Juliana and I swelled up, last year, in time. Our daughters were born the same month. We shared a midwife, and I was secretly apprehensive that we would go into labor on the same day, and the midwife would miss my birth. We’ve shared a few play dates and dinners since our daughters were born. The girls have aged enough at this point to acknowledge one another’s presence long enough to take each other’s things. I’m not sure we should call this playing. But we do.

Since I’ve know Juliana she’s talked about leaving. The first thing I knew about her was that she was moving to North Carolina. And for this reason, I’ve been a not very wonderful, half-committed friend.   Living in a transient space like Bloomington, I tend to warm up most to those who buy houses and plant asparagus. I don’t care for the feeling of being left.

Juliana is leaving. And she is leaving to do a lot of the things I say I would love to: to build a yurt in the woods and write her demons away and her pleasures into being. I haven’t figured out how she manages to write at all with a child the same age as mine, but its what she’s got planned for the year, and I can’t help but be envious of the way she sees possibility in her approaching time.

Juliana is also someone I respect for her commitment to writing in community, something I tried once, but felt disheartened by and have not done again. She attends and leads workshops in town, and sets up writing prompts in her public journal to encourage her more distant writing community together. Just now, she has posted a self-portraiture prompt at her journal.

I’ve always been both too proud and too puzzled to do much with writing prompts and I almost snubbed my nose to this too.  But I got to thinking about how many photographs I’ve taken this year in which I am a prop, a balance. Here a child leans against my leg, here I hold her at her waist. You can see my arm in this one. It feels indicative of my year. My body has become secondary to hers, acknowledged only for the fragmented ways it maintains her: It feeds a child, holds a child, puts a child to sleep, cleans, dries, guides, protects, changes a child.

I wonder what an intentional movement from the blurred background to the center of a photograph would do for my sense of self.  I wonder what making time to reflect on a body, a little less small and round, and a little more my own, would allow me to discover.

I am afraid to find either a poor unnecessary pride or a violent shame. Or worse than both, perhaps, nothing at all of the self that was before her.  This project, if I’m honest, is a crying out. The sort of call you make to mountains, waiting for an echo. And I wait for this: I need a reconfirmation, be it only a hallow reverberation of the hullabaloo I make,  that something about the self I knew before was not forced to be forever buried now that someone else’s needs dictate mine.

And so, I’ll be taking this snapshot project up. I’ve impregnating the undertaking with a little too much planned self discovery. And I’m apprehensive for reasons it seems, a little different than the other women who are also committing to self-photograph. They seem afraid of their beauty value, I am afraid that the photographs will be a sham, an imposter’s depiction of a re-centered self. Because what I am really after is not the image, but the centering.

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