I was going to publish a post about fear and then I changed my mind. I may talk about fear sometime in the future. However, two things happened today that made me change my mind. One of them is the topic for this post. The other one, the sermon at Mass. But let’s get to it, shall we?
I was reviewing my entries in Days Counter when I realized that I had a new accomplishment that deserved its own entry on the app: The day when I once again picked up my camera and took pictures.
What a feeling! And it was a memorable occasion, too! I am very rusty; that much I can say. I don’t remember when was the last time I took pictures with it. I have mostly been using my phone. However, I don’t care what they say. Cell-phone cameras are not the same as holding an actual camera, a professional SLR.
It’s like driving a sports car with automatic transmission: It is not the same as doing so with stick. A sports car should always be driven with manual transmission. Same happens in photography. I don’t care how good these iPhones, Androids, or Google phones can get. It is not the same to let the software do it for you. Anybody who is into photography will be able to fully understand what I’m saying.
Either way, I have been passionate about photography since my mom let me use her beat-up P&S Kodak for the first time. I was in the 3rd grade. Those were the days of film. The excitement of going to the store to pick the processed pictures! You didn’t know how your photos were going to look until you would open that envelope. Now you can just check a display.
Anyway, it was love at first sight. I decided to become a photographer that week. Unfortunately, my economical background did not allow for me to either study photography, or buy an SLR. It was out of the question.
It wouldn’t be until almost 30 years later when I would finally be able to buy a Nikon camera kit. It was not a full-frame camera. But I finally had my professional-looking camera.
I slowly started to build my bag, buying lenses. I now also have a full-frame camera. Unfortunately, my favourite lenses are for the other camera and, even when I can mount them on the full-frame body, the pictures get cropped.
I apologize if I’m becoming too technical. But this is truly my passion and it has been set aside for too long due to my marriage.
This is what happened. As a matter of fact, my husband encouraged me to buy that first camera kit. At the time we were dating, not even engaged. For some reason, I got a substantial refund from the IRS that year. I think it had something to do with changes in the tax system because I make a point of making sure that I will not get a big refund. I try to breakeven.
Anyway, after paying off something, I still had enough money to finally buy that camera. I had been saving for a while. He encouraged me and convinced me to go ahead and get it.
In retrospect, he had nothing to lose. We were still not married, had just started dating, and he was definitely playing supporting boyfriend. I went ahead and ordered the camera and kit lens.
Years later and already married, he would stop supporting my passion. He knew I wanted to have a business. People and friends were offering to pay me to take pictures of their weddings, pregnancies, newborns, family portraits, their sons and daughters’ senior pictures, special events, and the likes. They were offering to pay. I wasn’t even asking for business. It was just coming to me.
I always carried my camera with me. There was always something to capture. It didn’t matter where we were going. And it was always a good opportunity to sharpen my skills.
He started to get annoyed. I started to act more inconspicuous. I started to carry fewer lenses. Then I stopped carrying my monopod. Then it was just the camera body and one lens. Eventually, I started to take to my mom’s basement my bag and all of my equipment, studio gear, and props that I had slowly started to pile up. A little bit at a time.
I buried my passion a bit at a time, as well. As I kept on taking things to my mom’s, I put another nail in the coffin of my passion.
It started in a very subtle way. We would go to a Tigers game and he would say something along the lines of ‘You sure you want to take that? Our seats are like row 300 something at the top, behind home, way up.‘ We would go to the Henry Ford Museum or the Greenfield Village and he would say ‘Don’t you already have enough pictures of that place?‘ Once again, anybody who is into photography knows that there are certain places and situations that, no matter how many times you’ve been there, there will be new opportunities.
Long gone were the days when he would offer me to carry my bag or monopod for me. And to think that he would show my pictures of our honeymoon or sports events at the school he worked at to anybody, while saying ‘Can you believe those pictures? My wife took them. Aren’t those fantastic? They look so professional, don’t they?‘
If I would overhear him say that, my heart would fill with love and gratitude towards him for appreciating me, my talents, my passions, and, most importantly, for supporting me and having encouraged me to buy that camera.
What I didn’t realize back then was that, when he would bring up my photographs, it was not to actually praise me. It was all part of himself and his precious image. I was merely association. I was making him look good. My pictures were an opportunity for him to show off. Here’s a short rundown,
- Pictures of honeymoon: He was a genius for figuring out how to go to a place as expensive as Hawaii on a dime
- Pictures of a friend’s wedding whose hired photographer messed up, not giving them any viable pictures that could be salvaged to remember that special day: By him bringing me, I was there to take free pictures. Granted, he could not have foreseen a poor job from the professional. It just happened. But my bringing my own camera to practice just happened, as well. And when he heard about the awful job the hired one had done, he was given an opportunity to appear as the saviour by asking me to share (for free) the pictures I had taken. Not that I truly minded; however, that’s not the point.
- Pictures of the meet he had organized for the school, taken his students to, or both: I love taking sports pictures. I always did. And since I practiced many sports, I have the advantage of being able to anticipate some action and that allows me to take pictures that some other people without said knowledge cannot get. He would then start talking about his team and how great a coach he was.
Those are some examples. But then our daughter was born. I would only take the camera out to take pictures of her. Any other occasion was now being dismissed with a not-so-subtle comment about my bringing my camera.
Eventually, I only took pictures of our daughter with my cell phone. And even that action would be received with some snarky comment.
I am finding myself again. I am rebuilding my owm person. I am starting to trust my skills again. And I’m starting to find my voice again. The only reason why I have not brought my camera back to the place we’re still sharing is because I’m concerned about what he could do to it. Because, believe me, I want to rub it in his face. He once hid my cell phone. He still gets through the few belongings I still have there. I am not bringing a several thousand dollars camera to that place. I don’t know what he could do.
So, an opportunity came up. My husband took our daughter on a trip for a few days. I had to let him. There was nothing I could legally do to prevent him. I was going to have her by myself for a few days after their return. So I had to swallow it, pray to God, the Virgin Mary, and our Guardian Angels to protect her and hope for the best.
With her gone and me heartbroken, I talked to my closest friend who had been standing by my side for so many years and especially since I got served divorce papers. I don’t know what I would do without him and my other friends who are helping me get through this. He has a house on a lake and his township was having the Independence Day fireworks display that weekend. He invited me over and there I went, carrying my camera, tripod, remote, one lens, and fresh batteries.
I couldn’t even remember how to set up my tripod! That long it had been.
The best, seeing my friend. While we have stayed in touch over e-mail, text messaging, and phone, we had not seen each other since my daughter was 1-day old, when he came to visit me at the hospital. In fact, it was his own birthday. My daughter’s birthday is the day before. Two of the most precious people in my life have their birthdays back-to-back.
How sad is that, not seeing someone that you love and means so much to you for so long? Three years!!! All that thanks to my husband isolating me from friends and other people who were important to me or I cared about and them me.
A couple of days later I would once again find myself behind the camera, this time, taking pictures of my daughter at the zoo. There is something about looking at your subject through a viewfinder. Nothing else matters. It’s just that subject, in that moment in time. If you zoom in, the world gets even smaller. If you increase the aperture, the background becomes a blur and your subject, the important matter and focus of your picture becomes prominent.
I was looking at my daughter like that. She was playing with the water coming up from the ground, by the new penguinarium. Her and her fascination with the water coming up and down. Her surprise. Her delight. Her innocence. Her. Nothing else matter. For a few hours, I didn’t remember the divorce, the custody battle, the psychological evaluations, the increasing debt I’m accruing, the fear of the unknown, NPD, the hurting, the healing, the uncertainty, the constant stress, the gray rock, the days he took her away and didn’t care for her needs… All of it, gone, as fast as that shutter speed opened up the mirror in my camera in the sun of that July afternoon.
For the first time in a very long time I was truly and genuinely happy, from the inside out.
At some point, I looked at where my mom was sitting, in the shade. Her face tired due to the stress, anxiety, exhaustion, and guilt that this divorce has brought to her. In the months since I was served, I have seen her age several years. I felt bad for her. I always do. She should be enjoying these years, the only grandchild she’ll have. It’s not her fault, I keep telling her. But moms are and will always be moms. Being a mother myself now I can finally start to understand her a lot better. She still needs to heal from her own failed marriage. And I think that first my pregnancy and now my divorce are what she needed to finally start to heal.
Maybe that’s the reason why this marriage happened to me. Not just for my own growing, but most importantly for hers and her own healing. At the verge of 70 years old, she’s been looking back at her own life. She feels like a failure. However, thanks to some things she had said to and shared with me, I believe she’s finally accepting what happened to her and starting to think and talk like the strong person I know she is.
The rage she had buried against my father is coming out directed to my husband and it is a good thing. Because my husband is the catalyst she needed for her own failed marriage. There are some parallels it seems between my husband and my father, whom I never truly met. While my father did not have NPD, he did have some selfish attitudes that ended up crumbling down the marriage. When my husband does something and my mother finds out, she draws a parallel with her own husband, my father. And it’s a good thing she’s getting it out. We need to talk about these things. We need to face them, confront them, and process them so we can heal. Better later than never.
I am not going to get into the whole sermon experience from today’s Mass. This post is already long enough. What I would like to close with is the fact that I got behind a camera again after so long.
It is amazing how much of us gets lost when married to someone with Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD.) I am glad that I am not waiting for the divorce to be final to start finding my passions once again. Healing is more important right now. So I can be the person that God intended me to be, the mother my daughter deserves, the daughter my mother deserves especially in her old days, and the human being I ought to be.
Indeed, God’s ways are not our ways. We like to mess things up. Only He can make the road a bit clearer. I can’t speak for other states. But Michigan should receive a new nickname other than ‘The Great Lakes States.’ With all the construction we constantly have around here, maybe we should be known as the ‘The Great Constructions and Make-No-Sense Detours State.’ Anybody who had been through this state during the peak of construction season knows what I’m talking about. Hours of senseless detours and traffic jams. It’s similar to NPD abuse. You’re on a highway, everything runs smoothly, and all of a sudden, orange sign. Chaos. Delays. You’re stuck not going anywhere, thinking about one and a thousand possible alternative routes. But you still don’t move. All of a sudden, the cars in front of you start moving. A green sign letting you know how many more miles to your destination or exit. Your GPS may show part of the route. The tools you may have in your car (phone, navigation system, SYNC, OnStar, you mention it,) may help you for a while. You have to trust them, your gut feeling, your previous knowledge of the roads, your experience. But that’s it. You don’t know what’s ahead. Google maybe giving you the wrong or not updated information. So you trust your instincts and you keep moving forward.
God has the whole map. God knows the bumps on the road, the innuendos, the tolls, the conditions. All He wants us to do is trust Him. He gave us the tools and talents to carry on. The rest is up to Him. But we keep on messing up. We keep doubting Him. We keep punching new alternatives on our already obsolete GPS unit, even if we might have bought it the day before, it’s already old and outdated.
I know this first hand. I keep on trying to solve things on my own. But I think I’m finally starting to learn. This divorce, this NPD marriage, a high price to pay, yes, I will give you that.
I can’t blame Him. I can’t be mad at Him. I can’t be disappointed in Him. I am very stubborn and maybe He had to recourse to this so I would finally say ‘Okay, you’re in charge. Show me what to do, the way. I trust you… I think. I know you made me strong. But you already know this is my weakness. Trust, or lack thereof, is my weakness. And I don’t want to not trust You anymore. Give me strength, courage, and humility, to let You take care of all of this and just show me the way. Show me the orange sign saying ‘Detour Ahead’ and I’ll just follow it and the line of orange cones, I’ll follow You. I’ll come home.’