When you’re an only child, an entrepreneur, and a work-at-home mom, life can often get really isolating. I love this little community that you’ve helped me build here because it allows me to connect with all of you, having the Big Important Conversations that often are lacking in my day-to-day life. So much of our lives seem to be spent talking about the minutia of the day, the logistics, the “how old are your kids now?” and the “no, we haven’t eaten there yet, is it good?” There’s a distance that we keep with each other that makes us safe. Gives us common ground enough to agree to the playdate or make plans for lunch, but not enough room to truly reach each other. We seem to be spending so much time talking about the small stuff and not enough time talking about the Big Stuff, and I suppose that’s why they call it “small talk.”
While I have a beautiful group of artists that I connect with, friends who challenge me and inspire me, and a family that loves and supports me, I often find myself still wondering where all the Big Important Conversations have gone. There was a time in my life where I could get into conversations that would make my head spin for days – playing a running track in the background that would hatch all sorts of new ideas, new dreams, incredible feelings of freedom and togetherness and joy. Creative conversations, dreamy conversations, nostalgic conversations. The kinds of conversations that bring us closer and make us connect with one another. The kinds of conversations that keep us up until dawn and then straight through breakfast. The kinds of conversations where life-long friendships start, naturally, simply, without logic or pretense. These Big Important Conversations are essential for me to feel inspired, to keep creating, to keep dreaming bigger. They drive me to simply be better.
We can’t stay up til dawn anymore having the Big Important Conversations because we have jobs and kids and marriages that we have to show up for the next day. When we get the chance to leave our computers and our phones behind and connect with each other in real life, we spend so much of that time “catching up” and so little of it getting down to what really matters. We gloss over the opportunities to get into the Big Important Stuff by offering sympathetic one-liners instead of asking scary questions. We talk about our jobs but not why we do them or what inspires us. We talk about what our kids are up to and how the last date night was, but we don’t talk about how hard it all really is to keep it all together every day without falling apart. We don’t talk about how we can feel selfish and scared and lost and disillusioned and somehow feel joy and completeness at the same time. We don’t talk about ourselves as we truly are, what we really want and what we really don’t. We talk about those things here in this virtual space, and I am so very thankful for that, but I’m craving the kind of authentic conversations that can only happen when we can look each other in the eye and where we cannot carefully curate what we are going to share. Where we can not edit and delete. Where we cannot unpublish.
We are becoming closer here online while simultaneously becoming more distanced from each other. Our day-to-day conversations can read as status updates, simply giving the shiniest of highlights of the “who, what, when, where” of things, while the “why” is left largely unanswered. We think we know so much about each other, but how much of it is just noise? How much of our truth are we keeping quiet, stifled, filed away? How much are we curating behind the veil of perfection and sunsets and the glasses of Chardonnay? Are we hiding behind the noise of the one-liner and the small talk so much that it’s becoming our truth?
I’ll Show You Mine:
I am not perfect by any means and I don’t pretend to be. You have allowed me to share the parts of my truth where I am often at my most vulnerable point, where I feel like I’m failing, where the shame and the guilt or the joy and the excitement have filled me up and all overflow onto these pages. And when I photograph a family, I know that you are coming to me at a very vulnerable point, too. A point where you’re afraid that every flaw that you see in yourself will be magnified within the frames, where you’re scared that I’ll see that your kids don’t always listen and that you’ll yell at them and it’ll ruin everything, and that you’ll look at the photos down the road and see that your husband doesn’t look at you like that anymore. We’re in this together. We’re all nervous and scared and afraid that we won’t live up to the highest of expectations that we set for ourselves. And I want to talk about it. It’s a Big Important Conversation that we can have right here, just you and me. The photos aren’t the important part of what we’re doing, it’s secondary to the fact that we chose to show up for each other at all. Because we’re making space for each other – all of us: you and me and your family. We showed up as we were and we chose to show each other who we are.
You might feel like you already know me so well because of what I share online, and, since we’re sharing our truths here, I do that entirely intentionally. There are several reasons that I choose to share what I do with you all online – one of which is that when I have something I need to say, I need to say it right then and there or it feels like I might actually explode. But the larger, Big Important Reason is that in order for me to expect you to show up and share intimate, personal, authentic moments with each other for me – I owe you the respect of doing the same. And most of you know, I don’t filter myself very well and I often ask Big Important Questions during our time together, but the answers to those questions aren’t the important part of what we’re doing. The important thing is that we asked them at all.
I always come away from my sessions feeling better than I did when I arrived. I feel like a better person than I was before. I feel like we quieted the noise and we got to share pieces of who we are with each other. We only had an hour, but we knew we did something good with it. We spent it well. And then you go home and I go home and all I want is that feeling to last forever. So why can’t it? I think that we can make choices that can allow those feelings to continue. We can make choices to fill up our time with people who make us feel. We can make choices to make space in our lives for all the people who can help cut through the noise and the nonsense.
It Can’t All Be Big Stuff:
While I’m not suggesting that we have an intimate conversations with our dental hygienists at our check-ups (although I do that, hi Amy!), and I’m not necessarily suggesting that you and I become best friends who share everything that’s in our soul with each other after our session is over (although, I’d totally meet for coffee if you’re up for it), what I am suggesting is that when we have the opportunity to have a Big Important Conversation, we run toward it and not away from it. What I am suggesting is that when we find people who spark our creativity, bring our optimism to the forefront, and make us want to just be better, we grab ahold of them tightly and cut through all the nonsense to find out who they really are. We listen with the intent to understand – not with the intent to respond. We find collaborators in business and in life that can help us realize our full potential and make us quiet the noise. We find people where the Big Important Conversations come naturally, where time slips away quickly without noticing, where the Big Ideas start to take shape. And when we find them, we silence the small talk and speak our truths loudly. We cannot default to what’s on the surface – to what’s safe and comfortable. What I’m suggesting is that in order to grow, we need to be uncomfortable, we need to be challenged, we need to be asked “why?” every so often. And what I’m suggesting is that we hold space for these special people and we don’t settle for anything less.
My dad once told me when I was going through a particularly bad breakup that I should “never settle for anything less than everything.” And somewhere along the line, the line between what was “everything” and what wasn’t started to blur. Pretty soon, I started settling for things that were so far away from “everything” that I lost sight of what I believed “everything” to be. I filled up my life with people who left me feeling empty and uninspired. I stopped having conversations that moved me, I stopped writing and creating, and I almost entirely stopped feeling. Finding my people who gave me grace and held space for me to show them who I was, to love me through it all – through the mistakes and the missteps and the denial and all the joy that came through at the end of it all – allowed me to open myself up entirely to a world of new opportunities. Then I found you all and you held me up and supported me and let me talk about my Big Important Stuff with you – and through all of your messages and texts and emails and comments, those conversations have continued.
What I Want:
My wish for all of us that we have a place in our lives where we can all find people that we can share these moments and have the Big Important Conversations. That while we still have to have the small conversations about when to meet the electrician and which pulled pork recipe is best, those aren’t the only kinds of conversations that we have. My hope is that each of us finds people who make them want to be better, who inspire us with their Big Important Questions, who make us pause to think before we answer. My hope is that we all have people that we can sit down with in a real place and look them in the eye and ask them not only the “who, what, when, where” of things, but get deep into the “why” every once and a while. That we can find time to make places for these people who I know will do more for our lives than all the tiny thumbs ups can do on the computer screen. And that when we find people who don’t want to come with us on our journey of finding the Big Answers or when we need to let go of people who can’t fit into our hearts, we send each other off into the world with love and light and wish each other well without judgement.
When time is the highest currency and we are all so very poor, we cannot be giving handouts to people who do not fulfill a missing piece of our own unique “everything” puzzle. We have to choose where and with whom we spend our time and, because so much of our lives are consumed with the kids and the jobs and the marriages that we actually need to show up for, we need to choose very wisely. I choose Big Important Conversations. I choose “where did the time go?” I choose to be made to think, to feel, to question, to wonder, and to dream bigger. We might not be able to stay up until dawn talking about how we’re going to change the world anymore, but we can always find an hour. And if I only have an hour, I know damn well that I don’t want to spend that hour talking about anything less than everything.