Dorthea, Willa, Aunt Polly, Ramona, Pippi and me…

In January I stumbled upon a book by Todd Herman, The Alter Ego Effect. His concept seems relatively simple. However, putting it into practice isn’t without some effort. I’ve been thinking about my alter ego(s), or at least the times I’ve needed one and didn’t realized it yet.

Your Alter Ego is really about defining how you want to show up, defining the Superpowers, and borrowing the characteristics of an existing person, character, superhero, animal, or whatever to help activate your Heroic Self.” —Todd Herman

We step in and out of so many arenas throughout our days and our lives. I’m a wife, mother, daughter-in-law, daughter, sister, sister-in-law, aunt, great aunt, niece, cousin, friend, artist, writer, board member, family recovery coach, neighbor, athlete…the list goes on and on.

Do I really need to drag every single one of my roles around with me all the time? NO, I really don’t.

What are my dominant characteristics?

THE POSITIVE: generous, compassionate, empathetic, creative & adaptable

THE NOT SO POSITIVE: judgmental, reactive, disorganized, & often far too intense

What traits do my heroes possess?

Dorthea Lange/depression-era photographer—Dorthea could brilliantly see people’s humanity even in unimaginably difficult circumstances.

Willa Cather/prairie writer—My Antonia, Oh Pioneers, Song of the Lark—She wrote remarkable stories about pioneer life, providing context and sweeping language about the independence I felt growing up in South Dakota. NOTE: I named my daughter Willa in honor of the connection I felt to her writing.

Polly Gray (Aunt Polly) fiercely and elegantly played by Helen McCrory from the series Peaky Blinders is who I think of as my alter ego now. What I’m most drawn to is that Aunt Polly understands people very well; their nature, talents, weaknesses, heartaches, and perhaps most importantly—what intrinsically motivates them.

“Sometimes the women have to take over. Like in the war.”

—Polly Gray, Peaky Blinders, Series 1: Episode 4

Polly Gray also is determined, deliberate, generous, knows her strengths, and can access her anger when necessary. I tend to tamp down my anger and then it leaks out in unhealthy ways, mostly to those closest to me.

Anger often is the appropriate response to circumstances of injustice or being wronged. I want to learn how to use my anger, communicate clearly without brain-clouding emotion or being defensive when possible. Pretending I’m Aunt Polly gives me a little breathing room and more options of how to respond when my anger surfaces.

I want my alter ego (the best version of me) to possess the courage to step into new roles, shed old ones, and not waste much time looking back or worrying what people think.

Judy Bloom’s—Ramona the Pest & Astrid Lindgren’s—Pippi Longstocking were so influential in my young life. I longed to be some version of a badass just like them and perhaps they would’ve embodied many of Polly Gray’s best traits if they had grown up.

All of the women (and girls) I admire, refused to conform to the feminine standards of their time.

Sadly Helen McCrory died last week after battling cancer. Helen/Aunt Polly you were a fictional badass for the ages and from what I’m reading, you were in real life too.

Her husband is Damien Lewis who is in the series I’m currently watchin, Homeland. He wrote this after her death, “She’s shown no fear, no bitterness, no self-pity, only armed us with the courage to go on and insisted that no one be sad, because she is happy. I’m staggered by her. She’s been a meteor in our life.”

The theme song to Peaky Blinders; Red Right Hand by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds and it sets the tone of the show so brilliantly. I have it quickly accessible on my phone when I need to channel Aunt Polly.

NOTE: Peaky Blinders isn’t for everyone. It’s hyper-violent (I had to look away quite a bit). However, at the heart of it all, the series centers around family, money, power, betrayal, forgiveness, redemption, and love…and that all makes for some extraordinary storytelling.

A special nod to the costume designer for Peaky Blinders, Alison McCosh. The costumes are so gorgeous and innovative. They made me want to be a gangster in Birmingham in the 1920s or at the very least occasionally dress like one.

We’ve all summoned some badassery when it was required of us at one point or another. I would love to hear about your alter ego or the circumstances when you needed a little distance from YOU by embodying a slightly altered version.

Thank you for reading, please share or subscribe if you feel so inclined. You will only get an email when I post.

https://alteregoeffect.com/

homesteading women…


cellular residue

Do you possess some form of heartache, pride or even a sense of neutrality, depending on how things turned out for your ancestors?

While researching the stories of female homesteaders on the upper plains one dominant trait surfaced again and again.

Women are remarkably capable of creating something out of nothing.

Leaving all things familiar to take a chance on a new life for themselves and their families was an enormous sacrifice, requiring great courage. So often they were very young women, ages we still consider to be children by today’s standards.

It seems that perhaps we all possess some cellular residue from the migratory ventures of our ancestors. This courage is exhibited (and often maligned) every day, all over the world, as people are forced to leave their homes.

They’re not fleeing for the heady chance to “prove up” 160 free acres as the homesteaders did. They’re most often trying to stay alive and feed their children, a brave migratory gamble in hopes of a better life.

treasure hunting…

There are so many great places to treasure hunt in my neighborhood—Vintage Inspired and Deep 6 Goods on Flynn Ave, the Barge Canal Market on Pine Street  and David Robbins’ Upstairs Antiques at 1335 Shelburne Road in South Burlington (scroll down for map).

I ran into David while we were both doing a little hunting last week at Goodwill.  We had some catching up to do about the state of the world and I promised to go check out his shop.  Here are some images I shot at Upstairs ANTIQUES.

David’s shop for years was where the new City Market is being built on Flynn Avenue in Burlington.  You have to work a little harder to find his shop now, but stopping by this well-curated shop will be well worth your effort.  I picked up a framed print by my photographic hero, Dorthea Lange and funky hammer with a painted handle (see below).

Make sure to tell him Lisa told you to stop by and say hello, my hunch is that he’ll shrug and say, “oh”.

Happy hunting this Memorial Day weekend.

map to Upstairs Antiques

The Inspiration of Dorthea Lange

Last week I had the pleasure of watching the American Masters documentary on PBS about one of my heroes, Great Depression photographer Dorthea Lange.  Her work has greatly influenced my abandoned farmhouse hunting and photography whenever I visit my family in South Dakota.  Dorthea’s compassion and unyielding desire to tell the tragic and heroic stories of our nation’s poor, interned and displaced through photography woke our nation up.  Dorthea’s images prompted more action than print alone could possibly ever have conveyed.

I’ve always found great beauty among the ruins in all forms.  Things that are new just don’t give me much creative juice.  I like to see everything worn out, faded, distressed and destroyed.  To me there’s always a lot more stories among the ruins.

“It is not enough to photograph the obviously picturesque.”

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“Pick a theme and work it to exhaustion… the subject must be something you truly love or truly hate.”

—Dorthea Lange

You can watch the American Masters documentary online or look on demand from your local listings.

http://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/dorothea-lange-full-episode/3260/

These images I shot with my niece south of Burke, South Dakota in January.  I’m guessing someone will recognize the house, my sincere apologies for trespassing.  The pull to see what was inside was just too much for us to resist.

There are links to Dorthea’s biography and images if you scroll down.

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Dorthea Lange’s biography

Dorthea Lange’s photographs