Let’s start at the beginning.
I had 2 lovely weddings in February. It was cold, but sweet. Both went wonderfully, with the exception of one bride who had the flu during her wedding day. Bless her heart it was rough on her, but she handled it like a champ.
Around that same time I started having some wild pain which required surgery. Looking at a packed calendar for the year & a major surgery which would require several weeks of no lifting sent me into a bit of a panic. Where in the world would I fit this in?
Things started getting weird in Italy. Some of my dearest friends live in Rome and were reporting daily to me the deaths & shutdowns happening there. A trip to Portugal with another dear friend was approaching & I was beginning to wonder if it was safe to go.
Covid hit the US via a nursing home in Washington. I was slated to fly across the country, one state over from Washington, at that time. My gut said stay home. I went anyway.
Things started getting real, very fast. I made the decision to cancel my Portugal trip. I was deeply concerned about this virus that was seemingly everywhere, and I was scared to navigate an international trip in the level of pain that I was in. I broke the news to my friend that I thought we should cancel, and instead of scheduling wine tours in the Douro Valley in Portugal, I scheduled surgery.
It’s okay. I at least have Nowhere Else Fest to look forward to in the summer (a 3-day music festival with some of my favorites) and Italy in November.
The reports from Italy worsened. The fear started setting in.
My kids school shut down.
My surgery was cancelled.
My husband was told to work from home.
And group gatherings became forbidden.
I wasted exactly zero minutes reaching out to every couple of mine for 2020 – all the way through my New Years Eve couple. I was honest with my concerns and forthcoming with how I could help them & what they needed to do NOW to ensure they could find a reschedule date. Through everything that’s happened this year, this is one thing I know I handled well.
With all photography work getting actively wiped from my calendar, handling postponement texts & emails became my new job. Talking to heartbroken brides, and grooms, and family members – and doing everything in my power to help them easily find a new date and give solid advice.
Navigating how I was supposed to be handling this as a business owner. Months worth of income fluttering away at once, contract changes… and still bills to pay. This was uncharted territory.
I became a homeschool mom. Something I never thought I’d say – and definitely never had the desire to say. March-May were filled with a lot of tears. From my frustrated (perfectionist) kids – and from their new (clueless) at-home teacher (that’d be me).
I didn’t leave my house for a few months. Sending my husband only to the grocery store, as he had to go out occasionally for work anyway. I’d wipe down all the groceries before they came into our home.
I created my first large-scale personal project in years. My daughter and I connected, learned, and found creativity together. It became one of my favorite creations in my body of work to date.
Can I breathe? I feel like I can’t breathe. Do I have a fever? Let’s try holding my breath for 10 seconds. (Every damn day. For weeks.)
What even is this new life?
The music fest was canceled.
I made the decision to postpone the retreat I was leading in Italy (which is not only my favorite place in the world, but also an event I’ve poured ALL of myself into planning for months & was wildly excited about).
And the pain for the surgery that was canceled continued without an end in sight.
This is where I hit my breaking point.
Watching press-conferences at 2:00 from the governor became my new routine. Everything else just seemed to mix together. I hoped daily for updates, clarity, and some sort of idea of what was to come next.
That seemed to never come.
I spent my evenings Zooming with friends, as we attempted to make each other laugh through the confusion & frustration.
I stood outside the house of a dying friend to wish her a happy birthday from 20 feet away.
A week later, she died. There was no gathering of friends to hug and mourn her together. Only the gut-punch sobs from my bathroom, alone.
As things slowly began opening up in the world again, I started doing portrait sessions. Reconnecting with my former wedding couples who now had growing families gave me a much needed smile.
My surgery finally was rescheduled. It went well. The pain was finally gone.
Ahmaud Arbery. Breonna Taylor. George Floyd.
The world erupted. My heart broke & my eyes opened. I dug into learning as much as I could about how I could be better in this world.
Eventually, weddings began happening again – hooray!
I was so grateful to be working. Grateful to see people celebrating happy moments again. Grateful to leave my house.
But, also scared.
What if I got Covid at one of these events? What if my assistant gets it on my watch? What if I have to quarantine from exposure & then can’t be at the following weeks wedding?
As much turmoil that the beginning of the year brought, I don’t think I could be prepared for the strange mixture of happiness coupled with fear that the following months provided.
And I won’t even speak of the (obvious) political tension, awkward conversations, and exodus from social media that also occurred.
On December 9, 2019 I wrote the following to myself:
“Dear 2020 Self,
I hope this time next year you look back on what a good year it has been. 2020 is yours for the taking. I hope you commit to less. Stop being afraid so much. Choose simplicity more.”
Well, I’d say I got a chunk of my wish.
This year was filled with an undeniable fear in many forms. From getting sick myself, to fear for loved ones, to fear for my business – It was there.
But committing to less & learning simplicity? That definitely happened.
Granted it was a forced decision, but sometimes my Type A personality needs a little forced shut down. A time to take my hands off the reigns & just be.
And through all the ups & downs this year brought – I am truly grateful. I learned so much about myself and my ability to think on my feet, adjust accordingly, love others well, be open to learning new things, and changing as needed.
I actually overcame fear this year in an unexpected way. I learned to speak out & be bold when necessary. Something I didn’t do my whole life for fear of rocking the boat. Stay nice & stay quiet became something of my past.
I also learned that my priorities needed an overhaul. And 2020 provided me the space to work out that lesson, tough as it may have been.
This year gave me a renewed sense of purpose, passion, and drive.
It gave me more time with my kids than I ever could have imagined having in a year – and while most days that makes me feel a little nutty, I am truly grateful. Getting to watch them learn, push themselves & be determined through all the difficulty that 9 months of learning at home brings, has been inspirational & made me so proud.
I celebrated the union of 17 couples this year. Days that didn’t look quite like they’d planned, but they too learned their own strength this year. And I got to watch that play out in real time. People who chose love. And it was beautiful.
2021 will look different for me in a lot of positive ways, and I have 2020 to thank for that.