So, I apologize if I seem to be all over the place lately. But I knew when I started this conversation that I would be catching you up on my thoughts from the last 2 years in which I have kept primarily silent. Mainly because of what I will share with you below. I also knew that the farm story wouldn’t take 31 days even though I still have a few more things to share on that as well. All that to say, I began this writing challenge by making a list of possible topics. And I am marking them off – one by one. But then I read what my friend Jess has been writing in her own conversation along with something she shared in our photography group on Facebook this week, and she reminded me of something I wrote for a class back in August of 2013.
It echoes what I shared in this post. And seems to be a recurring theme in my life. The one that the enemy uses to silence me from time to time. And why I disappear from this blog for months on end. My personal struggle against allowing my gift to be marred by my desire for validation.
I wrote these words after the conclusion of a photography workshop called Soul Shooting. Our first homework assignment was to unplug for a week. No social media whatsoever, and this is what I learned.
Lessons from Unplugged:
I am a harlot chasing after the approval of “man.” Doesn’t help matters that my love language is words of affirmation, so I constantly find myself falling back into my adulteress ways. And wouldn’t you know that I started reading Idols of the Heart by Elyse Fitzpatrick on the plane ride to Seattle and the workshop?!?! What a powerful combination. Unplug for a week and read about the idols you have created. I am exhausted. And refreshed! And released in so many ways.
I first realized that I had a problem when I saw that many of my online photography classmates seemed to be connecting & were commenting on each other’s photos on Instagram, and they were not even following me much less making comments on my “work.” I became a churning hot mess of jealousy and girl drama inside. I wanted so desperately to belong with fellow photographers and have them validate my efforts that I became a slave to social media, obsessively taking & posting photos of my precious ones & commenting on other feeds hoping to catch someone’s attention.
So busy documenting my story that I forget to live it. So busy watching someone else live their story that I forget to live mine.
All that time online and comparison began breeding discontentment & feeding my insecurities. Stealing my joy. Stifling my creativity. Sucking the very life out of me, not to mention the time I have with my family.
After this week of media fasting, I feel a sense of freedom. Like a huge weight has been lifted, and I can live again without fretting about documenting every moment of it. Yes, I spent this week living.
I walked the streets of Seattle with my Beloved without fretting about taking pictures of every thing. I talked to him over meals instead of “processing” & “posting” – just one more photo or one more peak at my feed for comments. I read more books with my littles. I gathered around the table with precious friends. Instead of peddling my life to mere humans hoping for their attention and approval, I lived it. And I lived it well.
And while I do still hope to connect with like-minded photographers someday and share this wonderful part of my life (none of my close friends are interested in photography), that longing has taken its rightful place in my life. A happy blessing if, and when, it happens to me.
And if it doesn’t, I have real flesh and blood loved ones in my life. And they deserve the best of me, not the left overs. Like a precious neighbor down the street who is starting back to work for the first time in 7 years of mommy hood. She could use a visit and perhaps a glass of wine….
Or the dear friend who is fighting for the right to be a little girl’s mommy. And yes, I cut my hands when I scooped up the broken pieces of her heart and carried them, and her, to the altar on Sunday morning, but that is real. Life. Shared and sacred.
Or the lovely spirit who just got the report that her Daddy’s cancer is spreading. Too much time online will keep me from calling her. Or keep me from my responsibilities so that I do not have spare time to sit with her. Just sit. In person. And be. Together.
I could go on and on. People. Real people who need me. And I need them right back. And while the Internet is full of flipping wonderful, incredible, fantastic, talented people who could undoubtedly bless my life and my work, I am pretty sure none of them will sit across from my Emmylou with eyes full of tears as she tells her how proud she is that Lou got right back up on her bike after a really bad spill. And then a tear falls as she gently reminds Lou of Someone else who is pleased with her as well.
The idols are falling, ladies. Making room for life. And that is where real creativity & inspiration flows.
“Discontent will never change the world. If you want your work to have a lasting impact on the world, define yourself with gratitude.” ~ Rachel Jankovic
As I read these words from over a year ago, I am discouraged at how quickly I forgot those lessons. How often even now I refresh Facebook & Instagram after posting one of these conversations. Hoping for a response. A like. Something. Bleh. And even more disheartening is how often I fail to come through for the real people in my life.
As Jess shared, “I feel ill when I think about all that I know is true about me, all that God says about how he loves me with this fierce, jealous, passionate, never-ending, never-giving up love and that I so easily cast it aside for a digital hit of affirmation. What is it that keeps us looking for validation outside of who our Creator says we are? And isn’t a bit tricky that part of the way we experience his love and affection is through the love and affection of other human beings??
Would love to hear your thoughts on your own struggle with this. But I will not base my worth on whether or not you respond. I will not. I hope…