WARNING…this is a very personal (and long) post! So if you’re not into that stuff, I’d kindly suggest skipping this one.
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2018 has been quite the year. One that I will not miss. The first thing I’m going to share is very sensitive so I’m not going to go into much detail. The short of it is that my husband and I had been growing apart for a long time and early this year, we chose to move forward on separate paths. It was a very hard and painful decision to make, but I believe with all my heart it was the best decision so that we can both live our best lives.
During this emotional time, I also chose to give up alcohol. To be honest, this isn’t easy for me to share, but it’s necessary. I’d been what people call “self medicating” for a while and it was affecting my life in very negative ways. I had run into an old friend I hadn’t seen in years who told me that I didn’t look like myself. Which I didn’t. I had gained weight, my face was puffy from drinking, and I was clearly battling some personal stuff. On top of alcohol obviously affecting my health, which I’ll get to later, it was also sapping all my motivation and clouding my good judgement. I was living in a state of numbness and used alcohol to avoid dealing with what was really going on. It certainly wasn’t the life I wanted for myself. Anyone that knows me knows that I enjoy being healthy and active and I had become the opposite. I’m not an alcoholic, however, I was abusing alcohol. It was my crutch; my escape from reality. So I stopped drinking all together to work on bettering myself and healing my heart, mind, and body.
As a result of giving up alcohol, the inflammation in my body started going down and I soon realized I had some health problems going on. I’d noticed certain symptoms a while back, but chose to ignore them. It took a while to pinpoint what was going on, but a friend of mine had been dealing with similar symptoms and reached out with some advice. Basically I have SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth), which can lead to leaky gut and other more serious problems if you don’t address it. I had to change my entire lifestyle, stick to a very strict diet and get on a protocol to begin healing. If I even eat one thing I’m not supposed to (like nuts, garlic, anything with sugar, or processed foods), I become severely bloated or get swollen glands, break out in hives, or break out in bumps all over my face. Sometimes it’s one of those symptoms, sometimes it’s all of them. It’s been exhausting trying to figure out what I can and can’t consume. It’s taken a ton of trial and error, a lot of frustration, many tears, and a whole lot of money and I’m still going through it. I’m happy to say I’m doing a bit better now, but I’m still experiencing those reactions if I eat something that upsets my system.
On top of that stuff, this past June we found out my grandfather’s health was failing fast. My mom and I promptly packed up and went down to New Jersey to be there for Grandma and visit Grandpa as much as we could. Seeing him in the hospital for the first time ripped through me and I barely held it together. Thankfully he was asleep and I had time to regain composure before he woke up. He wasn’t very lucid most of the time, but the times he was are moments I’ll never forget. He would wake up and reach out for his wife of 65 years and tell her over and over again that he loved her and that they’d had the best life together. He loved on my mom and held her hand when she would cry. He told me he was proud of me. He got to say goodbye to my brothers, my dad and my aunt over the phone without a expressing an ounce of self pity. He simply showered us all in love and gratitude for sharing the best memories with him.
When he got moved into hospice, we all knew it was just a matter of time. Grandpa had even told us he was ready to be home with Jesus. My grandmother was amazing through all of it. She put pictures in his room of them throughout the years for Grandpa to look at when he’d come to and stayed by his side as much as she possibly could. She held his hand, helped him drink water, and reassured Grandpa of her unceasing love for the man she’d spent almost 70 years with. He passed away peacefully while sleeping in the early morning of June 24th, which is also my birthday. It was the best birthday present to know he was finally at peace.
That morning I had to drive back home to get a bunch of stuff done in preparation for a busy wedding season and my grandmother assured me that she wasn’t expecting me to come back for the funeral. My older brother and I decided to make the trip to honor Grandpa’s life and be there for our family no matter what. We woke up before the sun on the 28th, drove to NJ, got ready for the funeral, spent the day meeting Grandpa’s friends and family, and then drove back to VT so I could photograph a wedding a day later.
That wedding was a hard one for me for sure. I had to put aside all my emotions from losing Grandpa and put on a brave face for my amazing clients who had no idea what was going on. They were also unaware that it was the very last wedding I would be working with my ex-husband. We weren’t together at that point, but it states in my contract that two photographers will be present and up until that point, my ex had been my second shooter/assistant for every single wedding. The day actually went really well thanks to my incredibly gracious clients who gave me all the time I needed to capture photos for them despite the crazy Vermont humidity.
After that wedding I had to explain to all my upcoming clients that I’d be working with a new second shooter. Oh, I also had to find people to work for me for the rest of the season. And let me tell you, It is not an easy task to find a capable second shooter for last minute weddings!!! Thankfully I have some incredible friends who were willing to help and the best mom in the world who gave up her time to assist whenever I needed it despite dealing with the loss of her father and her own health issues. She is the strongest and most selfless woman I know!! Don’t ask me how, but somehow with the help of my amazing support system and God’s grace, I was able to survive the brunt of wedding season without keeling over. One of the worst parts though was not being able to eat the delicious looking vendor meals or worse yet, being so hungry that I’d eat the meals provided and pay dearly for it later. Sigh. Zero fun!
Did I mention that in-between all of this stuff, I was also having to get out of my condo for chunks of time? You see I’m renting a condo that happens to be sinking into the ground because the complex was built on an old trash dump. Long story short, a lot of foundation drilling and filling was going on so I would have to transport my cats to my parents while they worked and then back home for the night every single day and then try to find a place to work where I could focus. Yep. It’s been quite the year!
There’s a lot more that went on, but I’m not here trying to fill everyone in on every little detail of my year. I’m here because today as I was going through some wedding photos, I broke down crying. It suddenly hit me just how much had gone on through the year and seeing those photos reminded me of how hard it had been. I spent my wedding season thinking I wasn’t doing my job well, that I wasn’t good enough or creative enough – that I was failing. But going through this particular wedding, which was the 2nd wedding in a row that weekend, and seeing how great the photos turned out made me see just how much I’ve overcome this year. I’m proud of the work I’ve produced despite the many challenges life threw at me, but I’m even more proud of how much I’ve grown as a person this year. Even though I looked like a mess at every wedding with unwashed hair, wrecked skin, and bags under my eyes, even though I shed tears every time I took photos of grandparents, even though I had to take bathroom breaks to gather my composure because my stomach hurt so badly, even though I had countless days where I couldn’t hold it together, I’ve gotten through it.
As I’m about to wrap up my wedding season next weekend, I’m reminded of my family and friends that stood by my side through all of it and I want to say how grateful I am to each of you. Specifically the handful of people that helped me get through wedding season. Corey, Caitlin, Paul, & Mom … I’m forever grateful for your love, your support, and your willingness to help me despite your busy schedules and personal lives. I literally couldn’t have done it without you guys having my back, giving up your weekends, helping keep me fed, making sure I got outside to stay sane, and so on and so on. I love you guys!!
To all of my 2018 clients…THANK YOU!!! Thank you for being patient and understanding and for all of you who reached out with kind words and support. You guys are superheroes and I feel blessed having been a part of your beautiful wedding days!
So moving forward, I will definitely not miss 2018. Not one single bit. But that doesn’t mean I’m not grateful for every experience, good and bad. They’ve shown me that I can be strong and tender. That I can be an emotional wreck and a badass professional. That it’s okay to cry and then laugh at the fact that you’re crying again. That I can be vulnerable and it doesn’t make me weak. That it’s okay to ask for help. That there’s a difference between struggling and failing. But mostly 2018 has shown me that no matter what, I am an overcomer and I will never give up on my dreams.
To wrap up this super long post, here are my amazing grandparents on their wedding day, May 23, 1953.
We love and miss you Grandpa.
We all know you’re doing the chicken dance up there!!