You Oughta Be in Pictures…or Bubble Wrapped. My Heartwarming Photoshoot at KeliComm
On the morning of my headshot shoot with Jen at KeliComm, I knew I was having one of my difficult days. Before even getting out of bed, my legs were losing feeling and the wet-sand fatigue settled in my blood. You would think I would be used to it by this point. Three-plus years ago, after a terrifying and irrevocable physical change, I was diagnosed with transverse myelitis. The easiest way to explain it is it’s like multiple sclerosis in your spine. Simply, my body decided to take a chomp out of the myelin sheathing in my thoracic cord. So, I have a lesion there and my electrical system sparks and misfires all day long. This is why I have groundbreaking fatigue…because it is unceasing and unsympathetic.
I called my daughter, Lauren at her EMT class and she responded, her voice on high-alert. “Mom, is everything okay? What’s wrong?”
I reassured her I was fine and then told her I hoped it would be okay if we could excuse her from class to drive me to KeliComm. Not the first time I would allow her to be truant. Living with a chronic illness means I do my best to make events, but sometimes fall very short. I didn’t want to miss my shoot with Jen because I had seen my friend, Joni’s results and was blown away. Joni has a spark. She just does. She is joy and heart walking around on this earth. I loved that Jen captured her soul and there was no other choice for me.
Besides, I was due for an update, you can only milk your lucky selfies for so long…lol. And I guess it’s not a business best practice?
So, Lauren came home and we gathered more than enough fun accessories to play with. She got me into the car and off we went. I tell you all this to set the scene. There are times my illness does indeed, appear “invisible.” Usually, it’s early morning after I have had at least eight hours of sleep. Then I have all day to progressively worsen.
But this day started rough.
It begins with the welcome
We walked into KeliComm and were immediately welcomed. I went from being escorted on my child’s arm to the arm of Jessica, their miraculous makeup artist. As she airbrushed and enhanced, we discussed our sons with the very same name. Shortly after, it was showtime.
I was again helped to the dressing room, where my name had been prominently printed on a welcome card. I changed, and then bemoaned whether I should wear my necklace. Jen says sometimes necklaces can be the one sore thumb popping out in a picture and that made sense. Everything else can be perfect, no hair flyaways, smile on point, head tilt, but then the necklace lies funny.
Still…I was loath to remove it. She picked up on my vibe right away and asked, “Does it have special meaning for you. Because if it does, you should definitely wear it!”
Then she asked (tongue in cheek, of course) if I used the spoon for drugs, and we roared hysterically! The chemistry between us began. I explained the concept of chronic illness and the spoon analogy that is used to describe the struggles ill people have. Let’s say you have 25 spoons for the day. Three are used to make breakfast, two to brush your teeth and so on. You have so many tasks to complete in your day, but you only have 25 spoons. You don’t get anymore because when you are sick, you can’t generate more energy to do more things…or create more spoons. So, sometimes, not everything is done and you might need to make a choice between doing the dishes or taking a shower. Remember, you can’t do both.
My silver lining
I believe that one of the reasons I got sick was to educate people about the possibilities that lie within us. To become the universe’s biggest cheerleader, and to inform people who are healthy on our “limitations.” The quote marks represent our perceptions that any one thing has the power to prevent our growth to our full potential. It’s simply not true.
Even sick, we can do anything. We can do MORE. If we believe we can. The gift of vulnerability brings clarity to our life’s mission. I have accomplished 10 times more as an ill person, than when I was well. I am thankful, in the weirdest way.
The headshot session
Jen offered her arm and led me to the studio, surrounded by a moat of the techiest tools. Lights, camera, action. Her laptop rolls on a stand and she selects your best pics right there…with you voting in tandem for what makes the cut.
I can’t sit without bracing or I will fall over, because my equilibrium switch is permanently in the off position and I always feel buzzed, like it’s been a two-glass wine day. (Not as fun as it sounds…although I am a cheap date…lol.)
Jen and Jane and Jessica overly accommodated me and never left my side. Rolling lights in and out, Jen started to tell jokes that would crack my grin before saying in a rush, “Oh, I can’t share that one yet!” and then zipping away to adjust a lever or gadget. Of course, that made me laugh even harder (she kept doing it. I think it’s her schtick) and so, snap, snap, snap, she went. Sneaky photog! Ask her to tell you her favorite Ole and Lena joke…lol.
If you had asked me four years ago to picture the moments I shared with Jen, to envision the stilting and shuffling walk that I seriously rock, I think my reaction would have been sorrow…grieving, and it is not to say those emotions didn’t sweep through me when I realized I would never be the same. But I didn’t know then what I know now, and that is…we need to break sometimes to heal. To become better partners and parents and workers and neighbors. We need to place our visible cracks in the light and reach out for the trust we hope will be gifted. To take the risk to learn that people are inherently good. And when these very gestures are lovingly returned, we swell up in bliss and positivity.
Jen did that for me. We laughed more than we talked, like old girlfriends finally catching up after too many years had slipped by.
Lauren hoisted me up on her back when we reached the parking lot after the shoot. Relentless laughing and transverse myelitis had converged in exhaustion. She piggybacked me the majority of the way to her car until my bony butt caused agony, and then we collapsed in giggles, leaning on each other as I lurched the rest of the way.
I was surrounded by love. Never felt like a burden, was welcomed as a vital human being despite my obvious need for assistance. That is what makes for a memorable photoshoot. ♥
Symbols in our lives
Jen celebrated the decision to wear my mini spoon and she noted when you have a meaningful piece of jewelry, this might be the exception to the rule. When what you wear helps to define who you are in all your imperfect glory, when it reminds you of why you wake up, and captures your heart, sport your memento proudly.
I love that she understands symbols can serve as anchors to the most meaningful elements of our lives.
Thank you, Jen, Jane and Jessica for your compassion and professionalism. Thank you for the platform to share my unforgettable day.
Hilary L. Jastram
Owner, Game Changer
J, Hill Marketing & Creative Services