After

What happens after?

Do you remember when you tasted something for the first time?

The equal mixture of excitement and apprehension?

That’s how I am feeling these days. 

Just when I thought things with our youngest couldn’t get any harder, they hit (what I hope is) rock bottom back in December 2020.  My husband and I were surviving on fumes- every night wondering if we should take our daughter to the hospital to find some magical cure for her nightmare flaring skin.  I was in the bathtub with her nightly at 2 am to help calm the itch and waking up at 7 a.m. to homeschool her three big sisters, thanks to the pandemic.  We knew we could not survive much longer. 

So we prayed.  We asked everyone we knew to pray and add her to their prayer list and we searched.  I spent hours and days and weeks and months researching and meeting with specialists of every kind from Virginia to Pennsylvania to Michigan and California to find any possible relief as we all, particularly she, continued to endure a living hell.  

We changed her diet, we had her relentlessly tested for multiple issues and within the last month, she has improved.  

But what happens after?

What happens once you emerge from trauma?

I’ve been waking up with Elizabeth every night for three years and even my pregnancy with her was ridden with weekly appointments due to concerns with her growth. 

How do I adapt to “normal”? 

I’ve been changing diapers for over 9 years nonstop and now she is potty training.  

What happens when I’m not?

Who am I now?

What taste is this?

Camille Vaughan Photography

Happiness

I bought this for myself a few years ago, when I was particularly down in the dumps about circumstances that were entirely out of my control.

Upon discovering it, I realized that no matter what what was going on, happiness was a choice. 

Sure I could take time to lament and mourn my very real losses; but even those that were suffering and gone before me would never have wanted me to continue living in that state of loss. 

It was my job to live the life they could not.  

I realized that it was my job to CHOOSE happiness.  

In the face of adversity, to overcome and make the best of what may be.

In the prospect of opportunity, to claim. 

To own this life they could not.  

It is ours to behold. 

If only we could just be happy today.  

Identity

Have you ever had an epiphany?

Perhaps you have but didn’t even realize that’s what it was.  

It goes something like this: 

You’ve been haunted by a sinking feeling, somewhere in the background.  It’s a whisper; not enough to take action, but there it is. 

Later, the whispers increase in volume and intensity- in other words, more evidence pointing to your initial feeling. 

And finally, the epiphany- the moment you connect the dots and recognize the intended message. 

Some epiphanies are wonderful- “So, this is love!”, “I’m ready/not ready to have a baby and I’m ok with that!”, etc. 

And some are downright terrifying- “I want a divorce.”, “I need to change my career entirely.”, etc. 

Recently, I had an epiphany and it all had to do with self-esteem or rather, my lack-thereof.  

Experiencing an epiphany feels much like floating above your entire life and witnessing it from space.  

Suddenly, everything is so clear.  

Why hadn’t I realized it all along?

I measure my self-worth largely by the way I perceive others feel about me. 

There it is.  

My Epiphany. 

The one I didn’t want to have but needed to have in order to take back control of my life. 

To stop valuing myself based on my perceived self-worth to others and instead (gasp!) . . . 

Be ME!  Free and wholly me!  Unapologetically!  Unabashedly!  Take me or leave me but still, here I will be.  

Epiphany: Scary

My Identity: Free.  

Camille Vaughan Photography

Snail Mail

In the age of virtual learning and online shopping it seems, already, so archaic.  

Is that what also makes it so special?

Or is it just me?

The Written Word. 

The feel of paper. 

The emotion in handwriting. 

I received a letter today, just for letter’s sake. 

No holiday or event to celebrate. 

Just a letter for letter’s sake.  

And upon reading it, I felt like I had taken the freshest breath of air in a long time.

Normalcy.

Writing, just to write!

Touching base, just to check in. 

We’re busy people and letters are effort. 

But boy are they appreciated for that very reason. 

Snail Mail. 

Gone, but not forgotten. 

Momma

She said, 

“Lauren, you have to protect yourself from you.”

And Lawd, I didn’t want to know what she meant, but of course I knew. 

She’s my mother, after all. 

Why is she almost, always right?

But she was and she is.

I just didn’t want to know it. 

But now I do. 

What powerful words. 

“Protect yourself from you.”

Amen Momma. 

Verite Sans Peur

I entered an all-girls’ boarding school my sophomore year of high school. 

My initial requirements to agree to attend were that it be co-ed without uniforms and yet I fell in love at-first-sight with an all-girls boarding school that required uniforms. 

It changed my life. 

Aside from my second grade year, I had attended private school throughout elementary and middle-school.  

And then I entered my freshman year in public school.  

Easy to predict, girl from small school gets swallowed by the wrong crowd- my grades, self-worth and confidence bottomed out.  I went from an honors student to failing ninth grade English- the subject that would later become my college major and career. 

I followed the popular crowd and resorted to stealing as a method of proving my bravery, a habit that eventually caught up with me at a local 7-11 convenience store. I used my privilege to avoid harsh punishments until I found haven at St. Timothy’s School. 

The first day, I entered the “school store”, where you purchased your school supplies on the honor system- simply writing in a notebook on the cashier’s counter what you had taken.  

As a thief, the system was abhorrent to me- how could they be so naive?  But as I observed all that I could take without payment, I also envisioned a life I could lead with honesty.  

I walked out of the store and started up the stairs, accidentally holding the pen I had used to write down my supplies.  I stopped and wondered:  it was an innocent enough mistake.  Anyone could take a pen by accident.  But then I realized why I was truly there- to change my life.  

So I turned around and handed the pen to the “store lady” named “Dee” who looked me directly in the eyes and responded without hesitation, as if it had always been intended to be said to me, “Thank you, that is so honest of you.” 

I was never the same. 

That compliment of honorability would become the path I chose from thereon.  

Verite Sans Peur. 

Our school’s motto.  

Truth Without Fear. 

A motto I continue to live by in all aspects of my life, even when it is inconvenient.  

So simple, and yet, so powerful.  

If only we could all live our truths without fear. 

Verite Sans Peur. 

Meet Me Halfway

It’s that moment no one wants to admit. 

The one where you know you wanted it more than them. 

I could argue I spent my entire childhood in this state. 

The one where I was the bastard child, and they were the full-blood. 

The one where I was lucky he wanted to keep in touch with me. 

Yes, in my child’s mind,  I had to be worthy. 

And it never left me. 

I’ve lived a life proving myself worthy. 

And you know what?

I’m tired. 

I’m too tired. 

I. am. worthy. 

If you want me, then meet me halfway.  

I’m worthy. 

Camille Vaughan Photography

Catch and Release

Crumbling teeth.

That which has been haunting my dreams, lately.

A feeling so visceral, I wake up in disbelief that my tongue meets more than gum.

Later to learn these dreams are associated with the loss of control.

Ha!  Tell me about it.

I endured a childhood in the backseat and, as a result, made a career of being the only driver.

Until I wasn’t.

Until it wasn’t my car and I watched at the mercy of others.

Desperate to regain control, I reach.

Options. Opportunities.  Possibilities.

Catch and, in time, release.

Catch, Lauren.

Then, Release.

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Camille Vaughan Photography