The Forest In Spite of the Trees

Photography and I are in a fight.

I love her, but she isn’t giving me what I want, what I thought I would be getting. Photography is a bitch and I hate her… But also, I never want her to leave.

Let me explain…

Leave it to Jerusalem Greer to instil big-sisterly advice without even knowing it. Geese, being the youngest sibling isn’t really something you can just un-shelf at family functions. Damn. 

Couple of weeks ago, amid shoots and client meetings, I managed to get my hands on a real life, physical, omgIwillholditsotightitsmellssogood, copy of the book. The Book, y’all! It’s flippin’ real! (If you have no idea what I am talking about go HERE).

by Jerusalem Jackson Greer

A Homemade Year

Anyway, I went out of town and didn’t get a chance to sit down and really pour through it until Saturday afternoon. Of course in the process of my dear sister writing it, I had read bits and pieces as I composed the images and such, but for obvious reasons I hadn’t gotten to really focus on the text as carefully as the imagery. So I was proud, but not at all surprised, to find that not only did the woman mastermind a visual feast of creative inspiration and communion, but amid the recipes and crafting instructions (which she knows are so NOT my thing lol)  my sister had written a fantastic narrative of familiar prose – vulnerable and frank stories of her real, messy, and wonderific journey through faith and practice and just adulthood, really. I love my sister, and I definitely think what she has to say about life comes from a very valid place; reading her words or talking to her often leads to “ah ha” moments, and darn it if she didn’t get me again. Over a year after the words were written, I read them exactly when I needed to. It was the chapter about Shrove Tuesday and the importance of confession. I wasn’t struck in particular by that chapter though I liked it, so when it gave me that truthy tingle (the precursor to the ah-ha moments usually) I was kind of like “Hmm, that’s odd.” and went about my merry way. But of course, as I laid in bed last night trying to sleep it came to me. How it’s connected. Why I can’t get that word out of my head. Shrove. Shrive. Confess.

Confession is about community. It’s not about getting rid of anything, it’s about getting help for what you can’t get rid of even if that help is just a nodding head or a hand to hold.

Sisters

Last night I said awful things. Last night I confessed how I have been feeling about my photography work. The work I fought so hard to train for, the work I have been doing for 4 years now, the work I have poured myself into for what feels like ages.

My roommate, Jason, bless him, listened to me patiently and let me say things out loud that I have been so afraid to say. For me, confessing a fear or a weakness or a doubt is the most terrifying idea in the universe, so maybe it was a couple too many sips of wine (ok, it was gin) or maybe it was just my sister’s words in my head, but I confessed. And now I’ll share it with you, because you may need a nodding head too.

Photography is exhausting right now. And I feel so guilty, because I don’t do enough actual photography to be able to even claim real exhaustive effort. It’s just emotionally draining. For absolutely no reason. Isn’t that the stupidest most frustrating thing you have ever heard of?

I have been hiding out from my work out of laziness, or is it lack of direction? Motivation? Inspiration. I don’t know… Or maybe I’m just not capable of making good work? Whatever it is, it has been poisoning me against my camera for quite some time now.

There I said it.

I want to break up with photography.

But I won’t.

I won’t because, like in any relationship, you don’t just call it quits when things get complicated, messy, inconvenient and draining. Anyone who works as a creative professional (and I suspect maybe even more so for those of us who are single and working in creative professions) knows that art is not really a choice.

The need to create, express, explain, challenge, communicate and connect through our work, that is instinct and deeply innate as being able to swallow food or blink an eye.

It’s not a job, it’s a force that moves you. For me, in this phase, I really do feel married to my work. I don’t have a husband or kids (yet?) but I do have my work, and I put a lot of pressure on myself and my creative self to make it great.

So I confessed.

Then the weirdest thing happened.

My anger and resentment, my dissatisfaction with the fact that things are not going my way all the time, all of that sort of just started to soften. It’s not gone. But it is definitely melting.

Confession.

I knew it could be cathartic after the fact, but I never realized how much I am missing by not sharing the nitty gritty parts of my daily grind with the people I live my life beside. I hoard my angst and my frustration, I wrap it around me like a warped and jagged blanket of rough and scratchy fabric.

Like heartache of my own choosing  under my own control is somehow less potent than the reality that I can’t control everything, or even most of anything. 

But I turned 28 in December and it changed me. I don’t know how one day could make such a deep and profound impact on my psyche but it did, unlike any birthday before. All of a sudden, I was 28 and I knew who I am and who I am is for the most part, a grown-up and when you become a grown up you find yourself less worried about the days and more appreciative of the years…and the story your life is telling.

At 28 I learned to look for the big picture, to look for the forrest in-spite of the trees.

still

And here is the thing: The forrest is freaking vast and scary and yes, full of adventure, but terrifying none-the-less.

But the more I confess the real stuff, the gross stuff, the uncomfortable stuff, the not-so-pretty stuff, the easier it is to hold on to what is real and let go of what I can’t see yet.

So sometimes you have to get a little tipsy and a little raw and confess to your roommate that though the journey through the woods is epic and beautiful, the particular patch of trees you are looking at seem so ugly and spiny that they make you want to stay frozen forever.

Sometimes you have to admit that you are standing in an ugly place and that the only choice you have is weather or not to walk forward now or walk forward later but eventually you are going to have to move.

I will have to take that step, I will have to choose to stay, to photograph, to adapt and to walk and walk and walk to the denser, more dangerous, and more lush center of the forrest.

Photography and I are fighting.

0725_HangingOut_8644

So I confessed it.

And somehow naming those nasty trees, and acknowledging how unfriendly they seem and how long the journey seems, and sharing that fear with my community makes them just ever so slightly less scary because though I walk this particular path in the woods alone, my friend Jason Beene and many others are in the forrest too because I brought them in.

I confess and they listen and we all have each other’s backs in the scary parts of the forrest and have each others smiles in the dappled patches of light that make up the forrest in-spite of the trees.   

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Jacob was a dreamer, Jacob was a wrestler.

Being a dreamer is being a Jacob. It is not giving up on fate, on birthrights, on blessings, even when it feels like it’s all giving out on you. It is wrestling and finding the blessing in the practice, in the sweat, in the will to triumph. Life is it’s own reward for living. Faith is fighting with God and knowing the goodness at the heart of life is so complete that what seems like an audacious demand is really an act of obedience, for how it is, is how it was always meant to be. So you wrestlers, you dreamers. Take heart, for you were created to fight.

I’m Not Shutting Up (and neither should you)

Why KONY 2012 deserves your support even though everyone on the internet is telling you it’s a scam- 6 Reasons to THINK before you Judge.

KONY2012

1) Harry Potter & Star Wars: okay, so I get that the post-modern life is one of inherent hypocrisy and paradoxical world-views. On one hand we (and by that I mean Americans) are a culture obsessed with violent sports and games and yet our good ol’ Enlightenment-inspired political paradigme is one where reason, diplomacy, and democracy (theoretically) reign, but at the end of the day at our core most of us know that when it comes to Good vs. Evil, “Good” better not show up to the Battle for Middle Earth (okay so maybe it’s HP, SW andLOTR) with a peace treaty and an Olive Branch. When someone as Evil as The Emperor or He Who Must Not Be Named shows up to kill magical students and blow up entire planets, we route for the good guys to go in blasters-a-blazin’ and wands-a-raised. According to the International Criminal Court, Joseph Kony is Undesirable No. 1 (and no you HP nerds, Umbridge doesn’t serve in that ministry so it’s legit.) and it’s not for blowing up a make-believe planet or giving someone a lightning-bolt scar, it is for the very real crimes of forcing 30,000 children to mutilate, murder, and sexually assault their families and friends… Oh yeah, and he’s doing this because the “Bible told him so.”

2) You aren’t betraying the memory of MLK: I’m a huge fan of Dr. Martin Luther King and believe in the profoundly important work of his life and legacy, but it makes me cringe when people use his attitude of non-violence as a reason to sit on their comfy-middle-class-couches and pontificate about how the use of force is anti-Christian, anti-peaceful, anti-hippie or otherwise inmoral. We often forget that long before MLK, an entire war had to almost destroy our entire country before we decided to grant Black people even a fraction of their inalienable rights and that the Good Reverend came to help continue that work. Dr. King was right when he talked about violence on a macro scale, on a cultural scale. Violence spurred by ignorance and hate only lead to more of the same, but I doubt Dr. King would have advocated against using force in order to protect innocent children who would were being used as pawns in one man’s arbitrary and bloody war games.

3) This Ain’t Yo White-Guilt: I have seen several people post objections to KONY 2012 and to Invisible Children because of the “White Man’s Burden” argument. And while I won’t deny that sometimes that can factor in, I think these arguments and the people who use them do a great diservice to themselves and to our culture. If helping someone who happens to be Black or live in Africa is automatically deemed as an act of guilt or obligation due to one’s own skin color rather than an act of kindness from one HUMAN to another HUMAN then that says more about the person pointing the finger than the person doing the helping. But you know what, so what if it is to ease my conscience? If helping people for ANY reason and in ANY place is a crime, then maybe I’ll just plead guilty.

4) Invisible Children Pays Their Employees: I’ve heard so much crap being talked about IC because of their budgets and how only 35%-odd percent goes directly to helping people in Africa. I say, awesome! These people don’t need money for cable and ipads, not saying they shouldn’t have them, I’m saying the problems the people face on a daily basis are so much deeper than just financial. These people need partners all over the world who are interested in the story Humanity is telling with and through relationships and not just nameless and faceless benefactors who send pennies a day and never once see that poverty and conflict in Africa are mere symptoms of bigger Global issues. IC spends most of it’s resources to raise awareness, to mobilize and inspire independent civilians all over the world to the action of attitude shift because IC realizes that sustainable cultural change doesn’t happen with a monthly donation, it happens by setting an idea on fire and fanning the flames. Anything else probably is just white guilt.

5) Spider Man Said So: Okay so we all know the quote, “With great power… Yadda yadda yadda.” And though we like to shrug our responsibility as the planets biggest baddest kid on the block, the truth is, it is what it is. Now I’m not saying that the U.S.’s history isn’t tarnished with incident after incident of nation building and interference in foreign affairs- often to our ultimate shame, but the Kony hunt is different. This isn’t about oil interests, this isn’t about keeping Israel happy, or even about spreading democracy. The objective isn’t to change the government of Uganda or any other African country. The objective is to save and/or honor the lives of the 30-thousand children that Joseph Kony has destroyed and hopefully change the conversation about what warrants international attention. Seriously you feel it’s a good use of your time to find out weather Snookie is pregnant or not but you can’t take time to watch the KONY 2012 video before casting judgement? Forgive me for sounding judgey. It’s only because I’m judging you.

6) The Good Guys Are Still Hard to Find: There are so many people to blame for the conflicts in this part of Africa and all sides on the war have committed horrible crimes and atrocities against the people of the region, but Kony must be stopped. The LRA is spreading like a plague throughout Africa, with no political or social agenda other than the power he has built on fear. This rebel group sews dissension, mistrust, anger, bitterness, pain, and strife within the communities in which it is active. Of course no side is blameless, how can they be when no one knows who to trust? When these people are driven to war by extreme fear and desperation, it becomes more complicated and difficult to blame them for not sitting passively by. However, there is still an innocent party involved here, the Invisible Children. The children Kony is using as his favorite weapons.

Okay, so there are 6 reasons, and I think they are pretty decent ones, to support this KONY 2012 stuff. But if you want to find your own reasons, the video that started all this hoopla is a good place to start. You can see it

HERE 

And one final thought: it took us being personally attacked by Japan to enter WWII and then it was only to protect our national interests in a war in which we could have prevented millions of Holocaust deaths if we had joined when asked. How long should we wait this time?