Gifting Grace

December 1, 2011

The task at hand was familiar: Find iconic, beautiful holiday objects for the cover of a glossy catalog showcasing a shopping mall’s glitzy stores and products. This was my job for years – producer, stylist, creative director – and I was good at it. A perfectionist in the details, I worked very hard at delivering very effective advertising – creating the perfect picture to generate maximum desire.

At this point in my illustrious career I had grown weary. I’d reached the proverbial end of my fashionable rope – I no longer delighted in my part of the process of, literally, faking it.

To ease my distress, I was on a “let’s make this real” kick. This led to great dismay among the photographers and production crews that surrounded me. I was told, “Lisa, none of what we do is about being real. It’s advertising. Our job is to create image, fantasy – we make people want stuff. And you don’t do that by being real.”

Dissatisfied with their take on our make believe industry, I was determined to prove them wrong. I would do everything I could to make it real!

For this shoot, I decided to create the perfect Christmas environment in the photography studio. Absolutely everything had to be authentic. The ambience, the props – everything. No short cuts, no food styling tricks. I refused to settle for gingerbread cookies that didn’t smell and taste as good as they looked. The same for the cups of hot chocolate. I wanted real whipped cream to float atop the steaming beverage. Did I mention this was a photo shoot in July? In Atlanta?

Sensing the crazy yet?

Overboard is the word that comes to mind when I recall dragging an enormous Frasier Fir Christmas tree (from a tree farm in North Carolina) into the studio to fill it with the memorable scent of Christmas-time. Not only were we using a farm-fresh tree, and not only were the presents wrapped, I’d insisted that each be filled with actual gifts covered with hand-painted wrapping paper and topped with perfect satin bows!

The crew started calling me Martha. I played Christmas music non-stop, made the crew join in a rounds of carols, while making them sip piping hot chocolate.

At some point, maybe when the real whipped cream melted for the 13th time the second it was put under the hot studio lights, the photographer gently took me aside. She told me she understood and admired my noble gesture to be authentic in my work. She said that I had created an amazingly beautiful perfect picture of Christmas. But, if we were to finish this shoot before the real Christmas arrived, I would have to “get real” and use some of the techniques that I knew got the job done.

Then she asked me to look around at the crew – did they look happy? Did they love this Christmas in July?

They did not.

Much to everyone’s delight, I came to my senses.

That day, the photographer gave me the gift of grace. She recognized my motives and with soft eyes and an open heart, allowed me to see what I was doing to others and myself. In trying to make everything perfect and real, I was creating a perfectly unbearable situation. Isn’t that what perfectionism does? I learned that authentic was for me – for all of us – to be in the present moment rather than trying to manufacture an image of one.

The photos were beautiful. The Christmas catalog was delivered. And I received the precious gift of learning to be present which changed the direction of my life from a world filled with fake – to one lush with authenticity.

What perfect December picture are you going overboard to create for yourself or others? What do you do to stop yourself from being drawn into the holiday madness? I’d love to hear about a gift of grace you’ve received or given to another!

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Nichole Lupo December 1, 2011 at 4:34 pm

I’ve got to tell you, Lisa, that I’ve looked forward to Thursdays for a long time. In college, it was because the restaurant I worked at had an incredible jazz band on Thursday nights and I only had one or two classes the next day–so I could get off work, listen to some music and sleep in the next morning. After college, I loved Thursdays because I only had one more day of work left before the freedom of the weekend. Now that my life is so different–baby, odd work schedule, etc.–Thursdays had sorta lost their luster…til now! I’m back in love with Thursdays because of your wonderful honeypot. It’s always just the gentle tap that my spirit needs to course-correct and get back to now. Thanks a million for that!


Lisa December 1, 2011 at 8:20 pm

So glad that you’re lovin’ Thursdays again, Nichole! If only I could add a jazz band to honeypot – that would make Thursdays really, really, really good, wouldn’t it?! Thanks so much for reading honeypot and sharing the love. 🙂


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