October.

On this month – my birthday month – I reflect on my life and wonder who I am. Most of my friends have finished having babies. Our children are growing up. Most of my friends have had long term relationships and I would estimate over half of them have have left those relationships. Always it was unexpected from the outside. Always they looked like they were carved in stone but they dismantle them until not even the shadow remains. No more substantial than dust in the wind.

We’ve bought houses and sold houses or left houses. We’ve had career changes. Most of my friends are artists and a good many of my friends who are artists do not use their art to put food on the table anymore. They’re working 9-5 jobs. They’re studying. Many of my friends are in this stage of metamorphosis where you begin to take stock and look around and wonder – who am I? Who am I now that I am no longer someone’s wife? Who am I now that my kids are growing up?

I go away for a few days over my birthday. I go to the beach and it rains. The sea looks angry and the sky is like a bruise. My anxiety flares and I go to bed early. I wake at 5. My whole body hurts. I’ve been so tense all night it feels like someone has taken to my body with a bat. My eyes feel like they have the flu. My head hurts. I’m still not that well and my jaw is out of place from clenching it. I cry. And to top it off my partner has written this absolutely beautiful tribute to me on Facebook for my birthday of which I feel unworthy. I am fragile this day. I feel like I am made of fine glass and with the smallest vibration I could shatter.

We play Scrabble and he always wins. I become obsessed with making certain words and hoard my tiles until I find the specific one I’m waiting for so I can make it. Sometimes the place I am planning to put it disappears and I miss the chance, sometimes my waiting pays off. Sometimes I let him make words that aren’t allowed because I love him.

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The rain clears and we walk along the beach even though it is still cold and windy. I watch a sea bird hover above the sea and dive down into the water and pull up a fish. It carries it away and I am happy for the bird and sad for the fish. I look for shells for my littlest girl. I only pick the prettiest ones for her. I like the small shells the best, tiny and intricate. I see one in the sand and pick it up but see that it is broken along it’s edge. I go to throw it away but I remember that I am broken too and people still love me. I decide to keep it. When I come home I put it on display in my room near my collection of seaglass.

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We go to film night at the girls school and they both win awards. They’re nominated so many times I lose count. It’s a long night for the little children and my small girl falls asleep on my lap for the second half, missing her own performance in one of the films.

It rains again. It feels like it has never stopped raining and for me the rain is both cleansing and holds a sadness that I cannot name. When it use to rain and I lived out west I would hole up in my house. The wood floors would get a sheen on them from all the moisture in the air. Sometimes it felt as though the walls were weeping along with the sky. The pets would smell damp and the grass would become untamed and we would sit inside and listen to the rain on the tin roof and we wouldn’t go out because we were all scared of flooding. I would close my eyes and see the brown churning water and the darkness and the unknown. I am grateful when it rains in a tentative kind of way. The same way you can be grateful for the warmth of a fire and not get too close. I hear it now, trickling into the tank and the weeds grow tall along the fence line. My washing I forgot to remove yesterday hangs low with the weight of water and so do I.

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I’ve been thinking about beauty. A part of me always longs for order. That instagram prettiness – white and greys. Minimal. The only colour is splashes of green from plants. Another part of me enjoys rustic beauty, bare floorboards, tongue in groove walls, a mandala of colours, an old couch with a throw on it to hide the bare patches. Eclectic hodgepodge. The character of a place. The overgrown lawn, the rusting tricycle, children with unbrushed hair, a bruise, a smudge of dirt, an unwashed window. I don’t know why I am drawn to these things. Something in me is unfurling.

I’ve begun to see the beauty of brokenness.

Purple Flowers.

It’s been just over a year since I began this blog. The day I actually broke went unmarked in any calendar because I’m not sure exactly what date I would go from. Breaking happened slowly, me fraying at the edges for two years before I tore apart all at once.

And I have gotten so much better. I get up and go to work, assisting other people. I come home and I work quietly, editing for photographers and carefully correcting colours and clearing newborn skin. I take my children to school and their appointments. I lie beside my small children at night and read them bedtime stories. I go with my lover to lunch and he eats the rest of my salad when I can’t finish it. Together we take the children to the beach where my daughter collects and entire basket of shells and we have to convince her to ‘leave some for other people’. I buy myself bedside tables from Ikea and he convinces me to sit on the trolley on the way back to the car and runs with the trolley until I’m breathless with laughter and fear we will crash into a column. I pay bills. I do my hair. I’m blissfully normal.

I sleep.

And this is not something I take for granted anymore. Some nights when I don’t have an early shift I sleep for 9 hours. This time last year 5.5 was normal. This time last year I woke to darkness every day and watched the rising of the sun and tried to breathe and survive. Now days I still sometimes wake before the sun and I watch it rise in my car with a cup of tea in a travel mug as I inch along with the other commuters.

I try to dream.

And my dreams are of fairy lights and lace. My dreams are of plaster dust and lavender. The crown of a newborn head, tiny crescent fingernails. My dreams are of wrinkles and white hairs. I throw the tablecloth of my life out before me and smooth it flat, I am careful to choose what I lay upon it. I watch the wheel of life turn and feel no sadness at it’s passing.

I wake one morning and reach for my camera. My four daughters and I escape the house like puppies set loose and we enter the outside which is different with a camera. Inside the lens everything fits into a box. We find some purple flowers in the grass by the side of a road and we stop to shoot in them. Inside the lens it doesn’t matter that cars are driving past and construction is happening beside us. It doesn’t matter that this spot is actually an overgrowth of weeds. The mosquitos are invisible in the shot. Inside the lens it only matters that there are purple flowers on the ground springing from the grass like hope and that is all I show you. Life is different, so easily distracted by the noise of everything you barely notice the purple flowers. I had driven that road every day but I didn’t see them until I went looking for magic.

That whole year I spent trapped in my own mind, fighting for a way out. Looking for a door.

I was the door.

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You are Real.

I hate the ‘real women have curves’ trend.

It’s not because I happen to be a skinny woman. I haven’t always been a skinny woman, I’ve had curves once (and boobs – God, I miss boobs sometimes). I was a real woman then, and I am a real woman now.

I hate it because it does exactly what magazines and society did to curvy women for years. Pits one body type against another. Builds up one type of woman at the expense of another type.

It’s a whole lot of, check out what women use to look like and check them out now. As though the ‘good old days’ were great for women. Let’s just take a stroll through these offensive ads from Business Insider including this gem.

Women weren’t empowered and letting their natural beauty show in the fifties. They were repeatedly told how their attractiveness had a direct correlation to their worth.

And now, in 2016 we are supposed to hold up that standard as the ‘good old days’?

Fuck you. Fuck you so hard.

I guarantee you women have been made in all shapes and sizes since the beginning of time and will continue to be so for the rest of humankind’s existence on this planet.

I have shot a lot of people. I have shot women of all ages and all shapes and sizes. Curvy women, slim women, young women, older women, mothers, daughters. And every single one of them have been beautiful. I have never had a client I looked at and didn’t find beauty in.

Real women? If you identify as a woman – you are a REAL WOMAN.

Stop letting society tell you it’s okay to be beautiful only if someone else is less beautiful.

In fact, stop letting society tell you that your beauty is just a sum of your physical parts. And you KNOW this already. You know. You’ve been told your whole damn life that beauty is only skin deep, that a kind heart is worth more than a pretty face.

Celebrate yourself. Your laugh, your kindness, your fire, your wildness, your scars, your wit, your sensuality, your brains, your empathy.

There is a little divinity in all of us.

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