I used to be a photography addict. I used to live and breathe photography. It used to be, you couldn't find me anywhere without my camera. I was constantly shooting and constantly editing and experimenting and it was my greatest joy. Nothing made me more giddy or feel more alive than a new photography project. I'm not really sure what happened, and I guess it happened slowly enough that I didn't really notice until now. It used to be that I was always eyeing the world with the thought of a potential picture in mind. Now, I occasionally take a picture with my phone and put it on instagram. I can't even remember when I last used my beloved Nikon D80. When did this change?
There's a new column in the New York Times magazine that is dedicated to commentary on photography. I love how much there is to say about one photograph, and how each one that is discussed is treated as its own unique treasure. There was a story a few weeks ago by Teju Cole that discussed photographs of objects that perhaps convey more violence than photos of violence itself. And last week there was a special story about photographer Sally Mann and her work, and I just drank up how eloquently she spoke of the creation of her images. All of which makes me miss taking photos so much.
These are some photos I took and developed for a college photography class I took several years ago. It's a cliche, but there's something so much more pure, visceral and rewarding about film photography and the process of developing in a dark room. Because of how much time is spent making each photograph, and all the minute decisions that go into it, each image seems much more special. It's so much different from the instant gratification of digital photography and the easy changes that can be made in photoshop. There's also something infinitely more magical about monochrome photography.
I treasure these images. And I have so much more of an intimate connection with each of them than I do with any of my other photographs. I got points taken off for some of the dust particles and scratches that are left on these images, but I think that gives them more character.
There have been a few times in the last several years when I thought I'd arrived at some level of understanding that couldn't be surpassed. I find myself now in a phase of my life when I seem to be re-learning everything I thought I already knew. It's terrifying and exciting and chaotic and rich. The key has been to embrace the whirlwind and approach everything with a beginner's mind.
I'm living in liminality right now. I'm done with treatment, not going back to school until the fall, and I haven't gotten a job yet to fill the next few months. My therapist has told me that recovery is my full-time job. And it took me a while to see the beauty in that because I've been feeling so worthless without school or work to keep me busy. Now I see the amazing opportunity this affords me: ample time that I can completely devote to exploring, playing, and being curious. And what a gift I can give myself at this time in my life. Here are some examples of new things I've been grappling with:
- The pressure in our culture to be constantly busy, productive and on the move is a farce disguised as a law of life. I am a human being, not a human doing. For all the time I spend depreciating myself for not "producing," I could be nourishing my body and spirit.
- In the same vein, I've been practicing "being." What makes getting through the day so difficult sometimes is over-thinking, second-guessing, self-judgement, and living in scarcity -- all things that keep me in my head and out of the moment. I've been learning some new tools for re-grounding myself. This helps me land back in a gentle space, where I'm free to just be.
- Another farse: diet and weight loss. It just isn't a real thing. None of it. 99% of the time what people do is unhealthy and unnecessary. That hardest part of learning this is the process of accepting living in a world that mostly believes the lie.
- Creativity, in any form, is my essence. It's not a luxury, it's not pointless, and it doesn't need a reason. I'm learning how creativity connects me to the Source. I'm learning how creativity can help me live a more conscious existence, one with intention.
- Re-connecting with my body. This is really hard, because my ED made sure I made enemies with my body, or ignored it completely. I'm trying to be still with my body, take cues from it, and understand how my emotions actually feel. I want eventually to be able to respect it and admire it instead of fight it and criticize it.
Here's what I'm trying to fill my days with: Art projects. I have an art journal, new watercolors and colored pencils, and a new art desk by a window. Going on long walks, especially now that it's getting warmer. Making my way through The Artist's Way to reclaim my creativity. Writing anything. The NYTimes Magazine crossword, because I'm obsessed. Reading this and this. Watching Parks and Rec. Mornings with theSkimm. Cooking. Listening to this and this and this.
So things could be worse. When I picture the recovered me, this is how I look:
Connected, grounded, and awed.
I did the New York Times Magazine crossword puzzle for the first time on Sunday. It was actually my first time ever doing a grownup crossword. It took me five (consecutive, because I have OCD) hours, and I totally loved it. (Sunday crossword, where have you been all my life??) But I realized during the process that crossword clues are written in a secret language, and I felt like I probably really needed to know that language if I hoped to succeed in this new endeavor. I figured googling "crossword clues for dummies," or something like that, would almost certainly yield some results, and lo, it did! And then I thought I definitely better share this valuable information with you STAT, along with some other helpful, more process-related tips I found.
- Start out by going through the clues, filling in the answers you know, and skipping the rest. This will just help to get you started, so you have some letters to guide you with other clues.
- If there are multiple possible answers for one clue, write your best guess on the puzzle (in pencil!) and jot down the alternatives next to the clue, so you don't forget them if they are needed later.
- If there is a clue that you know for sure time or cleverness will not help you solve, go ahead and use a reference. It's not cheating, because ultimately you'll need more than a reference to finish the puzzle, as not all clues have straightforward, factual answers.
- Don't assume single-word answers. Oftentimes answers use prepositions, like "laughed at" or "run to."
- Keep in mind that oftentimes a clue is not to be interpreted literally. It may be a metaphor, play on words, or euphemism. For instance, on Sunday one of my clues was "egg holder." I was thinking one of those cups you eat an egg out of, which would have been the literal interpretation. But no, the answer was: nest. These types of clues are typically followed by a question mark, to nudge you to think outside of the box.
- If the answer is an abbreviation, the clue will contain "abbr.," or another word in the clue will be abbreviated.
- If the clue is plural, the answer will be plural. If the clue uses "a" or "an," assume those will be part of the answer too. In other words, the answer will be interchangeable in a sentence with the clue.
- The are special words that turn up with high frequency on crosswords, usually because they are short and have lots of vowels. For a list of these, consult this. Or just learn them over time with lots of practice.
- If the clue is not in English, this will be indicated in the clue with "sp." or by mentioning a locale where a different language is spoken.
- If the clue uses slang language, chances are the answer is slang as well.
- If you get tired, take a break. Maybe even sleep on it. Then, return with a fresh mind! But never go to bed angry.
I'm pretty new to lash curling. I think probably for most, it sounds really stupid and unnecessary before you try it. Plus the contraption looks really scary, not like something you want near your eye. But once you try it of course you realize how completely necessary it is. After seeing what a curler can do for my lashes, I can't wear mascara without using one ever again.
For a while I was using just a cheap metal one I picked up at Ulta, and it seemed to work okay, although I had to be really really careful not to pinch myself. I just assumed that was how all eyelash curlers would be. But then some of my favorite beauty gurus kept talking about their favorite eyelash curlers, and it made me realize that maybe not all curlers are created equal. The beauty gurus recommended Shiseido and Kevin O'quan curlers, which are $19 and $21, respectively, and that seemed pretty steep. But I figured I HAD to buy one of these expensive kinds if I wanted quality.
Wrong. On a whim I picked up the Revlon extra curl lash curler, and it is amazing (and super cheap!). Somehow, it is pinch-proof. I'm thinking this has something to do with the fact this it fits better to the shape of my eye. But it's also light and gives a tighter and stronger squeeze than other more rickety curlers I've tried. Plus it just looks cool. All of which is to say that you don't have to go expensive! Just try a few until you find the right one, and don't settle for pinchy-ness.