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Picnic

I’m loving looking back at the images that come back from my lab, reminding me of how we filled the latter part of our Summer. This afternoon the rain came right after we returned home from a long excursion out. Thankfully I made it several trips up the front stairs with arm loads of grocery bags and was safely inside before the dreary drizzle saturated the street scape. Later, sitting down at my computer to sift through images for a blog post, I realized I need to buy some faster speed film because the lusciously gorgeous summer light is gone, absorbed by the perpetual grey we expect from Seattle Fall and Winter. Yesterday I headed out, very last minute, for a very quick shoot in the low late afternoon sun. I will miss that sun. In that same sun we spent nearly every Tuesday night this Summer picnicing with our Community Group at a local park. It wasn’t until the very last one I brought the camera along.

Perhaps I am inferring a lot, but most of the time at group gatherings I am very unsure of myself if I should even be taking pictures. Unsure of what other people I am around think of me taking pictures, if I maybe shouldn’t take pictures of them, or their kids, or their stuff. Maybe I am an annoyance. I know often times I can withdraw and hide well behind the camera. I wonder if people think I am putting the camera between myself and engaging in a situation? Some times I think I am. What it comes down to is I am fairly hypersensitive when it comes to emotion, personal interactions and especially criticism. After a long history of emotionally clamming up to avoid emotional manipulation and explosive, hurtful and accusation-filled feelings, I find it exponentially easier to express what I feel through how I see things through the camera- I deeply feel all that comes my way. Good because  usually I am able to ‘read into’ a situation and what is going on inside people very quickly. Understanding and empathy comes quickly and easily. Bad because often times I am nearly unable to show or communicate it. My downfall is criticism and judgment (even if well placed) are exquisitely painful. Fear of judgement even to the point it paralyzes me from speaking or acting, even when well intended, because I’m afraid of how what I say or do will be perceived. I mull and mull, analyzing every potential angle and counter-angle, until often the opportunity to speak up has passed (which then leaves me equally uncomfortable because I fear I would be doing something out of context or timing). Over the years, I have learned to protect myself from the emotional avalanches by hiding or burying my feelings so much that I am often told that I am very hard to read. As a pledge in my Fraternity, I was almost nicknamed ‘Steelhead’ because of my stone-set face during pledge events (and the fact I love sushi, however, a late night incident involving the Police and me driving a rental car provided better opportunity for a better nickname, so the back of my jersey reads ‘One Way’ instead). Anyways, what it comes down to is I have to work very hard to stay in a place of being open and truly present with my inner thoughts and emotions to those around me.

No doubt many others share my hypersensitivity in this way. It has stretched me in many new ways within the context of creating art and running a business, the issue being two-fold in both trying and fearing failing (I’m a big perfectionist) as in the criticism and judgment of somehow being less than good. I am my own worst critic and often cut myself short, cut myself down. But on the other hand, I can also inflate myself too much, fanning the flames of my pride. So long as people can say, “that is such a cool idea” or “your pictures are so good” I avoid emotional deflation, even though my critical self is saying inside to myself how untrue those statements are while my self righteousness is saying, oh yea. It’s the hardest for me to take legitimate critique, have shortfalls pointed out or be corrected in my folly. I quickly knee-jerk to defensiveness, argumentation or even signing people and their incorrect/unfounded opinions off. The dagger of criticism doesn’t always stop me from producing work or pressing on, but, it does riddle me with self-doubt and bitterness. I wallow inside, pressing on a little more closed off than before. If I let it, it will (and has) killed spontaneity, creativity and risk, limiting my ability to just lay the indefensible out there without expectation. I remain in the realm of what is safe and familiar and already tested. The difference between where I am and where I would like to be, especially in my art, more especially in relationship with other people, is in that moment of spontaneous inspiration, running with that raw feeling and emotion and being willing to lay it out there. You have to move with the humility and grace of knowing who and what you are today, risking your desire to self-preserve, and being willing to repent when lines are overstepped or emotions get bruised.

So yes, maybe I hide within the 6cm x 4.5cm of my camera’s frame, but I love what I am able to show, able to reflect back to people about how I see them and how I feel about them.

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[Oh yes, and we made homemade pickles from the cucumbers out of our Garden. They were Yum.]

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