Secrets, Self-Portraits & the Subconscious … & also, a Silver Lining

I am a keeper of secrets — especially from myself.


A long time ago, I realized I was one of those souls who felt everything too deeply —

Who wept inconsolably when I saw a little bird crushed by a car tire.

Who agonized over the troubles of friends and characters in books.

And so, over the years, I learned the trick of keeping all this emotion where it couldn’t hurt me:  I’d sink it deep in the cold waters of the subconscious — repressed.

This is both a useful habit, and a dangerous one.


A year ago, when I began photographing my own body, I learned another trick:

In an unguarded moment, my face would say a great deal of things I never knew about myself.  In the hollows below my eyes, the hard lines of my mouth, I’d suddenly see all the secret emotions I’d been hiding from my mind.  A lot of these were emotions that should have been acknowledged honestly and released many years before.

And so, I’ve learned to recognize my soul’s unguarded moment when it comes.  I might be hiking over a mountain pass or ambling down the grocery aisle.  I might be hunched at my work desk, or mowing the lawn.  But wherever I am, when I feel my subconscious rising to my musculature, my skin, I pull out my iPhone and snap an image, before the moment can pass:


Slowly, I’m teaching myself a better way to heal.


I’ve mentioned, briefly, that I’ve been carrying a quiet hurt for three weeks now.

And it would be easy at this point to ignore it, forget it, sink it below the surface like a body in a lake.


Earlier this week, while walking in the woods at twilight, I feel a strong emotion cross me like a shadow.

I pull out my iPhone.

I snap a picture:


There.  Do you see it?  Slow ache and sleeplessness and regret?  Me too.

So now, the only question is what to do with it.


It would be such a simple thing, to do what other people do when they’re hurting:  buy a drink.  Dye my hair.  Ride around town with friends.  But these things are deliberate distractions from the hurt, and lately I don’t want to be distracted.  Because if life has taught me anything, it’s this:

When my soul is wide-open to hurt, it’s also open to joy.

When my senses are attuned to my troubles, then they’re also attuned to magic and mystery — my spirit suddenly imbued with the language to understand each word the wind whispers in the leaves.  And I don’t want to miss this.

So I get out my paintbrushes, my camera or my journal…

I give myself permission to feel it all.


Three days ago, in the fading light, I take a long walk.

On the last uphill climb toward home, rain begins to fall, and I could run for shelter, but I don’t.

I lift my face, let the rain fleck me all over — drops of wet cold that sequin my hair, my skin, my lips.

I close my eyes and breathe … feel a sense of wonder crossing over me like light.

I take out my iPhone.

I lean back and snap a picture:


This is what a silver lining looks like. ❤


    1. I’m so glad it shows … I think I can probably see it better than most, since I’m so used to the way my face expresses emotion. But it’s kinda neat to know others can see it too. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for that. It’s hard for me to write posts like this … I’m always afraid of being “too much” online. But I do think there are those who can connect and enjoy, & I’m glad you’re one! 🙂 Have a beautiful day, lovelies! ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Ashley…this post moved me. Your words and your pictures are beautiful. I totally get it. “Old Dom” bottled things in all the time which I truly feel caused a year’s worth of health issues. I am much better at talking my feelings out and talking to those who I’ve felt have hurt me. Also, if I don’t enjoy the company of a particular person, I avoid them altogether. Through this, life has become a whole lot more enjoyable. You, my dear, have inspired me to do my own little confessional. Look out for it this week. I’m going to call it “The Great Don’t Get Discouraged” (I watched Whiplash last night which moved me to tears – wonderful movie).

    Take care! xo,


    Liked by 1 person

    1. One of the most comforting feelings a person can experience is the feeling, in some small way, of being understood. Thank you for that, lady. 🙂

      I can’t WAIT to read your confessional.

      And also: Whiplash was AMAZING, right?? As a person who’s worked with some difficult artistic personalities over the years, I could totally relate.

      I’ll keep an eye on your blog this week! 🙂


    1. Thank you, Aiden, for sharing — I’m truly flattered. One of the most beautiful things about blogging ia realizing you’re not the only one. Here’s hoping your heart feels MUCH joy today. ❤ Thank you, sincerely, for reading.

      Liked by 1 person

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