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        This is a scattered collective of the year at a glance.


        I wanted to pause after 2019 came to an end before taking a long look back at how a year in and of itself can be blamed for a great many things – but also how the same span of time deserves its own respect on the whole. Which sounds weird… possibly intriguing? You decide.

        I settled on an image-based recap/review, which means I’ll post a photograph and explain a significant event that happened in tandem. Not an event that necessarily relates to the image itself but rather to the feeling and how it calls Twenty-Nineteen out on its major shit. This way it’ll be easier – keep things visually interesting without a lump sum of words up front and unanswered questions later on. 😉


        1. Bella & The Sun

        The idea of looking off into the sunset is one I’m very familiar with. See, I was born with both eyes on the horizon and a pair of feet encased in concrete. And folks, living with an open heart but closed doors due to one life constraint or the next is a nothing short of a full-blown curse. I’ve longed all my life to see do and explore.

        I search for the new new new and I thrive best on routine change. Yes, routine – change. And yet, I’ve never been able to fully obtain a balance of these me-isms and thus, life’s been more a little static as a result.

        But… A lot of changing did happen this year. However, it was a lot of growth and transformation under dire and sometimes frightening circumstances.

        In the beginning of 2019 there were obtainable dreams in my head and a whole lot of hope in my hands – more than typical levels, in truth; somewhere inside of me I knew that after the disaster known as 2018 (especially the end of it), a real and raw good had to be waiting up ahead, right? That this drive to create, to become more of who I am and to realize these dreams had finally arrived with the bang of fireworks and the flip of a calendar. And oh friends, how wrong I was. How painfully painfully wrong.

        This image in particular – of my darling Bells – represents that precise feeling I nurtured as I strut confidently into 2019. It represents my sights set on a gravity-shift, on a desire to change perspectives and a want for unprecedented growth like I’d ever experienced prior.

        Sure, I desired each of these alterations in their own way…but not in the form they ultimately came to be. And came to be in ways I hadn’t ever brushed up against; it was in things I’ve never wanted, things I never thought would be, things that knocked me so far off course that I fear I’ll never find my way back. Not really, anyway.

        Yet, it did happen. And so just as the sun rises and sets everyday, my perspectives were obliterated as the gravity fell out from underneath me. And there I was, living in a world where I no longer possessed a safe harbor.

        Dad was diagnosed with cancer in April. You can read all about his initial diagnosis in a blog I’ll be moving over to the The Wild Collective shortly. But for now, know that the impact of this is something I haven’t fully recovered from and don’t know if I ever will. He IS doing well today and while his recovery has been arduous, slow and long, it’s progressing and that is what is important. I’ll continue to write more on this, as it ties in with the year in the biggest way, but in spurts and how it spidered out to affect all areas of my day to day.


        2. Dad & The Storm

        This is my dad. This was before his surgeries but after the chemo and radiation. He looked and felt great after the worst of those two had subsided but the biggest war had yet to be fought.

        Surgery. Which turned into surgeries. These happened and that’s when the earth really dropped out and life as I knew it – and my family’s life – was no longer recognizable. Trust me when I say, nothing in life prepares you for this situation. Nothing comes close to the pain and heartache of watching someone you love so wholly and unconditionally suffer so completely. Nothing tears you apart at the seams quite like that. You may think you know, but you don’t. Not unless you’ve fought the cancer bastard from the sidelines like we have.

        Please note I’m not saying any of this to reduce your own pain or make it less somehow, for the record. What I am saying is… Not all suffering wears the same face. It comes to us in many forms and in many masks, but it’s never identical from one person or one family to the next. But it’s crushing and diminishing and your entire life becomes swept up in it as though a maelstrom were made just for you. There’s an unbelievable texture to the idea of that thought – that a trial was plucked from the Heavens itself specifically to test you.

        Can you sustain? Can you endure? Can you weather it and stand firm? Etc.

        Regardless, whatever mask It wears, whatever face It may look like when It comes to greet you, it ultimately leaves you far worse for the wear. It’s hard to differentiate that sort of pain and not end up blaming God or yourself for being inadequate or for a random failing in the timeline of your life that might have invariably caused the cancer itself.

        Like I said, suffering.

        2019 was a year of indescribable pain.


        3. Megan & The Celebration

        This is Megan (the back of her staring out at Chicago’s skyline), a best friend of mine. Also a survivor of breast cancer. She enters this story because one of the highlights of an otherwise dismal, reject of a year was the trip I took ever-so-slightly West. To Chicago. For Star Wars Celebration. This trip happened a few weeks prior to Dad’s diagnosis and was the last time I remember feeling true happiness. The kind of fulfillment that leaves your cup of joy runneth-over style. It fills you up from the inside out and you’re left feeling as though you’re invincible. Complete. Right place, right time vibes.

        Side note – I’m a huge SW fan and love to let my geek flag fly high and loud. And this 5-day adventure was an experience and then some. The love and adoration, the camaraderie and bonding, the joy and wonderful rightness of it all was paramount. If you’re a fangirl type like me, do something to feed that side of you. You’ll never, ever regret it.

        Anyway, Star Wars Celebration Chicago became the one thing that’s kept me sane amidst the sleepless nights of worry over my father. It’s kept me hopeful despite the personal loss of income because, as everyone knows, when you’re a freelancer and you don’t work, you don’t earn. And then one month leads to the next and so on and so on. And that leads to trouble. And reliance in a way you’re unbelievably uncomfortable with.

        So it became that April of 2019 had the highest highs and the lowest lows. Balance really is a fucking bitch sometimes.


        4. Lena & The Field

        And because of these imbalances and the high emotional toll, work was, as I’ve just stated above, terrible. I didn’t push, market or extend myself beyond what I had already booked and scheduled out months or years in advance. I hid, I buried down and though I considered – constantly – just how deep of a hole I was digging, I didn’t have the energy to burrow out. It was a vicious cycle and I have a long, long way to go yet. That’s the irrevocable way of things when you have big emotions and get hit left right and center in the heart on a daily basis.

        But this photograph, of gorgeous little Lena during her 2nd birthday family photo shoot at Tyler State Park, was a beautiful up for me. I love spending time with this family and they mean the world so getting the chance to do that 2-3x a year has become an absolute joy I always look forward to. Their life has taken a drastic turn recently, too, but that’s not my story to tell. Just know that it certainly was another huge downward spiral for 2019; something wholly undeserved came to some of the best, best people and adjusting to that, even from afar, has not been easy. Crushing. Again.

        Still, this photograph. The playful glee, her freeness and unabashed go-forth attitude just pours out of every part and the sunlight tells the very same. I love it. So very much.


        5. The Lantern & The Dusk

        If 2019 has shown me anything, it was that I needed to understand how transformation is a part of life and to accept it wholeheartedly. I don’t have to love it, like it or tolerate its foul bloody wake, but I do have to accept that it is a huge part of this human experiment.

        But, and this was another lesson learned, the human experiment isn’t just acceptance of the bad and nothing more. It’s seeking out the light wherever you can find it and if you can’t find it, make some of your own and put it into the world. Light-makers are who we are, each of us, even if you haven’t realized that yet. We’re each little lighthouses guiding one another safely home in the storms of our day to day. Some nights we’re holding firm – we’re the one’s capable of finding those beams when washed out to sea. But other times we are the beams themselves for those who do not have the strength to see.

        And yes, there are moments where we drown, succumb and fall; it’s in this dark place, this bottom of bottoms where we learn what we are made of. The end is where we can birth that light to bring us home and to help others on their way. It’s the place where we can start again, birth anew and reinvent ourselves.

        This photograph of a tiny lantern was captured in a moment of inspiration and clarity, bringing illumination to a place that had very little. I created it in a physical sense but that isn’t always how it goes. Almost rarely how it goes, I’d wager.

        Sometimes the light is an emotional link to another soul that is in suffering, whether we’re aware of it or not. Remember though, this glow comes from a place you didn’t know it had been kept hidden for so long, a place you hadn’t known existed had until you found it.

        Either way, strive to be the light-maker. Strive to be a light-bringer.


        6. Jack & The New Box

        I’ve gone on long enough with metaphors for this yearly review blog but know this: Suffering is greatest when it’s transformative and thus change, truly, is never our enemy. The enemy is reticence to unintentional or intentional growth, it is hesitating to leap when leaping is your only viable option.

        I hated 2019 and the circumstances it gave to me – and parts of 2020 will be more of that but in much different ways. Still, I honor the year because of how it has returned me to myself.

        I know now that I could never, and would never, have made the necessary changes on my own. I see it all so clearly. So I’m going to say something confusing yet key to this impossibly long wrap up:

        Thank you, universe. Thank you for teaching me that strength comes to each of us in very different ways. Thank you for giving me a far deeper appreciation of my family and friends. Thank you for the hurt and pain and thank you for the fire.

        You burned away the rest and because of it, I’ve grown. I’ve discovered the purest luminescence that was left behind and waiting there all along.

        2019: Out.

        x,j

        This is the most real, transparent, raw and amazing blog I’ve ever read. I cannot stop being amazed by not only what a talented writer you are, but how you combine that talent with vivid photography that captures so much emotion and feeling. I just love all of this, and all this talent that drips off of you is going to take you some amazing places! I’m so sorry for the rough (understatement of the decade) year that it has been, but so glad that you see clarity through the muck and mire. This journey is not over and the best is yet to come! 💕

        Thank YOU. <3

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