Lena Jackson Photography

Located at 1010 W. 35th Street, Chicago IL Studio 560

For years my main priority has been to keep the peace. Focusing on all the externals.

3 years ago I was in the midst of a relapse in sobriety. Stuck in a place, yet again, of hiding my daily drinking from most that I knew. 3 years ago I was falling in love, looking for a new job, and coming to terms with the fact that my dad was probably going to die soon.

In the years that followed, wreckage hit. But I was sober, and I felt like I was being shown that there was nothing I couldn’t get through if I kept myself away from drugs and alcohol. Heartache, death, an abortion, financial bottoms, harrassment, depression, health scares, friendship losses: change. I was handling it. And I thought strength looked silent. I thought strength looked like resilience. I thought that if I cared for others, kept showing up, and kept face, that I was okay.

I believe in taking the high road, and shutting out ego. But knowing what emotionally intelligent thought processes look like is not the same thing as practicing emotional intelligence. Strength is not denying the experience of healing, in all its ugliness, wrath and confusion. I so badly wanted to act out the resolution instead of letting myself go through the process required to get there. I wanted to just be okay, because I “knew better”, rather than get swallowed up by the sadness and loss of hope I was feeling. I wanted to skip all that because I thought feeling what I was feeling was weak, fearful, and unwise.

But the truth was found elsewhere. I was hit with the hard reality that I was avoiding- that facing the feelings that terrify me is the only road to healing. Admitting I’m lonely. Admitting I’m afraid. Admitting that I know how to care for others more than I know how to care for myself. Admitting that I need help in the areas I resent that I need help in. Admitting that things hurt me, even the things I should know by now are not about me. Admitting that I often dont know what I feel or what I believe.

Crying. A beautiful, relieving act that I struggle to let people see. For years I couldn’t cry in front of a friend, or at a movie theater, or even in front of my own family. It’d only come when I had the security of knowing no one was around or could hear me. On the rare occasion I cried in front of a friend or a partner, I would apologize profusely through my own shame (still working on this). And when I began attempting to film myself, I couldn’t believe how strong my ego remained. I’d shut down the moment I pressed record. Self awareness can be just as debilitating as it can be an aid. So I kept at it. And when the polished look of a camera felt dishonest, I began matching the way i felt with the way it was filmed. Jerky, gritty, sometimes very ugly, and intimate.

I dont know why I started doing this or what its necessarily done for me. But I can see the correlation between starting to film myself crying with allowing myself to break down when I needed to. A few weeks ago I felt lower than I’ve felt in a very long time. I was terrified. I wasnt eating much, could barely sleep, and only left the house when there was no getting out of it. I hate being in that place. Genuinely hate it. I feel immature and pathetic. And that desperately needs shifting. That part of myself only needs compassion and love, not shame and neglect. The more I come to terms with that, the more at peace I’m beginning to feel. I’m still having tough days. And I know I will continue to at times. But I will move forward slowly surrendering the harmful habits I have allowed myself to engage in.

More and more I find that art leads me back to the truth, and back to myself. The only purpose I have in sharing this is to be honest. The more I’m honest with you, the more I’m honest with me. And I want my art to always reflect that.

The community I’ve found through modeling and photography has kept me going when I’m stuck in doubt. I’m learning to trust where art leads me.

Thanks for reading.

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