Taking Stock

Taking Stock header image shows me in a set of stocks.
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I always look forward to February Photo Fest. Now it’s time for me to wind up the month by taking stock of the lessons I’ve learnt.

After my last two successful years of entertaining you through photography by joining in the month long meme, I wanted to do something different this year. No no, I needed to! Having slipped, fallen, lost my way a bit, I knew this was the only place I could communicate with myself. Dig down into the pit of my soul, find the hidden beauty that lies within. It is so important to me but more often than not eclipsed by others commenting on my physical appearance and ‘levels’ and other people not being (physically) good enough. My heart, my body, my blog, my rules! A space where I could also hold myself accountable by not just committing to a different point of self love each day, but by promising you all a picture a day.

Today is a last recap, to reflect on the hidden beauty I have found. Hopefully by the end of this post I’ll have a clear view of the things I like about me. Somewhere to come back to when I drop into self-loathing.

  1. I’m a strong, independent and bloody-minded woman.
  2. You’ll find me happiest hiding in plain sight.
  3. I’m trustworthy. And trusted.
  4. There is always flexibility in my world. Not just in my joints but with my plans.
  5. I’ve a weird sense of humour and love to use it to make friends smile.
  6. Fear is not a barrier, it won’t prevent me trying new things.
  7. Starting over again doesn’t mean beating myself up. Sure, I make mistakes at times, and sometimes that means going back to the beginning. But that is not a bad thing. It’s just a change.
  8. I’m able to manage and maintain my boundaries
  9. If I say I’ll do something, my friends know I mean it. So, I’m reliable (as well as trustworthy!)
  10. Asking for help, I now understand, is not a weakness. And I’m not afraid to reach out for support.
  11. There is a very soft centre, under this harder exterior.
  12. I prefer not to be centre of attention in life, with some exceptions. Perhaps this is similar to February 2nd, but I do like to be an adornment. I’ll never chair a meeting, but I will bring some fierce input.
  13. My parenting style is positive. So far, my smalls are incredible; I’m told that is my fault! Blame I’ll happily receive.
  14. Learning to listen to my heart has been a challenge that is very much worth the effort.
  15. Giving friendships space to evolve is wonderful. Whether that’s increasing the intimacy level with potential new playmates, or healing wounds with old friends.
  16. I may be strict on managing and maintaining boundaries, but this gives me the freedom to test the lay of the land beyond my hard limits.
  17. Exercising discretion around my personal problems, until I’d had the chance to fully process them is something I’m proud of.
  18. I enjoy creating fun times with friends, and I’m not afraid to look daft with my suggestions. Even when corrupting ‘vanilla’ pursuits.
  19. I love the way my cheeks tell the story of my inner world. If you’re attentive enough you’ll be able to read my soul.
  20. Shoulds are shit. Life is so much better when following my own path, even if that does mean changing the lyrics to tunes and going way off piste with prompts.
  21. I am quite capable at managing my nerves, pushing myself hard, by gradually ramping up the fear factors. I’m sure there’s something about boiling frogs in my mentality towards stress, but hey ho, it works for me!
  22. I choose to celebrate the physical “flaws” that show me I’m a good mum. This is something I struggle with recognising, as I think we all do, so I need the visual cues rather than looking inward.
  23. Much like gradually ramping up the stress level, it’s important to be patient with myself. Those baby steps eventually make the miles tick by. What once seemed impossible becomes a memory. A memory and a spring board for the next adventure.
  24. Just like when I started writing a little fiction, I am learning to embrace the beauty of creative edits for photographs. Tweaking the good stuff. Sometimes making it a little better, but more often just making it different. It’s a great way to make friends! But it’s also a strong reminder that it’s OK to be different. So long as I remain authentic to myself, showing a different face (or cheek) to the world is no problem.
  25. As with anyone who has experienced trauma, I’m not without my baggage. I’m fortunate in that I have strong foundations, following a stable and secure childhood. I believe this has, in no small way, been responsible for my choosing to face down my demons. To sit with the discomfort of my reactions, while other people go about their life in the way that is right for them, has helped me to build evidence that I am safe.
  26. As a masochist I have needs. My favourite way to meet these isn’t often available, but with a little creativity I’ve been able to find ways to stay within my boundaries and keep myself safe while energising through discomfort.
  27. Having taken a long look at my hidden world I’m pleased to have found that I can see those beautiful sparkles in my soul. Having rediscovered them, I’ve chosen to stow them away safely (here, in this public post!) for when I need them another time.
  28. And then we have today…. Today I’m doing the work and reflecting on the month passed, taking stock – as the title suggests.

This month has been challenging. I’ve had more ups and downs than a yo-yo. (And I don’t mean that one I got in my stocking which doesn’t wind back up again.) Some of you will have been caught in the waves of emotion. A kindly comment on a post, a sensitive response to a tweet, an in-person snot fest over Roast Beef and fizzy pop. (You know who you are!)

In the middle of the month I was given a book recommendation – Fay Weldon’s The Life And Loves Of A She Devil. It’s the story of a spurned wife, and the chaos that ensues as she finds her feet and sets a course of chaos and disruption. This line leapt out at me:

“and trace of those qualities traditionally associated with women – such as sweetness, forgiveness, forbearance and gentleness – were at that moment quite obliterated.”

While I sat, stunned, at these words, I understood what I was sad to be missing. These are all societal expectations, and societal expectations are things I often run away from. But now… Now I was mourning them. I had lost my sense of beauty because these things had gone missing.

Or so I thought.

Given that I’ve spent the month dredging through (mostly) old photos, and finding the things that I like about me which are hidden in those images, I can see now that they haven’t gone walkabouts. I’m still sweet and forgiving, tolerant and gentle. It’s just that I have other qualities as well. Things that are currently more obvious like a sense of adventure and an ability (and desire) to manage my boundaries. I’ve also rediscovered a desire to fiercely face down my fears and stretch my personal limits. And there is beauty in all of my strengths, as much in the hard edges of pushing on and facing fears as the softness of forgiving those who’ve wronged me.

This month may well seem, to some, as a self-serving diatribe. But that’s Ok. To others of you I hope it will help you shine a light on your own secrets, discover your own hidden beauty.

February Photo Fest 2023

Thank you for joining me for February PhotoFest 2023. This is my fourth time joining the month long celebration of erotic and sensual photography. If you’re enjoying it please do go and check out the previous years: 2019 was an incomplete month. I skipped 2020 due to not blogging at the time but 2021 was a joy to plan and complete, in spite of lockdowns. 2022 was a little more relaxed behind the scenes, but jam packed with pictures and memories I love.

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