Letting Go of Me –


I keep sitting here typing a line, then deleting it.  Typing.  Deleting.  I mean, who am I to blog about the art of letting go?  My mind is so cluttered with things to do that making lists of “Things to do”  is on my list of things to do.  I have so many projects to tackle when Ramona is at Grandma’s house that I usually feel overwhelmed and end up drinking a glass of wine then taking a nap.  Naps and wine are good though. Really, really good.

I guess I’m still trying to figure out how to be a mother.  Every day is basically survival in my house.  Getting through one day without a tumble down the stairs is a triumph.  A play date when I actually have a diaper or a snack on the go when I need it is progress.  You see, I’m still spinning from the realization that I’m actually a mother at all.  I sometimes have this moment of clarity when I think, “Oh my gosh, Ramona is mine.  FOREVER.  I’ll be forever a mother.  Forever my life will be a second thought to hers.”.   And that’s sobering.

I’ve been a very ambitious person since I was young.  I started a real, thriving lollipop business when I was just 10 years old and was actually able to sell my sticky sweets to the Boulder Community Hospital and some boutiques around town.  Let me reiterate.  I WAS 10!!  I was a driven little entrepreneur.  And so I am today. But I’m 35 and so much more obsessed with success than I was as a budding tween.  But after eleven years into what was a thriving photography business, closing my storefront studio, blogging at about a 15% rate that I used to, and watching the wedding photography industry slowly cannibalize itself, I’m starting to cling to what WAS my life.  Did I have more blog followers 4 years ago than I do today?  Am I still ranking on Google in the top 10? Do all the wedding coordinators know my name?  And it looks as though in a few years nobody will be able to be a full time photographer with the rate of incoming amateurs and digital cameras/media/Facebook advertising, etc.    And what can I do about it??  I’m now changing diapers, reading Goodnight Moon 15 times a day, holding my daughter’s hand hour after hour as she pulls for it demanding, “Waaa?” (translation–walk in “Ramonaese”).  In the rare occasions  when I have an hour down, I have been trying to do post-production on a wedding while refreshing my Facebook news feed, thinking… “Wow, now THAT is good work.  What happened to mine? Do I need to take another workshop? Do I need to  change the way that I am processing my images?  Should I make the switch back to film (something I’ve actually done with my portraits simply to buy time).  How can I keep this wheel churning?”  Even after 11 years of being in this industry and enjoying a lot of success, I still feel like I can’t get enough affirmation about my work, my style, my whatever. How many “Likes” did my post get? How many blog comments? Did I get any Tweets? Ugh.  Who AM I????

So here I am today. I’m drinking the glass of wine but skipping the nap to process these thoughts as I repeat the mantra that I’m still everything I used to be, I’m just different.  I can’t shoot 40 weddings anymore, but I can shoot 20.  I can’t control the industry’s “dog eat dog” decline, but I can be thankful for the work I have and know that I’ve never been happier.  I can pull myself off Facebook and read a book of my choosing when I get a break.  I can work on the delicate balance of “work and life” and realize that while my identity has been so wrapped up in the popularity and success of my work in the past, that I need to LET GO and simply enjoy making images again.  And I can see all of this change as a gift because I’m realizing that for the first time in my life, success is measured not in how many Facebook likes or inquiries I have, but in watching my daughter squeal and dance in joy when she sees a chicken, or revel in the moment of singing her to sleep.  I’m remembering that shooting 40 weddings a year and blogging every day only led to debauchery and misery in the past and that  I hardly had time to even look at my work, let alone enjoy it.  I am seeing that letting go of control is growth and that trusting in God’s provision is far easier than promoting my work and losing integrity.  For my integrity today is based on the fact that I’m living the life that was chosen for me, not the one that I’m trying to choose.  Parenthood will teach you that!  My success lies not in getting featured in a blog but in understanding my daughter’s sloppy sign language.  I’m a Mama!  And whether I have it figured out or not, I know that I’m damn good at it when I can let go and be present.

So screw the lists of “Things to do”. I’d rather bask in the chaotic and fleeting moments of Ramona’s toddler-hood. I’d rather stress about a messy home than than worry about the time crunch from a wedding coordinator who wants my images for some blog.  I’d rather steal hard to get kisses from my daughter than refresh my browser to see if there is a new comment on my blog.  I want my Saturdays to be full of strolls at farmer’s markets or music festivals with Ramona in tow, rather than driving across the Front Range for 4 different shoots on a valuable weekend.   I am letting go of my need for approval and praise from my colleagues and focusing on giving my daughter the approval and affirmation that SHE needs.  I’m JUST LETTING GO.  I’m letting go and letting God.  If I’m in a double wide in a year, so be it.  I will have public parks to explore, bubbles to blow, kites to fly, songs to sing, laughter to savor, and many, many more kisses to steal.

Cynthia G - Yay! I see our “wine” the other night was cathartic for both of us. Could not agree with this more. As a wife, mom of 3, biz owner, blah blah blah, I can tell you that you’ll find that she needs you more and more as she grows. She needs you right now to survive, she’ll need you in a few more years to live and love. You can’t reap and sow at the same time – and with kids it’s a long growing season and short harvest. You being aware and present of yourself and your thoughts is all that you can ask for. May peace enter where it already resides – in your heart. Love you.

Johanne - I’m not a Mom, but I just love this blog. Probably because you are so honest, real and I love the way you think. Ramona is so lucky to you have you.

abby Jacobs - Wow, you nailed it. I have been feeling the same thing and wondering how other moms view success. It is hard to “let go” but also once you do, life is so much more enjoyable and the connections are so much deeper. We do what we can and it is quite a LOT. Your talent isn’t going anywhere, you have a lifetime of it. Thanks for so eloquently writing this! Big fan 🙂

Jamie Kelly - Julie, what a beautiful, inspiring post. We all have feelings about defining self worth and success. Thank you for the reminder to enjoy the present, let go, and be exactly where we are supposed to be.

Marilee - Hey Julie, I totally agree with you. I experienced very similar feelings a couple of years ago. I am now living in a double wide. Just kidding. Not totally, but still. I am so happy. There is nothing sweeter or more meaningful in life than sharing day to day life with my toddler and my baby. The time we spend together being silly, laughing, playing games, etc. It is priceless. Give me a call sometime. I would love to get together and meet Ramona!

Anne singleton - Ok three things. 1- you are eloquent in your words and Ramona is so lucky to have such an amazing mother. 2- you are the best photographer in the entire world and I am not just saying that- I have image after image of proof. And if the industry cannibalizes itself, myself and my family are so lucky to have made your archives. 3- I would like to have some of that wine and some of those naps with you. In that order, as soon as tomorrow. Love you.

Mom - Love, love, LOVE! You are an amazing mama to my first grandbaby! I have never been more proud of you! It has been one of the great blessings of my life — to see you become the mama that you are. I love you!

Julie - Hi Julie! We haven’t connected in so long and I happened to see this post on a friend’s facebook feed! So funny because I hate Facebook! But your words really struck a cord and I thought I would let you know. Liam is 3 and I have been struggling with these very same thoughts since he was born. Motherhood changes us, but our need to create and make an impact on the world stays the same. It can be really challenging at times. I actually just wrote about the same thing on my blog and was afraid to publish it. Your post inspired me. Thank you. You can check it out at http://julieafflerbaugh.typepad.com/julie_afflerbaugh_photogr/2013/03/being-an-artist-and-a-mom.html

I reference a blog post on The Little Brown Mushroom that I think you will enjoy.
I hope to connect with you again sometime soon!

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