The following post is not really about photography, but is more autobiographical in nature. I keep a journal, as part of my mental health program! I write in the journal most every day. Sometimes about my hopes, other times, fears, other times transient feelings, etc. It is a very personal journal and not for public, or even family consumption; however, I felt compelled to share this very personal entry. Why share? I don’t know. Perhaps there is someone out there in a similar situation and this would be the tiny push that they need to explore their demons. I really don’t know. So, if you’re not interested, by all means, keep moving. You’ve got better things to do.
As I sat in the garden at UNCC this morning, I had the following thoughts based on events of the past few days:
Shadows scare us. Look at any movie. If it is meant to scare us, usually the movie is full of darkness or deep, menacing pools of shadow where the killer, monster, or villain is sure to be found. The next victim walks into a darkened room, ominous music begins to play, sometimes the director tricks us, the â€˜victimâ€™ turns on the the light only to find an empty room. Relieved, he turns the other way, only to find that the monster has outflanked him. Dead.
Metaphorical shadows scare us as well. We believe that imminent death lies beyond. When I speak of metaphorical shadows, I speak of these parts of ourselves that we seek to deny. Not the parts that we show the world. The parts displayed in full sunshine. The parts where, if we take a look behind us, we see the shadow. The monster.
Iâ€™ve read books on Tao, Zen, ego, shadows, and Iâ€™ve gone to therapy. Sometimes, life seems tough, though going with my Zen and Tao philosophies, nothing could be further from the truth. Life is not difficult at all; we only make it that way when we filter it through our ego, our thoughts; thatâ€™s where the judgments about the unfairness, etc come from. When life becomes to difficult to bear, because we are always â€˜thinkingâ€™ about it, we result to some diversion. Food, my drug of choice, alcohol, drugs, television, blogging, sex, exercise, Xanax, Valium, whatever. We are very savvy about avoiding the shadows. We donâ€™t want to sit still and examine them. Surely, a monster awaits. I like this:
A note on a refrigerator door:
What you seek is not inside here.
How true. It only keeps the demons at bay for a few moments. This, I know.
OK, no more we. No more deflecting. It was only this morning, Sunday March 8, 2009 that I forgave and had some understanding for my father. We didnâ€™t get along. For the longest time, I thought that he didnâ€™t love me. Even now, Iâ€™m not sure that he did, but that doesnâ€™t matter. He died of lung cancer, lifetime smoker, in July of 1995. I was 33 at the time. I did not shed a tear. I did not attend the funeral. I did, because of my wife, go to visit him while he was in the hospital, shortly before his death, but I felt nothing. I was there because I felt that I should be. My heart had been hardened through years of verbal abuse. I didnâ€™t care.
I never knew my paternal grandfather. He and my father didnâ€™t speak. Enough said. The tradition continued. Iâ€™m sure, now, that my father was carrying his own demons and didnâ€™t have the courage, or knowledge of how, to face them. Nor did he have a partner to help and guide him through it. Instead he used almost endless partying, infidelity, and alcohol to keep from stepping into his shadows. Now, I no longer feel anger at him, only a since of sorrow and compassion. These are much better feelings to carry around. They donâ€™t eat away at my soul.
My one mantra growing up was that I was NEVER going to be like him. He was:
In reading things about Tao, Zen, and ego in general, there is a recurring theme. We do not like in others, that which we see in ourselves. I became all of these. My shadows. It was really difficult to look at. I thank my wife for suffering through this with me and helping me to look. No. She forced me to look! And Iâ€™m thankful to her. She really loves me.
To the world I was a nice, laughing, fun kind of guy. I only let the shadows roam at home, among the ones that I love. I was mean spirited, if you did something that I didnâ€™t like, youâ€™d have to pay. There was no way around it. Sarcasm was my tool of choice for retribution, and I was good at it. I was angry, but I didnâ€™t know why until much later. It had to do with not having a voice as a child. My father always shut me down. I was so angry at him. I found that I was doing that to my children. Each time that I did it, I felt this ache in my stomach, a big sign that it was against my core values, but I continued. Where it not for my wife, I might have gone the way of my father and had a horrible relationship with my children, but she helped to save me from that.
The last two, deserved to be tackled on their own.
Arrogance: I didnâ€™t like arrogant people. Why? Because, internally, I was so arrogant myself. If I was around an arrogant person then my opinion couldnâ€™t be heard, and damn it, my opinion was important!!! Hmmm, that sounds pretty arrogant, doesnâ€™t it? Arrogant people donâ€™t bother me so much any more. I let them have their say and rarely argue because they have a right to their opinion AND they could be right!
Selfishness: I still work with this one. I am very selfish at times. I can be generous, when it doesnâ€™t affect me much, but if it is going to cause me some discomfort, or cause me to have to visit the shadows, I may not be so willing. I still donâ€™t like to go into the shadows, but I know that is where growth happens. That is where the demons are finally put to rest. The demons fear light.
I still have many shadows to visit. My mind keeps telling me that there are demons there and that death is imminent, but I know that that is not true. In a way, death is imminent. In change, there is always death. Death of one ‘version’, the birth of another.
There are just some things that I donâ€™t want to face about myself. Some things that I just really donâ€™t like, but I have to go there. Growth is difficult, but then, good things are sometimes difficult to come by.
As I said, it had nothing to do with photography, yet, perhaps it does. i prefer to shoot beautiful things in Nature, seemingly to prefer trees, or those things near and around trees. Trees represent strength, longevity, and are, to me regal. There are two ways of looking at this:
Perhaps my focus on them is to bring these traits into my being. Perhaps, they are already there. I don’t know.
OK. Now I’m tired. Time for a nap.