Invisible Obstacles – Lighting the way


I fought an epic battle with my body to become a mother. Minute by minute, for four years, the battle consumed every decision I made. I turned down travel and career opportunities and evaluated each bite of food for its influence on fertility. Unable to make plans, I didn’t know whether I would be pregnant, miscarrying, or still trying in the following weeks and months. The people around me continued to move forward, popping out babies and making plans at a confounding speed, while I ran like mad, frozen in place.

We all have our own obstacles

To our neighbors, even our close friends, these obstacles are invisible. We navigate days full of small adjustments and exhausting decisions to work around our disabilities, our unusual circumstances, or our differences.

Lighting the path

This year, a portion of my photography work will focus on a new series – Invisible Obstacles. Invisible Obstacles will explore the journey of ordinary families as they navigate their own unique hurdles.

This photo documentary experiment creates opportunities to provide compassion and support – to those who must hustle over unplanned obstacles, to those who feel misunderstood and judged. This is our chance to obliterate the stigmas and shame burdening so many families who are doing their best to navigate daily life and raise a healthy family.

Asking for understanding and compassion takes courage

Those who judge us, misunderstand us. We are afraid to explain or disclose our differences because someone might accuse us of whining, seeking attention, or making a fuss about nothing. We are afraid those in charge of our careers, our housing, our social groups, will discriminate against us, so we keep quiet.

Working in silence robs us of valuable resources. We have a human need for camaraderie in the face of adversity – our ability to feel supported and hopeful through the rough patches.

To raise a family, we must feel understood and supported by the community we live in. Relegating our stories to anonymous message boards and blogs is safe, but no substitute. If the only people who understand are strangers on a message board, hundreds of miles away, that sense of distance can isolate us even further from our real-life communities.

We need to address the stigmas surrounding our obstacles to be dissolved in the light so our friends, family, and the people we rely on can find the best way to help us – because they want to. They just don’t know how.

We must light the way for those who follow

We need more than words on a page – we need to see that families like ours are not just surviving, but thriving in surprising ways as they navigate the same obstacles.

This is a call to action: To light the way for those who follow.

This is an invitation for real families to show how we create victories every day – not despite being different, but because of it.

This is a mandate to stop comparing ourselves to those who have different abilities and different obstacles, and to start celebrating who we are now. Realize that our hyperactive child, our messy home, and the way we navigate over our obstacles makes our lives richer. Seeing our truth inspires gratitude for our strengths and what we have accomplished.

This is a reminder that the experience of living is in the journey, not the final destination. Remember that all we have is now – all we can do, all we can expect, is the best we can with what we have in this moment.

This is a boost for those running madly, frozen in place

Light the way for us. Show us your strengths. Show us your hard work. Show us your daily victories. Show us what we can do to make those victories easier. Show us what we need to understand.

Once you’ve lit way for those just like you – you will see how amazing you are.

We will find out what needs to change – and how to change it

Over the next year, we will learn the stories of our friends and neighbors as they raise families while navigating common but invisible obstacles.

We will learn how to offer compassion and emotional support. We will find out what to say (and what not to say) to a mother who has had a pregnancy loss. We will find out what we can do to help single parents feel like a part of the community. We will seek to banish the stigma surrounding depression – so those suffering from it can find the support they need. We will find out the importance of inviting differently-abled kids to our play dates, find out how to support legislation to protect children with allergies, and what families living on the autism spectrum wish we knew. We will start a conversation and brainstorm how to can fix the systems that break us, and innovate new ways to fix them.

Tell us what we need to know

Your obstacles are invisible until you share them.

Are you ready to become a Firebrand? Click here to join us.

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Invisible Obstacles – Firebrand Call » Ashia Ray Photography - February 7, 2016 - 4:39 pm

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