Traditional is not a word that I would use to describe myself. I'm not into gender roles or conventional ways. I am far out on the other end of the spectrum of socially acceptable standards. I am the polar-opposite of traditional. That's pretty much how I've always been. Even when I was a kid, I struggled to identify with what I thought I was supposed to be. My choices were limited, and I wasn't having any of it. I've been bucking the system since I was born.
And yet, there are certain charming attributes of a time-gone-by that I find endearing. There are some nostalgic, precious customs that make sense to me. And it only took 53 years for this side of me to be revealed.
Relationships have not been easy for me. I've had my share of difficulties, heartache and trauma. Did I pick the wrong guys? Probably. But those guys were just being who they were, and I chose to jump right into their chaos. I thrived on the drama.
Ten years ago, I learned about myself, erased the victim-role and cleaned up my side of the street. But it didn't happen overnight. During those early years of recovery, I had a short-lived relationship with a drug dealer, a long-distance relationship for several months with someone I barely knew, and a 3-year marriage that ended with a prison sentence (his, not mine). Since that time, I've had unorthodox relationships with a few guys, but I have no regrets. All of them were authentic. I entered into each one with eyes wide open and learned more and more about myself.
What happened next was surprising. Almost 11 months ago to the day, I had a conversation with a friend about dating, specifically dating him. He was someone I liked and trusted, someone who I thought would be able to handle dating me. He was confident and secure, independent and creative. He was self-employed, ambitious and thought outside-the-box, not to mention, tall, dark and gorgeous. But what was interesting then was, I was talking about dating, a word I never used. Dating meant commitment, and I certainly wasn't going down that road, or so I thought.
Was I giving up on life? Was I delusional? Was I having a midlife crisis? The answer was a big NO. Seriously, I woke up one morning with the epiphany that I was ready for a mature committed relationship, and there he was. Not immediately, and certainly not like a knight in shining armor, whisking me away on his white horse to a "happily forever after" nightmare. But, he was there, steady and sure, like a rock.
Here we are, 11 months later, after making a conscious decision to date, communicating what are needs were and putting together a plan of how this would work for us. Again, being unconventional people, we don't follow the rules. However, here's where I ironically discovered my old-fashionedness.
The list looks something like this:
With all that he does for me, the very things that I thought would make me less independent, have actually just simply softened me. Opening my car door, walking street-side, holding my hand, cooking dinner for me, giving me space, taking me out on dates, wanting to be with me when life gets hard, listening to me without fixing me - doesn't take away my strength. I'm still a strong independent woman. What he does for me, complements me. In other words, it adds to my strength, it doesn't take away from it. I have grown accustomed to, and enjoy some beautiful precious old-fashioned customs and ways. I would have never known this about myself if it had not been for him.
I'm happy to report that there is light at the end of the tunnel for us, ladies - those of us badass women who do everything for ourselves, refuse the help of others and take matters into our own control. Listen up! It is okay. Better than that, it is a blessing when a warrior steps up and is honored to be a part of our lives. Let him in. I know, it'll be a challenge at first. You'll want to do things your way. Compromise a little, let him cherish you. Keep being who you are, state your boundaries and communicate at all costs. Then, watch the magic happen. We don't need to be alone, or insist on always doing everything by ourselves. There is something delicate and heart-warming in the ways he will show up and be unwavering. Take him for his word, because it is gold. Trust him completely, because he is safe. Love him for all that he is, because he is honest. Know that all he does is for you, because you are a goddess.
Enjoy the sweet little things he will do for you, because they are huge in comparison to what you've struggled with before. Here's the best part - cherish him back, just as hard and as gently as he does you. You're in for the ride of your life, trust me. And remember, it is absolutely alright to be a little old-fashioned in this day and age. Some things have stood the test of time, and they are still just as important today as they were then.
Thanks for reading.
If only we had hooked up when we were young, what would our life together be like today? I could only imagine that it would have been filled with joy and bliss, and a lot of growing-pains as we tried to discover who we were. We would have decades behind us now, but at what cost? Would it have been all that great? I'd like to say yes. Yes, we would have fallen madly in love with each other and faced whatever obstacles life would have thrown at us, because we would have had each other. Yes, we would have grown a future together, and slid gently into our latter years gracefully. The truth is, I don't know what it would have been like.
What we do have is now, this moment. It is the best time of our lives. We were able to be whomever we needed to be when we were young, to prepare for who we are now. We made the necessary mistakes and failures then, so that we could grow from those experiences, and be the best for each other now. I'm glad that we didn't have to go through those younger, inexperienced years together. I'm glad that we waited for each other.
"Before I'm done with this life, I want 50 years with you, at the very least."
I want to be who you choose every day of your life, because you are who I choose every day of mine. I want to be the one you talk to about anything and everything, the one you vent to, complain to, talk about your dreams and your goals to. I want to tell you about all the beauty I see in you, and in our world together. I want to cry and scream and laugh, while I tell you all the things I hide from myself.
I want you to hold me in your arms as I rest my head on your shoulder, and hold onto your long hair like a safety blanket, and melt into your body as our hearts beat to the same rhythm. I want to breath in your calmness and be swept away into an intoxicating slumber. I want to feel your warm body next to mine as I open my eyes to a new day.
Before I'm done with this life, I want 50 years with you, at the very least. The happiness I feel is amplified by the presence of you in my life. I want to be the one who is there with you, through it all, the good and the bad. I want you to be by my side as I face the rest of my life, and know with all of your heart that I will never leave you.
I want to wake up at sunrise and make love with you before we start our day, every day. I want to get sweet little messages from you, just to know that you're thinking of me while we're busy with our lives. I want to cook dinners for you, or at least learn how to. I want to relax in the evenings in a bubble bath with candles burning all around us, with wine and soft music. I want to massage your feet while you massage mine.
I want to travel with you, get a dog and a Toyota FJ Cruiser, and get out on the land with our cameras and explore places that we've never seen before. I want to write stories and drink coffee, and be quiet and still for a moment. I want to be present for you, and for myself. I want to tell you every day of your life that I love you, and I want to show you that you are all I've ever wanted.
I want to do great things with you, like build a little house and grow a garden, expand whatever horizons we want to. I want to bake cookies with you when it gets cold outside, and binge-watch Netflix series. I want to walk beside you up mountains and down through valleys and across rivers. I want to sit with you at sunset and hold your hand. I want you to gaze into my eyes and see the universe that's revealing itself to you.
I want to touch you, and memorize every nuance of your being. I want to be drawn deeply into you, and live there for a while. I want to recognize you in every way, and wash over you like a gentle rain. I want all of this and so much more.
Be with me, here and now, and forever. I can promise you the world, and good food, and warm nights. Give me all of your love and affection, and your humor and child-like nature. Take me for all that I am, and I guarantee that you'll never need another.
(For my Beloved on the anniversary of our 10th month.)
Being an artist and running a business at the same time can be tricky. It takes balance and consistency, setting priorities and keeping on track.
My schedule gets a little crazy at times, between the volunteer community service I love to do (giving back to the community is a big deal to me); weekly modeling gigs; running art sessions and monthly photo workshops; photo shoots, (where I am the photographer); and creating all the marketing materials, press releases and social media promos for all of the above. It’s a full-time+ gig, where I’m busy at odd hours of the day and night.
Morning meetings are held at the kitchen counter via laptop Messenger Chat, while I’m drinking coffee and eating oatmeal.
Having a solid core team is crucial. We are all spread out geographically, making typical conference room meetings a thing of the past. With wonderful digital-age devices, the tools of the trade are now wireless and tele-communicative.
Dress Code consists of leggings and a thermal shirt, fluffy socks, messy hair and no makeup. Comfort is essential and helps me be more productive.
Follow-ups are done through group email. Updates are taken care of by text messages and phone calls. And all of this is done before lunch.
While all of that is taking place, I am busy designing flyers, updating my online store, adding info to my website and responding to people who send messages to my Facebook Events.
After lunch, more coffee and more work. But that’s the best thing - it never feels like work. It’s fun, all of it, because I only do what I love. And I love running my own business, and I love being an artist. It helps a whole lot too, being a natural-born Multi-Tasker.
I’ve learned a boat-load of skills during my life, all of which serves me well, now. It’s like second nature for me to whip up an Excel Spreadsheet to track progress, log receivables and payables, and review statistics.
I’m all for taking breaks during the day. I go from crazy-busy to calm and relaxed in just a few seconds. It’s the best practice I’ve put into action that benefits everything in my life.
I have designed the best possible solution for my busy work day. Here’s a brief snapshot:
#1. Music. I listen to music while I’m working, when I’m driving, pretty much all the time except when I am sleeping. The Ambient Station on Pandora Radio is on nonstop all day.
#2. Naps. Sleeping when you’re tired is not being lazy. It’s the brain’s way of recovering and creating. When I wake up, my subconscious mind shows me what I need to know next, and I’m able to follow through because I am rested.
#3. Food. Healthy, unprocessed foods. I snack all day. My go-to is bell peppers - red, yellow and orange. Cucumber slices with hummus, apples, cashews, and lots of water. My metabolism is sped up, my mind is clear and I am focused.
With my daily routine, productivity is a snap. At the end of the day, I am always amazed at everything I’m able to accomplish.
Spending quality time with my boyfriend helps me unwind at the end of the day, either in person or on the phone. We offer each other a lot of support, encouragement and nurturing. I love the way we motivate one another. We bounce ideas off each other, create projects and launch them together. We have mutual interests and a great passion for the art that we make. This part of my day is just as important as all the work I do in the course of a day.
What does all of this mean? It means when I tell people I’m busy all the time, it actually means *I’m busy all the time.* I’m up at the crack of dawn and fall asleep somewhere around midnight. This is the way my life is at the moment, and I love every second of it.
So, for those of you who follow me on social media, don't be fooled - photographs are nice, and they are stunning for sure, but it's important to understand that being a kickass girl boss is anything but all that. The every-day me in the dress-code I mentioned earlier does not look like all that. Entrepreneurship is a workout, physically, emotionally, financially, you name it! I'm sure the private planes and designer clothes, and trips to Europe are wonderful. But for me, at this moment in my life, I am working my ass off day and night to create something that I love, something to share with all of you. When those nice things come my way, I will appreciate them, but that is not my motivation.
As I finish writing this blog, it is a Saturday morning. I woke up early, fell back to sleep and woke up two hours later, feeling like only five minutes went by. I didn't even know what day it was. I dragged my butt out of bed to the kitchen where I discovered I was out of coffee. I got dressed, put on my dreaded Michigan Coat and hopped into my freezing cold car. It started snowing while I drove to the grocery store. Barely alert, I grabbed a bag of coffee beans and made my way to the ONLY cashier that was open, and of course the person in front of me had a fully loaded cart. She looked at me and waved me ahead of her. It must have been obvious, I needed the coffee!
Now, with my freshly-brewed cup next to my laptop, Mumford & Sons, Eddie Vedder and Dave Matthews playing on Pandora Radio, I am reviewing my up-coming week and what needs to be done.
Building an empire and being a badass entrepreneur isn’t for the weak of heart. It takes making tough decisions, facing yourself fearlessly, and learning to have courage you never thought was possible.
Here’s what I know today: the rewards, the abundance, the love of what I do, is worth every drop of blood, sweat and tears, because it takes a lot to get through it all. Take this advice from me: work smart, not hard; push yourself; never give up on your dreams; and always have plenty of coffee nearby.
Thanks for reading.
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Coming up later this year: a new book. Subscribe to my Studio's Blog and get the early-bird details.
So, this just happened! Tim McLellan, of HGTV's "Boomtown Builders", showed up with his film crew to do a Design Consultation with me. I entered a contest and won, but what was really cool was meeting Tim, and his lovely wife and assistant, Ericka. They have ties to the Old Jerome High School Art Center, where my studio is located. Once owners of Western Heritage Furniture in the building right next door, Tim was here in Jerome for over 20 years. With a passion for restoring old historic buildings, and being a Jerome-local, who else better to help me figure out what to do with my studio?
As soon as he walked through the doorway, I knew this was the guy for the job. It always makes me smile when I watch someone walk into my space for the first time, and see the expression on their face, much like the one that was on mine when I first entered this old classroom. High ceiling, old hardwood floor and a wall of tall windows - what's not to love?
After a brief tour of the room we got down to basics: #1 storage, and #2 sprucing up the place. Some of it was easy, like a fresh coat of paint, a light cleaning of the hardwood floor and some track lighting for the ceiling. Some of it, not so easy, like where to put everything. I spent weeks clearing out most of the clutter, but there was still stuff that needed a proper place in the room. Tim surprised me with an idea, floor-to-ceiling cabinets and shelves similar to an old library, with a rolling ladder to get up to the higher shelves (I am kinda short.) The storage structure would be removable, which gave me another idea - painting it a deep teal green - a great contrast color against the freshly painted white walls.
The old classroom is an actual "classroom" for art sessions and photography workshops, making the bright white walls necessary for creating without distractions. But a splash of color on the cabinets and shelves on the one large wall will make me happy.
The surprise of the day was Tim's suggestion for the windows. I hadn't planned on doing anything with the windows, since I love the North-facing natural light. But his two-cents worth made a lot of sense to me. Blocking out the natural light to control lighting in the studio is brilliant, especially with photography. Not every photographer likes natural light. But here's the awesome part - each huge window will have its own tapestry of art, created by yours truly. Each panel will hang from a hinged rod at the top of each window, like sails. Each one will swing open, or shut. This is the kicker - when they are all shut, it will be one huge wall of a piece of my artwork. That deserves a celebration!
I love the idea of controlling the light in my studio with the large banners, opening the ones I want and keeping a few shut, or opening all of them. They can even be easily removed and changed out, as I continue to create more pieces of art for the windowed-wall. Thank you, Tim, for stirring up all kinds of artistic ideas in my brain.
Watch the video and stay tuned for the progress of my studio transformation. Oh, and "Happy Valentine's Day!"
Thanks for reading,
With an extensive resume in fine art modeling, Zushka is now available for select projects.
Being an Over-50 Model has its perks and demands. With 6 years of vast experience, Zushka offers a variety of diverse skills in both live art modeling and photography.
Click here for a sample of Zushka's online portfolio.
Detours are great for showing me what I'm really passionate about doing, instead of what I think I'm supposed to want to be doing. Being thrown off-course isn't necessarily a bad thing. I'm returning to my first love - writing.
It's been a long time coming, but there is a new book in the works, and at least the title has been knocked out. Throwing together my insights and experiences into a frank and candid book about what it's like to be a woman in the 21st century, I write just like the way I talk, so expect the F-bomb, hysterical humor and a whole lot of honesty. No matter your age, background or ethnicity, we ladies all go through the same bullshit. It's time to take back our power and own it.
badass is the new pretty will be released at the end of 2019, just in time for the holidays. In the meantime, subscribe to my blog and get periodic updates.
I'm excited about this latest chunk of writing, what this new year has in store for me, and for sharing a big part of it with you.
I'm the last person to ask advice from when it comes to relationships, but this is what I know for sure:
Love is a decision. It is not a fairytale. Do you want a relationship that will last? Are you ready for commitment? If you are, you have to be open to compromise, honest communication and making someone else a priority in your life. Create a solid foundation with your partner, built on trust, compassion and understanding. What does that mean? It means talking, a lot. And not just to have a conversation about the weather or small talk about the latest trends, movies, restaurants, blah blah blah. I'm talking, TALKING. Tell him about your fears and insecurities. Show him who you are - the real you, not what the world thinks you are. It takes courage and vulnerability to allow a relationship to grow and expand.
Don't be afraid to speak your truth. Tell him what your boundaries are in a relationship, what your needs are and what you are able to offer him in a partnership. And ask him what his boundaries and needs are, and what he is able to offer you. A good solid relationship that has a chance of lasting has to be based on a decision to do just that, first. It is a decision.
Get deep, even if it scares you a little bit. Make eye contact. Hold his hand, or massage his foot - physical contact is important while reaching out and having meaningful dialogue. Choose your words carefully, speak from your heart and always bring the focus back to you. Give him the opportunity to speak and don't interrupt each other. Listen, and I don't mean just with your ears. Really listen, give each other your full attention.
A strong loving relationship begins long before the bedroom. I know, I know... it's one of the first things we all want to do. But seriously, wait. For some of us, we already know that jumping into bed with someone too quickly, ends the relationship quickly. Be best friends first. Make that phone call in the middle of the day, asking him how his day is going. Tell him about your day. Be the last voice he hears on the phone before he falls asleep at night. Stay connected throughout the day. Send the text, letting him know you're thinking of him. It's okay to be cute and sweet. My guy sends me a corny line once a week for good measure.
Get out and do things that you both love. Take photos when you're out on a hike, see movies together, discover new restaurants or pack a picnic lunch and go to a park. Check out that band, or go to that rave together. Dance. Play. No matter what your age is, loosen up and discover new things with him. Let go of what the world told you you were supposed to be. Get real, and share that with him.
Look, there should be no one else on the planet you should want to be with more than him, so be exactly who you are, without fear. Accept him for exactly who he is, without judgement or criticism. It is true, that we show people how we want to be treated. Show him, by example.
Not everyone is the same. You may not agree on everything. Actually, you probably won't agree on everything, and that is totally okay. Learn each other's quirks and pet-peeves, and don't step all over them. Discuss, negotiate, compromise and adjust. That doesn't mean be a doormat. Find a healthy middle-ground. Trust me, it works.
Mean what you say, keep your promises and hold yourself accountable. It's not that hard. When you love someone, it's pretty easy. Allow trust to grow. Bond with him mentally, emotionally and physically. Make your home together your sacred space. Keep it a safe place where you both feel comfortable and free. Cook meals together, do the household chores together, discuss your finances together. Get ready to be mature and plan your future together.
If you're one of those "flight or fight" types, don't give up. When you feel the urge to bolt, stop. When you want to lash out at him for no apparent reason, don't. Take a moment, or a day or two, to be alone with your feelings, because it's not him that's making you feel that way. There's always stuff from our pasts that pop up when things might seem to be going too well. Don't self-sabotage. Allow yourself to feel what you're feeling, process it, let go of it and move on. Don't leave him in the dark, let him know what you're feeling. He will be glad you did, he will give you your space and he will be there when you get back. Trust him.
What are relationship goals? For me, it means being okay to be not okay, and knowing that he's not going to run away just because of that. It means making time to be together and not wavering from that. It means keeping our private life private, and not allowing drama in. It means keeping toxic people out of our relationship, respecting each other and honoring what we are creating together. It means knowing that I can depend on him, and he can depend on me. It means not making excuses and not holding back. It means believing in each other, supporting and encouraging one another. It means giving each other space when we need it, while still staying connected.
Anything worthwhile in life is worth the effort. And it takes effort to be in a mature committed relationship. But here's the thing - don't settle! Please, for the love of God, don't settle just because you don't want to be alone. You are worth more than that. That guy that's wild and crazy - yea, that's all that he is. Don't go there. That guy that's great in bed, but won't answer your calls any other time. Don't go there either. Respect yourself. Wait as long as it takes. Meet people and be aware of the red-flags. You deserve the best, and you can't make someone be something that they aren't, so don't try that either. We all have potential, but when that's all he's got, move on. When someone shows you who they are, believe them.
That guy that's your best friend, the one who is there for you when a boyfriend dumps you and you're crying in the middle of the night. That guy who listens to you, looks forward to the times when he can spend a few minutes with you. That guy who thinks it's funny when you get tired and whiney. That guy who calls you just to see what's new in your life. That guy who surprises you with your favorite coffee. That guy who binge-watches Netflix and eats pizza with you, while you're in your pajamas all day, and you feel totally at ease with him. That guy who remembers your birthday, and everything else that's important to you. That guy who has seen you at your worst, and at your best, and likes you any way. That guy. Spend time with him.
Wow, I guess I had a lot of advice to give after-all. But remember, this is just one woman's opinion - my own personal experiences with the greatest guy I've ever met in my life. He was so worth the wait.
Thanks for reading.
Wednesday, November 14th, 2018
The walk I walk is treacherous.
The hill I climb is not for the weary.
I am a veteran of the castle, hanging off the side of a mountain.
The hippies, artists and thieves awaken in the gulch.
Coyotes call from the distant hills.
There is a calm hush over this sleepy little town, the quiet before the rush.
The sun attempts to break through the haze on this cold fall morning.
It struggles, like most of us. It is Hump Day after-all.
The air is crisp and my nose is cold.
Wearing white long-johns and sweater-boots, an oversized turquoise sweatshirt with a gray thermal shirt underneath, black gloves and my dreaded Michigan coat, I step outside into the early morning chill. Not because I want to, I’m simply out of half-n-half. Coffee without creamer is torture for me.
My views of the Verde Valley are shadowed by an overcast sky.
A hot air balloon is barely visible in the smokiness that hides the red rock mountains.
I crave snow and the smell of wood burning in a fireplace.
My breathing is heavy. I stop halfway. A laundry-line strung across a porch for all the world to see - socks and shorts, t-shirts and towels - frozen in time. An empty parking lot in the middle of town, Jeromies emerge from their homes half-alert, classic rock music plays from a radio on a windowsill of an apartment above the storefronts. The volume is turned down low, just like the voices of passers-by.
A nod, a wave, a smile, a “mornin’” thrown at me here and there.
A simple smile is returned.
I open the door to the little coffee shop, the warmth and the aroma overwhelm my senses. A sigh of relief stretches far across my face. An Americano with creamer and a cranberry-orange muffin served warm are well worth the walk up the hill. Breakfast on The Steps, there’s only a few things better than that.
A black glove mysteriously wandered off, I hold the other for ransom.
Retracing my steps back down the hill, I find the escapee and return it to my coat pocket.
With my feet on the earth, I am reminded why I'm here.
I am a part of this place, and it is a part of me.
The warmth of my studio invites me back in.
My day has begun.
- Zushka Biros
Photo Credits: Zushka's iPhone
Art Debut: Expect the Unexpected
A combination of Zushka's original artwork, plus artwork created of Zushka, in one show.
I'm going to start off with this statement: "My name is Zushka, and I am anorexic."
That does not mean that I am starving today, or manipulating food, or over-exercising, or stepping on a scale, or measuring my hips, or a multitude of other dysfunctional behaviors that stem from the disease. Simply stated, it reminds me that I am not cured.
I didn't plan on becoming a model, it just sort of happened. Nearly 6 years ago, a friend of mine who was also a photographer, invited me over to her house to test some new lighting equipment. I belly danced in her backyard while she shot away. That began an invisible healing process, which continues to this day.
The photos are stunning for sure, but there is a lot more going on behind the scenes, and I don't mean physically. Body Dysmorphic Disorder and Anorexia are diseases that remain inside a person's psychological makeup throughout their lifetime. I use the analogy of Alcoholism as an example: Even after an alcoholic becomes sober, they are still an alcoholic. The disease of alcoholism does not go away just because the alcohol has been removed from their life. The same is true for Anorexia and BDD. The absence of dysfunctional coping mechanisms and activities does not remove the disease(s).
The healthier I became, the more I believed that the disorders would leave, and go away once and for all. Years had passed, and when that didn't happen, anxiety started to set in.
Eleven years ago, I "sobered up" by learning how to eat, what portions to eat and when to eat. I learned which foods affected the body in which ways. I detoxed, with the help of a Naturopath. I took a lot of supplements, hired a personal trainer and started gaining muscle weight. It took a while before I noticed any difference in myself. I relied on what the professionals were noticing. BDD is tricky, and although I felt better inside, I couldn't see what was going on outwardly. In other words, when I looked in the mirror all I saw was a distorted view of my body.
Here's a little crash course on BDD and Anorexia:
Body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) is a mental disorder characterized by the obsessive idea that some aspect of one's own body part or appearance is severely flawed and warrants exceptional measures to hide or fix their dysmorphic part on their person. In BDD's delusional variant, the flaw is imagined.
Anorexia nervosa, often referred to simply as anorexia, is an eating disorder characterized by low weight, fear of gaining weight, and a strong desire to be thin, resulting in food restriction. Many people with anorexia see themselves as overweight even though they are in fact underweight. If asked they usually deny they have a problem with low weight. Often they weigh themselves frequently, eat only small amounts, and only eat certain foods. Some will exercise excessively.
Studies have been done for decades, trying to figure out how and why certain people end up with BDD and/or Anorexia. The conclusion could be genetics, low self-esteem, childhood abuse, trauma and any number of variables. In my own personal experience, childhood abuse and trauma resulted in a nightmare of starving myself, without knowing I was.
Fast-forward to adulthood: The word "anorexia" didn't become a part of my vocabulary until I was 35 years old, in a therapist's office. Yet it still took 7 more years before I decided to do anything about it. And another 7 years after that before I even knew what BDD was. (Flashback: my flavor of anorexia began at age 7.)
What does modeling have to do with any of this?
When I belly danced in my friend's backyard, and she took lots of photos, I was able to see myself for the first time. I know how weird that sounds, but it's true. When she stopped and showed me an image on the back of her camera, I started to cry. I didn't believe it was me, even though I had watched her take the photo. I kept asking her "is that me? Is that really me??"
She had no idea I had a problem with my body or food, all she saw was a pretty normal-looking person. I told her about the disorders and she also began to cry. I kept moving and she kept shooting, and by the end of the 5 hour shoot, it felt like a huge burden had been released from me. I wrote about the experience as soon as I got home that evening.
Since that time, I have modeled for 23 photographers. Each shoot is different, artistically as well as mentally, for me. I journal about each experience, but what makes this one different than all the rest is this: I just turned 53, and I never thought I'd live this long. There is permanent physical damage as a result of the disease, and, well, frankly, 53 is a long life for an anorexic.
I showed up for the shoot on the morning two days before my birthday. My boyfriend drove while I tried to sleep during the car-ride. It was a long drive. I was dressed appropriately, wearing huge pajama pants with a leopard print, and an over-sized soft sweater; thick socks and slipper-boots.
Dave's cabin out in the woods of Payson, AZ, was a peaceful place - part photo-studio, part home. The clawfoot tub out back in the woods caught my attention right away. I, of course, brought way too much stuff with me. I knew we wouldn't be using it all, but I like having a variety of things to choose from. Photo shoots are spontaneous, although they are somewhat planned.
I don't get nervous on the day of a photo shoot, which is amazing. I mean, I would imagine most people would be a little nervous baring all for a stranger. Nude modeling comes naturally for me. But this shoot was unlike any I've ever done before. I would be wearing a garter-belt, stockings and sexy heels.
Rosemary, a brilliant local musician and salon owner, created a look for me that was perfect - my hair was transformed into burgundy and deep brown with pinkish-purple at the ends. It was time for a serious hair change, and she did not disappoint.
I applied makeup, which I only use for photo-shoots. Any average day you'll find me wearing no makeup whatsoever. I prepped for weeks, but that's a story for another blog.
I introduced my boyfriend (who, by the way, is also a photographer) to Dave and his lovely wife, Linda. And then we got to work, while my boyfriend took a walk with his camera.
First pose was in the clawfoot tub. I took my sweater off and sat in the tub, while Dave took some test shots. Connecting with the photographer is important, in my opinion. If I don't feel a personal connection, the shoot is a bust. We talked, while he was shooting, about photography, modeling, life. I liked him right away.
One of the rooms in Dave & Linda's home is for boudoir shoots. We went there next. A couple of hours posing nude, semi-nude, clothed in barely anything - this is where the magic happens. What's going on behind the scenes inside of me is what it's all about. The finished images are just the icing on the cake.
The fact that I was turning 53 in just a couple of days was running through my mind, while posing nude for a photographer with an incredible reputation for his artistry. I felt empowered. I've probably used that word in other blogs about modeling, but this time it was overwhelmingly powerful. When I told Dave my story, and how modeling has nothing to do with vanity for me, he set his camera down for a moment and listened.
"These photos represent that I'm still alive, when really the odds are stacked against me. And that I'm more than just alive, I'm healthy. I have earned all of this, my weight, my curves. My body has been scary-thin, very fit, and now, this. I accept it for what it is today. I'm turning 53, and I feel more vibrant than ever. I'm grateful for all of this."
I call it invisible healing because no one can see what's going on inside of me while I'm modeling. No one knows how the shoot is affecting me psychologically. I show up and I'm totally myself, I don't know how to be anyone else. And what comes across through the lens is truly magical, because the photographer is capturing the essence of me, not just a flat image of what I look like on the outside. Whatever shines through in that moment when the shutter clicks, is a glimpse into who I am.
How I felt when I saw the first image that Dave sent to me: Wow! Just, WOW!! "Halloween & the Full Moon" is what I captioned it. The second one, "Birthday Suit", was the perfect birthday gift to myself. Thank you, Dave Kelley.
Why do I write about BDD and Anorexia?
It's really simple. I believe that when you expose something dark to the light, it loses its power over you. When you speak your truth, it becomes less frightening. And before you know it, other people reach out to you who understand your path, because they have experienced it too. It was not easy for me to admit that I was anorexic. The word was terrifying to me, so much so that I could only whisper it when I was in therapy at age 35. Thanks to a 12-Step Program, I was able to see it for what it truly was, instead of a glooming overpowering grasp on my life.
I love what I do, and I'll keep doing it for as long as I am able. I'm grateful for the community of young models who inspire me, and I am glad that I inspire some of them. We are all on this planet for a short period of time, so do whatever your heart calls you to do. Create art, build a house, climb a mountain, bake cookies for your kids, design an empire, whatever it is just do it. That's my little bit of advice for those who want to hear it.
Thanks for reading.
I am living the dream, one day at a time, and sharing my experiences with you.
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© 2016 ZUSHKA BIROS ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.