“so, what’s the plan?” mandy asked me, eyes full of light.
we had just wrapped our portrait session.
in a meadow. near cliffs. by the sea.
it was the first portrait work i've done expressly for this project.
i was still feeling the excitement and nervousness of being keenly intent on capturing her inner and outer beauty in one perfect portrait.
(and quietly afraid i might fail)
after capturing dozens of photographs of this gorgeous woman, i knew we had it.
and then, her perfectly sensible question came:
"so, what’s the plan?"
i reverted to my know-it-all mode.
the comfort zone where structured-planner-laura
(my alter ego for whom all actions are tied to a strategy)
can stay safe and avoid vulnerability.
because she has a plan.
except i did not.
a clumsy plan fell out of my mouth, in a confident tone, like:
“the plan is for me to go home and edit the images to pick out the best ones, which will take me a few days. then maybe you could come over for dinner and view them. sound good?”
she smiled and hugged me.
driving away was when i realized her question was not about my plan for editing photographs.
she was asking how we would go about sharing her story for this project.
her words. her wisdom. her heart.
a braver answer from me would have been:
“i don’t know.”
why was it so hard for me to say that?
i am a yoga teacher for chrissake.
i have watched brene brown’s ted talk on the power of vulnerability at least three times.
people who act like they know it all annoy the heck out me.
(which, i know, says as much about me as it does about them. but still.)
i couldn't just say, “i don’t know.”
even though i wanted to be honest. humble. vulnerable. with this incredible woman who had just spent an hour bravely being all of these things in an open field in front of my camera.
so i spent the entire week thinking about her question.
i realized how much i believe that the real power of this project lies in making authentic and personal connections. and that while connecting authentically with another person sounds simple enough in concept, it actually requires courage.
more of it than i anticipated.
i do not having a precise or structured plan for how to make these connections.
but maybe that is okay.
maybe it's better not to have a strategy.
“connection is why we are here. it gives purpose and meaning to our lives. this is what it’s all about,” says brene brown. “staying vulnerable is a risk we have to take if we want to experience connection.”
yeah. and to have a conversation about intimate partner abuse, even after years of thriving and being free from it, is to dance with vulnerability. not exactly comfortable.
but if this is where the wisdom is, i want to learn the dance.
last night, mandy came to my house to view her portraits. we baked halibut and peaches, and opened a chilled bottle of pink wine from france.
“remember last weekend when you asked me what’s the plan,” i said?
she laughed. she already knew.
and then i asked her what she thought.
and then i listened.
until late into the night. enthralled. i learned a lot of things. she shared parts of her story. and had me gazing at her in awe.
her courage. optimism. love. process. humor. heart.
elements of the alchemy of transformation.
i will keep practicing this dance.
and i look forward to connecting, and maybe dancing, with you, too.
forgive me if my steps are awkward. i am learning.