Relationships are powerful. Life and death are in the power of our most intimate connections. Popular today is this notion that self-worth comes from within.  Dr. Sue Johnson in her book Love Sense uses evidence of biochemical science to make a case for the opposite. Johnson demonstrates that self-worth arrives in the reflections of those closest to us. As children we get an indicator of self-worth from our primary caregivers and parents. If experience as a child was negative or destructive, a healthy adult relationship connection has the power to rewire the brain more positively and repair the damage. As adults, we look for it in our most intimate relationship, often a lover. When we look in their eyes, how they see us and the words as well as actions toward us provide value to our self-worth. Choose carefully those whom you allow to become your most intimate companions. Johnson penned another book titled Hold Me Tight which outlines her practice and application in couple’s therapy. We need reassurance from the special person in our life and it arrives via our connections to one another. Folks either pull away or explode in a fight when they feel their connection wane. They fight to come together or pull away perhaps in hope a pursuit will follow, but the main question when a couple experiences conflict is this holy grail of questions: “Do you love me?” Couples get in a rut or a routine based on their own version and flavor of asking this question. The fight comes from a place of hope. We often harbor hope about our partners, hope that something will improve or change. After a period of time, the hope turns to anger. We may lash out and put up the fight in a passive or more aggressive way. The anger can last however long and is the wrestling between hope the change will happen versus despair that it is not; anger is the decision stage to see it through or not. Hope turns to anger turns to despair if the hope remains unaddressed. Johnson states that in her thirty years as a marriage therapist, she has not seen a couple recover after one partner reaches this place of despair that they will not get what they want from the relationship. In my case, I recall hope that I would connect with my Asperger’s partner whom at the time I had no certainty was autistic. Autistic folks do not have functioning a part of the brain which empathizes and forms a deep emotional connection. What I wanted was not possible, but I lacked context. I became angry when at every meal we shared a screen was present and a personal connection not, so I lashed out with shopping and other screen time of my own in a space that ought to have been enjoyed for connection. Finally, my anger turned to despair. I knew I wouldn’t get what I wanted and this deeply grieved my spirit. By the time we had the Aspergers diagnosis three months past despair, we tried appropriate therapy but it was too late for me. Therapy has the ability to make my ex’s connections better and he can have fantastic relations, but not with me. By the time despair set in, my self-worth had also received impact. I had soul-searched and wrestled with the question if I was the reason we did not connect, and what was wrong with me? My relationship history indicated I did indeed have the ability to connect and I longed for emotional intimacy yet hesitated to feel worthy enough to fight for it. I wanted my marriage to be for life. I wanted a deeper emotional relationship. So I fought in little bits, arguing and reading and seeking conversation. What kept me going part of the time was the connection I formed with my modeling partner as revealed in my previous post, Fight From the Heart. We found worth in each other, which encouraged each of us along our paths. Think carefully of the words and actions you cultivate with loved ones. You’re influencing someone’s self-worth, and they are impacting yours. What they say and how they behave toward you matters, and vis a vis. Should you find yourself in any of these stages, act in awareness. Especially consider hope. If you have hope for something in your relationship, keep it not to yourself. Speak up and explore that hope with your partner. Tell them exactly what you want and need with them. Listen to your partner’s hopes and take them seriously, owning up to what you can and cannot deliver lest hope turn to anger turn to despair. Identify early on to save yourselves pain and time. Despair can take you to a place of feeling unworthy of what you want, or that you may not find it anywhere. That’s a lonely place to exist. We need each other. Be a good steward of your beloved’s self-worth. Seek relationship with those who would be good stewards of yours. I suppose then some amount of self-worth does come from within, perhaps during formative years with parents. We must see ourselves as worth the fight to find love and connection, but with that person who will reflect to us the self-worth with which we can live. A person with whom we can give honest to goodness positive reflections of self-worth, lest either of us destroy the other.

Samuel Nesbitt Photography

Hair by Danyelle “The Hair Maverick” Johnson

More on the books and theory by Dr. Sue Johnson

I actually learned from a real dojo how to wield the “assassin” swords in the top  image. Practice slinging swords for a few hours and tell me you don’t feel like a bad ass who could handle herself. Empowering. The chance to play with the other weapons and firearms was also good fun.


Fight from the Heart, True Story

The Blades of our fathers. This is one of two of my Driver family swords borrowed from my uncle to create with Bee Wood of Take Delight Photography. We were tasked to create images of love, romance and passion. To start the topic subject seemed rather broad, and at the time I was exploring deeply my own lifetime cynical take on these, love and romance, what did they mean to me? I spent my life protecting my heart from attaching near enough to allow another to cause me pain, guided by my mother to fortify such guards. Trouble is, love and romance do not exist without vulnerability. Years in a pragmatic relationship left me longing to cultivate my passions within the context of love and romance, but this does not simply pop up between two people. I had thought myself better off without it, but without it my soul suffered. I came to the conclusion I would rather have the joys and experience of romance along with its pains than spend a lifetime securing these experiences would evade me. Cultivating and enjoying romantic passions require certain attractions be in place, but also lifestyle to encourage sustainability of the connection. Where is a safe place for passion? Passion and love, neither are “safe”, but some people are safe for us and some are not. The gut may indicate upon initial meeting. The first thoughts that came to mind on these topics for this shoot were notions of being undone: nudes? No there were other ways to communicate “undone”. Certainly more than one person needed to be in the shot. At the time I was nourishing a friendship near and dear to my own heart and journey. I knew we needed to invite my modeling partner, Gravy. He agreed to be game for whatever I came up with to communicate the topics, even if his take on them and means of communicating in imagery differed.

Love: two people. Romance: what is more romantic than the Renaissance? Thankfully layers of clothes were back then worn, so looking undone would be as simple as dawning a shirt, and I had those. Passion, how to communicate passion? Sword play is passionate. As I thought about love and romance, I likened the presence of these partners as the biblical phrase states that iron sharpens iron so one man sharpens another. I was exploring polyamory at the time, but ultimately could not remain in the lifestyle as my ultimate embodiment of love and passion exist within exclusivity of monogamy. Months of reading and experimenting, at the time of this shoot I was in the cusp of preparing to act on polyamourus theory. My mental exploration in large part took place in the throws of my relationship with this very man in the photos. From the start, he challenged my thinking and I challenged his. We loved each other very much, but a full on partnership was not in the cards. Lifestyles. They would never match up. But at the time of this shoot, and until the day I realized I could never maintain a poly lifestyle, Gravy and I were consistently vulnerable with each other. Our conversations strengthened one another’s resolve in life to fight from the heart, even if that meant strides in opposite directions from a life together. We grew by leaps and bounds during our ten months of emotional intimacy. We used our vulnerabilities and connections to challenge and sharpen one another. So many couples choose to cut down and make each other bleed. Who wants to remain in a situation such as that? Gravy and I made each other better. We both had other relationships which sliced our hearts in different ways. We sought and looked to each other for new perspectives and answers. We did not find certainty and we did not find a life together, but we fought from the heart and inspired one another to continue that fight. Our lives each improved. Now we stride in opposite directions. I, having discovered resolve that my heart is worth the fight, and in my heart resides fight for the lifestyle I want till end of days. Thank God for respect and cordial interaction. Intimacy with other humans can house love, passion and romance…control of these is breathtaking and rare. We each are powerful when we fight from the heart, live from the heart and spar with others to do the same. I thought love and romance equated tragedy. The real tragedy is living without them.

Listen to Your Heart

Take Delight Photography

Model: David “Gravy” Castillo

Wardrobe and props: shirts and corset made by Daze of Laur; swords borrowed from the family; headpiece from my personal collection; roses provided by photographer

Listen to Your Heart

I fought for my heart. Indeed, I have fought for my very soul. The soul as I understand it to be the seat of mind, will and emotion…for these I have fought. A warped Biblical position of submission I once embraced after diction from a marriage counselor that my emotions didn’t matter and needed to be set aside for the sake of doing “right”. Emotions will come later, she said. My situation was in fact different from most, and feelings alerted me something was off for years. I am learning to again listen to my feelings , tempered with logic. I assaulted my soul with bad advice and poor guidance. I fought and fought, small victories won, I fought for my soul, and my soul’s longings have found rest. If your soul has longing, pay attention. Explore. Make peace with yourself, and if peace is not found then keep seeking until it is found. Do not assault your soul, the fight is worth results.

Take Delight Photography
MUAH: Self
Wardrobe: personal collection

Unseen Forces

I walk this road and I am not alone. A force unseen breathes life into this flesh, into these bones. The wind inarguably graces my skin and hair, I  know when it is there. At times gentle it softly brushes and at times violent it angrily rushes. Unseen forces guide open hearts wide, then closes again. My experience is my own, but I do not walk it alone.

Speakeasy Photos

MUAH: Self


The first swim suit Shane purchased for me ($175 Juicy Couture via Nordstrom), our first year of marriage, to begin shooting on the beach and experimenting with pinup style. I wore it again last summer when we were trying to sort out if our then nearly seven year marriage was going to work or not. If you’ve been following my blog, then you know the path we’ve chosen.

Years after this suit was purchased we created a home studio and got serious about seeking vintage pinup hair and makeup. I long had the clothes, but without the rest of the aesthetic a message can be lost. The whole package comes to mind. Once we had photos, Shane challenged me to do something with them. I began telling my story in this blog. Stories continue, and right now I say going back to basics can be the path of greatest courage. What is pinup? An image a person informally “pins” to their wall for admiration, until the next image takes its place.

A year and a half of blogging and exploring pinup culture, I come to the same conclusion as my dance journey: Fusion. Blend together the best parts of that which is enjoyed and fuse it together creating anew, oft shared storm of style and passion. The results are as writings in the sand, fading as quickly as they appear. If life is only a breath, then a deep one shall I take. I’ll make my etches in the sand, and as they shift more etchings shall I make.

Speakeasy Photos

MUAH: Self

Related posts:

My Dance History

Take Me to Another Place