Beyond Dipping Toes In

by Liz

“You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. Do the thing you think you cannot do.”

Eleanor Roosevelt

Two days before taking these pics, I did my first photo shoot in the freezing cold water of the stream in my favorite canyon. I walked barefoot in the icy water. That was a big achievement for me, but I wanted to push further. I knew I needed to conquer the water, to lay down in it.

I wanted another crack at the freezing cold water. Again, my husband took the photos. My son wrangled the roses, and my daughter protected my warm, dry clothes and helped me change out of the soaking wet dress as quickly as possible when it was over. It was a very, very quick shoot, but we got most of the shots I had in mind.

I had a few purposes in doing this crazy photography stuff that week. Some of it is just having a creative idea and wanting to see if I can realize it. Some of it is wanting images to practice with before I take photos of much better models for the cover of my romance novel I’m publishing this year. This post is about personal reasons.

My daughter thought this was a terrible idea on the way up the canyon. On the way down the canyon, we had a really important mother-daughter conversation. My girl does not think of herself as very brave, and she had a morning that made her feel less brave than ever. Also, she is of an age where she is making decisions and observations about what it means to be beautiful, confident, and herself. She knows I hate the cold, and she knows that water this cold can be dangerous. She couldn’t understand why I wanted to do this. So we talked about it. I told her that everyone has to decide who they are and who they want to be. There are some things about myself that I want to be more willing to embrace, but my gray hairs, wrinkles around the eyes, rough skin on my hands and feet, as well as some other things about my appearance, are not automatically considered beautiful in our culture.

For a while, I cared more than I wanted to about what was considered beautiful. Then I tried to see myself as beautiful in my own way. Now, I don’t really want to care about beauty at all. I want other words for myself: bold, authentic, real, elegant, fierce, graceful, strong, powerful. Above all, I want the word kind. And I don’t want to wait until other people label me these things before I believe them. I’m just going to make them true, for myself, because they are what I want to be.

I told her it was important to me that taking the pictures would be scary, that was part of the point. Even with my grays, wrinkles, etc, I expected the pictures would turn out to be lovely, (hooray for roses, my favorite color, nice lighting, and water!) Because I was doing something brave, every time I looked at these pictures, I would feel strong. I would want them to be nice to look at, but more than that, I wanted them to prove to myself over and over that I had done something hard for myself and had a positive experience. We were smart about safety, so it was relatively low-risk, rather ideal for practicing bravery. And when I can conquer little scary battles with myself, then when the bigger battles come around, I am less scared of them. Plus it’s just dang fun to have an exciting idea and do it. It was a sweet conversation with my daughter, and now the photos will make me think of that more than anything else

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