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To be seen

For the longest time in my life, I had lain low. For the longest time in my life, the last thing I wanted was to be seen. To be seen meant to be vulnerable. I shut myself off from the rest of the world, forging iron rings around my heart like the Iron Heinrich in The Frog Prince. Don’t try to find out who you are – you might not like what you find. And worse: others might not like what you find. And don’t let yourself feel – you feel, you get hurt.

And it was so easy to hide, living the lives of others and using my responsibility to care for them as an excuse for not caring for myself. Things started to change when my mother died, and the house of cards collapsed, and all that was left was me – stripped of her own identity on purpose. I sank into deep depression and anxieties, but nobody was allowed to see this. I reinforced the armor, put up the veneer, created an identity that was not me.

And deep inside me, I must have felt the need and the will to change something. I don’t remember when it started to happen, but it must be a year or so ago when I actually started to realize something was going on. For quite a while, I had enjoyed going out with my camera to make photos in nature, but slowly things began to change. When I was out in nature, the world seemed to vanish. I was deeply engaged and experienced a flow of emotions I hadn’t thought I was capable of. My photos became less and less the result of planning and technical proficiency and more and more the result of the emotional involvement with my environment and myself. The process had begun!

I started putting the joy, the pain, the grief, the loneliness, and the longing into my images. Through them, I could share how I felt. They wouldn’t hurt me. I started embracing my emotions.

But still, I was afraid of being seen. How could something be worth anything that was made by somebody who questioned her own worth and her own identify so much? However, when I started embracing my emotions, they started to steadily tear at my armor and as much as I tried to push them back, they didn’t relent.

So with a pounding heart and a feeling of complete uneasiness and - I admit - fear, I decided to do something new: to let other people in. With love and persistence, they poked their fingers into the small gap in my armor and helped me peel back layers and layers of old varnish to finally reveal somebody who must have been there all the time. Me. They gave me courage to put myself out there. And I did.

At 56 I still sometimes feel like a newborn baby, who has no idea who she will become one day. Inexperienced and vulnerable, still shaken by doubt and insecurity, but more me than ever before. I share myself with my photography and my writing. What you get is not always beautiful, but it is me. I share my emotions and if I get hurt, I will survive the pain. 

I want a full life. And I want to be seen.

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