Just Keep Going

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Believe it or not, I was the captain of my Varsity Cross Country Team in high school.  I attended a tiny, all-girls boarding school just outside of Baltimore, Maryland, filled with rolling hills and scenic trails through deciduous forests.  I like to tease that I led from the back because truth-to-be-told I struggled and wasn’t all that good.

Our coach was a Vietnam Vet and also our American History teacher who completely filled the giant wall-sized chalkboard with keywords he would use to tell the story of the battle, using a broken golf club to whack the board and grab our attention when necessary.  He walked with a limp, a war injury, and during our running practices would scream, “UP THE HILL, DOWN THE HILL, CAN’T GO THROUGH IT, MUST GO OVER, JUST KEEP GOING.”

I found myself chanting this long after our meets were over.  After high school, after an abusive relationship in college, as I worked 60+ hour weeks into the weekend as a teacher, during labor, and now, as a mother of four children with a marriage, house, and part-time sales job to tend to.

Do I want to quit?  YES.  So many times!  So many days!  I’m too tired to get over this damn hill and I just want to sit the hell down.  But in the midst of consideration, I can so clearly see and hear Mr. Bailey barking orders at me.  I can only imagine what he endured to conquer his hills and in my weakest moments, I scrape the barren remnants of my energy reserves and find the strength and will to carry on.

To Just. Keep. Going.

Because the view from the top, I know, is amazing.

 

Camille Vaughan Photography

 

The Calling

It’s that little voice.

You know the one I’m talking about.

The one that won’t leave you alone.

That red flag.

That green light.

That nagging feeling.

That encourager.

The relentless pusher.

Lord, you are so annoyed by it sometimes.

JUST GO AWAY.

I don’t want to try something new and different!

I don’t want to leave what I’ve known!

I’m afraid.

But there it is and here you are.

That new job.  That new relationship.  That child.  That move.

And, so long as it is in the direction of progress, it’s our job to listen.

If only we could trust . . . and listen.

 

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Camille Vaughan Photography

Destiny

It’s difficult to describe the moment you realize you’re on the right track.

And that moment came to me today, when I very matter-of-factly explained to my 7 year-old that in addition to becoming an inventor, fashion designer and mommy, she could also be a writer because, didn’t she know that besides her own mother, my parents had each written a book?

I retrieved them from our library and set them next to one another.

And it dawned on me.

I’ve arrived.

This is where I’ve been headed all along.

The line, not straight.

The path, not clear.

The destination, the same.

A writer.

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The Traveling Salesman

Wrinkled.

The best way to describe my fingers.

Saturated.

My undergarments.

Rain.

Nonstop for 9 hours as I walked door -to-door on the streets of small-town Ohio.

The Traveling Salesman.

Finally, someone answered.

The furniture, well-worn. The space, cluttered.

Thoughtfully, he leafed through my encyclopedias as he listened to my pitch.

Sincerely, he asked if they would truly help his children.

It was the question I had been trained to answer.

I glanced at the Britannicas on his shelf, knowing very-well how much he had sacrificed to pay for them.

And with my first sale of the day within arms reach and tears in my eyes, I shook my head “no”.

No, you don’t need these.

No, this is not worth the “sale”.

No, this is not for me.

And with that, I thanked him for his time and made my way back into the rain.

Face up. Cleansed. Renewed.

The traveling salesman, no longer.

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Camille Vaughan Photography

 

 

 

 

The Reason

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POW!

It’s fascinating how authors of graphic novels have nailed that onomatopoeia.  Because, that’s exactly how it felt when he punched my face, breaking my jaw.

Thrown back into the closet from the force of the punch, I stood up and looked at him quizzically, as if to ask, “Really?”.

But truly, I had always known it would come to this and had been almost waiting for the inevitable.

The reason to leave.

He left for class, I headed, mouth bloodied and all, straight for the rental office, requesting a new apartment placement.

I packed my belongings in under an hour and called the police when he found my new residence and started to rip them from my car.

I lived my entire senior year of college in fear of seeing him, as I had the previous two years of dating him.

And wondered, as I received weekly ultrasound treatments for my jaw, how I had allowed it to go on as long as it did.

Same old story.

Different girl.

It begins with the shaming.  The belittling. The Emotional Abuse.

And evolves to the physical.

Until and unless we Recognize it.  Name it. And Stop it.

Until and unless we Recognize it.  Name it. And Stop it.

Until and unless we Recognize it.  Name it. And Stop it.

Until and unless we Recognize it.  Name it. And Stop it.

Until and unless we Recognize it.  Name it. And Stop it.

Until and unless we Recognize it.  Name it. And Stop it.

Until and unless we Recognize it.  Name it. And Stop it.

Until and unless we Recognize it.  Name it. And Stop it.

Until and unless we Recognize it.  Name it. And Stop it.

Hold my hand.

Recognize it.

Name it.

Stop it.

You are reason enough.

Camille Vaughan Photography

 

 

 

 

When You Can, Do

With a 1, 3, 5 and 7 year-old daughter, it’s a common theme in our house: frustration.

We want to be able to do it all, and yet we are confronted with relentless obstacles.

Siblings, spouses, co-workers.

Physical limitations beyond our control.

Emotional capacities we are incapable of attaining.

Situations we couldn’t have fathomed.

The question is not, which wall we will hit, rather, what will we do with it?

This is the lesson I work to teach myself and my daughters.

When you can, do.

We’ve all heard it: You Cannot Do It All.

And yet, like it or not, that’s the relative goal.

It looks different for each, but it all means the same.

Too much, too soon.

We want it now.  We wanted it yesterday.

We want what is unattainable, and want it anyway.

We want love.  We want things.  We want time.

Our desire is the same but our nature demands:

When you can, do.

Do as much as you can, when you can.

And in the meantime, grant yourself and others, grace.

When you can, do.

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Camille Vaughan Photography

 

Weathered

A fire.

Roaring flames lick your face, the heat so oppressive you are forced to stand back to marvel at the demonstration.

A flaunt of power, an ignition of energy. Dangerously beautiful is this virgin blaze.

Time passes. Kindling sparse. The flames, once so bright, begin to dim.

Now approachable, friends find a spot to gather- round this comfortable, broken-in space.  Reaching in to warm their hands, absorbing the heat this tired fire has left to give.

The inevitable awaits.

Will this fire burn out?

Or will it scream for someone to feed it?

The story is the same.  A mother, a teacher, a doctor, a cleaner.  A social worker, an athlete, a therapist, an artist.

We begin ablaze, set to conquer.  Eager to learn, eager to share.

Weathered, we abate.

And subconsciously or not, we decide.

Feed the fire?

Or let it die?

I feast.

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Camille Vaughan Photography