Unbecoming

My head is spinning. It has been spinning for two weeks. Buzzing might actually be a more accurate description. Spinning suggests confusion, overwhelm, dizziness from fatigue. Buzzing is energy, powerful transformative energy, aligning with the whole of me. I've read that body buzzes signal a connection to your truth or Spirit or Source or your God, whatever works for your beliefs. True or not? Don't care. It sits right with me! 

This entire year, primarily this summer, I was pushing myself (hard, as I always fucking do) to move my business in a different direction. I started resenting most of my photography work and yearned for something "more spiritual" or "more healing" or "more significant." I frantically sought out people, places, and things that aligned with the vision of what and who I wanted to be. And I constantly ran into disappointment. This was too expensive. That was too far away. Those people are too far ahead of me or too established. Too this and too that. My brain was exhausted and my spirit was seriously crushed. How will I ever become what I want if I can't get there to those people, places, and things? 

And then I surrendered. I said, Screw this. I'm tired and I have work to do. Unfinished business to finish. Without realizing it, I let go. I let go of the idea that I would be so inspirational Oprah would notice me. I let go of the belief that spiritual, healing work is another type of work and not the work I currently do. I let go of the self-criticism and belief that where I am right now isn't good enough or true enough. I let go of the fear of being the me I am right now. I paid attention to my surroundings. I accidentally typed surrendings just now. New word? Surrendering in your surroundings becomes your surrendings? Anyway, I paid attention to my surroundings, to my people, to my work (my established work!), and to myself. Hello, Self. I've missed you. 

And you know what happened? The buzzing. I saw a fucking door open so wide you'd think the heat from the other side would hit me hard enough to make me realize it was warm and cozy and full of life in there.

Buzzing. Because dialogues began between me and women interested in sharing their stories.

Buzzing. Because my name was being hashtagged on Instagram by a girl embracing her body for the first time.

Buzzing. Because grad students are writing papers about me and my photography.

Buzzing. Because I realized I don't need to become a life coach or a yoga instructor or an essential oils guru or a holistic doctor or a nutritionist. The world has enough of those. I am Katy the photographer and writer, carving my own path with my own kind of personal and social healing developing along the way.

Buzzing. Because I remembered that what makes you feel on fire and lit up is exactly where you need to be.

Buzzing. Because Glennon Doyle Melton's Love Warrior (Buy it. I'm not kidding.) made me feel more tender, more honest, more forgiving, more loving, more understanding, more compassionate, and more aware that trying too hard to become is trying to escape yourself. She suggests unbecoming. I like this. My first step to unbecoming is to remind myself that life and ones footprint take hard work and a whole lotta love for yourself, your place in the world, and your tribe while you do it. And if my footprint is really just a fingerprint or a traceless print because I was wearing leather gloves the entire time, fine, because I know that I lived and lived well, through the rising, falling, and the clambering about.

How will you unbecome?

Muddy Morning Introspection

Today is gray and sleepy and slow. I didn't want to wake, but I rose to Dale's gentle tickle and soft voice. It's easiest to rise with or shortly after him. I am much less delicate and more ready to put my feet up in the bay window and begin. My world has no order when I wake past nine or ten a.m. I'm often confused and heavy and could break at any random moment. Funny how I never saw myself as a morning person, but I've grown quite in love. Its sweet and light, and if you listen closely, you'll hear Mother whisper that all is well.

Some mornings, I believe her. Others, I sit in utter disbelief that x amount of time has passed and that x problem has yet to be ironed out. And sometimes, I wonder if there ever comes a point where one thinks, "Yes. I've arrived." I do believe that if you remain open, those moments happen frequently in your journey, but what if there's one particular feeling or goal at which you never find yourself arriving? What then? Do you finally step back and realize it's not the path you really want to be following? Or perhaps you understand what kind of work that feeling or goal requires and realize you're too lazy. Or hell...you fear you aren't capable.

At this very moment in my life, I feel disjointed. I feel my spirit moving quickly as the rest of me lingers behind not ready or not willing. I envision such a different space for myself. I desire that wild connection to Source. I see a woman creating in abundance, crafting poetry and projects in line with her spirit. Open. Whole-hearted. Spiritual. Wild. Inspiring. I don't know how to take what I have in my brain and make it lucrative or desired or known or fucking tangible. My creative genius is clawing at the back of my sternum, pleading with me to let her out. When I get to this point and realize why I've felt uncomfortable and borderline ill for a month, I know exactly what I need to do: have sex, take an adventure, tune out to tune in, paint my toenails, write a poem, do an hour of yoga, and stop the mind chatter.

Instead, my ego says, "Guess what, bitch. You're two weeks behind on your work because your hard drive crashed. You need to finish all of that, do data entry for the year so far, pay your quarterly tax, call about that dead tree in your yard, call about getting your septic pumped, and sit and worry about how you don't have enough money for a few hours even though that never solves anything, but you do it anyway."

The difference between those two lists is astounding!

Then, when I sigh about my first list while laughing at my sassy ego, I bring myself back to breath and birds and the beads of rain on my newly stained deck and this warm cup of coffee. As I drink down half of my water, a cool curtain rises behind my morning-crusted eyes and I'm suddenly aware of my aliveness and its truth that change is inevitable and that I should and always will be a witness to my presence on earth.

The Return to Now: How I Created Shifts Within - Part 3

I almost put this post off until next Saturday since I've had a lot of screen time this week finishing up sessions for clients, but today is the New Moon, which is a time to ask yourself, Where am I right now? What do I need around me? How should I move forward, and in what spirit, and I thought this would be the perfect day to share all those gems and jewels from the past year that have ignited fire in my belly and pulled me up from the yuck in case you want to put any of these beauties around you to help you move forward. 

For those who may not have read Part 1 and Part 2, this list of powerful books, videos, podcasts, and people walked (and still are walking) beside me as I navigated my way out of a rough year (2015). I say "walked beside me" because I consider these to be perfect guides while still listening to my own inner voice.

Without further ado, in no particular order, here are my guides and loves: 

White Oleander by Janet Fitch

Play It As It Lays by Joan Didion

Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert

The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin

Women Who Run With the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes

Osho Zen Tarot Card Deck

The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion

The Gifts of Imperfection by Brené Brown

Brené Brown's TED Talk on vulnerability (something which I am still strengthening)

Marie Forleo's Everything is Figureoutable

The Spotify playlists I created for relaxation and meditation/chakra balancing: Within and Meditate 

The Blue Dress by Alison Townsend

Any and all albums by Lana Del Rey. Don't ask me why. I'm obsessed. 

Free online yoga from Brett Larkin. Amazing. She has made playlists to better find what you're looking for. You can search low back pain, yoga for shoulders, stress, grounding, and there are even beginner to advanced playlists. Sessions last anywhere between 10-90min. She's a beautiful soul doing wonderful things for people.

Danielle LaPorte. Good woman. Beautiful thoughts. Inspiring blog posts, books and products. Seriously cool chick.

@happysleepyfolks on Instagram for her gorgeous photos and raw honesty about the ebb and flow of her life. 

JOURNALING! Giving your own brain the time of day to sort out what's floating around is therapeutic. I cannot say this enough. Write. It. Out. Or more importantly, if you're feeling incredibly, deeply low, write gratitude lists daily so that you're not perpetuating the negative crap nagging you. Please. Trust me.

Money and The Law of Attraction by Esther and Jerry Hicks. I'm particularly drawn to their ideas of the energy of our thoughts.

A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle

Danielle LaPorte and Linda Sivertsen's Beautiful Writers Podcast for those who love to write and want to learn more about the writing world.

The yummy, uplifting, thought-provoking women and their posts over at The Body Project Facebook group.

I will likely add to this list because I feel like I've forgotten some. Please know that I am not claiming any of these will dramatically change your life (though, for some, they might), but that utilizing their guidance can only stretch the limits of your mind and open your heart to new ways of seeing your Self and your life and how you operate in it. Gather tools. Listen to your gut. Walk gently. Never give up. Have patience.

Love and light. 

The Return to Now: How I Created Shifts Within - Part 2

My home. Spring 2016. Coming soon: red-stained deck!

This morning, I wrote: "Is it possible to love life more than I have lately? I wake up daily and instantly tell myself it's going to be a good day. I smile. I stretch. I walk gently and listen closely to the world in the hopes that I will learn something new. The precious morning hours are filled with everything you could ever need."

Last year, hell, most years, it was work to get out of bed. And what I just shared above is not to brag, it's to tell you that I worked hard to get here. I made it a priority to live in joy and practiced doing so. Will it always be like this? Maybe not, but it doesn't hurt to share how I did it.

I wrote an entire post on May 14th about the first nine days of my trip in California (making me realize I would have to have to do a "The Return to Now: How I Created Shifts Within Part 3") and never posted it because I started listening to an audio version of Money and The Law of Attraction (because it was a free download if you signed up for the Audible app and also because money matters are a theme in my life this year). Something that stood out to me was their advice on "telling it like it is" and the retelling of stories that inevitably end up aligning your spirit with those energies again and how detrimental that can be for ones health (if the stories harbor negativity, of course). Now, this is not about denial, this is about retelling the story based on what you want out of it. 

So, here is what I want out of my (first ever) solo trip to California: it challenged me and pushed me beyond my limits. It showed me the difference between loneliness and aloneness discovered only through tears, lucid dreams, letting go, illness, and knowing when enough is enough. It taught me to be vulnerable. It surprised and excited me in ways only new experiences can. It taught me deep forgiveness and gave me immense beauty. 

In a span of two weeks, I:

  • had a discussion about consuming things without respect for its spirit (or energy if that's what works in your brain). 
  • experienced cold sweats as I detoxed from sugar (yes, that's how much sugar I eat).
  • sat through a psychic reading in Ojai that touched on one or two deeply rooted fears/insecurities that I had never shared with anyone.
  • soaked in hot springs and bathed myself in the sulphury mud.

Hot springs in Ojai, CA

  • attended a sound bath that brought up nothing but darkness and ego.
  • enjoyed eleven hour sleeps.
  • journaled in an orange grove.

Orange grove of the Pepper Tree Retreat Center in Ojai, CA

  • practiced mindfulness and doing and saying things with the right intentions.
  • realized that I spend far too much time in other peoples' head spaces (by choice...I place no blame).
  • stayed in a guesthouse on someone's ranch in the middle of the desert (half hour drive on dirt roads) filled with vintage things and no heat on a 30 degree night while listening to Hawaiian melodies on vinyl and woke up to the rising sun through the sliding glass doors.

Desert sunrise in Joshua Tree, CA

  • purchased an olivewood mortar and pestle (my first) and squealed with joy when I found out the spiritual significance of olivewood: it's sacred, brings peace and light, and is from a tree of highest endurance.
  • drank mushroom tea on New Year's Eve in a space-themed airstream in the desert that brought no hallucinations, but a whole lot of life is beautiful thoughts.

Space-themed airstream in Joshua Tree, CA

  • hiked around Joshua Tree National Park on larger than life rocks under a bright sun with frigid wind temps, still pausing to do impromptu singing and chanting with my cousin. 
  • suffered a heavy bout of homesickness while simultaneously suffering from a terrible head cold that came on suddenly the day before our return to Culver City from the desert and resisting the urge to call Dale.
  • saw an amazing Cirque du Soleil performance that ignited passions and emotions of creativity and joy and reminded me how much I adore creating.
  • attended a few sound baths led by my cousin and received some craniosacral work that reset and recharged me.
  • marveled at the beauty of strangers.
  • bawled as ocean waves crashed against rocks
  •  

Listening to the crashing waves of the Pacific Ocean on the shore in Pacific Grove, CA

  • and fell in love with jellyfish.

Jellyfish exhibit in the Monterey Bay Aquarium in Monterey, CA

This trip taught me that setting intentions helps manifest both negative and positive outcomes. Simply put, I created shifts because I asked for them and remained open to all the joy and pain those shifts would bring. I learned through the trip and until this very moment, that

  • the power of our thoughts is so much greater than many of us realize
  • sitting with oneself through every kind of moment is the ONLY way you can hear your inner guide
  • "everything is figureoutable"
  • I MUST celebrate my Self, my friendships, my relationships, and my accomplishments more
  • it's okay to stop
  • now is all there is...ever
  • aligning yourself energetically with what you want can only help bring what you want into your life
  • reaching out to our spirit brothers and sisters is necessary 
  • it's okay to tune out so you can tune in, in other words, get the fuck off of social media briefly (or forever if you're so inclined!) so you can think only your own thoughts and not the thoughts of millions of others
  • being uncomfortable creates growth
  • I take advantage of my life and need to be so much more grateful of it and those in it
  • tarot cards or oracle decks are incredible INCREDIBLE tools for self-reflection, trust me. I'm pretty much in love with the Osho Zen Tarot deck.
  • vulnerability is vital to healthy relationships
  • it's SO important to ask for help

If you want to create major or minor shifts in your life, just do it. Pay attention to yourself. Reach out... to me, to that one friend who listens well, to your mom or dad or grandparent or godparent, to a therapist or life coach, because you're worth it. Seriously. 

Stay tuned for Part 3 with a list of books, websites, spiritual gurus, and health and wellness awesomeness that lifted me from the deep, both before and during my return to now, in case you feel inspired to light a fire under your butt.

See the entirety of my trip here. Much love to you all. 

Wood-carved heart on the trail to the hot springs of Ojai, CA

The Return to Now: How I Created Shifts Within - Part 1

Wow. It's been almost a year since my last entry, Hulk Smash and Detox Baths, when I was in a weird space. Actually, that's being too gentle. I was scared shitless. I was stewing in dark yuck physically, mentally, and spiritually. I was stressed to the max regarding my business. I was truly just floating through my days trying to keep my eyes up and out toward the horizon, but it honestly didn't help. I felt detached from all emotions, others, and myself. I planned a trip to California late December through the first half of January as a way to stay focused on a future endeavor, to help pull me from the underworld.

I read a lot of brilliant novels by Joan Didion (The Year of Magical Thinking and Play It As It Lays) and reread one of my favorite novels, White Oleander by Janet Fitch. All aligned properly with the beauty of my sunken spirit as I often like to read things that help me feel like I'm not alone. I wrote a few poems. I sat in the sun. I went for walks to release nervous energy. And I drifted. I can look back now and see that I had absolutely let go to the current. I picture myself on a makeshift raft floating in the ocean, letting life take me where it will.

I never did receive answers. My low white blood cell count was flagged as odd, and I was passed from one specialist to another to discuss my symptoms over and over again. I hated it. I hated the waiting room and being told over and over again that my veins are small and that they have to poke the other arm. The last straw was being told by a hematologist that he'd like to do a bone marrow biopsy to see if I have indicators of leukemia simply because nothing else he tested explained anything, so as a hematologist, his job is to rule out all things related to blood.

I checked out. Said no thanks. Booked appointments with a holistic doc and an acupuncturist and decided that I didn't want to associate with pain or illness any longer. The acupuncture succeeded in providing a space for calm contemplation and relaxation which I decided I could create on my own without having to spend the money I actually would need for my trip to California, and the holistic doc listened to me, counseled me, explained my blood work, and offered multiple remedies for various ailments, 90% of which helped. I'll create a post about those goodies later. <3 

Late summer brought about a new set of rules for my life: Quit reading about diseases. Quit obsessing over your ailments. Stop stressing about what you can't control. Express your gratitude. Focus on one thing at a time, right here, right now.

I read The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin that lit a fire under my ass to tackle anything left undone that I think doesn't bother me, but does when I really stop to think about it. Rubin calls them "nagging tasks." She also suggests writing your list of Adult Secrets: things learned up until the present moment. Mine surprised and satisfied me:

  1. Things are always in flux.
  2. Letting go is not failure.
  3. Reading pulls you out of your darkest places.
  4. Resistance is wasted energy. 
  5. Coffee is an incredible tool (when, the Katy today will add, used with purpose and good intentions) In other words, ENJOY IT and DON'T ABUSE IT THOUGHTLESSLY.
  6. Movement is a powerful key to unlocking physical, mental, and spiritual stagnation.
  7. Homemade meals are honestly the best meals.
  8. Nostalgia can be dangerous.
  9. Expectations often lead to disappointment.
  10. Laughing at yourself makes life easier.
  11. Writing is therapy.
  12. Always be drinking water.
  13. Loneliness is real.
  14. Honesty is difficult yet rewarding.
  15. Aside from the cyclical nature of nature, the only constant is being, and you can be afraid of that or find peace in it.
  16. Being vulnerable is a hard but necessary process for growth.
  17. Parties and events create mass amounts of joy.
  18. Tragedy carves a space in your bones and settles.
  19. You can't please everyone.
  20. Play is a requirement for sanity.

I expressed gratitude in my journal and out loud almost daily. I indulged, of course, in moments of intense joy and beauty and love and will never forget them: camping with family, long bike rides with best friends, an outdoor festival, rebuilding our deck, hikes, funny movies, and always so much delicious food. I wrote out snapshots of these joyous moments from my day to day life or weekend activities as a way to recenter myself and pull myself out of my old habit of settling on negative ramblings. 

Most importantly, I practiced what I preached. And I wasn't always totally successful, but I forgave myself and continued practicing the next day. 

As summer and fall wore off and Wisconsin settled into the usual dreariness of the start of winter and I into the lack of routine that comes without steady work, I turned resentful. I resented negative ramblings from others because I was practicing releasing negative energies. I resented people constantly on their phones instead of being present in the moment with me. I resented people working late and feeling exhausted daily.

On December 21st, I wrote:

This past week has truly prepared me for my trip. I couldn't be more ready to leave and for a number of reasons. The biggest is that I need to be away from this life--my house, Dale, his job, Ziggy with that fucking cone on his head to keep him from licking himself obsessively, doing dishes, making people make dinner with me, cleaning crumbs off the damn coffee table every. fucking. morning.

Honestly, I'm kind of tired of it all, and I know I can't change any of it, so I have to change myself. The only way I know how to do that is to do something out of my ordinary. I'm falling into my usual wintertime resentful state, likely because I'm not working as much. I have so much beauty, kindness, intimacy, and sexualness that I hold back because we have a roommate or the day has been too fucking long or I honestly can't get in that headspace because I take care of too. much. shit. Yesterday, I thought, "Man, these guys won't survive without me," and then I realized how ridiculous that was and how everything I do in the manner I do it is mostly for me. They're going to live how they like to live without me around. We like to think we're more important than we are, but it's not about how we do things, it's who we are as a person.

Alas, I'm tired of being a "mom," but I think I act that way in an attempt to get these two to grow up. And what I really mean by that is, I'm tired of having a relationship with people addicted to the couch and devices. It's overwhelming me with sadness. I force living on others and am often given shit before agreeing to go live life with me. I can't accept this. I can't let it go. I can't be the only person who wants new experiences. I'm seeking inspiration and motivation and never receive them at home. Passionate people are important to me.

So let's conclude this lengthy rant with this: my frustrations lie in the fact that I have no idea how to express my passions of all kinds when I feel like I'm living in a vanilla world. It's bigger than the people around me, and it is, by no means, anyone's fault. I just wish people were as itchy as me. Once again, I feel alone. Once again, I feel restless. I'll work it out. I need space for my soul to breathe.

Fast forward to now, and I could point out all the moments I was projecting my own internal issues onto those around me and explain how everything happening around me was simply a mirror reflecting myself back at me. THAT realization is always fun.

The point of all of this: Let yourself feel and hash out and live and laugh and love even while simultaneously cringing and drying up inside, breathe into the ugliness and the beauty, the light and the darkness, the good and the bad, because the truth is, you can't have one without the other. Be gentle, dear soul, and know that you're right where you need to be.

As for California and the start of 2016...more on that to come...

 

  • Contact katy@katydaixon.net if you’d like your story featured on the blog!
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Hulk Smash and Detox Baths

The past seven days have been a challenge in the self-care department. It was a week where everything that could go wrong, did. A week where truly, one of the hardest things to do, was stay positive, no matter how much I tried to care for myself. On Monday, I had blood tests done (5 vials worth) to find out if I have indicators of an auto-immune disorder, thyroid problems, or Lyme disease.

They told me they'd have results in 3-5 days. I'll spare you the wait I endured. Indicators show I might possibly have Rheumatoid Arthritis. Turns out (I am told Mother's Day) that two people in my extended family history have had RA. This doesn't make me feel better, but it does. Now I wait a month to see a specialist to discuss the results further.

In the days of waiting for my results and post results...

I go back on my OTC, off brand allergy pill.

things I own break...like big things...my washer, and the stove is on its way out the door.

orders I made the previous week are incorrect so I have to reorder.

I develop a yeast infection (why I stopped taking the allergy pill to begin with) so I stop it. Sorry for TMI, but I'm practicing being an open book. Plus, it's a service announcement about cheap products.

I have lunch with family after hearing from the doctor and tear up at the table while on the phone with my husband who says everything's going to be okay.

I receive a care package from a friend that lifts me in a moment I'm falling.

I have a big hiccup in my business that I stress hardcore over fixing... because good business practice and customer service.

I manage to notice symptoms of and simultaneously eliminate a UTI (or bladder infection) by downing 8oz of water with thyme and lemon essential oils.

I spend a pleasant Mother's Day with family and good food...

...after which I return home and take a detox bath.

Late that night, I wake with a sinus infection (or a cold...with me, they pretty much go hand in hand nowadays...my third in the past two months) and chills. I sweat out a fever. I barely eat. My muscles turn to stone. My brain drains out my eyes. And I forget to breathe. This could all be a result of the detox bath (flu-like symptoms do happen if you have major yeast die off or other harsh toxins exiting your body) or I've really worked myself into sickness.

So now I'm angry. I want to HULK SMASH! until there's nothing left in me to Hulk smash anymore.

Meanwhile, I'm thinking, Yeah. This is exactly how you should treat your body if you possibly have an auto-immune disorder. I hear chronic tension and stress are super beneficial.

I remind myself that it's okay. Hulk smashing is a necessary step. Forgive yourself. Eat your greens, diffuse those essential oils, take your damn detox bath because holy shit you need it, word vomit into a journal, and write a list of a million things you're grateful for in the midst of all of the ugly.

Cry it out. Remember who loves you. And most importantly, remember it's only one week in a bajillion weeks. That little reminder can pull you out of Hell so fast you'll wonder why you even worried about anything in the first place.

Don't judge yourself. If you're trying, you're not failing.

  • Contact katy@katydaixon.net if you’d like your story featured on the blog!
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Healing the Self

I apologize for my absence, though I know it doesn't worry readers as much as it worries the writer. Simply, I've spent more time with pen and paper, journaling daily in my own private world. I only want to apologize because I honestly don't know what to do with this blog. Truthfully, I don't know where to go with The Body Project, if I'm going anywhere at all with it. I've questioned, since my last entry on February 27th about the mini gallery at UW-Waukesha, whether to end this blog and begin a new one centering around all thoughts, ideas, and projects rather than just The Body Project, maybe call it Love Body, Mind, and Spirit or Self-Love or Healing the Self. The Body Project brought me to a new place with myself and in life, which I expected (because everything always brings us somewhere), but didn't plan. It brought me deeper within myself and actually pulled me away from my shell, in a good way. To a certain extent, healing and self-love begins with accepting the skin you're in, but it's also about being aware of and present in the moment with who you are, what you are, the thoughts you do or don't have, the people to whom you're speaking and listening, and the way you treat yourself body, mind, and spirit.

As I stated in that last entry, being an advocate of love is difficult and doesn't come with an instruction booklet or a trainer. I'm left to my own devices to clamber about finding ways to advocate what I so strongly believe.

One thing I recently thought of is how stuck one can feel when they aren't wholly being themselves. So, I've decided to be myself with all of you, to let you know that:

1. I cry at anything having to do with love, especially if the music is moving.

2. I'm obsessed with murder mystery novels, particularly Tess Gerritsen's.

3. I write poetry mostly about quick glimpses into a person's suffering related to relationships, self-growth, and death.

 

Broken Strokes

 

She sweats paint

from wrinkled skin--

brush bristles frayed

like her split ends--

as she strokes the broken heart

on the empty canvas.

Her other half rots

beneath river bed rubble

as she glops moss

over rocks of unanswered prayers.

If only she could paint

the rabid bits of time

that devour her.

If only she could paint

the time he was red

and made her the moon.

 

4. I love astrology...a lot...and find it an incredible source for looking at people and situations in a way I may not have tried before for the sake of understanding more deeply.

5. I believe in the power of deep breathing and positive thinking because I am prone to anxiety.

6. I believe that honesty and communication are the two most important things to practice in every relationship, even if sometimes the truth hurts. Withholding truth hurts more.

7. Too many cloudy, rainy, or snowy days depress me, though I always try to find the beauty in them.

8. I am kind of a germaphobe, particularly when I know someone has had or was in contact with someone who had the stomach flu or even mentions that their stomach hurts.

9. I think making people work 8+ hours a day is bullshit.

10. I believe in the power of healthy food related to healing body, mind, and spirit.

11. I have wanderlust.

12. I wish getting high didn't make me anxious.

13. I am currently overcoming a fear of astral projecting after realizing that I was trying to do it without my conscious knowledge.

14. I believe that our thoughts are both our best friend and our worst enemy depending on how we respond to them.

15. A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle tipped the awareness scale for me and opened my eyes to the power of presence in the now.

16. I believe that nature heals.

17. I like to swear.

18. I believe I once was or will come back as a cat.

19. I want to help others find peace within themselves.

20. I know that in the presence or absence of all these things, I'm still me.

 

So tell me, friends. What do I do with this?

 

  • Contact katy@katydaixon.net if you’d like your story featured on the blog!
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Advocate of Love & Co.

A little glimpse of The Body Project mini gallery setup at UW-Waukesha. Candids of this event by Kasey K. Photo.
A little glimpse of The Body Project mini gallery setup at UW-Waukesha. Candids of this event by Kasey K. Photo.

Confession

I struggle with labels, in the sense that I don't know how to use them or whether I want to use them.

Let me explain

When I went to UW-Waukesha to set up the mini gallery of The Body Project, I was greeted with such enthusiasm and kindness and felt a little overwhelmed, yet honored, by the special attention, which afterward, had me in a bit of a panic.

I'm not an expert on body advocacy. I'm not an expert on photography. I don't have all the answers nor do I feel comfortable being regarded as the only person in the room with the most knowledge about these two subjects.

Laughing with a couple of professors at The Body Project mini gallery in UW-Waukesha while a student checks out the book! Candids of the event by Kasey K. Photo.
Laughing with a couple of professors at The Body Project mini gallery in UW-Waukesha while a student checks out the book! Candids of the event by Kasey K. Photo.

Cue Freak Out

My brain ran through the gamut of questions I might receive and a few scenarios of me being completely struck speechless by a question I wouldn't be able to answer. And then, a few lovely people in my life said some beautiful things to me. These quotes are the gist of what they said:

"Regardless of what you know, you do know that you worked your ass off for an entire year on this project. That is a big deal, and that's what they want to know about. They want to know about these women and why you did this project."

And this piece of advice that made me laugh, because truth:

"It's not about you." Let that sink in. Lol! Then she furthered with, "It's about them and what they need to know and implement into their own lives. You're there to give them the tools so they can figure it out themselves, whatever it is."

Sharing one of the participant's stories with some students of UW-Waukesha at The Body Project mini gallery. Candids of the event by Kasey K. Photo.
Sharing one of the participant's stories with some students of UW-Waukesha at The Body Project mini gallery. Candids of the event by Kasey K. Photo.

The Challenge

And so I went, and it was perfect because it happened the way it needed to, regardless of my worry. But yesterday, this was my reflection in my journal:

Lately, it feels like I've reflected on many large topics: loneliness, love, friendships and their meaning, aging, spirituality, time, and connectedness, and I don't dwell or linger long. However, I seem to hold each of them and taste them for a moment to experience the energy each topic brings, if only momentarily, and I think it's increasing my compassion (one of my goals since starting The Body Project). People simply want to be loved, appreciated, acknowledged, heard, and supported. This is why I'm here. This is my advocacy.

And this is what I fear expressing because it's hard to express. People asked me at the gallery, "What is your next project?" or "What are your plans for the future?" and I never have any idea because #1. I don't believe in looking too far into the future because the present matters most and #2. I don't know how to explain what it is I'm doing in life. My next project may not be related to photography. My future plans may not involve being a photographer at all. The next thing I do could involve my writing skills (something in which I did happen to grab a degree). See, I'm caught up in the idea that I need to have a label or stick to an image of what I am and what I do in order to be taken seriously and respected, but what I want to advocate doesn't come with a degree. You don't major in love. No one gives you a signed paper for appreciating others. Jobs don't hire you because you like to hear people out or let them tell their stories. Okay...some do... but aren't they often for greed, advertising, or selfish purposes? When is it ever just for people?

UW-Waukesha students signing up for the raffle that included a copy of The Body Project book and looking through the copy I brought to share. Candids of the event by Kasey K. Photo.
UW-Waukesha students signing up for the raffle that included a copy of The Body Project book and looking through the copy I brought to share. Candids of the event by Kasey K. Photo.

Dreaming

My dream in life is simply to make sure people know they matter--whether through writing about, talking with, or photographing them. I will, no matter what, create space for their voices. This all sprouted from one conversation with a man named James who works in the Diversity Center of UW-Waukesha who asked, "What can we do with you, artistically, to show these students they matter?"

Anything, James. I'm ready for anything.

Me with the backers of The Body Project mini gallery at UW-Waukesha. From left to right: Elizabeth, Connie, and James. Awesome people that I plan to work with in the future! Candids of the event by Kasey K. Photo.
Me with the backers of The Body Project mini gallery at UW-Waukesha. From left to right: Elizabeth, Connie, and James. Awesome people that I plan to work with in the future! Candids of the event by Kasey K. Photo.

To see more images from The Body Project mini gallery at UW-Waukesha, click here.

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Mindful Vs. Thought-Obsessive

Confession

My name is Katy. And I am a thought obsessor. I play with thoughts, hold them close, then chew on them until they're broken into a million tiny pieces that I can place under a microscope to study them further.

Sometimes, I make myself physically ill by obsessing over a thought, one in particular: vomiting. I have the worst, most neurotic fear of vomiting. I am terrified of getting the stomach flu. So when others get it, by six degrees of Kevin Bacon, I assume I'll get it, too. And I never do, but I starve myself and weaken my body, which presents a whole slew of other aches, pains, and ailments, including nightmares about others vomiting all around me, and I can't escape. Then, I judge myself for my neuroses and fears. For a week, if you were inside my head, you'd see the giant mess of twisted thoughts ready to burst from my forehead.

According to this amazing podcast 

The Secret History of Thoughts by Invisibilia on NPR says those thoughts should be on a plate in my lap... not in direct eyesight, for if they were in my lap, I would clearly see what's in front of me. I am not sick. Period. And if I was, it's okay to let go of control. You will survive.

Lesson Learned

Sounds silly to read it, or hell, say it out loud, which I often do in times of panic, but that video definitely came at a time when I really needed it, and I had to share. I decided to apply some of the techniques mentioned in the video to other areas of my life--the thoughts I have about my role in my marriage and friendships, the criticisms I dish out to myself about my body/health, the thoughts I have about me as a sexual being and my adequacies and inadequacies, and even the thoughts I have toward my business and its success.

Practicing

Essentially, in my desire to practice letting go and embrace self-love, I am practicing mindfulness: letting thoughts come to the forefront of my mind, acknowledging their presence, and then lowering them to the plate in my lap so that I can focus on what is right before me, which is a life I love and in which I find so much beauty.

And if the obsessiveness starts happening for any reason with any number of things in my life, and I know they're tied to a fear, I'll sit with that fear and challenge it. Hopefully, though, I'll never have to hold a knife to anyone's throat like the guy in the podcast. For now, I'm happy sticking with fingers to keys or pen to paper.

Comment with three thoughts you obsess over and why you want to put them onto a plate in front of you.

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The Quest for Intimacy

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Last night, a friend asked me to go to Janesville with her, and previous to her picking me up, I had read an article titled, "To Fall in Love With Anyone, Do This." Maybe you've seen it floating around social media, but if not, it's worth the read. It discusses how people can quickly fall in love with people via these 36 questions that accelerate intimacy. In my quest to being closer to my loved ones this year, I looked up the questions and did them with my friend in the car on our trek to Janesville. While answering them, I realized something: the more intimate the question, especially pertaining to complimenting one another, the more uncomfortable and giggly we became. This could be because we're new friends (about two or three years now) or perhaps saying five positive things about each other was hard for a few reasons:

  1. you're admitting something you like about that person that you may normally keep to yourself because it's a trait you wish you possessed
  2. you fear not being able to come up with five and appearing an asshole
  3. you think maybe it's silly to list things your friend may already know about themselves and thus finding it unimportant to express

But you know what? My friend did tell me a few things I thought about myself, but when she explained why they were positive, I teared up because sometimes, I ponder those qualities and wonder if maybe they annoy people or make me appear conceited or hold me back in life because maybe one is a quality I obsess over or feel like I obsess over. To see myself through someone else was incredible and made me sigh a breath of relief that who I am is actually seen and appreciated. Is this normally something I fret about? Not really, but it doesn't make it any less nice.

Imagine how many people don't ever get asked anything. AND think about how this friend and I are still able to learn new things about each other and how we perceive each other after three years.

I then did these questions with my husband, and he said, genuinely, "I think I'm falling in love with you all over again." We're celebrating our 11 year dating anniversary this April.

If these questions were asked in a silent room with you and the other person facing each other, paying 100% attention to one another, alternating asking the questions, I can conclude, whole-heartedly, that you will grow closer. What a beautiful place the world would be if we took time to slow down, pay attention, and keep ourselves open.

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Ushering In a New Year

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It's a new year, and with that, we tend to feel like we have to be new people or try something new or lose weight or start a good habit. My focus fell on cleansing--body, mind, spirit, and home. Did you know that it's believed that if you sweep the area by your front door daily, you will allow more blessings to flow in and out of the house more freely, and in turn, into yourself? Or that decluttering a closet or drawer helps declutter the mind? Even something as simple as throwing away one piece of mail gets rid of some junk inside us. Try it. It's quite freeing. Especially with the mindset of letting go. With these things in mind, and due to the extreme cold, and the sudden cut from the busyness of The Body Project, I decided that I wanted my brain filled daily with inspiration and positive words. Practice means progress. I'm tired of feeling slothful and unmotivated to kick major butt in my personal and external life. The holidays, though filled with family and food and abundance, can exhaust us and make us lose sight of ourselves. So, here's a list of thoughts that fire me up and make me think. Maybe one speaks to you.

1.

2.

When you are in a state of nonacceptance, it’s difficult to learn. A clenched fist cannot receive a gift, and a clenched psyche grasped tightly against the reality of what must not be accepted cannot easily receive a lesson.
— John Roger

3.

4.

The need for approval, the need to control things, and the need for external power are needs that are based on fear. When we experience the power of the Self, there is an absence of fear, there is no compulsion to control, and no struggle for approval or external power.
— Deepak Chopra

5.

6. 

Life is a creative process, not a journey of discovery or a school of learning. You’re not discovering yourself, but recreating yourself. So don’t try and figure out who you are, but establish who you want to be. You create your reality every minute, probably without realizing it. You can be, do, and have whatever you can imagine.
— Neale Donald Walsch

7.

8.

Experience life in all possible ways —good-bad, bitter-sweet, dark-light, summer-winter. Experience all the dualities. Don’t be afraid of experience, because the more experience you have, the more mature you become.
— Osho

9.

10.

This body is not me. I am not limited by this body. I am life without boundaries. I have never been born, and I have never died. Look at the ocean and the sky filled with stars, manifestations from my wondrous true mind. Since before time, I have been free. Birth and death are only doors through which we pass, sacred thresholds on our journey. Birth and death are a game of hide and seek. So laugh with me, hold my hand, let us say good-bye, say good-bye, to meet again soon. We meet today. We will meet again tomorrow. We will meet at the source every moment. We meet each other in all forms of life.
— Thich Nhat Hanh, Chanting and Recitations from Plum Village

11.

12.

He who binds himself to joy/Does the winged life destroy/He who kisses the joy as it flies/Lives in eternity’s sunrise.
— William Blake

Who gets you thinking and fired up? What's your inspiration?

 

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I promise I'm not afraid of showing weakness.

Journaling with the rising sun.
Journaling with the rising sun.

A friend of mine and I like to exchange writing prompts, and last month, she gave me this prompt: "Write about why you have a hard time being vulnerable. Not saying that you aren't, but just reflect on what vulnerability means to you and why you may or may not express vulnerability." She sensed that I was holding something back in a conversation we'd been having over lunch, and felt that perhaps I had chosen not to be vulnerable.

So, I've been reflecting on this ever since, and I really did go through a deep thought process--am I not vulnerable? Do I not open myself up to people? Have I not shown who I really am? And then I went through lots of thoughts about my past and why I may have ended up not being a vulnerable person. I wrote this huge thing that sounded like such a mess a crap that was fake and forced in order to try to come to terms with some unconscious energy at work.

Then, I came to realize (through conversations with my husband, another friend, and a deep self-reflection) that it isn't that I'm not vulnerable, it's that I don't often have things that upset me or trouble me or sit on my brain for a long time that require me to reach out to people for advice. And I often come to people once a conclusion has already been made. So, it's more of a recap of my vulnerabilities and how I've solved my situation.

To those who are closest to me, I'm truly sorry. I don't mean to leave you out, that's just how I've always lived my life. My grandma put a journal in my hands when I entered third grade, and I've never moved away from that space for self-reflection. The journey of life is so incredibly important to me that I savor that time with myself to figure it out, feel those emotions and gut wrenching twists and turns in any situation, and ugly cry. Because ultimately, I am the only person, with the help of solitude, that pulls that all out of me. I promise I'm not afraid of showing weakness. I promise I'm not hiding. I promise I'm not cold. I just don't talk about it with you because I likely have yet to realize something's wrong or I've already figured it out.

So, to those of you out there who lean on yourself for advice, I feel you. Sometimes it's isolating because you'd like to reach out to people, but ultimately, you trust your own intuition more than anyone's. I get it. It doesn't make you cold, and it doesn't mean you don't give of yourself to others. So, go ahead and ugly cry alone in your room, because chances are, someone else somewhere is doing it with you.

 

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We All Deserve A Voice

“Knowing others is intelligence; knowing yourself is true wisdom. Mastering others is strength; mastering yourself is true power.” ~Lao-Tzu~
“Knowing others is intelligence; knowing yourself is true wisdom. Mastering others is strength; mastering yourself is true power.” ~Lao-Tzu~

There's a heaviness to my mood today that wasn't there when I woke up. I started reading news reports about yet another white cop cold-bloodedly killing a black man when the cop wasn't even attacked. I have avoided writing about this, and hell, even thinking too deeply about it because it boils my insides. My heart aches for everyone--the families of the fallen men, those cops that clearly walk with fear in their hearts, those who've been convicted or hurt due to protesting.

What is happening to our nation? Is this the "rock bottom" before we start climbing again? Wasn't that already hit during the Civil Rights movement? Shouldn't we be further along by now? These are questions everyone asks, I know, but they're on repeat in my head.

My god, people still fear those who look different than them! I would say that's so childish, but even children don't act this way because most children walk with love, acceptance, and curiosity in their hearts before they're heavily affected by their parents or society. Shit, this isn't even about black vs. white anymore! It's about love vs. hate and always has been in all aspects of life. We love white skin over black skin, tanned skin over pale skin, straight hair over curly, thin vs. fat, healthy vs. unhealthy eating, sobriety vs. drunkeness, children vs. no children, married vs. single, conservative vs. liberal, etc. etc. etc. This list is so endlessly tiring.

When I think about my tiny footprint with The Body Project, I realize that, though it's so small in a vast sea of projects, movements, and protests involving body acceptance, it most certainly represents a little voice in the larger statement of halting the fear, judgements, and hatred of people who are different than oneself and the beliefs, opinions, theories, and even material possessions that are different than what one has.

So, if you find yourself moved by the message of body acceptance and self-love, stop and think if that carries over into all areas of your life.

It's okay to question authority.

It's okay to fight against outdated systems.

It's okay to love yourself wholly and love someone totally different than you because way deep down, we're all trying to live life the best way we know how.

Stop harming yourself.

Stop harming others.

And remember that we all deserve a voice and the space to project it.

Love Is A Verb
Love Is A Verb
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Rerouting the Meaning of Beauty

A friend recently shared this article with me: "Pretty Unnecessary" and many parts of it really struck a bad chord with me, and I'll explain why. It started here: "While I’m in favor of encouraging women to feel confident and happy, I worry that today’s body positivity focuses too much on affirming beauty and not enough on deconstructing its necessity. Spreading a message that everyone is beautiful reinforces the underlying assumption that beauty matters."

I want to clear something up about my own advocacy for body positivity. I did not have these women pose in front of my camera simply to affirm that their bodies were beautiful. Honestly, if anyone sees it like that, they aren't paying attention. Think of the vulnerability that comes first, with opening up to other women about anything and everything in the world, communicating, and relating, and second, with exposing yourself to a photographer after years of being told that your specific body type is unacceptable--taking action against norms for future generations. Women are finding their worth on the inside while simultaneously finally giving a shit (or not giving a shit for once) about the outside. As has been proven, visuals wake people up. The more bodies we put out there that don't fit the current standard, the more people will see that all bodies are normal, and perhaps we can get to a point where beauty isn't tied to bodies anymore, at least with regard to consumerism.

Or this part: "Today’s body positivity has gotten stuck trying to 'fix' beauty from the inside rather than moving beyond it. Between the 'real women have curves' memes and the furor over un-photoshopped cover girls, we’re fighting to push the margins of beauty an inch in any direction, while reifying the concept itself—struggling to revise the standard but never presuming to overthrow it entirely. In her essay 'The Beauty Bridge,' Jia Tolentino, an editor at Jezebel and the Hairpin, says that such surface-level concepts of empowerment 'push women around each other on the narrow, precarious beauty bridge rather than suggesting we just howl like animals and jump right off.'"

While I get what she's saying, it actually just suggests that we simply get over it. Not everyone works like that. People don't just get over things. Society can't be changed by people just getting over something that has taken a bajillion years to instill itself within us. So yes, beauty does need to be fixed from the inside. There is so little self-love in this world. Wouldn't you think any kind of positivity, whether it's body positivity or mind positivity begins with self-love? So, if that means that we need to start with "surface-level concepts of empowerment," than so be it. It isn't "surface-level" when it reaches inward and grabs someone by their gut and knocks the wind out of them and reminds them that they are worth it, whether it takes looking in the mirror and starting with, "God damnit, I am pretty" or by smashing their mirror and thinking, "Fuck looking at myself. I have better things to do."

Oxford dictionary (oh, I'm going there) defines beauty as, "A combination of qualities, such as shape, color, or form, that pleases the aesthetic senses, especially the sight" AND "A combination of qualities that pleases the intellect or moral sense." Our society has moved so far past the second meaning of the word beauty that many people, such as this writer, it seems, assume that beauty only stands for something aesthetically pleasing.

It didn't all frustrate me, though, because she did a good job sharing other opinions that ended up describing exactly the way I feel, such as this:

"The Body Positive is a nonprofit organization that works directly with individuals and communities to support positive body attitudes. Its cofounder and executive director, Connie Sobczak, says that 'beauty is an amazing thing if we can reclaim it,' and rejects the idea that the definition of beauty must exclude anyone. 'If I say that I can see my own beauty, it doesn’t take away from anyone else’s. It just means I’m a whole human being and I can see my own value, and because of that I can see so much beauty in everything in the world.'"

Mmmmhmmm, that's yummy.

And this: "And of course, claiming beauty in a culture that has historically denied it can be genuinely empowering."

Yes. It absolutely can.

So, because society is always slow to make changes, it's only natural to begin where they began: changing the literal face of beauty we are constantly bombarded with. As my friend stated while discussing this article with me, "...an intersectional approach is needed. There's a lot of work that needs to happen to have racial inclusion, inclusion of trans or genderqueer bodies, different ages, etc." Agreed.

Then, step two: reroute the meaning of the word beauty back to "A combination of qualities that pleases the intellect or moral sense" and show that it's more more than skin deep. The women of The Body Project may have shown you their bodies, but they did so with reminders like this:

  1. More than 302lbs.
  2. Accepted Outside. Improving Inside.
  3. Let go of your imperfections.
  4. Riots. Not diets.
  5. Everlasting [stretch] marks for everlasting love.
  6. Align. Atone.
  7. More than just a body, I am the soul within.
  8. Dedicated to me.
  9. Peace and Love Abide.
  10. Indomitable spirit.

Don't get me wrong, though, I am not against anyone focusing on the aesthetic portion of the definition of beauty. There's room for both in this world. It's when we start tying our worth to it that it gets dangerous.

Then, step three: Do good in the world and express that beauty deep within all of us whether it's love, acceptance, compassion, patience, kindness, or more advocacy.

But you already know this. :) Because you're awesome.

 

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An Inspiring Gallery Opening and A Grand Entrance Into My Thirties

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Pano pieced together courtesy of Carlos. Sorry for the blurry middle pic. I moved. ;)
Pano pieced together courtesy of Carlos. Sorry for the blurry middle pic. I moved. ;)

Wow. The gratitude I feel about The Body Project exhibit and all the support and donations received fills my heart with so much joy. Never before has something so wonderful come together so beautifully and smoothly (though my wedding may be able to compete ;P). The turn out last Saturday was amazing--the steady trickle of people with their smiling faces, humbling comments about feeling inspired, and their tears left me in awe throughout the whole night. When I entered The Black Sheep for the private after party with close friends and family and the women of the project, I was greeted with claps and the chant, "Speech! Speech! Speech!" but I couldn't do it. I couldn't give a speech because I am honestly speechless. Know that, though I don't have words, my heart is full.

As many know, not only was this past weekend the Opening Reception of the exhibit, it was my thirtieth birthday, and I have found myself reflecting on what exactly this all means to me. Since this weekend, I have realized that for the first time ever in my adult life, I'm content. I truly struggled to identify the feeling that settled over me after last weekends festivities, and I had to have a friend tell me the word after I described how I felt. Content.

At one point in my life, my calm, cool, and collected exterior didn't match my inner boil of emotions and desires. I yearned for something that wasn't what I had, but I didn't know what that something was. The conflict between my inner and outer being felt chaotic and exhausting. And then, I think I stopped reaching for the unknown and started touching what was in front of me. I appreciate any chance I get to remain that way, and try hard not to fuel the fire of my old ways. It's not worth it, and it kept me from taking risks like starting a huge project like this one. I'm learning that, even if presented with a situation that fuels the fire of my old ways, I should remind myself to breathe and tell myself that it's all truly okay. I think I'm finally realizing how to be without attachment to an outcome. Everything that happens just is and I just am in the midst of all of it.

This project has helped me understand that my life is truly in line with who I am and what I believe. I no longer feel the need to prove myself. I feel whole. Though, I wonder, what the hell happens next if I want for nothing? What a strange feeling! With the yearning gone, I'm left feeling full and unencumbered. I'm left feeling in love with life. And that's a beautiful thing.

I want you to know, though, that I am still quite a private person. There are resolutions I've made for my thirties that I don't care to share, perhaps because too much pain was involved in the process of finding a resolution, but one thing I do want to share is that I want to look you all in the eyes and see you for who you are just as you have done for me. <3 Thank you for making my entrance into my thirties magical.

To view a slideshow of images from The Body Project Opening Reception, click here.

To see an album of images, click here.

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My Story

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The past few weeks, I have "kept my nose to the grindstone" (as my grandma and grandpa always told me to do) regarding the final details of The Body Project gallery, reception, book, and magazine. I have been tense. I have ranted and raved. I edited and unedited participants' stories. I've cried. I know I haven't written, and I'm sorry. Today, as I sit and read through/edit the last few stories for the book and magazine, I realize that I have never shared my full story with any of you. The story I presented in the first blog post was only the most recent inspiration for this project, but wasn't a well-rounded story that made me as vulnerable and open as all of you (who participated in the project) have been with me. Some details you might recognize, but I owe you all this. Growing up, I had tremendous support from my parents and grand-parents and never once felt a lack of love, appreciation, or guidance. I never put much stock into my developing body (aside from the “Wilson women thighs” I was blessed with) because I was so much more in love with the development of my emotions, creativity, and self-awareness (though I was too young at the time to realize that I had already begun understanding/flexing my internal journey more than my external). The space I was allowed to grow as a child created a little girl who lived in her own world.

Throughout elementary school, I had glasses and braces, so was of course called “four eyes,” “nerd,” “brace face,” “metal mouth,” etc. but I wanted glasses and loved the freedom of choosing the colors of the rubber bands on my braces, so I didn’t care about the name calling. I was excited when I got my first period because I actually felt like I had entered a whole new realm of experience. My boobs didn’t fully bloom until the end of middle school while many girls around me, including my best friends, were fairly well-endowed. But again, I didn’t care, and I wasn’t self-conscious about my flatter chest in my tight 90s tees. I knew I was pretty because I was always told so, but I never considered whether that made me better or not better than others. I was confident and blissfully happy in my world.

At the end of my sophomore year of high school, a guy completely opposite from me (at the time, we’re incredibly similar now) turned my world upside down. He challenged my beliefs and opinions, influenced my desire to try on new faces--I dyed my hair crazy colors, wore a mixture of my own clothes and those of his genre (punk), and even came to school one day with humungous “liberty spikes” (chunks of your hair spiked up and out), dressed as me, simply to toe the line of both worlds. It was freeing. I finally took notice of the external me. I realized I liked to play with styles, colors, hairdos, makeup, etc. I realized that I liked my body, and that I was a sexual being. Our relationship was tumultuous, though. One second, we were playful and the next was a screaming match. I realized that our differences stretched further than our clothing choices, taste in music, belief/not belief in God, but into our future and how we wanted to live our lives. I didn’t agree with his lifestyle choices and tried to change him. In the end, I beat myself up for being so judgmental and controlling and vowed to be more open-minded toward all peoples.

For the first year of college, because I had set that lofty goal of being more open-minded, I was terrified of failing. So, I was the woman who sat in the corner of her room with her nose in her journal and her door shut. I was heavily against drinking, drugs, partying, random hook-ups, and cliques. I had (and still have) incredibly high expectations for myself that began the day I became aware of how I affect/treat people. I spent a great deal of my time on the phone with my best friend (who was my stand partner in orchestra my senior year of high school and is now husband), as we listened to each other talk about anything and everything in the world. I was incredibly afraid to live and experience things, make new friends, and be vulnerable. I feared that I would disappoint myself and break those expectations. Meanwhile, the man I was falling in love with was dating a woman exactly like my ex. I fell into a pit of self-doubt and confusion. For the first time, I compared myself to another woman and wondered if I was better than her or not. It took three years for anger to subside from within at the mention of her name and for him to convince me that he loved me for me, even if I wasn’t fully confident in myself.

Then, in 2005, I found out I had moderate dysplasia (pre-cancerous cells on the tissue of the opening of the cervix) and would need to have that tissue removed. This news rocked me. What had I done? Why would this happen to me? Suddenly, I was no longer invincible. I was rudely awakened to the harsh realities of the real world, the one I didn’t live in on a regular basis. For the first time, I actually had to pay attention to my body and this drive me to tremendous anxiety, panic attacks, depression, and fear of illness.

But, that didn’t stop me from treating my body like shit, post-surgery. I drank five Mountain Dews a day, ate pizza rolls and popcorn chicken for dinner, full-sized candy bars, chips, and french fries for snacks. Fruits and vegetables? What the hell were those? I developed allergies, dermatitis, digestive issues, sudden weight-loss due to a wheat intolerance, and a really poor morale. Yoga helped me move past the size of my legs and embrace the inner me again, but my confidence in the external me plummeted with those other varying physical issues.

Numerous doctors, allergy pills, shots, and creams later, I said, “Fuck it. This shit isn’t working.” I turned to holistic medicine and natural healing. I turned toward healthy foods. I turned toward positivity. Some days, I think this is all bad karma. Maybe I was too judgmental of people. Maybe I was conceited. Maybe I blah blah blah. I can blame it on anything, but it doesn’t change anything accept my mental state, and for me, my mental state has a helluva lot to do with my physical state. I have to stop obsessing over my imperfections and understand that perfection is unattainable. I have had to/am still working on retraining my brain, adjusting my thought process, and reminding myself, daily, that all it takes is letting go and embracing what is. So, I choose to move forward. I choose to be humble. I choose to walk around with gratefulness and appreciation. I choose to be open, honest, loving, and vulnerable. What started as a strong connection to my internal world that I ignored when I was awakened to my outer world, has now brought me to the marriage of both. My desire is to remind others that they are beautiful, inside and out, and that self-awareness and self-acceptance of body, mind, and spirit are key.

Let go of your imperfections.
Let go of your imperfections.

In case you missed it, I was interviewed on 940 WFAW yesterday! Listen to the podcast. My interview is about twenty minutes long, and we have quite the interesting conversation.

The Opening Reception is just around the corner! Please attend if you can! It's from 5-8p at the Cultural Arts Center in Whitewater, WI on November 15th. There will be hors d'oeuvres catered by The Black Sheep and 81 images to marvel over. ;) Come say hi and wish me a happy 30th birthday! ;)

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10 Happy Triggers for Self-love and Self-care

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I know you've seen these lists before, and you might be thinking, "Blah, blah, blah...she thinks she has a cure for the blues." But that's not my intent for this list. In light of last Thursday's post, "Ask Yourself, What Makes Me Happy?" I decided to ask myself that very question. This is a partial recipe for happiness because I could list a million. I want to share it with you in case you want to nibble at a few of them or all of them on your journey toward self-love and self-care. Without some of these things on my list coming from others, I wouldn't be where I am today. So, remind yourself that it's about experimenting and finding what's right for you.

One thing I know for certain, though, is that if you aren't actually ready for the good that you could have, if you're not ready to work hard, even though you so desperately want to feel good every day, nothing will work. Believe that things will change and they will. Then, make positive habits and practice, practice, practice!

Lecture complete. Commence list.

1. Fermented ginger carrots: Oh. My. God. I could eat these all day long. They aid digestion and add good bacteria to your gut. They are amazingly delicious and so, so, freaking good for you. Plus, they're pretty. ;) Recipe here. I use tons of ginger because yum.

Ginger carrots fermenting in my pantry. :D
Ginger carrots fermenting in my pantry. :D

2. Chai tea: Sometimes, I need a little spice to wake me up, energize my taste buds, clear my sinuses, and warm my soul. This recipe is from my yoga instructor, Brienne Brown, from Whitewater, WI. It. Kicks. Ass!

20 black peppercorns 20 green cardamom pods gently crushed 15 cloves 3 cinnamon sticks 3 slices of fresh ginger 1 star of anise pod (optional) 2 black cardamom pods 1/4 teaspoon of nigella seeds (optional)

Fill a large soup pot with water. Bring to a boil, then turn down the heat, cover, and simmer for at least an hour. Usually, the chai cooks down about one fourth. Turn off heat. Add tea of your choice (I use jasmine, green or some other low- or no- caffeine option for yoga, but black tea is wonderful), a dollop of honey, and some almond milk to taste. Cow milk is fine too; I do non-dairy since I know some of my students are sensitive to it.

If you're going to make the tea in earnest, Cardamom is extremely expensive if bought at a regular grocery store. I would find an Asian grocery where you can get a big bag for $5. The same can be said for cinnamon sticks.

3. Witnessing both the sunrise and sunset almost daily: <3 This pulls me into the present and reminds me to breathe deeply.

Sunrise. Clover Valley Rd. Whitewater, WI.
Sunrise. Clover Valley Rd. Whitewater, WI.
Sunrise over Whitewater Lake. Whitewater, WI
Sunrise over Whitewater Lake. Whitewater, WI
Sunset. Kettle Moraine Scenic Dr. La Grange, WI
Sunset. Kettle Moraine Scenic Dr. La Grange, WI

Yes, getting up is hard. I have major crabby pants in the morning, but I kick those under the bed and grab the smiley pair. Get up. It's worth it.

4. A Hot Shower: I think the reason for this one is obvious.

5. This list of my all time favorite albums: Everyone should have a list of go-to albums as a reminder of what music reaches deep within you and pulls out whatever needs to be pulled out. Music is tremendously healing, without a doubt.

Read "What's the Buzz? Sound Therapy" for an interesting look at what my godmother and cousin is doing in California. Obviously we don't have gongs and tuning forks at our disposal in our homes, but music in general still deeply affects our bodies.

6. This passage from the novel The Legacy of Luna (find it on Amazon):

Legacy of Luna Passage
Legacy of Luna Passage
Legacy of Luna Passage
Legacy of Luna Passage
Legacy of Luna Passage
Legacy of Luna Passage
Legacy of Luna Passage
Legacy of Luna Passage

The woman narrating this story did a "tree-sit" on behalf of the Redwoods in the late 90s for two years. She literally stayed in the tree that long, and this passage not only makes me happy for her realization, but reminds me how happy it is to finally let go (something most of you know is difficult for me sometimes). Speaking of trees, this is a good time for #7.

7. Taking pictures of trees: If you are a close friend or family member of mine, or follow me on Facebook/Instagram, you'd see how many tree portraits I take (and sun portraits...and trees with sun portraits). ;P It's become a running joke now when I post one: "Oh look! It's another tree picture!" ;) Seriously, though, taking photos of trees, especially while amongst them, grounds me, or reminds me to stay grounded. Trees have tremendous energy. Don't believe me? Go sit under one for a few hours and let me know how you feel afterward.

Me in the forest of Natureland County Park outside Whitewater, WI.
Me in the forest of Natureland County Park outside Whitewater, WI.

8. Dancing: This one ends up on every list I make about anything. Why? Because letting go of your ego and dancing your ass off is so liberating. So is dancing naked. ;)

9. Daily Journaling: You don't have to be a good writer to do this, friends. Just talk to yourself. Tap into those hearts. Seeing my thoughts on paper or in a word document is therapeutic and so powerfully healing. I have journals dating back to 3rd grade. Self-awareness and self-love begin with paying attention to yourself-- body, mind, and spirit. Just be sure you take away a meaning from what you're writing. ;) Here are two interesting articles on this topic:

10. Yoga: Because stretching, strengthening, self-acceptance, deep breathing, and sweating are sexy.

Me doing extended right angle pose in 2008! My bff, Kasey, of KaseyK Photo took this portrait.
Me doing extended right angle pose in 2008! My bff, Kasey, of KaseyK Photo took this portrait.

What makes you happy? Write a list. It's enlightening.

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Ask Yourself, What Makes Me Happy?

Soledad was a breath of fresh air. She lit up the room the second she walked through my door, and the minute we dug in, passion for life, love, and happiness poured from her. Her shout out is to all the small ladies out there (she's 5'1" and 95lbs). She has never been able to gain weight, and though she was forced to eat more as a child in an attempt to make her thicker, she has always held onto (or reminded herself of) personal happiness. A perfect example of this was her folder that rested on my dining room table that had positive affirmations written all over it. And she wasn't ashamed of it either. She said, "Oh, my folder has positive stuff all over it. When I have a bad day, I just read it and think, "Yeah...it's all good!" Love. It. I love her story and the way her photos turned out. I couldn't choose my favorite, so you're getting them all. ;)

Soledad's Body Story

Where to start. I guess I can begin with why I decided to do this project. My friend from Marching Band introduced me to The Body Project after I posted on Facebook how upset I was that it's becoming a "bad" thing to be skinny. I saw a picture of a girl with beautiful tattoos, but instead of people admiring her tattoos, they were mentioning how skinny she was, stating things like, She's...

  1. Not curvy
  2. Too skinny
  3. Boney
  4. Ugly
  5. Not pretty
  6. Anorexic

This is the photo (which we used as inspiration for her portrait):

Seeing this made me outraged. People used to state these types of things to me, as well. I have been put down to the point that I have felt uncomfortable in my own skin. People have said things like, "Why don't you eat more?" "You're too skinny." "Have you tried to gain weight?" "Are you anorexic?" And so much more. When I would go to my friends' houses, their parents would serve me a huge plate of food and not let me leave the table until I was finished because they thought my parents weren't feeding me.

More than bones.
More than bones.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that no matter what type of body you have, others will find a bad thing to say about it. In this day and age, there has been more support of "curvy" girls. Not saying that's bad. I fully support that. The things is, there is no balance. Society uplifts one and downs the other. Because someone is skinny doesn't mean they aren't beautiful, too.

I am skinny and that’s that.
Hermosa (Spanish for beautiful)
Hermosa (Spanish for beautiful)

I can't change who I am or what I look like. I have tried several times to gain weight just to fit in with what people wanted, but that's not me. I wanted to do this project to feel beautiful in my skin. I want to be able to walk confidently, dress the way I want, see myself as beautiful. I want to feel comfortable being who I am. I don't want all the things that I have seen or heard to bother me because I know I love myself and know my worth.

There are always going to be people that are going to think differently of you. They don’t matter.
More than bones. #2
More than bones. #2

What matters is that you know that you're a good person. Help as much as you can, love as much as you can, and never forget your worth and how important you are.

I wish there would be equality, a set balance for the future. I want everyone to feel happy in their own skin. It doesn't matter what size you are. You only have one life. I've learned that if you are not happy in your own skin, it's time to make HEALTHY changes. Try new things. That way you can find the things you do and do not like.

Learning more about myself is one of the best things I have ever done in my life—just sitting down and asking myself what makes me happy.
Hermosa (Spanish for beautiful) #2
Hermosa (Spanish for beautiful) #2

It's true, you cannot love another until you love yourself.

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to experience this project.

Much love,

Soledad

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Dear Happy Brains

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This is a unique story from a unique woman. I appreciate the awareness she works to create and her strength in having to endure the slow loss of a parent while simultaneously perpetually smiling, singing, and acting goofy and light-hearted. <3 Karen, you're awesome.

 

My story is probably different than the others. At first, when I was thinking about what part of me to highlight for this project, I had a few ideas of body parts that I am somewhat self-conscious of, and I know exactly why I am.  Instead, I decided to take a very different route. The body part I chose is my brain. And here is the reason: 
A handful of years ago, my sisters, dad and I started realizing that something had changed with Mom's ability to remember small things. At first, we just brushed it off. Then, paired with her chronic dizziness, her memory issues seemed to get worse. After many doctors appointments, a couple years ago we found out what we had been fearing - she has Alzheimer’s.
I feel that there isn't a lot of awareness in public about the disease. Society is catered to a young, fast-paced life, and that's really hard to keep up with if you have Alzheimer's. It's hard for my mom to make a decision on a menu at a restaurant, and oftentimes waitstaff gets impatient. It can be very isolating when you feel like no one understands you.
I am making it my goal to spread the word about Alzheimer's. I know that I probably have more of a chance of getting it than other people might; not only does my mom have it, my maternal grandma did too. I also know that Alzheimer's is a minimal concern for most people my age. However, this is a very real disease that affects too many people, and something needs to be done about it as the number will just keep growing.
I chose the words "I Remember" for my affirmation, because that's what I want to do - remember. I obviously don't want to get the disease myself and burden my loved ones, but more than that; I want to remember my mom on her good days. I want my memories to be of smiles, laughter, singing, and love, not of confusion and helplessness. I want there to be a prevention, treatment, and cure for this disease so that others won't have to go through what my family and so many other families have had to.
So here is to healthy, happy brains of women (who are at the epicenter of Alzheimer's) all over!

 

It was quite perfect timing to post Karen's story for this week's blog entry because she'll be participating in the Walk to End Alzheimer's this weekend. :) She's taking donations through the end of the year here or read more about Alzheimer's here. Donate if you're able or send out all kinds of positive vibes that a cure is found for this disease and peace and patience are found within family units.

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The Body Project Session #17: Progressive Journey

This last full group session was intense and open. The women shared their stories so readily and with such interest in absorbing each others histories. We talked of rape, molestation, and abuse with the clarification that one doesn't need to remain the victim, but grab their experiences by the reins and take control of their own growth and success beyond definitions and pity. I'm amazed, constantly, at the shit people go through and rise above. One woman kept repeating in various ways that's it's time to move past all the garbage, whether that garbage is something that happened in your past or whether that garbage is the negative words on a loop in your head or your personal trainer telling you you're not trying hard enough. You do you for you and no one else.

It felt so perfect that the overall tone was acceptance of what is and the steps we all take to continue progressing through our varied journeys with positivity. And though some days are harder than others, it's important to remember that it's another day and another step, and (I know I've said it before) it begins with love.

The Body Project has helped me on my journey of happy. I have had some bumps in the road, but that’s life. I am happy with my body and self. This was a way for me to show myself that and maintain my happy journey.
Throws like a girl.

Throws like a girl.

Strong. Girly.

Strong. Girly.

 
The Body Project has helped me feel better about myself. It’s amazing how a few stories can make you feel so empowered . I am definitely a lot more comfortable in my own skin! I’m so happy to see these women leaving their insecurities at the door. Every woman should do The Body Project!
It's all about the journey.

It's all about the journey.

 
The Body Project has forced me to let go...let go of all my self-hate and find all my self-love. Being here with all these different, amazing women has helped me, empowered me, and has given me inspiration to keep loving me!
Faith heals all.

Faith heals all.

 
Body projects have erupted around the nation, and I’m elated that it’s bloomed in a smaller area like Whitewater where women may not have received the message that your body is yours and we’re all in it together. <3 Katy, well done. No matter where you are, body positivity is essential to healthy living. Keep going!
In progress.

In progress.

In progress.

In progress.

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