A Good Day to Die…
“It’s a good day to die”, I say to my seatmate. Not my usual opening line but one I feel strongly about today. Tomorrow may be a different story, as normally, I am not a big fan of dying. A sense of peace and clarity is with me after my daylong shoot with Christina Morassi. I texted her saying, “I kept feeling like I was leaving something in my hotel room…” It happened again as I left the restaurant where I had breakfast and then again as I got out of my friends car at the airport. That odd sneaking feeling that something has been left behind as I cast about for what it might be. What I realized as I left my room after a final vigorous sweep: I left behind a part of me.
The experience with Christina was (to use a way over used word these days) transformational. Part high priestess, part shaman, part Diva, part business goddess, part rock star and part fashion photographer, well on her way to being a millionaire business woman, Christina helped remove parts of me as we brought others to the surface. Was I expecting all of that? No. Is it a surprise? No. I have seen her photos previously – ‘before and afters’ with perfectly stunning pictures by other photographers, placed next to those by Christina – and WOW! Crazy wild wow. She brings out an essence in people that is rarely seen or captured. I knew I wanted me some of that.
Having met her during my business expansion days in late 2011, I was instantly enthralled. Here was a woman in all her glory and power shining from stage, authenticity up the ying-yang and gorgeous too. Yowza! She pitched a free strategy session and I was buying what she was offering. A month later we had our call. I was in a down swing, about to make my fateful declaration to the Universe that 2012 was to be the year of “letting go of attachments”. Many whoopsies in that! Feeling dismayed, confused and wondering just how I would keep up the exhaustive pace I had over the year to reach the level of success I had in my business, I was not in my power at all when we spoke. She was gentle but fierce in her words and lacked concern in calling me out on my stuff. She said things that other coaches hadn’t suggested before. I felt challenged, and intrigued. I signed up for a coaching package, which included the photo shoot.
Fast forward 4 months later and my house burned to the ground.
Our first coaching session took a different tack then we had originally intended circumstances had been different. Christina was the first person to suggest something I will never forget. “Don’t come to form too quickly”, were her wise and influential words. “I won’t”, I thought, “I won’t”. And, for those of you who read my blog over the past year, I didn’t. And, I haven’t.
And, now I am. I am coming back to form into something new.
Still, I wouldn’t have done the photo session at this time if Christina let me have my way. I didn’t think it was time or that I was ready. I wanted to wait until after the anniversary of the fire, after my trip to India, after… But Christina had other plans. Not only had she kindly given me more time to use my package, she was transforming herself and I was to be her last official shoot. See, Christina has risen like the meteoric star that she is, shooting into the stratosphere, attracting people by the 100’s as she flies. Always one to recognize people’s essence before they see it themselves, she now focuses her multitude of talents in finding people’s “Ecstatic Brand”.
And, it is ecstasy being in her presence. She pulls something forth that we don’t even realize is there, or realize is in hiding. As was my case.
I knew I would have fabulous pictures. I still hoped I would come out looking like Cameron Diaz, that somehow my nose would shrink and put its extra substance in my lips. Now, I don’t care about that. I know that the pictures are amazing. I would know this without seeing them, and I know this by only seeing a few on a 2×2 camera screen. I know this because I feel this. Because something emerged that wasn’t there before. Will it stay? I hope so. Will I chase it? No. Will I let it be? Yes.
The preparation began a month prior and I was instructed to “wear something that represents the me that I am becoming, not the me that I am now”. Blue jeans and cowboy boots is what I wanted to wear. Or maybe even my one pair of Jimmy Choos with the same pair of jeans. Mountain girl is what I am. Haute hippy, bohemian, eclectic – and comfortable, please. So what to wear, I wondered. She said shop in your own closet first but that posed a dilemma since the fire robbed me of my fine frockery. But I started there and gathered some pieces. Then I shopped on line, in the mall, in boutiques, trying on dresses galore. Nothing was quite right. Too formal, too chic, too elegant, too tight, too loose. After a consult with Christina’s trusted stylist I had a clearer picture. Sybil worked powerfully with me asking me questions about my brand. If she hadn’t been so sweet, I might have cancelled the call. “Brand, I don’t want to talk about my brand! I don’t know what it is!”, I fretted. I am far from where I was and don’t want to go back. I love my work but will not return to my driven-ness. Sybil coached me through my angst into free flow creation of what I am about and how my innate style represents that. Finally a few things emerged – two Nordstrom dresses and a $25 consignment store find paired with things to hippy-fy them up. No shoes with the long red dress, faux fur vest and Frye boots with the consignment store dress, and the Choos with the short dress.
I was ready to go, on the outside. Still I wondered, “Really? Is this really the time? Do I really feel up to this? Do I even want to go?” The fire-related dark circles under my eyes and a chronic feeling of fatigue still remained. If I could just waited until after my India trip I would be a new enough person to capture my essence, right? But this was a no go. Now it was. Or not at all.
The day before I wandered one of my new favorite areas of Abott Kinney. In and out of shops, a delicious salad, a Toby McGuire sighting, perfect sun and blue sky made it a glorious day. Almost 4 miles later I had walked my ass off and my ass was tired.
I slept well the night before and awoke with plenty of time to prepare for my first visitor. Sybil was to arrive at 8am, hair and make up at 9am and Christina herself at 10:30. To enjoy my morning, I took time to get in my body and used my fledgling shaman training to journey with my spirit guides. My power animals, guardians, wise council and I all gathered around a circle. Having started this practice in a course over the summer, working regularly with my shaman Julie Davis, and now being in a yearlong training, I don’t question its validity, I am merely doing it. What I am finding is the inner resource I have searched for all my life. I am finding my own path and my own journey in the world of spirituality.
Sybil arrived and approved my outfits. We parted with heart-felt hugs as I awaited hair and makeup. Then Jen arrived and worked her magic. Not recognizing myself in the mirror I wanted to cry “too much makeup! Too much!”. But I loved the soft ringed curls that fell perfectly around my face. Christina arrived next and commanded more makeup, whispering to me, “Trust me. I promise you it’s perfect.”
Ahhhh. I put myself in this woman’s practiced hands. Then it was just the two of us. She prepped me even further about getting more in my body, into my core. It’s a hard place to stay for me (and for many of us). I am absolutely fabulous about getting in my head. I intellectualize everything and want to talk it out. But body, that’s another thing all together. Sure, I will practice feeling my feet but staying there and inhabiting my body? Hmmmm.
There is no sliding with this woman. She knows when we pop away, even for a second. Intense, yes. Loving, yes! Brilliant, oh yes!
So we did a bunch of awkward and ugly movements to reprogram the system. She leading me, and then asking me to have my own experience. I am good at mimicking but get afraid when left alone. “What if I look stupid in front of this goddess?”, rang the dark voices. And we kept going.
Then the challenges started. What is it that blocks you? What is it that stands in your way? Will you fully be yourself and bare essence today or will you hide? Will you do it halfway or will you play full out? These weren’t her exact words but the sentiment penetrated deeply. She bore in and backed off, then bore in again. She made space, then held me tight, and then told me she was there to catch me.
Things came up I didn’t expect.
What does it take to show your essence? It takes a willingness to step out of comfort. She identified a hidden part of me that not many people see. On the outside I seem self-expressed and bold. And I am. Yet there is still a part I hide. Most people miss that. They see my actions and look quizzically at me when I say I was once painfully shy. Instead, Christina knew my shyness and knew where and how to look.
What part are you hiding? Why? Kids screamed from the other room as we talked where no noise had been before. Chaos breaking the silence we were experiencing. “Notice everything”, she said with a twinkle in her eye. “Everything”.
What I was hiding: I don’t feel feminine deep down in my core. Or I didn’t. Growing up, I got in to “doing” mode during a chaotic period. Death, divorce, loss, illness, moves across country all within a short period of time in my immediate family. I became good – and in some ways I became boy-like. Or at least I left my magical, mystical, ethereal, artistic girly self in the dust. Then my “Dorothy Hamill” cut on my slender 10 year-old frame clinched it as I was often mistaken for a boy.
Christina took time to distinguish between sensuality and sexuality. Sensuality she said “is what we are after. Get in your pleasure zone.”
“What?????” I fretted. “On camera? But I have a prominent angular nose and seriously lack Angelina Jolie lips…. I can’t do that!”
That little girl that I once was decided that free spirited sensuality was not ok and stuffed it down inside. Sure I have sexy moments, but I feel separate from myself as a sensual being so I have not fully owned my sensual power. It’s taken me almost 47 years to realize this. Actually, I knew this before but haven’t really been willing to do anything about it. Lazy, I thought. But terrified, is what I realized in Christina’s penetrating presence.
So out to Topanga Canyon we went, after grabbing Christina’s amazing assistant, Tina, and a stop at Whole Foods to fuel up. As we climbed the canyon, it seemed the day should already be over. Hadn’t I realized plenty? Wasn’t my familiar comfort zone of intellectually understanding enough?
We hiked in to a magical grove under a giant pair of trees. A spot that Christina had done shoots before, reserved for the wild women whose spirit called for it. We paused and asked permission to enter the grove. Christina, the priestess, leading the prayer.
The only thing between me and beginning was changing my clothes. The brown dress came first, my most “comfortable” choice. “In your hips, growl, don’t play to the camera, be in your body, feel your essence, move, move, move and breathe deeply!” were the reminders. She moved with me, she laughed with me, she was with me. She said she would be and she was. But I didn’t want to just follow because I am already good at following. I needed to be me but not be the me that is friendly, smiling, good, happy, nice – something deeper than that but some of that too. “Go deeper, go deeper, go deeper” was the mantra. My head throbbed all day, my neck ached, and at one point I wondered if I could keep moving. My thighs were burning from getting into my body, my voice was hoarse from growling. “Could I keep this up?” I wondered.
Then, in my long dress I climbed a tree and balanced on thinner branches than I should have been able too. I descended and lay on the forest floor, in the dirt in my gown. I wrestled Christina to the ground planting leaves in her hair that stayed for the day. I got in my hips, in my supermodel, in my diva, in my Marilyn Monroe. I let myself be all those things. I roared some more and stomped and pranced. I shook my hips and tossed my hair. I looked brazenly at the camera and looked as brazenly away. I channeled the rising moon and felt the power come in to me.
Yes, I left something in my hotel and in the restaurant and in my friend’s car. Will it come back? Who knows? But right now, I am complete. I die to my old way of being. I die to my fear. I die to my grief. In case the Universe is listening and hears talking about dying, you don’t need to test this one. I still choose to live and to live very well. And, indeed, today is a good day to die.