The (Oxymoronic) Blue Bird of Happiness

A few months ago I mentioned that my friend, Brooke Shaden, came to my house to shoot my portrait.  We climbed down into the nearby swamp and I dressed up in a bunch of thrift store clothes that wouldn’t even zip up over my chest and I only fell into the swamp twice.  And we climbed trees and baffled hikers and laughed, and Victor and Hailey and Maile were there to help and it was amazing.


It was especially wonderful because I’ve been putting this photo session off for over a year because my anxiety disorder makes me continually postpone trips since I hate to travel and finally Brooke just said, “You’re weird.  I’m coming to you.”  I’m paraphrasing.  She said it much nicer.  But she understood.

She wandered through my house before the shoot and I had to explain my propensity for collecting the empty bird cages that hang all over my house.  They’re old and battered, but beautiful and unique, and I explained that whenever I get too overwhelmed I picture myself tucked behind those same bars…safe from worry and people and the terror of real life.  In some ways my house has become my own little cage…one that I love, but one that I retreat to perhaps more than a “normal” person might say is healthy.  I told Brooke that I feel bad about turning down so many meetings and trips and opportunities that some people would kill for but that I know that sometimes saying “no” is the only way to protect myself from the exhaustion that comes afterward.  But I still push myself out of my cage when I can.  Sometimes it’s just a few steps.  Sometimes I fly.  Sometimes I fall.  Mostly I sit inside and quietly watch, but that gives me the opportunity to view and study human nature in a way few get to observe.  It gives me insight and it helps me be a better writer and (I hope) a better person.

And then Brooke looked at my favorite birdcage thoughtfully and nodded to herself and began taking it apart to drag it into the swamp with us because she had a vision.  I didn’t entirely know what she was doing, but I went with it.

(by Maile Wilson)
(Behind the scenes, by Maile Wilson)

And today Brooke sent me my portrait.

It’s me, as the Blue (in every sense of the word) Bird of Happiness.


I love it.

Sometimes cages can be surprisingly freeing.


PS. I just looked up “bluebird behavior” and turns out that they’re usually timid, gentle and unaggressive, unless you cross them and then they will cut you.  It’s sort of scary just how accurate that is.

PPS.  In the morning I’m going to see the surgeon about removing that Who in my stomach.  Wish me luck.

UPDATED:  Surgery will be Friday.  Robots will be involved.  More later…

328 thoughts on “The (Oxymoronic) Blue Bird of Happiness

Read comments below or add one.

  1. this photo? perfection. also, you post this shit so late cause you know all your readers are terrible insomniacs, just like yourself.

    (Thanks! There should be at least one perk to not being able to sleep. ~ Jenny)

  2. And, people have been hassling me a lot lately about staying home so much. But I like it here! hugs

  3. That picture is so beautiful and amazing! Wow. It left me speechless for a minute it is so cool!!

    Good luck with your Who surgery!!

  4. OMG, I love it. You have such great presence in person and in photos and Brooke, wow. She’s an amazing artist. I hope you get a huge signed print of that and put it somewhere in your house.

    I understand the house/cage thing, despite being outgoing and gregarious most of my life. When The Tired or The Exhaustion or The Anxiety hits, sometimes all I can do is stay in. Hiding is a survival strategy.

  5. I am enamored of (with? I can’t always English) bird cages as well and I just love what she’s done with your portrait. You are gorgeous and inspiring and. Keep at it 🙂

  6. That portrait is gorgeous. The photo shoot looks like it was beautiful and fun. Good luck tomorrow.

  7. Gorgeous.

    I love your propensity for collecting things, and I love that you see your home as your own little bird cage. It’s both a cage and a safety net and a live-in bowl of comfort food.

    Going out all the time is overrated. Being able to be in your own company and be happy and entertained is rewarding. And you can never overlook personal time and the enjoyment of a good book.

    I enjoy being the opposite of normal. Thank you for being you.

  8. That is a beautiful portrait, and it suites you so well. It’s the really talented artists that can really capture who a person really is, like your friend. Maybe it was for the best that she came to you.

  9. We tried to save a baby bluebird in our yard the other day (somehow it was down low and the dogs were barking at it) and Momma Bird was having NONE of that shit. Ouch.

    You go, Jenny.

  10. I (also) love it and think it amazing.

    Do you think she could photoshop a tiny knife in your hand? I think you need to illustrate that you are going to cut a bitch if needed 🙂

    I love that you post late at night, nobody else is and I’ve seen most of the internet today. It made my night!

  11. Jenny, and Brooke, that photo is absolute perfection. I truly love it. And it totally fits my through the screen vision of you. Amazing. Beautiful.

  12. Please make Victor give the Who eskimo kisses before s/he is banished from your belly. Also I love that photo.

  13. Oh. My. That just surpasses imagination… PERFECT portrait. (I love the “sitting in the catbird seat” pose, too.) And now I’m going to be very nervous about who’s watching whom, when next I encounter a caged bird…

  14. Such a beautiful portrait. If I lived on my own and had more room, I would collect all the things! As it is, I have an ever growing collection of sun and moon decorations. I’ve had to phase out other things in order to make room for this current obsession.

  15. I lived most of my life not realizing I suffered from an anxiety disorder. I was confused as to why I would often get up, shower, get ready to go out into the world and just freeze at the thought of leaving my apartment. I’d get all tingly and scared and for the life of me, could not make myself go out unless I had a good reason like an appointment or a meeting. At times my startle reflex was off the charts, but to me all these things were normal if not frustrating.

    I’m no longer like that although I still prefer to stay home but I know if I didn’t have a job, I might never leave my apartment except to occasionally get food. But I love the outdoors and it is easier to watch and observe the world when one is out in it. I think my biggest strength is that I know I AM NOT my illness and I will not let it win so I go about my life on most days like I am no different than anyone else as everyone suffers from his/her own inadequacies and fears.

    I loved the photo and the scenery is gorgeous as well. Keep pushing your boundaries. You are obviously surrounded by creative and wonderful friends..Good luck with your Who removal or is it a repair?

  16. Amazing photos. Although it begs the question of who took the photo of the photographer. You look awesome Bloggess.

    (Victor took the first one and Maile too the second. Both with phones, I think. ~ Jenny)

  17. Ahh! Yes! A perfect bluebird. But not a blue jay, because did you know blue jays are total assholes? Or maybe it’s cardinals. Shit, I can’t remember. There’s a species of bird that’s a total asshole, though, for sure.

  18. Can you ask the doctors to set up one of those parabolic microphones just in case the Who is saying “We are here! We are here!”?

    The portrait is awesome and perfect.

  19. Jenny,

    Silly. You post late so your Left Coast friends can read you and still start our sleeplessness early! Brilliant photos. I always think of my house as a castle where the garage door is pulling closed the gate. BUT, since I have windows to look down on the neighbors from, the birdcage and observing people works really well too!


  20. The picture is stunning. It’s also a good reminder about how much and far we should push ourselves. I’m currently being pushed way outside my comfort zone and I have no choice we have family in town and they have completely invaded my space. Unfortunately I have to deal with it because some people have no boundaries or atleast they are way to wide and because family but I really need a break. Thank you for reminding me I’m not going crazier than usual.

  21. WOW, what a fabulous picture!!! You look wonderful. It never occurred to me to think of a cage as being protective–that is so cool.

    Good luck with the anti-incarceration of the intestines!!!!!!!!

  22. This is amazingly perfect. I love it.

    I agree with the first comment. Insomniacs unite! We are your tribe!

    And good luck with your weird thing tomorrow.

  23. Her work, as ever, is amazing. I totally feel you about the cage being a safe place. I often see my own house in the same light. You are terribly and wonderfully beautiful in the final shot, and I wish that Brooke had the time and patience to give us all such a picture of ourselves. Say no as much as you need too, girl. There’s more strength in that sometimes than there is in saying yes. Only you can decide for yourself which is which. We love you.

  24. To*, not too*. My phone got excited and babbled. Also: I wish you a speedy Whoviction of your unwanted occupant. Mwah! <3

  25. I think being barefoot in the swamp says more about you than the cage.

  26. Love the sentiment of cages being freeing. It fits nicely with the concepts I find myself, as a sub, having to explain over and over again, that there’s more than one kind of freedom in this world.

    Freedom of choice is one kind. It’s the kind a Dom likes, and the kind most people think of when they think of freedom. Quieter and more overlooked is freedom from choice… but for some people, oh so essential. Being able to curl up in a safe place, allowed to just… not worry. Not think, for a time, about five hundred billion different things.

    To be caged… and be freed by that cage. Because some cages aren’t for keeping you in; they’re for keeping the bad things out.

  27. What a gorgeous photo!

    And best of luck with your operation. Hopefully your surgeon is the Grinch, which will allow him to eliminate that Who down in Whoville without much regret.

  28. Absolutely gorgeous. And you’re welcome to post stuff to get us through our collective insomnia (mine pregnancy induced). Maybe I will dream of birdcages and swamps tonight.

  29. That’s so crazy beautiful it makes me cry and I love her for coming to you. Also that swamp is gorgeous. Just wow.

  30. Beautiful description. Beautiful friendship. Beautiful portrait. Beautiful you. Here’s to a successful freeing of the Who tomorrow.

  31. Beautiful! And good luck with the surgeon tomorrow. My husband had the same thing and same procedure and things went swimmingly, as they will for you too!!

  32. What a lovely photo! How wonderful to be a part of something so inspiring. You were absolutely each other’s muses that day. Bravo!

  33. Its weird sometimes how similar we are. I too observe from the safety of my home. Anxiety is my cage and my home too, but it also provides a safety that few people can understand.
    Thanks for posting and sharing so others know we aren’t as alone as we think.
    Btw, LOVE that photo!

  34. All the best of luck Jenny! 🙂

    The Who’s stuck in your body cage and I hope it doesn’t hurt to let it go.
    The picture has touched a chord here….making me a little weepy. But in a good way.

  35. Jenny YOU ARE INCREDIBLE. I live in a cage, too. I live in a loft bed (sometimes literally- I have snacks) about two and a half feet from the ceiling. I feel safe here. Sometimes I have to leave, but mostly I just love to live here and feel ok. Thanks for understanding. Thanks for saying that it’s ok.

  36. She does such phenomenal work- I saw her work years ago and just felt so floaty.

    The bluebird of happiness will cut you like a bitch, yo.

  37. That is an amazing portrait! I know what you mean about home being a cage, sometimes it is safe and protective, sometimes I really need to get out!

    What you said about birds is true. My bird is my baby, but he cuts me. With his beak. Often. And painfully. There is often blood. He is a tiny little conure that fits between my hands, but he does so like to bite.

  38. I love the pics! I just finished 2 books and started a third because I am an insomniac. I love your work & it really helps me feel less bleh about my messed up brain to know that I can count myself amongst the members of your wonderfully different and spectacularly weird tribe! Also, I wish you luck with the discussion about the removal of the Who tomorrow.

  39. Wow! I don’t even know what else to say. That photo is profound!!! Good luck in getting rid of your “who”. Wednesday I had a tennis ball sized mass along with my right ovary and tube removed, today I heard the beautiful word benign from my surgeon. Surgery was soooo worth hearing that word.

  40. Ugh, words do not describe how much I love you. I don’t even know you. That’s weird. But seriously, cages are awesome – they make the anxiety bearable. SO MANY PEOPLE DO NOT GET THIS.

    Also, how did she shrink you to get you in that cage, because seriously, if she has a shrink ray… I WANT TO BORROW IT. Then I would live in my dollhouse…

  41. Oh. Holy. Crap. On. A. Cracker. This made me uglycry. With tears and snot all over the freaking place. That is so beautiful! YOU are so beautiful. Hah. And now I had another look, and started crying again. I’m weird – I know. And maybe (just maybe) I feel a bit trapped and that picture made me feel like someone out there GETS me, and that’s really the ONE thing I needed to see today…..

  42. Wow. You are gorgeous. Those photos are gorgeous. This post is amazing. Just…good things. Praise. You made pretty words and pictures and I’m jealous and also half asleep but amazed. I’ll stop now.

  43. That picture is so fab! I love it! As for bluebirds, they’re total bitches when they’re nesting/just had babies. One time, my cat was just walking around the garden, and this bluebird swopped down and just pecked him in the butt with all her might. Cat did a somersault and was incredibly confused!

    Good luck with the Who surgery! xo

  44. Well, this is beautiful, even though I’m looking at it through a haze of eye moisture. Ahem. Please make this your author photo on your next book.

    Is it wrong that I’d like you to find a human size version of this cage? It could be your chill spot. “Victor, I’m going to my cage. We’ll finish this discussion on (towel buying) (interesting taxidermy) (words that I know should be real but aren’t) later today.” sound of cage door swinging shut

  45. What an absolurely stunning piece of art. Breathtaking and hauntingly beautiful. I love it!

  46. I love how she captured the feelings you described. You feel safe but have hope, enough to leave the cage when you can. Awesome job!

  47. I am not an insomniac, so I didn’t see this until this morning, but see, it works for us early birds just as well. The portrait is beautiful, and I send good vibes on the consult with the surgeon.

  48. Oh you’ll get to keep your Who – they will just tuck him back in and stitch him in tight!! Kind of like what my Mum used to do to me at bedtime 🙂

  49. Brooke Shaden is one of the most amazing photographers ever. I’m a huge fan of her work. Sincerely. Love. Her. And you look amazing. Just gorgeous.

  50. Those are AWESOME. Thank you for putting yourself through the photo shoot, and for sharing them! And recent studies show highly intelligent people are night owls. So there.

  51. I was wondering the other day when we’d get to see the results of the photo shoot in the swamp! She has an amazing eye and you are gorgeous! LOVE the results!!

    Good luck at your appointment! I hope they get you taken care of super quick because having a who on your stomach, while interesting, would be a little stressful to me. 🙂

  52. I have teared up at the beauty and insight of that portrait. It is truly and absolutely stunning. Congratulations and thank you for sharing this with the world.

  53. This is stunning, and as you know, I kinda adore you.

    But now that you’re a bird, I can’t resist the urge to call you a pecker-head. 😉

  54. VERY cool. Love that shade of blue and she did a fantastic job. Thanks for sharing it with us.

  55. Beautiful.

    My wife once wanted me to pose for a picture in a wood chipper. But I ran instead.

  56. Beautiful photos. You with birdcages remind me of me and closets. I used to like to sit in my closet under the hanging clothes and just look out of the door. Nothing could get to me there, it was my cave. Totally understand the cages.

  57. Oh my god, that picture is beautiful, magical and whimsical. You are stunning Jenny…I know you mock yourself a lot but please know that you really are beautiful. Look at this picture every time you get down on yourself. I know this isn’t a funny or sarcastic response. Sometimes you just need to hear the perfect truth 🙂

  58. It takes a special kind of photographer to bring a person out from beyond their own neuroses and make a portrait that he or she loves. Not in a “I’m a Kardashian, you must take my picture!” kind of way, but for real people who are worth giving a shit about.

  59. So beautiful! Took me a moment to realize that I hadn’t moved for several minutes – couldn’t take my eyes off of this!

  60. WOW. I love your final portrait. She did a wonderful job & you look great !!

  61. I’m never going to jcpenny for a portrait again. That is gorgeous!

  62. Amazing and glorious photo and description of depression and anxiety!

  63. What a beautiful, and haunting, portrait. i love it.

    Best of luck to you at the doctor’s office. I’m beaming good vibes your way!

  64. I would give you a medal just for going into the swamp! Hope someone scouted for snakes. Beautiful photograph.
    Good luck with the surgery, who needs a Who anyway?

  65. What a stunning photo. And a great momento to the way you have come through everything.

  66. I absolutely love that photo. You are gorgeous. The idea of a cage being a safe place and freeing means something to me too. Thank you so much for sharing. Good luck tomorrow! I’m a little disappointed your belly button won’t have its talent anymore though! 🙂 Safe and quick recovery!

  67. You are amazing in every way! And good luck with the surgeon. If it makes you feel any better, I had to take my delightful fiance to the ER last summer for a mega-gut-ache, and it turns out his ENTIRE SMALL INTESTINE was outside his abdominal cavity! He’d been walking around like that for, literally, years. They scheduled surgery to shove the entire thing back in his body, and it went smashingly.

  68. I am convinced that you post in the hours when I am asleep so that all the others who stay up late (or live in weird time zones) can fill the comment section before I even begin to read which means I should read all of them in order to be sure I am not duplicating something that someone else already mentioned. But guess what? I don’t give a squirrel’s backend sticking out of the wall!
    Your friend Brook has an awe-inspiring vision and I hope that photo was copyrighted before it was posted because it’s going to be very popular in so many places and it would be a shame of the Sydney Morning Herald were able to pick it up and publish it as a stock photo to save the expense of having their own photographers.

  69. I actually gasped out loud when I saw the photo! Amazeballs!

  70. This made me tear up and cry a bit. What an amazing, wonderful friend to understand you and make that happen for you. Gorgeous.

  71. Absofreakinlutely beautiful.
    Hope your Who comes out with little fanfare. Whos can be that way, God bless them.

  72. Holy crap, that’s a great portrait of you! I mean, you’re gorgeous, so looking good in pictures is easy, but I can totally see you in that shot. Connecting with and showing your subject is the point of a good portrait, and she did that perfectly.

    I love the “behind the scenes” shots, too!

    We all retreat to our cages, but I think you maybe have a better handle on it than most of us do. You know when you’re doing it, and doing it on purpose, which I think is better than just sort of winging it and no idea of the larger picture.

  73. Love the cage photo. I really love that.

    Good luck with the surgeon but I still think you should get a doctor’s note for the sit ups. I mean, who wouldn’t flee when there are sit ups involved. Right?

  74. Stunning!! (And I hear you on the anxiety issues causing you to cancel/postpone events — for me, it’s a combination of an unpredictable chronic illness + anxiety about whether or not I’ll actually be able to make it . . . means that I stay home a lot, even though I love being social. It’s been hard having my mobility more restricted, and I don’t have the right kind of wheelchair to be easily independently mobile — fighting with Medicare on that one — so it’s frustrating and I kind of hate it. I always appreciate it when friends are willing to be decisive, and especially when they’re willing to come to me!!)

    Your photos are divine, that is an incredibly sweet picture of you in the cage of safety from the world, and I love that you guys got to go out and do this shoot 🙂

    Best of luck with the surgery, hon!! Hope you have a quick and easy recovery <3

  75. Holy shit! That portrait is f**kin’ awesome! I will never look that cool, which is sad, but in a way, wonderful, because you’re unique and totally a bluebird in every sense. I’m more like staggeringly adorable but totally awkward penguin. Or…whatever. Great picture and good luck with the Who!

  76. Oh for pete’s sake, that is possibly the most beautiful thing I have seen in quite some time. I am so envious of artists who are friends with other artists who do artistic things for them and make them look beautiful. I have nothing to offer and thus will never be offered. You are truly blessed.

  77. You make a beautiful blue bird of happiness! <3 Such a great vision she had and I love the background for your pictures! I can't wait to see more.

    Good luck this Friday, I will be saying a prayer for you! Surgery is always scary and especially more so when removing an alien from ones stomach…oye.

  78. Wow! Love love love it. Also love how the photos of your photo session are great. They all look like a “dream sequence” in a movie…if that makes any sense at all…

  79. I don’t even have words for how beautiful and awesome and full of kick ass this photo is. Simply stunning.
    Also, best of luck and good mojo for your surgery Friday.

  80. No words. Just tears. Happy tears. Cathartic tears. A flood of emotions leaking out of the corner of my eyes & flowing down my face. Watering the flowers in my soul. All the things…
    Thank you so much for sharing ALL of you. Giving me life! ♡♥♡

  81. Gorgeous. I hear you on canceling things. Never really knew why I couldn’t do things until I figured out my tribe (that would be you. And everyone else here). It’s nice to know it’s more common than I think, especially when I feel guilty about my son missing out on things because I just CAN’T that day.

    Also, what kind of thrift store are you going to?? Those dresses are awesome!

  82. You are absolutely gorgeous and I’m ecstatic that this photo shows that off so well. I love it!

  83. In her cage, the blue bird
    sits quietly
    watching the world.
    She laughs and writes and
    She is flying
    there in her
    She is
    holding on to the bars that at once
    secure and confine.
    Darkness lurks inside and out
    The blue bird sits in her
    beautiful and strong
    watching the world.

    (also.. the photo is rad)

  84. Gorgeous photo!!

    You’re surgery will go just fine. I’m having surgery on Friday a well, we can by surgery buddies! Here’s to good pain meds.

  85. I know it is hard to accept compliments at times, but this is a truly beautiful photograph and GREAT story!!! AND Good Thoughts to you on the robot/belly button situation.

  86. What an amazing portrait! Good luck with the Whoectomy/gut repair.

  87. That photo is stunning. Also, now I really want a human sized bird cage to nest in when I need to. With a swing/perch.

  88. Good God, Yo, that photo is just BEAUTIFUL!!! Just like you! Thank you so much for sharing, as always. And good luck on the belly button improvement project.

  89. Fucking Love It. You are amazing. Thank you for showing us this, and allowing us into your world. Again. Fucking Love It.

  90. Perfect. Simply the most beautiful thing I have seen in a long time.

    Sending you best wishes and speedy recovery.

  91. It is lovely, absolutely lovely. You may have brought your security blanket/cage with you but you are still out on an adventure. A very brave portrait.

  92. Stunning, gorgeous, haunting, magical. And mesmerizing. Truly, Jenny.

    Hey, if the surgeon is The Grinch, then I suppose the robot will be needing tiny antlers. I know of a jackalope that might loan his out. Or, you know, we could fashion some from pipe cleaners. Whatever works best!

  93. Oh I love it! I also love the bluebird behaviour thing, It’s so very accurate for me also. Plus it’ll be a handy new answer to give people when they ask about my bluebird tattoo..


  94. One of my favorite quotes from Evita (which is my favorite musical opera/ broadway show in the whole world): “Birds fly out of here so why, oh why oh why, the hell can’t I?”

    That is an absolutely gorgeous photo (they ALL are). And YOU are amazing!

  95. Your photo is genuinely lovely. It makes me want to get my picture taken, even though today I feel like a fat, disgusting, ugly slob. Thank you for posting this.

  96. Fantastic photos! I love your final portrait, she did an amazing job!

  97. Your photos always look incredible. This is truly beautiful, and right up there with your Red Dress photos, and the picture of you in the empty pool. I don’t know why I like that one so much, but it’s very nice. I wish I didn’t hate my own pictures so much, but that’s likely because I hate the way I look in them, every time.

  98. Great photo!
    We have a lot in common. I also collected unusual bird cages for years. I had some amazing ones. Sadly, I threw most of them out in a fit of purging and I regret it now. I could have shipped them to you.

  99. This is probably going to sound totally creepy, but is there any chance you’ll be offering that photo as a print in your shop? I gasped when I saw it, and it is very similar to the fantasy art (faerie and otherwise, my husband and I collect weird things too) that already graces our walls. Let us know, and good luck on your Who removal!

  100. “You’re weird. I’m coming to you.” Paraphrasing or not, that’s the kindest thing I’ve heard all day.

  101. Absolutely Beautiful portrait!!! I think my husband would qualify as a blue bird of happiness as well, but he would not look nearly so stunning in that picture! 😉 Best of luck on Friday with the robots! Sending lots of prayers, thoughts and good vibes your way!!

  102. The picture is fabulous. You are fabulous.
    Best wishes, thoughts and prayers for your procedure and for the member of The Tribe who will be your surgery buddy that day.
    Oh, and the talk about the assholes of the bird kingdom made me think of the story of Grumpy the Bird I read on the onion:
    P.s. you’re beautiful inside and out. When you’re in a place where you’re not feeling it, look at that photo. Beautiful and whimsical.

  103. Beautiful photo. Also, you have really amazing legs.
    Now, what you need is a photo compilation of you wearing the wolf outfit stalking around you as the bluebird in the cage. I’m not sure what the metaphor would be, but it would be awesome.

  104. You are beautiful inside and out. AND you are a blessing to us all. You are a breath of fresh air in a world that looks down on those with “abnormal” minds. You are loved and very special. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for doing what you do. And perhaps the things there is a bigger reason for not being able to do all the activities that come your way. You have helped teach others that it is ok to say no to things instead of pushing your way through them and not being comfortable. XOXO

  105. Will you be taxidermy-ing the Who-in-You and putting an outfit and pumps on it and introduce it to your other stuffies? And your bird cage picture made me cry it is so beautiful!!!

  106. It’s beautiful. [though post-apocalyptic swimming pool is still my favorite]. I really don’t care about fame or fortune or stuff…until I see something like this and then I wish for all kind of things. I wish I’d been there, or was in it, or made it, or knew how to make magic blue smoke appear in every photo I’ve ever taken. Very cool. Thanks for sharing.

  107. Your friend does wonderful work, Jenny, but I’ve always felt yours was a spirit that couldn’t be caged…

  108. Oh, goodness. I am having surgery on Friday, too. Between you, me, and commenter #171, we should start a “If It’s Friday I Must Be Going Under The Knife” club.

  109. My mouth dropped open when I saw that picture and I kind of got choked up a bit. It is simply amazing! And SO you! Good luck in surgery, I’m excited to hear about the robots! 🙂

  110. This is stupendous and I know exactly what you mean and the image … I just can’t put into words right now all the feels it is eliciting, but I love it and you are amazing. I’m glad our cages come with internet access xo

  111. This photo. Omg. Beyond gorgeous! And how incredibly fitting! It really is just so stunning!

  112. Living that precise feeling these days. Mom recently passed away and being around other people produces so much anxiety that I start to cry before I can even say “no, boyfriend, I can’t go out to dinner and meet your best friend” or the like. So I understand the comfort of the cage, of the nest. I was shy, but never so anxious before. I can only hope it fades…?

    Best of luck with your surgery.

  113. Stunning.
    And I want to know how to stay in my cage as much as possible without feeling guilty because I should be (fill in the blank)-ing to be a better (fill in the blank). I’m just so tired. And I like it in my cage.

  114. Once an actual bluebird flew to our house, crashed into the deck door, went splat, fell to earth, and died. I took it as an omen. (Also, I had a Far Side mug that said “The Bluebird of Happiness long absent from his life, Ned is visited by the Chicken of Depression.”

    Also, lovelovelove the picture, the photographer, the pose, the colors, the story, and you.

  115. The photo brought tears to my eyes. Three cheers to the photographer with a vision, and to you for going along with it.

  116. Oh wow. That is so stunning. I hope you are going to put a huge copy of it on your wall. I want it on my wall, for inspiration and such. I also very much like your reasons behind why you have all the cages.

  117. I have loved Brooke’s photography since I first saw it. Now, seeing how she has portrayed you in this portrait, I love her work even more. Instead of only mentally retreating into those birdcages when you need an escape, also look into this picture. That bluebird was born to fly.

  118. You are crazy…crazy beautiful that is! The portrait is absolutely amazing and your words help me realize I’m not the only one who feels the need to burrow into my Hobbit Hole when the real world gets too overwhelming! Thanks for that!

  119. LOVE, LOVE, LOVE the photo! You even have a tail! I’m right there with ya’…but sometimes you must force yourself to fly….otherwise you will miss the blessings and opportunities of camaraderie! Hugs!

  120. So beautiful it made me cry. In a really good way, unlike the rest of the ways I’ve been crying recently. Thank you for sharing it. And good luck with your robots on Friday.

  121. WOW! The photo is phenomonal and I do get the anxiety thing. My home is my nest.
    Best wishes with the Who. My husband had one. For him it was a piece of cake.

  122. Gorgeous. Everything that I just saw. The words, the pictures, all of it.

  123. Every time I get my picture taken, all I ask is that I only have one chin. These photos are great because of the lack of multiple chins and because they are just effing amazing.

  124. Hmm, turns out I use my home the same way you do. That was a surprising bit of enlightenment for my day. The photo is amazing, and good luck on Friday!

  125. That’s how my gastric bypass was done and it’s so fun to say that a ROBOT PERFORMED MY SURGERY. 😀

  126. Holy smokes! That is one beautiful lady in a beautiful cage! I just can’t stop looking at it. That is pure art! And it’s like there are secret stories hidden in the photo. 😀

    If I ever win the lottery, or get the extra money, I would love to have a professional photo shoot. I’d get them out and look at them and invent exciting stories about the other me’s at times I’m feeling particularly blue.

    @Niki Williams(170) I liked your poem 🙂

  127. That is amazingly beautiful.

    Unfortunately, I’m stuck on that first photo. Was the shoot at the creek at the Cibolo Nature Center in Boerne (known in our family as “the dinosaur woods” because of the dinosaur tracks cast by the parking lot)? If not, where was it?

    (Yep. Excellent guess. ~ Jenny)

  128. so pretty! love the picture!
    as for the surgery.. good luck! I had that.. mine hurt before the surgery! 4 holes and about 2 weeks of recovery I was feeling much better.. after 2 months I have all bit forgotten about it (except for the stitch my body rejected and spit out of one of the scars.. that was fun!

  129. So, admittedly I am not great with movie quotes or details, but something about tat first picture reminded me of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil and so help me I half expected Kevin Spacey to walk across my monitor and have the two of you go into some sort of slow verbal tangle until it built up into a Glengarry Glen Ross profanity strewn face off.

  130. AWESOME picture. Maybe the author photo for the (very eagerly awaited) next book? Pretty please, Mama Bluebird?

  131. It’s lovely! You make a great Bluebird of Happiness! You should totally watch the bluebird solo from the ballet Sleeping Beauty! Picture your picture in the background 😀

  132. These are amazingly great photos!! You should have done these years ago. The bird cage thing is wonderful. The down side is: I read your book (Let’s pretend…), and I’ve followed your little missives on the blog (the only one I read, by the way), and I’ve always imagined you as a scrawny nerdy woman. And that does NOT describe you!! You look fabulous. (that from a retired, 71 year old shrink !!)

  133. You have some of the most striking photographs! I loved the shoot in the red dress — and now this ethereal picture in blue. Perhaps you can focus on different colors for each new photo session — soon you will have beautiful pictures in every color of the rainbow!

  134. Loving the picture, (just got to wonder who is going to clean that cage out after a week or so inside?) I would find that out soon if I were you.

    Also – Just found your blog today and it is totally awesome. So awesome that I had to stop reading it while I am at work so I wouldn’t cause a disruption. (A loud ass like me works in a library – go figure).

    Keep up the awesomeness 🙂

  135. Love the pic! I have a blue.bird of happiness on my desk at work. Love the description!

  136. That is stunning! Both you and the genius idea of the photographer!

  137. Bluebird by Charles Bukowski

    there’s a bluebird in my heart that
    wants to get out
    but I’m too tough for him,
    I say, stay in there, I’m not going
    to let anybody see
    there’s a bluebird in my heart that
    wants to get out
    but I pour whiskey on him and inhale
    cigarette smoke
    and the ****s and the bartenders
    and the grocery clerks
    never know that
    in there.

    there’s a bluebird in my heart that
    wants to get out
    but I’m too tough for him,
    I say,
    stay down, do you want to mess
    me up?
    you want to screw up the
    you want to blow my book sales in
    there’s a bluebird in my heart that
    wants to get out
    but I’m too clever, I only let him out
    at night sometimes
    when everybody’s asleep.
    I say, I know that you’re there,
    so don’t be
    then I put him back,
    but he’s singing a little
    in there, I haven’t quite let him
    and we sleep together like
    with our
    secret pact
    and it’s nice enough to
    make a man
    weep, but I don’t
    weep, do


  138. This. Is. Gorgeous. Jenny. Amazing composition work by this photographer. And you look stunning. Good on you lady. I am crushing on this super hard right now. That sounded weird when I read it to myself. Meh, whatever. I love you that much…posting my weirdness for all to see.

  139. My husband’s belly button was so popped out that it showed under his shirts. He ignored me for several years, as I often told him that it wasn’t “normal”. Finally, he went to the doctor, and they did surgery, and implanted a little mesh (I picture like a screen door), to hold everything in. As much as I worried about his health, for those several years, It did ruin my carnival sideshow, when company would come, and I would say, “Hey, Philip, show them how big your belly button, protrudes.” He really hated it, when I brought it up. I think that’s finally why he had the surgery. Now, I just hope the screen door, doesn’t rust or anything.

  140. What a glorious photo, and the symbolism is perfect. I very much identify with your notion of the safety of cages. As my life becomes more limited, I seek to find ways to make my own little cage more haven and less confinement. It’s a tricksy balance at the moment.

  141. She is super awesome and I am thrilled she got to shoot you. 🙂

  142. That is the most incredible portrait! I think you’re about to start another amazeballs perfect trend!!

  143. That is just beautiful. The wierd thing is, the one with the cage looks real and the behind the scenes one looks like you are photoshopped into the tree. There is probably something profound in that. Or else my coffee I take is out of balance.

  144. The pictures are beautiful. The location is magical. I love the huge trees and the network of thick roots. The last one looks like it should be the poster for a movie.

    Good luck w/ the surgery.

  145. Wow…just Wow. Thanks for letting me see that even I can feel beautiful.

  146. Thank you for sharing that bad-ass portrait! Also love that you let us know the soul inside.

  147. Hello Jenny, new reader – I found you through Brooke’s post today. Beautiful, beautiful portrait! I love how you talk about the process of creating the portrait together through conversation so that it’s meaningful to who you are.
    Good luck with the surgery and I’m happy to have found your writing!

  148. You are absolutely beautiful in every sense of that word -inside, outside and upside down. I’m a loner myself and it has taken me years to be okay with that, but now I refuse some invitations without guilt.

  149. Beautiful photo! Could you please send some of that happiness my way? Rough week in the nerdy home. Not even David Tennant made me feel better.

  150. The portrait is just amazing. I’ve been a fan of Brooke Shaden’s work for a while and I’m sure you two got along smashingly. She is incredibly talented, as are you. I hope your surgery goes well. I’m sure the robots will take good care of you.

  151. You are friends with Brooke Shaden?? Two of my very favorite people are friends??? amazing. And your portrait – one of the most beautiful and haunting of her works. Congratulations to you both on an amazing work of art.

  152. Really love this pic. Made it my desktop background. It feels magical like how my dreams feel.

  153. Wow! That photo is crazy beautiful! She is so talented and how amazing of her to capture ‘you’ in a picture!
    Will be thinking of you on Friday. Is there a long recovery?

  154. Hi, Miss Beautiful! The photograph is absolutely stunning! And, thank you for saying what i’ve always felt about my home and the way I feel about trying to live in this world. I appreciate you and what you say in this blog makes a difference in my day. Now I have to gird my loins and go get some things to cook for dinner — I have to go see people in aisles full of color and noise and my cart will have the “guh-bucketedy- guh-bucketedy wheel, I just know it will!!

  155. I’ve come to believe that there is at least one moment that defines us. You are so lucky you had someone help you find yours and can (and will) share with us! what a magnificent photo.

  156. Beautiful <3 retro good luck with your robot surgery. Since I'm posting the day after tomorrow because you posed this the day before yesterday.

  157. LOVE the photograph. It is extraordinary. And sending you much positive energy as you go through the surgery

  158. Gorgeous portrait! Also, your place has a swamp? Dang, you’ve got everything! Wishing you success with your surgery and a fast recovery.

  159. You are revealing so much freedom through passionately being yourself. Finding that awesome self so incredibly appreciated by the entire world? What a perk! Keep it up, “bluebird”, the world loves to see you fly and show the way.

  160. Wow. That comment on staying in the cage, but sometimes flying and sometimes failing was really beautiful. Gonna copy and save that – t shirt idea possibly?

    On another note, I was feeling pretty down the other day, and none of my usual “imagine yourself in your happy place” places were working. For some reason Beyonce came to my mind, with “knock knock mother-fucker” and it made me smile. Thanks 🙂

  161. Jenny that photo is so beautiful. Good girl getting out there in that swamp. Well worth it.

  162. Brooke is a genius and an inspiration! I adore her work and I was so geekily excited when I saw you were having your portraits done by her. And she did NOT disappoint!

  163. This whole post made me cry. In a really good “I get this and it means I’m not the only one and maybe I can start getting out of my own cage a little more” kind of way. So thank you.

  164. You probably hear this all the time but … this post hit home for me. I’ll admit though, 17 years ago I would have thought what you were describing was nuts. Lock me up in a padded room nuts. Because I didn’t understand. Anxiety and being most comfortable at home didn’t make sense to me.
    But then life happened. My 17 year old daughter will killed in an auto accident. Three days later as soon as we arrived home from her funeral, my husband of almost 22 years announced when we moved the following week (from our home of 21 years) he wasn’t coming. He already had another home and life. I know now that it was the best thing that he ever did for me but it sent me into a tail spin. Seventeen years later and I still prefer to stay home. I love traveling as long as its with my husband. (We celebrate our 14th wedding anniversary this year.) Your portrait is gorgeous. Both to look at and to think about. Brooke is a wise gal and photographer!! And here’s to the comfort of our own homes and exploring the world when we want and the time is right.

  165. I’m not sure what it says about me (or you?) that my first thought was “What is wrong with this portrait that will be improved with bullet holes?”

  166. This photo is absolutely amazing. I love the feelings it captures (that I’m having trouble putting into words). I want to frame it and hang it on the wall. Just artistic and beautiful and amazing.

  167. That is an amazing photo. And you are so lucky to have a photographer who not only listened to you, but totally got you. I hope you frame it in a magnificently ostentatious frame.

  168. So i was in the middle of this chapter when my brain went on a tangent so i though i’d share it because i am manic as fuck this week ad why not.

    So i work in a warehouse but i have my own room (which is unusual in a warehouse) so i make very loud noises to myself for no reason other than because i can. But today a coworker wasn’t there so his boss got me to come out in to the common area to learn things. I promptly forgot that i was not in my room (yeah i have attention problems) and i screeched (just for the sake of it) startling the living hell out of the poor first aid lady who came running to help only to find out that i was completely fine and probably mostly just crazy.

    Also a lady tried to give me the shoes off her feet because (i’m pretty sure) she thought i was homeless due to the state of my crappy, yet love-able, work boots.

    I also had a very vivid dream last night about a nipple hair plucking salon that was set up like an old school classy barber shop. I think i was a customer. I was watching a young round pound of a kid getting his nipples plucked. my partner was just thrilled to hear what nonsense i had woken him up for at 4 am.

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