dahlia in my garden: Rio Fuego in Coleus leaves

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Unveiling my ‘Traveling Red Dress’ Experience

At last I have my photos to share and I can talk about my experience! If you’ve missed the first two parts of my personal journey read here first:


What exactly is the Traveling Red Dress? It's a special project for women who going through a life-changing event, chronic health issue, or who need a boost of spirit in a sort of Sisterhood of Traveling Pants sort of way. Red dresses are worn and then sent on to next woman who asks for it and photographers donate their time to take photos to document our ‘Red Dress moments’. Like me, those involved have been dealing with major issues who just need to stop and acknowledge their struggles and realize that they are special, unique, and “worth it”. 

“...sometimes we all need a little red dress to remind us (that we are special and vivid and dynamic).. So today, think about what it is you need and were too embarrassed to ask for... 
Find your red dress. And wear the hell out of it.”  
~ Jenny Lawson

Red Dress’ers have included women recovering from cancer, young girls dealing with bullying, widows adjusting to a new life, daughters caring for elderly parents, those in financial peril, mothers with sick kids, and many more with all kinds of personal stories. The woman who started the Traveling Red Dress movement, Jenny Lawson, lives with severe depression. The two blog posts (read #1 and #2) she wrote blossomed into something more than she expected. Said Jenny: “There’s something fairly magical about the whole project. It started as one simply un-simple dress and grew into a web of women sending other women shining red dresses as a way to say, ‘I see you. I recognize where you are and what you’ve done.’ It gives me such faith in humanity.”

In my situation, living with a chronic degenerative illness is tough. My day revolves entirely around it. I pretty much live in a bathrobe and sweats, go to physical therapy every day, and my pain is 24/7. Even sitting for more than 15 minutes is painful. When I read Jenny’s message about the Traveling Red Dress, it made me stop and think. I couldn’t remember the last time I put on makeup, did my hair and really tried to look my best. I haven’t felt beautiful in a really long time, and it made me realize I was letting my daily struggle beat down the spark inside me and squash my self-esteem.

If you read Part One above, I detail how I found my own red dress to wear. My husband called an old friend who owns Hagop’s Photography, who agreed to do my Red Dress photos. On the day we schedule to shoot, the weather changed and became very cold and windy. We started at Stanford University for all the lovely arches and backgrounds, but I was absolutely freezing! When I got up from lying in the grass, I was shaking so hard I couldn’t walk on my own and had to lean on my husband. In between each location we shot at, my mom and husband tried to warm me up by wrapping me in a blanket and two coats while I drove my wheelchair. 

Here they are! This collage includes all my favorite photos
 from my 'Traveling Red Dress' shoot.

It was a true test of stamina and endurance for me, but I could began to feel something beyond the physical. I really felt beautiful! I could sort of see a lot of people, mostly tourists, watching me (I had my glasses off so I couldn’t really see that well) and it made me feel special. I was the center of attention and I felt like I was actually worthy of it. I wasn't just a 'sick chick' slumped in a recliner wearing an old bathrobe and fuzzy slippers. I discovered I am much more than that. It was truly empowering!

After we finished shooting the images with the rose and camellia petals scattered on the grass, they had to be removed according to Stanford’s rules. As I sat bundled in my wheelchair and the others picked up the petals, a strange woman came up to my husband and asked, “Are you doing some kind of ritual?”

He said no and we all laughed. But in a way, I think she was actually right. This was a ritual to prove to me that I am *not* rendered completely helpless, unappealing, and devoid of sparkle by my painful chronic illness - unless I allow it do that! I am much more than that, and I need to remember to let myself shine through and believe I am worth it!

Do you want to be a part of the legacy of the Traveling Red Dress? Go to its Facebook Page, find a dress, and have your own ‘moment’!


ADDITIONAL THANK YOU's:

I have to give major thanks to my photographer, Hagop of Hagop’s Photography. He is a true talent with thirty years in the business. He was patient and understanding, and worked hard to achieve the vision I wanted for my photos. You could do no better than hire him to shoot your wedding or family portraits. He is the best!

My hair stylist, Dontay, also got caught up in the spirit of the Red Dress and styled my hair for free. He’s a fantastic stylist - thanks so much!

I also want to thank Carol Angel at Redwood City Florist for helping me get all the rose petals, and my friend Dale for adding in extra camellia petals.

Thanks to Meg for making that gorgeous necklace for me, with real Carnelians! To contact her about having jewelry made for you, send an email to meggieprice@gmail.com 

3 comments:

  1. Shannon Looks Stunning !! You know the whole thing came together right when you can hardly recognize your wife !

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  2. Shannon, you look beautiful! I am so happy you joined this wonderful group of people inspired to empower. Patty Killough

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  3. To All,

    Thanx for all your kind comments, those who have written here or contacted me privately. I really do hope will all choose to have your own Red Dress moments - it is truly worth... and YOU are truly worth it!

    Blessings,
    -Shannon

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