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Here’s a (not so big) secret about me: I cannot say no.

Unless you are under five feet tall and either directly descended from me or placed in my care for babysitting  – I will find a way to give you whatever you ask for. I will make time to do whatever you would like. If there is the smallest sliver of an opening in my schedule, I will forsake food, sleep and the upkeep of my own home to avoid telling you that two letter word.

I would say that I don’t know what my problem is, why I’m allergic to the word. But, I do know. I’m a chronic people-pleaser. It’s not that I feel too guilty when I can’t do something – it’s that I am actually hooked on the happiness that I get in seeing other people happy by something that I’ve managed to do.

Unfortunately, the trouble with wanting to please everyone, all of the time, is that you just simply cannot.

I know this. You know this. My children know this, because I’ve taught this to them. You can’t please everyone is pretty much common knowledge, a fact of life. It’s a phrase that comes out of my own mouth, (but apparently never actually makes it’s way to my own ears or heart.)

What I hear sometimes is the follow-up adage of the creative-type folks, Well, you can’t please everyone, you just have to be true to yourself.

But, I don’t write for me. I write to be read. And I don’t take pictures (just) for myself, I take pictures to share experiences, bits of history and small ordinary moments of my life, with an audience of friends and family and people who might be able to relate.

I take photographs for clients, to try and capture the same. I am hoping, always, to capture a moment that will touch someone. I am always wanting to make someone – anyone – feel something. I think most artists are. Writers need readers. Photographers need viewers. We are not living in self-contained bubbles of homemade happiness.

We say yes, or at least, I say yes, to as many people as I can, because I like to connect with and have an impact on as many people as I am able, with my little homegrown business, with my every-so-often ramblings and writings.

Unfortunately, the trouble with wanting to please everyone, all of the time, is that you just simply cannot.

And so now, there’s a late night email from someone, whom I am seemingly unable to please, though I really, really hope to. My husband and friends assure me that it’s not me, it’s them. And, besides, Melanie, you can’t please everyone. Photography is subjective. Art is subjective. You have to stay true to yourself. 

But, little trouble here for me – I just don’t think it’s enough to be happy in and by myself. I’m finding that anything self-fulfilling is emptiness in the end. We aren’t made to be self-fulfilled. We’re made to be open and relational – not only with people (who we cannot always please) but with God.

And so, I’ve come to this point of the season, this final sprint through autumn and into the holidays where I’ll get reprieve and rest from the busyness of weddings and portraits – and I’ve realized that the only thing I have found time to say no to, is the one who asks me for the very least – just dirty knees, quiet thoughts, a humble heart.

I’ve spent months keeping up with everyone and everything else, all the while, running right past the only place where my happiness and fulfillment actually comes from – the arms of a God just waiting for me to sit and be still.

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