This year has been a figurative aperture stop to only the deepest core of my soul.
This year has been a figurative aperture stop to only the deepest core of my soul.
60 days ago everything in my life halted…and to many, it may seem like I have been absent ever since.
This word absent sounds so negative. Kinda like I am expecting a teacher to catch me ditching class or something important. However, in this case, my absent state has actually been the exact opposite of negative. It’s been the opposite of ditching. It’s been the opposite of missing something important.
In my absence, I have become present.
I have been completely present…just not present where I expected to be when 2016 kicked off. I am really into planning things…maybe almost in an OCD kind of way. I have the whole year mapped out on my calendar for events, business deadlines, plans for the kids, timelines for projects on our home, visits with family. The whole nine yards. I guess this is my way of keeping things organized, even if plans do not work out the way I expect.
I digress. The thing is – I planned to be “snowed in” in our quiet Colorado mountain town for the first three months of this year. I wanted it to be a time of creativity, serenity and development of new dreams I had been conjuring up.
Instead I have been in the California desert.
My dad has been dying for the last four years. Dementia not only took away his memory, it took away his two leading ladies: my mom and I.
There’s a long backstory to this but the bulk of it is that someone we once trusted (family) took my dad without our knowledge or consent, promised to take care of him but instead locked him in rooms, left him alone, stole from him, did not seek medical care and restricted us from speaking to him or visiting him. Four years. Legal battles. Phone calls to Adult Protective Services (APS). House visits. Nothing brought us back to him.
Until 60 days ago.
The police found my father wandering the streets on New Years Eve. Sadly, they believed that he had been wandering for days. He was in poor health and very confused. APS chose to admit him to the hospital and I was notified.
Upon receiving the call, I dropped to my knees in disbelief, concern, joy…and overwhelming gratefulness.
Since then, my whole world has been about my dad. Daddy. Although he rarely connected the dots to my face and name at the same time, I became his leading lady again with my mom right by my side.
You know, I didn’t know much about dementia before all of this. I knew that daddy would forget my name and many stories of the past…but I didn’t know that his body would forget how to work too. It’s been devastating to watch the strongest man I know become crippled. He has been a survivor from birth, weighing only 2.5 lbs, in 1928. He served in the Korean War, spent time in prison, kicked cancers ass twice, owned his own business for 30 years, worked until he was 80 years old and started a fist fight with a man twice his size when he was 75.
In the last 60 days he has had me wrapped around his little finger, rather than the other way around…and I wouldn’t change one minute of it. He told my mom, my husband and I thank you whenever he could and told us he loved us more in two months than I had heard over my lifetime. On the days that he was too weak to speak or move I cuddled up with him in his bed and sang songs, read letters I had written him and talked to him about our life together. Some of my best memories of him are in these days.
Life…real life is about the quiet moments when nothing but our breath matters and I’ve learned so much from just listening to the sound of my dad’s breath, watching his chest rise and fall and the pulse thump in his neck.
The hospice doctors warned us that dementia would eventually cause my daddy to stop eating, stop swallowing and eventually stop breathing. I have joked for years that he would outlive us all because “heaven wouldn’t want him and hell is afraid that he would take over”. I half expected it too.
It turns out…daddy needed to start his next big journey.
On night 54 he took his last breath. It was the most beautiful and peaceful goodbye I have ever experienced.
I am devastated.
It’s completely painful.
I miss him so much.
I was present. This has resulted in a shift of family history as well as incredible emotional and spiritual growth in my own life. My absence in other areas of my life allowed me to give my dad everything I could and to show him how much l love him, even though neither of us were very good at expressing that for so many of our years as father and daughter. It has allowed me intense moments of meditation, connection to my Creator and a tribe of completely kick ass people who have supported us during this time.
I am present. I see that my “snowed in” plan was just not what the Divine had planned for me…and I am now, more than ever, very aware that each moment is so much more than I can plan or map out.
I will be present. This is changing my future. So much of who I am has been altered because of the last 60 days.
It’s super REAL.
Life is still on hold…and it will be for a while. Everything is shifting, and after living in Southern California for most of my life, I know that it’s foolish to take a step when the world around you is unsteady.
Creatively, I am flourishing. Spiritually, I am thriving. Emotionally, I am full.
The Portrait Biographies™ book releases will wait.
The business account social media posts will wait.
The events. The plans. The deadlines. The timelines. They will wait too.
It’s time for me to be present again, for myself, my husband, my mom and my kiddos.
xoxo - Sarah
Four weeks ago I showed up. I let go of all the masks and just uncovered a huge part of my past…in front of seventy-something people.
I called this event a “Book Release Party” and the “Uncovering of Portrait Biographies Journey 14”.
Amanda Owen, author of The Power of Receiving calls it a “monster celebration”.
“Instead of embracing all of who we are, we tuck away certain parts. But they don’t go anywhere. These run your life from behind the scenes. They produce anxiety and interfere with you goal. They are the gatekeepers and stand between you and your goal. Just as you would help a shy person at a party to feel more comfortable, receive and embrace these outcasts. Help them feel accepted and included. They have something to say to you. Listen to them.”
I was terrified! In the moments just before this so-called party and I opted out of the greetings throughout the gallery and hid in the bathroom.
Am I gonna puke?
Am I gonna cry?
Can I even do this?
I knew all the answers to these questions and yet, in the quiet of the tiny bathroom, I started to doubt.
Doubt is an ugly thing. I felt like it truly was the “devil” on my shoulder: the liar and the judge.
My inner light vs. shame and darkness.
I knew it was my husband, Gavin, knocking at the bathroom door, patiently reminding me that I couldn’t hide in the bathroom all night. People were here to listen to my story. I wanted to tell it and I needed to be heard.
I’m so glad I did.
I’ve spent the following weeks processing the events of the evening. I’ve cried. I’ve laughed. I’ve felt a huge sense of relief and have realized that this event, this sharing of my journey, was a true release.
It was a breathtaking release from the unachievable “constantly striving towards perfection or the relentless pursuit thereof” motto from my past.
It was a uncovering of a label that was encroaching on my present life and a release of the boundaries that I had placed on my future.
It was a release from self-judgment, shame and a burden too heavy to continue to carry.
It was a full blown monster celebration!
Today, I sit in my favorite chair, by a beautiful fire, overlooking the best views in the southwest region of Colorado and I realize that all of this…ALL of it, was/is a preparation of something far greater for me…by something far greater than me.
I am stoked.
I am ready.
I am ALL IN!
If you want to experience this release/uncovering/monster celebration first hand join me in Denver, Colorado on January 7th for the second book release party and the uncovering of my own personal journey, Journey 14: The Awakening.
I won’t puke.
I might cry (who cares anyway?).
I can do this.
…and I won’t hide in the bathroom this time!
Ticket sales for this event can be reserved HERE
Pre-Purchase your copy of the Portrait Biographies™ Anthology One HERE
In less than two weeks I will be releasing the first edition of Portrait Biographies™ Anthology One.
Honestly, it’s quite surreal.
This creation has been formed by countless hours of soulful connection between myself and thirteen beautifully brave contributors (subjects).
Because of their authentic display of growth, healing and courage, I too have decided that it’s time to share my journey.
On December 3rd, as we celebrate the release of Portrait Biographies™ Anthology One I will be unveiling my journey. Journey 14: The Awakening
I have caught the contributors before me in evil little giggles and wide-eyed stares because they realize what I have signed up for. It’s only fair…they have given so much by sharing their struggles, celebrations and life growth with all of us. The biggest gift of gratitude that I can give to them is to stand among them and share my journey.
I think I might throw up. Seriously.
Between the release of the book and the unveiling of my story, I am one huge ball of emotions.
Here’s the thing though, I am not alone.
If I have learned one thing through the creation and sharing of Portrait Biographies™ is is that WE ARE ALL CONNECTED. My story is very specific to me…but the feelings of despair, shame and loss are universal.
I am ready to unveil my journey…and my life.
Join me on December 3rd at 6:30pm for an authentic display of life and a celebration of the past thirteen contributors.
I believe that I am a fortunate soul…creating art as my “living”.
Sometimes this is a heavy burden to carry.
As I fast approach the one-year anniversary of the first Portrait Biographies™ Interactive Exhibit unveiling my heart gets a little heavy. Many things have changed…yet many remain the same.
Last November, I released this journey regarding the effects of invisible wounds on one Army Special Forces Green Beret. My husband.
Listen to the audio portion of this journey here: http://www.portraitbiographies.com/when-and-where/#journey-1-reaching-for-hope
My desire is for this portrait to help evoke change, understanding and love for those who struggle with Traumatic Brain Injuries, the various forms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and the many invisible challenges that active-duty military and veterans face.
The silent struggle faced by so many “quiet professionals” is still very real and painful.
On November 5th, 2015 we will be unveiling a portrait that truly was the most difficult for me to photograph. It was hauntingly similar in emotion to the first exhibit unveiling and it was impossible not to feel all of the pain that was shared one year earlier.
The irony is chilling.
The timing is serendipitous.
The pain is just too much.
The loss is intolerable.
Today, I invite the “Journey 1: Reaching for Hope Through the Pain” contributor, SFC (R) Gavin S. Goudie, to share an update in his journey.
As I read this post and look back on these pictures of just one year ago. I begin to feel a weight being put on my chest, an inability to breath correctly due to what seems like a burden or dislike towards what I am looking at. My eyes are filled with tears of sadness and happiness at the same time due to the understanding that I am no longer in the darkest of days and that I am still struggling to climb out of the massive pit of darkness I once called home, but…I can see the light and feel the warmth upon my face. These tears are searing my eyes as I reflect back on the depression and pain I felt every day while feeling so alone and desperate. The pain from an injury and the anger of having to fight for my health made me tired and bitter toward life. I wanted to give up, I wanted to let the pain and darkness sweep over me so that I never had to wake up another day of pain. Today, I still have moments of darkness and struggles that mentally that I can muster through each day. I do, however, find my mornings filled with light and reason to rise to a daily challenge and for this I make each day about living and enjoying the health that I do have and the strength that I slowly gain each day as I rise from the pits of my my once overwhelming hell.
I believe that I am a fortunate soul…creating art as my “living”.
Today, this is a heavy burden to carry.
I know Gavin is not alone. I know that contributor #13 is not alone. Yet, I see how alone they often feel…
Do me a favor. Promise me this. Don’t wait. Don’t get too “busy”. Just do it.
Reach out to someone today who you know is struggling. Let them know that they aren’t alone.
They can be a neighbor. A co-worker. A long-lost friend. The woman that bags your groceries. You may only see them on social media. You might only pass them in the halls. Your friendship may be surface.
One more favor. Invite them to the next Portrait Biographies™ unveiling on November 5th at 6:30pm at Cottonwood Center for the Arts in Colorado Springs, Colorado. There, they will not feel alone.
Each portrait session for Portrait Biographies™ is a quest…a journey in itself.
Yesterday was no different. I invited one of my contributors to my favorite part of Colorado in search of something new for her to experience in this state…and we found just what we were looking for.
The two of us, with my trusty assistant/husband/mountain goat gracefully (and not so gracefully) descended down a steep “scree” embankment into a magical place that screamed for a nature selfie (I could almost hear it asking me to take its portrait…no joke!).
It seemed as if nothing else existed for the hour.
The thunder of the waterfall, the beauty of our surroundings, the majesty of something so much bigger than ourselves. It spoke. It moved. It created an experience that we will never forget.
No matter how “big” or “small” it always takes courage to embark on a quest.
Sometimes it’s a leap of faith.
Sometimes it’s a calculated and careful path.
The unknowns can be terrifying. The lack of control can be humbling. The battle between wonder and focused attention can be exhausting…but,
The outcome can be exhilarating!
Each of us have a series of life quests to journey through and I believe that Journey 12 will be relatable, authentic and exhilarating.
Make it a priority to attend the unveiling of this Journey on October 1st in person. You won’t be disappointed…in fact, you’ll probably be inspired!
On Thursday evening, before the latest Portrait Biographies™ exhibit unveiling I spent some alone-time talking to the contributor, Valerie.
There’s always a bit of fear that comes up for the contributors before they stand before a crowded room and share their journey.
Thursday was no exception.
It was another reminder that we are all connected. Valerie mentioned that fear of failure was a driving force in her life as a swimmer…as a human.
This has resonated with me ever since.
It reminds me of my own fear. It’s the kind that sneaks up on me in the middle of a portrait session, portrait unveiling and when I dream big about how I wanna show up in this life.
“Try and fail but never fail to try.” – Jared Leto
Valerie and I both decided that it would be better to try and to fail, than to never even try in the first place. She stood tall on Thursday evening and shared her journey among friends, family and strangers.
Success tastes so good. It warms the soul, brings happy tears to the eyes, travels tingles throughout the body and gives the heart the promise of possibility.
“Try. It’s worth the possibility of failure, because success tastes so sweet!”
– Sarah Curry
It's amazing to watch someone transform. From a girl to a woman. From a life that was numb to one that is full of life.
Tonight was an opportunity for me to watch my friend share the pain of her past and free herself of the shackles of shame.
She is so brave.
Listen here to the Q&A after the unveiling of her journey...It's one that will inspire and remind us all that "Even the dark/ugly things in life can become light/beautiful if they are shared authentically in a safe space".
Is it possible that the portrait exhibit that was created with my hands, my mind, my heart and my soul was unknowingly created for me as much as it was for the contributors (subjects)?
Totally possible. Totally 100%.
Before the unveiling of each Portrait Biography™ Interactive Exhibit I tell guests that this project started as a “cool art show idea”. That is really all it started out to be…but then it immediately morphed into this amazing and cathartic experience.
The contributors. These beautifully brave souls are the ones who have propelled this experience into the heavens.
Last night, before the unveiling, Paquita (the contributor) said to me:
“Sarah, I had no idea that this would happen. After talking to you, and opening up about the past that I haven’t talked about freely, it has brought so much stuff to the surface. I dream about it. I can’t stop thinking about it. These are things that I have kept stuffed inside me for so many years.”
She likened the experience…and the hard knocks of life…to when a person has a splinter up underneath the skin. It will burry itself. It will fester. It will get dark, dirty and infected. And then it will start working it’s way out. It can’t be forced. It moves when it is ready.
Paquita moved last night and her journey inspired others.
We all understand FEAR, BETRAYL, SHAME and LOSS.
We all long for SAFETY, LOVE, ACCEPTANCE and HEALING.
Sometimes it’s still dark, dirty and infected…buried deep inside me, but on nights like last night, the light of authenticity burns so bright and touches the deepest parts of my soul.