This is the 1000th blog post I’ve created and posted. Isn’t that crazy?! It’s wild to see how much my life has changed and evolved since I started this business and blog over a DECADE ago. How am I even old enough to say something like that?!
If you’ve been around for a minute or two, you already know that 3 years ago I went through a separation and divorce. Like it is for most human beings, it was really hard, really messy, and I’m still navigating the fall-out from it. Those who know me, know that one of the ways I process best is through writing. And I bet you can imagine that I’ve done a LOT of writing over the last 3 years. I started writing a google doc a little over a year ago, just putting my entire story on paper. I don’t really know what I’m going to do with it, but there’s a piece of that writing that I have felt very called to share with the world.
It’s really vulnerable to share something like this, but the longer I put it off, the louder the voice is telling me to share. It was way too long for a FB or instagram post, so I figured what better way than here on my blog?
I wrote this in that google doc almost exactly a year ago now:
“I had boudoir photos done, for no other reason than for myself. I saved up the money, I booked the session, I bought one new outfit to go along with others already in my closet. I was doing it, and I DID. I could not have possibly foreseen the impact these photos and this session was going to have on me. Not in a million years. I packed one sentimental outfit, because I knew I wanted to celebrate how far I’ve come these past two years.
I’ve never had so much fun having my photo taken before. When I saw the sneak peek that same night, I actually gasped and tears sprung to my eyes.
I couldn’t quite articulate what I was feeling but “awe” was the closest word I could use that almost fit the bill.
I wrote this post two years ago:
“Can I tell you a secret?
I wasn’t excited about this pregnancy. If you had asked me in January what I wanted, I’d tell you a baby. But the week I found out I was pregnant via IVF, my world started to fall apart. My mental, emotional, and physical health rapidly started to deteriorate. I was so stuck on “It wasn’t supposed to be this way” that all I could see was everything I was losing + not what I was going to gain with this little babe.
Then came the morning sickness. It was far worse than when I was pregnant with Lily, and lasted much longer. Pregnancy is beautiful, but it’s not exactly glamorous. Raging morning sickness, relentless heartburn, body aches, reduced stamina, not being able to sleep, + so much more, can sometimes make it hard to enjoy pregnancy.
Every day for months I’ve prayed to God to change my heart in regard to this baby. I’ve actually been so worried that this baby will be born and I won’t love it because it’s just a reminder of what I’ve lost. The other night I was soaking in an epsom salt bath, watching the baby move around in the candlelight, and I caught myself daydreaming. What the baby will look like. Is it a boy or a girl? The experiences I want to give this little one. And that’s when it hit me, slowly but surely, He’s making the change in my heart, and I’m so grateful. This baby IS a blessing, and it probably saved my life this year.
I keep seeing signs this past week reminding me to just trust in God. Because He’s got a plan. Yes, I still worry a lot about being a single mom to two, and all the obstacles that are on the way, but I’m feeling peace lately.
Months ago, I was praying so hard for a redemption story in my marriage. But maybe, just maybe, the redemption story won’t be in my marriage – It’ll be in me.”
On the drive home from Newport, RI, I was talking to a friend and telling her about the session and the photos and I said “I don’t know what it was, but something shifted in my heart when I saw those photos. I’ve never had photos of myself that I’ve loved like this before. It’s very strange.” After we hung up, I was listening to worship music and just kind of lost in the swirl of my thoughts. I was thinking about the black dress I wore in one of the photos.
I chose that dress because the last time I had worn it I was 20 something weeks pregnant with James and I was in a very deep, dark place. I wasn’t well by any stretch of the imagination, but I took the photos. Somehow I had the forethought to know that Future Linda was going to want photos of this pregnancy, because Future Linda wouldn’t always be this sad and hopeless. That was my prayer, at least. I was so far into the dark I couldn’t see the way out, I didn’t believe the light existed, no matter what anyone told me.
Then I saw the new photo of me in the same black dress from two years ago. And it’s when I realized I hadn’t changed my jewelry for that set and I was still wearing my opal ring. James’ birthstone is an opal. Seeing that opal in the photo really shook me – in a good way. James has been there all along. He’s been with me through the darkness, and he helped bring the light. I didn’t want him in that first photo from two years ago; but this photo from last week? That little boy is my absolute world, and to see him represented without my meaning to, felt like a little hug from God. As if he was saying “I see you. I see where you’ve been. I have loved you dearly this whole time. James was with you all along. He’ll always be with you, just as I will.”
I don’t know much about redemption. But I think that’s it. That’s what shifted in my heart. I could see it in these photos. I looked happy and well.
How could I possibly look happy and well after everything I’ve been through?
I’ve come SO far in these last two years. I have so much further to go, but the difference in me over this time is unbelievable. I don’t recognize myself but at the same time I’m the same person I’ve always been, just different now. I see it most clearly when I look back on what I wrote in those “early days.” How often, though, do we get so caught up in what we have left to do that we discount what we’ve already done? As if the hard work that we’ve been doing all along doesn’t actually count yet? It’s kind of silly, don’t you think?
My journey has been incredibly hard, and I’ve shared bits of my story publicly along the way when I felt called to. Because that’s the thing about the darkness, it keeps you there with fear and shame. It tells you it doesn’t matter, that no one cares, no one wants to hear it. Staying silent keeps us down so deep.
Sharing my story was my way out.
The more I shared, the more I could see the light. Eventually I became that beacon of light for others. These photos? These were the cultivation of that, and it was the first time I allowed myself to see and accept it. To release myself from the sense of betrayal I‘ve carried for the future I thought I was going to have; to release myself from the guilt of things I’ve said; to give myself grace for the times I failed. To finally look at myself and say “you’ve done hard things, and you’ve done well. Look at the woman you’ve become.”
The redemption story was never going to be my marriage.
It was me. It was me all along.”
Lately I’ve been seeing all the redemptive pieces of my story, the most recent in the photos we had taken in North Carolina in April. The woman in the photos just a couple months ago is exuding genuine joy and peace. I have a beautiful life, and I truly love it, despite its challenges. Which is a radical transformation from two years prior. Redemption will find you. You just have to keep going. The darkness is a liar.
If you made it this far, thanks for hanging with me today. I appreciate you. 💓
Linda is a Portland-based photographer specializing in weddings and creating family legacies from Portland to Boston and across New England. You can see more of her work online at lindabarryphotography.com, on Instagram, or on Facebook. If you want to reach out directly: firstname.lastname@example.org.