image in honour of some personal inspirations of hope: great Swedish illustrators from times past, like Elsa Beskow and John Bauer, and the accompanying stories; my grandmothers who enriched my childhood with the enchanting fairy and folk tales of old; and for Jonna Jinton who embodies hope and creates art with soul, showing us magic and dreams truly can be the stuff of our world.

So how did it all change? How did I turn it around? These are questions I have asked myself a lot. During my last weeks at Härnösand Folk High, I spent so much time trying to go through my past few years to pin point the pivotal moment. I couldn’t. I still can’t. And, I think, that is because that magical moment doesn’t exist. Rather, the magic lies within a formula of many different moments. A sequence of moments that lead me through the haze until the day I realised I could see clearer. I think of it as the mist on a cool morning after a previously hot, baking day. How do you define the single moment in which it dissipates? I didn’t even know the mist was lifting, and so I didn’t think to keep an eye on the process. Until I noticed I could see across the distance.

This is where my journals have become so important. And they confirm my belief that it is a formula. A series of moments–motions–that lead to insight. It is all a process, and I take it all–one day at a time. One step at a time.

one-step-at-a-time

I have already mentioned I went back to Sweden a couple of weeks ago to accept a stipend. The gesture moved me so deeply, like a confirmation of all the challenges I have met, all the obstacles I have overcome in the past few years. After receiving the message about the stipend, I thought that now I want to write about this. I had wanted and meant to for quite some time, but this gave me that last push. It also inspired me to write this and the next post in Swedish, too. Since about the age of eighteen it feels like I have travelled all over this planet, and because of that I seem to have become more comfortable with English than my own mother tongue. But at the Folk High I received so much encouragement and support writing in Swedish that I wanted to do it also as a gesture of how grateful I am. And this is exactly what Härnösand Folk High is about–an atmosphere of acceptance and equality. Not even always through spoken words. It is more like walking into open arms and being embraced. You are surrounded by all that which is needed for you to find your own inner voice and to strengthen it.

take-the-chance

I wrote these posts before I left for Sweden, and I had intended on posting them back then, minus the part of me receiving a stipend, since I was to keep it secret until that last day of school and the ceremony. I never did, though. And then I thought I would post it after, which would give me a chance to add some photos from the school. But I forgot. I took a few photos at the very start but then I got lost in the joy of being among all those people again, meeting my teachers and fellow students who still had a semester or another year left. I did however step up in front of the entire school to share the very moment I will share here, too, in the next post. One of many, many moments I got to experience during my time at Härnösand Folk High. One of those many opportunities I was given and accepted to challenge my fears–be louder than my fears.

So with some photos from that day, and a few more words, I will in the next post tell you about a day I got to challenge both my fear of heights and my fear of trusting others. Meanwhile, I would love to hear about any experience or challenge you have had or met which has had an impact on your life. After my time at Härnösand Folk High my belief is stronger than ever that we can learn so much from each other. Even from that which may seem small to us. Some of us go through life and apply these valuable lessons we have picked up and learned along our journeys even without thinking much about it, but to someone else it could be quite the inspiration. ❤

 

Focusing Through A Storm

This week’s photo challenge couldn’t have come at a better time. I have mentioned before how much I love these challenges because of how they light up my brain and make ideas whoosh on in. Yesterday I only got one idea, but sometimes that is all it takes. One spark. One shot. Every day life is full of let-downs but also opportunities, and what matters is which one you latch on to. The choices you make. The chances you take. We have to find and nurture that one glowing ember and keep on moving toward our goals, toward our dreams. Do it in spite of how everything else seems to be working against you.

 

DanceToTheSunset

Yesterday I felt like I stepped out onto a battlefield and into the wild storm of past ghosts and spectral voices with only a fragile whisper to challenge them, and I want to tell you about it. In honour of today’s post, I have left all photos unedited, except for the very last one in this post.

Two nights ago at sunset the light was so incredibly gorgeous. I shouted out to Jay and Lilli: Shoes on, let’s go, we’re going outside to jump around like crazy in the sunset! And we did. Except Jay kind of just stood there, while Lilli, Loke and I ran around like we had ants in our pants.

I had my camera set up and took so many photos. When I got inside, though, and uploaded them I wanted to cry. Noise noise noise. Grainy colours. That was all I could focus on.

DanceToTheSunset_Cropped

The lens I shoot with the most is the one that came with my camera, an EFS 18-55 mm–a rather basic lens. I was in to Rauma some time ago to inquire about wide angle lenses, which I have read are great for landscape photography. The lady in the shop confirmed this, let me try one, and told me this little 18-55 mm I have definitely won’t do the job.

This lens has been a trusty companion throughout all these years, though, and I haven’t ever been disappointed. Not until the night I uploaded those sunset photos. All of yesterday I was so bummed out about it. It has to be the lens, I said to Jay. I am doing everything right. I am following the instructions and I am getting the hang of ISO, aperture, shutter speed, and the light metering. It has to be the lens. Right?

Is it? Maybe I am just not good enough.

Around midnight, when the sun had climbed behind the horizon, the mist arrived. Yes! Woohoo! I took my macro lens, knowing it certainly isn’t ideal for landscape, and went outside for another round. I spent most of that time staring at a spider web to figure out how to capture it. Only the faintest breeze danced along with the mist, and while I couldn’t feel it, the spider web swaying ever so slightly was proof enough.

WebInTheMist

PowerlinesInTheMist
I chose to focus on these shots littered with dust speckles.

BirchInMist

I told Jay: That’s it. I’m done. Nothing good comes out of this. I didn’t even bother trying to remove the speckles because they are absolutely everywhere.

I didn’t let it go, though. Figuring out what the problem was so I could fix it compelled me to keep trying. I sat down yesterday to scour my photography book that I ordered a few weeks ago. Apparently, the sharpest and most vivid-coloured images are created at between f8 and f11. Because of the shape of the lenses. And I had used f22 as we danced to the sunset. So yesterday evening I forced myself to give it another try.

My heart really wasn’t in it but, as always, energy filled every fiber of my body once the trees gathered around.

CareToDance
Care to dance?

DanceWithATree

Something funny happened. There I was, running up and down our little forest road, dancing and jumping and curtseying in front of a tree, asking for a dance, and out of nowhere a neighbour came walking toward me with their dog. Good evening! You get to be in my photo shoot, I said. He laughed, and then I started talking to the dog. I was so shocked that I just kept babbling, and I can’t remember what I said or much of what he said. I do remember that their dog is about to have puppies and is going away for several weeks.

Besides achieving to be bitten by mosquitoes about fifty times and getting actual ants up my skirt, I felt nothing came out of that photo shoot. I couldn’t see anything else but what I was already looking for. Faults. I felt like I was met by failure at every turn.

But then an e-mail arrived–The Daily Post’s Weekly Photo Challenge. Focus, it told me, and I read the post. All my woes were pushed aside as I got the idea to log in to my iCloud and look through my older photos, from almost two years ago.

RamvikOldSawMill
Ramvik’s old saw mill, about 30 kilometers from Härnösand, Sweden. It shut down in the 1950’s, or thereabouts. Autumn 2015.
MirroredLakeCopse
On my way to school one morning, I had to stop to take photos. Late autumn 2015.
MistAndFrost
This mist was enchanting.
MistyMountains
I stayed there for a long while, entranced by the spectacular play of light and colour across a frosty morning landscape.
SunriseFog
The mist got so thick I could hardly see as I drove on. But then the sun came through and I had to stop. Right in the middle of the road. Luckily, no other cars came. And all these photos were shot with my 18-55 mm lens.
BlurryBubbas
Loke isn’t in focus, but I love this shot. Shot with my Tamron 90mm macro lens.
OutOfFocusBubbas
Also with the Tamron macro lens.

 

 

One of the most important things I have learned so far on my journey has been to get to know and understand myself. One big part of me is my tendency to strive for perfection. It is a tough one, but I am trying to learn to see and use it as a great tool and asset instead of an obstacle. Weaving it together with my creativity and artistic sides when I also have a tendency to obsess, not let things go and go with the flow, however, is probably one of my biggest challenges. This is getting to the heart of it, this is where I break it or make it.

So far I have shared so many photos with you, majority taken with that 18-55 mm lens. Close-ups or landscapes. In all kinds of light and settings. So why did I suddenly lose my head over those sunset photos? Why could I not see how great they are? Well, I engaged the old me, focused on the mistakes, the faults, the failures. I didn’t see the whole picture, I didn’t remember I am on a journey. I expected too much of myself, too soon. In turn I missed out on all the things I did achieve. That I kept going in spite of feeling failure all the way down into my frozen toes. I didn’t give up–in spite of everything, I kept grabbing at opportunities.

Sometimes, even when we are convinced we are getting nowhere, deeper processes are at work. We need to trust in those, let go and cut ourselves some slack. I know it can seem impossible at times, but I dare to promise you that even when you cannot feel the wind it is there. Step back, look for signs. They are all around you, and within. And keep going, no matter what. You will get there.

MakeAWish
Arctic Starflower / Skogsstjärna / These are among the simplest yet most beautiful flowers I know.

 

A Challenge And Creative Exposure

Good morning, everyone! Once again I am here in the early hours of the morning with my eyes wide open. These summer nights really do mess up the inner clock, and it’s the same thing every year. Vibrant days, bright nights. It is like an endless kaleidoscope of shifting colours and lights. Mornings are like a dreamy haze, but I keep waiting for the mist which has yet to grace us with its mystical presence. The days are covered in a white film which leaves you blind as you step back inside, if only for a few seconds. And the evenings–these evenings simply glow.

Today I decided to practice getting more comfortable in front of the camera. I am too aware of that it’s there and end up thinking too much of what I want it to look like when I should just let go and feel. Sometimes that shows in my photos, and other times not. So out of the two hundred photos I took of myself today I have selected only a few.

BlackAndWhite

This isn’t actually so different from how nervous I was before I had to get up and do a presentation in front of the class back in school. I remember one of my teachers from Härnösand Folk High. Two other classmates and I had been on a seminar in Stockholm, and when we got back we were supposed to talk about our trip and the seminar in front of the class. I told my teacher about how I kept freaking out, I had no idea what to say, and I felt physically ill. He gave me some incredible advice that day which I have not forgotten since. He said (not in these exact words, perhaps): No one but you know what you are going to say, so no one will know if you mess up. And no one else but you can speak for you and how you perceive things.

MellowColours

In the end it all came down to being myself–daring to be myself. Not what I imagined was expected of me, not what I thought others wanted to hear. Just me and my words and my own experiences. Of course, afterwards I used to obsess excessively over what I had said and how that might have come across. Did I offend anyone? Did I say something that might have sounded odd or could have been perceived badly? Did I say too little? Too much? Did I sound awkward? Admittedly, that little voice of insecurity still pops up at times. These days, however, I am better equipped to let that voice be, to challenge its convictions. Also, I remind myself that we are billions of people on this planet–an unimaginably big place vibrant with cultures and beliefs, perceptions and opinions. We will always run into those who have lived very different lives than us, that are shaped by their own experiences and I believe more or less each and every one of us have our own truth. We are all on a journey to explore that truth. I see it the way I look at light and shadows falling across a rock on the ground. If I stand where the light shines, I only see that angle. I know a shadow falls behind the rock, but unless I move to look I cannot possibly know what is in the shade. And every movement around that rock will give me a different view. If I took a photo for every step it would show something new.

Sepia-ish

I believe it is just as simple with people. Simple, but I won’t claim it’s easy, because it’s not. I have chosen, though, to in the best of my ability always strive for acceptance of all these truths, whether I know them or understand them or don’t. And to remember I gain nothing from getting anxious or worried about what others may or may not think. And most importantly, different does not equal wrong, it is not its synonym. Different is just different.

CozyDreamyGlow

All throughout my time at Härnösand Folk High I challenged that voice–the many different voices of old perceptions, narrowed and bound. I stretched my limits. Sometimes I tried too hard, went too fast and was too eager when I noticed what a kick it was to break free. That, yes, I can do this. But I also had moments when I wanted to pull back into my safe cocoon. I did, too–in conjunction with that presentation of the seminar I was suffering from anemia, so it was easy to accept a sickness leave. I was gone from school for three weeks. I had taken those firsts steps, though, and suddenly sitting alone in my apartment and watching Netflix didn’t give me the escape I thought I had longed for, and I kept berating myself. I, who was diagnosed with social phobia, wanted to be back among my new classmates and teachers, even if I didn’t really know any of them yet. As I have come to wonder now later on is that perhaps I didn’t ever have a phobia, rather I was constantly running on empty by not knowing how to listen to my own needs. I need my own time, I know this now, but what I was missing, what I didn’t understand, was the balance between the two. What I didn’t know how to was to say no, to say I would rather sit at home today and read or write or whatever else I enjoyed doing on my own.

SomeKindOfVibrance

So. I am now going to challenge myself in front of my own camera. For a while now I have had some ideas for photo art projects. They came to me when I shot a severely underexposed photo, and while trying to fix it in Lightroom it ended up looking more like a painting than a photograph. It gave me the same feeling as the illustrations in the children’s books my grandmother used to have. Artists such as John Bauer and Elsa Beskow. Their pictures are so special. So magical. So imaginative and creative–the way only children’s stories and fairy tales can be. My grandmother also passed away in December last year which hit me incredibly hard, so I kind of want to do it partly to celebrate and honour all the ways she enriched my childhood. I miss her so much my heart can barely take it when I think too long about it.

WarmAndRosy

Another part is that I feel so immensely inspired and encouraged to keep following this endeavour by a wonderful Swedish artist, blogger and photographer who, amazingly, actually did an interpretation of a John Bauer illustration some years ago. I remember the first time I saw it, about two years ago now–my jaw dropped. I think I wrote a comment on how it made me think of this particular John Bauer picture–and later on I read that she, too, loves his art. And the story behind that image she created is just mindblowing. I can’t find words to describe how I felt. It transcends what I accept as reality–it is the kind of experience that makes you truly wonder how this universe works beyond what science can explain. Her name is Jonna Jinton, and if you haven’t already heard of her then I cannot urge you enough to visit her blog and have a look at her art.

It is one thing to do a yoga-ballet pose on top of a mountain, facing away from the camera, but another to convey a feeling that matches the visions I have for the art I want to create. It will require emotion and immersion, dedication and battling a lot of frustration and failures as I go along, I am sure. I have been afraid to do this, and I have thought that I should get better at photography first, better at editing and learn more about Photoshop before I even share my ideas. But earlier today as I wrote in my journal, I asked myself isn’t the process the very thing I wanted to share? The very reason I started the blog was because I figured out that waiting for the right time results in nothing but waiting.

So, once gain I will say that here I am, then. I am just going to go for it. And, as always, thank you so much for reading. It really means so much to me. ❤

 

Nature’s Order

It’s funny how these photo challenges trigger an explosion of ideas in my head. What is even more strange is that sometimes this overload of ideas I get–which happens quite often, to be honest with you, with or without a prompt or a challenge–creates what I am going to call The Bottleneck Effect. This time especially. Suddenly all I drew were blanks. Nothing came to me.

A couple of nights ago, when I had spent a lot of time editing photos, and went to refill my cup with coffee, I looked out the window and the sky burned pink. No. More like burning peaches and oranges. The clouds reflecting the sunset were a nice contrast of lilac and blue, and the clouds further away looked like blushing wisps. I ran outside with my camera and took a ton of different photos but in editing I just got frustrated. So much noise and generally just poor quality. Too much ISO? Too little? Shutter speed wrong? Or just not the right aperture for this time of the day. The light meter or what it is called showed me it was the correct exposure, so who knows? Safe to say, I wasn’t happy with it, but that is the learning experience. Some photos blow me away, and others are just meh. It just means I have more to learn.

BlushingWhisps
Just… Meh.

On my way back inside I walked past an ocean of Dandelion blowballs nestling on the side of the path up to the silo. I wondered what that sunset would look like through one of them but couldn’t get my tripod set up low enough to hold the camera still for me. On the other side of the path with a better angle stood one lone Dandelion blowball. And some of the seeds had already taken flight with the wind. But I still wanted that shot, so I set up the camera and tilted it on its side. I couldn’t find the focus, nor could the camera, so I took a few different shots and went back inside. By then I was exhausted and went to bed. The next morning I had forgotten about it.

As I write, it’s past 3 a.m. here in Finland and I just haven’t been able to sleep, even if I am so tired after spending a large portion of the day outside. I washed and oiled our cultivator so it could go into storage until autumn, and while doing it I took almost three hundred photos. It was so much fun, though. My partner thinks I am strange. The dirtier a job gets the happier I look. But, hey, have you operated pressure washer? It is fun, right? And that water spraying up into the air looks amazing.

So while I sat here going through photos I stumbled over that Dandelion blowball and looking at it I saw its charm, its character. Nature’s own order of things. That is what these blowballs are for–to be blown away, carried with the wind to create more Dandelions. And that was the Weekly Photo Challenge. Order. Or disorder. Mess. Not quite complete. Yet just as it should be and beautiful all the same. I love how nature creates these moments of reflection and contemplation. Without even saying a word. It reaches into my soul and I connect to some deeper part of myself. I find balance. Even when I might feel I am in complete chaos, nature helps me find my way back on solid ground.

I will try to get some sleep now. Lilli is at the summer cottage with her grandfather so I can make up for these hours with a sleep-in. I wish you all a good night. See you soon! ❤

Blowball