Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Chasing Dreams

Hello!! (Hellloooo Hellllooooo Hellllooooo...)

If I'm not mistaken that's the very understandable sound of distant echoes reverberating back to my woefully abandoned blog in the cyber world. *Hides head in hands..* 

In case there's anyone still out there though......

I promise to try to explain this year of silence and you can bet I have big things to talk about and lots of thoughts in my brain to get out, but first - - - Ella.

She had an absolutely amazing year of Kindergarten. We were blessed with the best teacher we could have ever hoped for, another year with her amazing and dedicated aide, an entire school system that works with her to help her be her best, and friends who love and accept her for who she is. We couldn't ask for more!! She has become so much more independent.. She rides the bus in the mornings to school, she eats lunch without assistance, uses the bathroom mostly by herself (wish she would do that at home..). She writes her name (and other words), reads short stories, gives almost every kid in the hallway high fives on her way to breakfast, and talks up a storm.. I love when we have to tell her to be quiet!! She typically answers yes to almost every question you ask her "Did you ride a hippopotamus today?" "Uh huh.." but her last report card came home saying that lately she hasn't been wanting to read so when her teacher asks her to, she started replying "No thank you."Ha! At least she's polite...

That being said.. there are some things we struggle with. Of course. There are still occasional potty accidents, communication failures, discipline issues, etc. We do our best with all those, but one particular issue has had me stumped. Ella seems to have a really hard time with decisions. We've practiced a bit of "Love and Logic" parenting through the years which, if you don't know about it, involves giving your kid lots of choices so she feels in control of what's going on around her. It's always worked pretty well with our other kids, but for some reason it backfires dramatically with Ella. When we try to give her a simple choice such as "Would you like to wear the pink coat or the purple coat?", in theory it should help her feel more in control of her world by choosing something in it. Instead it sends her into a complete tailspin/meltdown. She will choose the pink coat, start to put in on, then say "No, no, no.. purple" to which we will switch to the purple, get it all the way on when she suddenly decides she actually does want pink so starts screaming and ripping her coat off to get to the pink one, only to throw herself on the purple coat, screaming and crying for what could be minutes to hours. I am not even exaggerating. This happens nearly every. time. I try to let her make a choice. It doesn't even matter if I don't let her change her choice and make her stick with the original one. So oftentimes I make the choices for her and move on with our day. It seems like she's afraid to make her own choices, to make a decision, to stand up for what she really wants.

This also happens when we try to encourage her to be independent. For example.. most days she is perfectly capable of dressing herself. But will she? Most days not. We're working on it. She is also technically able to walk to the car on her own. Often times we carry her. It is physically possible for her to put her coat on. But sometimes she refuses. And often it's because she seems scared. She doesn't want to try something new, or even something old, because she's afraid. Afraid to fail. Most kids go through a very determined, independent stage where they want to do everything themselves and try and try and try again. She's starting to do that. But she would often rather have us do it for her than try herself and not succeed.

It can be frustrating and aggravating and makes me feel so so helpless.

Like I said - it's like she's scared.. Maybe of making the wrong decision? Of not being perfect.?Of not making the "right" choice? Of not pleasing everyone? Of going against the grain? Of failing? Of being faced with regret?

Or maybe that's me.. (Upon further inspection my daughter and I might have a lot in common..)

Stay with me..

These situations have led me to give a lot of thought lately to fear. And regrets. What things do I regret doing in my life? Or more importantly.. what sort of things do I regret NOT doing in life? And what was holding me back? Was it fear?

As these years keep passing by it's becoming more and more obvious that our time here, our lives, are so very short. We have one shot at making this one life we have to live the best we can. I'm finding that my biggest regrets aren't things that I've done, but things I haven't done. Sure.. I mean there's that belly button ring that sounded like a really hot idea in high school that doesn't quite have the same look after 5 c-sections, but it's not like I'm planning on wearing a bikini anytime soon anyways.. No, actually the biggest regrets I have are things I've dreamed of doing, but then was too scared to take the plunge. Things I knew I wanted in my heart, but decided the risks were too risky. Things I wasn't strong enough to fight for.

Is that part of what Ella's feeling?

Is she scared of doing something she knows she wants? Too hesitant to make a choice that might be "wrong"?

I've started a new venture this year. Which now helps explain my absence from the blog..

Photography. It's something I've always loved - I practically minored in it in college. Over the years I've been passionate about taking photos of my own children, but I always said I never wanted to turn it into a business. I told people I didn't want to work all those nights and weekends. That I didn't want to run my own business. I told people I'd rather just take pictures of my own kids. But in reality? Was that really the whole reason I didn't want to pursue it? Or was I scared?

Of making the wrong decision. 
Of not being perfect. 
Of not making the "right" choice. 
Of not pleasing everyone.
Of going against the grain. 
Of failing. 
Of being faced with regret. 

One of my very earliest memories is of setting up an "art gallery" of my masterpiece drawings in my childhood living room and demanding sweetly asking my mom come buy them from me. I only charged 10 cents a piece and to this day I still can't believe she didn't buy the whole studio because that is obviously a steal..

Anyways.. my point is. Maybe I always have had this artistic dream. Simmering. Waiting. Yearning to get out. But constantly being pushed under the surface because of my fears. My fears of not being perfect. Of failure. Of disappointing someone. In fact, I know I have always had this dream. My answer every year as a child of 'What do you want to be when you grow up?' was always always "artist." Except when I thought that wasn't the "right" answer. There were years that I didn't think an 'artist' was an actual profession. So I would tell people I wanted to be a teacher even though there was not a single ounce of me that wanted to be a teacher. I just thought that was the "right" thing to say. I mean.. it was safe at least. My mom was a teacher, two of my sisters are teachers. Both my grandparents were teachers. I assumed that must be what I 'should' be too.

But I'm learning something.

I don't want to live by what other people think I "should" do. Or what I think other people think I should do. Does that make sense? I don't ever want to regret not chasing my dreams. I don't want to get to the end of my life and look back, wondering how things could have been. I don't want to wonder "what if?" I want to KNOW that I lived this life to the fullest. That I didn't hold back because of fear. That I took risks. That I succeeded. That I failed. That I learned. That I tried. That I took the time to find me.

This past year has been hard. I don't like making mistakes. read: perfectionist. I seem to think things that aren't 'right' are bad See: blogs from the past 6 years. I would love to jump into this photography business by taking only award-winning, Pinterest worthy photos on every frame of my camera and having the best equipment money (that I don't have) can buy. Unfortunately for me that's not the way things go. I have spent the last year making mistakes. Trying and failing. Dusting myself off. Getting back up and trying again. Learning and growing and stretching and soaring. I'm planning on looking back on this time as the "Years of Mistakes". Which will obviously be in direct contrast to the previous 30-something years of no mistakes.. (eye roll).

Thankfully though, I have a pretty good mentor. Someone who has to try extra hard at every single thing she does. Someone who gets up and faces the day with determination. Someone who we are encouraging to try and fail and try and try again. Someone who has taught me that sometimes the things you think are the biggest mistakes and are certainly going to ruin your life can actually become the most amazing pieces of art.

I have really big dreams. Lots of plans for my photography business. I can honestly say I've never stuck with a 'project' of mine with this much passion for this long. Example: the 'collect every door and window in the tri-state area so I can build things out of them and then... ehhhhh lets try something else.' Our barn is still full. And if you offer me an old palette to this day.. I'll still take it. The past few years have been filled with me starting projects, diving head in, then fizzling out when I can't do it perfect. Becoming a jack of all trades, yet not having the determination to become a master at any one. When things got tough, instead of digging deep, I just shrugged my shoulders and moved on. I thought maybe there was something wrong with me.. maybe I lacked the overall drive to really be good at anything. But I'm realizing something else.. All those "failed" business attempts weren't really failures at all. But learning experiences to taught me what I truly enjoy and what I truly don't. This photography journey has been drastically different. Every. Single. Day. I make mistakes. And instead of shrugging my shoulders and giving up, I find myself digging deeper. Learning. And growing. I find myself igniting that fire in my soul over and over. It is a daily, hourly, sometimes minute-ly battle in my head to fight the negative thoughts of "you're not good enough" and "you can't do this" or "you should just give up." It is honestly the hardest thing I've ever done. But I find myself not giving up. Not giving in. I walk a fine line of pushing myself to be better without listening to the negative voices that seem to surface in my head in the most inopportune times.

I truly believe that we are placed on this earth to use the gifts God has given us to the best of our abilities to bring glory to him. And that's what I plan to do. I don't want to give this up when things get hard. Because there is a purpose in it. I don't know exactly what that purpose is right now. Or where it will lead. There might be plans in the works I know nothing of at this point. But I never want to let fear win out where light should shine. And photography is all about light. This year is going to be full of a lot of things- -taking risks, going out of my comfort zone, trying new things, stretching limits, chasing dreams.

But it definitely won't include one thing: regret.