Thursday, December 5, 2013

I don't want to be just another noise.

One of my currently favorite songs is "Words" by Hawk Nelson.

Let the words I say
Be the sound of Your grace
I don't wanna say a word
Unless it points the world back to You

I wanna speak Your love
Not just another noise
I wanna be Your light
I wanna be Your voice


As I went through my period of forced silence, I had a number of profound revelations - for me - about talking, silence, and noise. I discovered that a lot of my words were just noise. I guess it was more a realization than a discovery. I realized I was talking too much. I realized I was saying unimportant things, irrelevant things, meaningless noise, just because I thought I needed to share my opinions at all times. I thought my ideas were so important - of course everyone wants to hear them.

How wrong I was. In my silence I realized the world was continuing just fine without my noise.

Now, as a counselor educator, I'm working with counseling interns. Many of whom are going to make amazing counselors. I've been so impressed with their skills, and their kind spirits. They care about their clients. I'v been trying to impart to them the importance of making their words meaningful. Kids have so much noise in their lives: music, TV, video games - it seems like constant stimulation.

They "listen" to noise from teachers all day long. Not that teachers are making noise, but students have learned to tune-out adults. As the school counselor, I didn't want to be just another noise. I wanted to be a meaningful sound.

So I'm trying to model that for my interns. I still want to be a meaningful sound in their lives.

And beyond the school and the university, I want to speak His love to the world. I want my words to be kind and respectful, warm and truthful, full of love. It's easier said than done, but I'm working on it, trying to move closer to the goal. I can't be Jesus, but I can show his love to my world.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Simplify This!

As you may know, especially if you've read my book or been following this blog, I've been simplifying my life for years now. Eliminating clutter and unnecessary possessions was just the beginning. Eventually the process evolved into simplifying other areas of my life by carefully and intentionally choosing those activities that add to my life, and eliminating those activities which distract from my life. And for the most part, I've been successful in both areas.

But I've noticed my online footprint has become increasingly complicated. Rather than simplifying my online presence, I'm continually adding new accounts. "Ooooh, this looks fun. I think I'll create an account, spend hours customizing my profile, add pictures, import information - then I'll share it with all my friends and other social networks!!!"

The whole thing has become cumbersome and intrusive, takes too much time, and has complicated my life too much. So, I've decided to spend some time eliminating the virtual clutter. I've already eliminated a few accounts. You might notice which ones are gone, but chances are, nobody will notice. That's a clear indication to me that those accounts were completely unnecessary.

I've been scrutinizing my online activity and the programs on my personal computer too. Just like in real life, I'm looking for things I don't use on a regular basis. Or even things that I do use, but don't really need to use - like games that are just time wasters. I have too many of those. Well, I HAD too many of those.

If you see less of me (virtually), now you'll know why.

I am working on a plan, a strategy.

I'll keep this blog. I like having a place to record my thoughts. If other people read it, that's great. But if I'm the only one (other than my parents who always read my new posts), that's okay too.

I'll keep my photography website. My friends and family like to see my photos. And I don't want to share them on Facebook; the tend to take possession of anything posted on their site and I don't want to risk them taking ownership of my images.

I'll keep my flickr page, but that's really just a place to backup my photos. If my computer dies, I don't want to lose all my images. And before you ask, yes I do have other backups.

I'll keep my facebook page, because that's how I connect with a lot of family and friends.

And I'll keep my google+ page, because that's how I connect with photographers around the world. Photography is so important to me. In fact, it's becoming more and more important. It's my creative outlet and I need that form of expression.

The rest were just distractions or time wasters. And they are disappearing.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Confidence

I was talking with a friend recently and the subject of confidence came up.

I've given this subject thought throughout my life, but more over the past few years. When thinking about contentment and significance, confidence arises as a component.  It's difficult to be content without also being confident - at least in my opinion.

There are several antonyms for confidence: doubt, fear, hesitation, uncertainty, weakness, timidity, and a few others.

It seems to me that confidence - learning to be confident, growing in confidence, developing confidence - follows a progression, a predictable pattern. When I begin a new task or skill, I start without confidence. My skills are weak, I doubt that I'll be able to perform adequately, and uncertainty colors my experience.

As my skills develop, my confidence progresses and grows.
Taken too far, my confidence can become arrogance.

Beginning confidence, I believe, is still affected by weakness. Although I'm "confident" in my skills, at some level I understand that my skills aren't complete. There's still a chance that my abilities can (and probably will) fail me. Therefore, I feel the need to prove that my skills are better than other people's skills. I have to prove to them that I am competent. In reality, I'm trying to prove things to myself. Although I may understand my weaknesses, I'm often unwilling to admit those weaknesses, either to myself or others.

As my skills continue to grow, so does my confidence and inevitably I reach a stage of over-confidence. I become arrogant in my skills. Everyone goes through this stage - everyone. In the last stage I recognized that I had weakness, but was unwilling to admit them. In this stage, I think I have no weaknesses (in this particular skill area). "I am the best. My skills are the best. I'm better than everyone else. No one's skills are better or even equal to my skills." That's what arrogance sounds like and feels like.

Some people get stuck in the arrogance stage. If I'm unwilling to recognize my weaknesses, I see no reason to further develop my skills. My skills stagnate, which makes it all the more important to prove my expertise. I over compensate for my unrecognized weaknesses.

When things go wrong, I cannot accept responsibility for my part because that would be admitting weakness. Instead, I blame other people or circumstances. When things go right, I take credit. And not just partial credit - I take all the credit. Even credit that is due others, I claim for myself.

But, it is possible to move past the arrogance - not back to confidence, but forward to True Confidence. When I recognize my weaknesses, I develop an understanding of where I need to grow and I also develop a better understanding of my true strengths. True Confidence includes a willingness to use my strengths and understand my weaknesses. I no longer need to prove myself to others (or myself). My actions speak for me. I don't need words to convince people I'm competent. People recognize my competence through my actions and the results of my actions.

When things go wrong, I accept responsibility. If I'm leading a team that experiences failure, I'm able to accept responsibility for the whole team. There is no blaming. True Confidence allows me to accept responsibility for failure because I know that failure in a specific circumstance does not define my competence.

When things go right, I share the credit. Giving credit to others also does not diminish my competence. In fact, sharing credit makes people want to work with me more. It increases my resources, increasing my chances of success. There are so many great people, I want them working with me. I want to learn from them, which increases my competence. The more I share, the more I grow.

Timidity
     ↓
Confidence
     ↓
Arrogance
     ↓
True Confidence

This same progression can be applied to specific skills, like becoming a school counselor or counselor educator. And it can also be applied to life in general. There are some skills at which I'm still timid, like playing a ukulele. There skills in which I'm confident and some skills in which I'm arrogant. Hopefully there are more areas in which I'm truly confident and very few in which I'm arrogant.

What are your thoughts?
Are you a confident person? An arrogant person? A truly confident person?


Monday, November 4, 2013

Three Years Ago

Just over three years ago I left the Wendell School District. Although it was the best job I've ever had, and I loved it - loved, loved, loved it - my health wouldn't allow me to stay.

Obviously I've had three years to think about that, and I've written about it plenty, including in my newly published book! (You can get a copy here.)

Last week something happened that reminded me of how much I loved being a school counselor. I went to the Eagle Camera Club meeting last weekend. They were putting on a macro-photography workshop. One of the members had his two children there. There were so well behaved, sitting through the lecture portion of the night. After explanations, we all got up to go practice the techniques we had just learned about.

The member's daughter, a third grader, came up to me. "Do you want to take pictures with me?" I don't know why she approached me. I'd like to think that it's because I'm approachable. Kids recognize my genuineness. I heard once that children are drawn to the oldest person in the room who takes them seriously. Of course they like their peers, but they like to be around older people - older meaning just older, not elderly.

So I think she looked at me that night at the camera club meeting and recognized - somehow - that I take kids seriously. So for the next 30 minutes, she and I walked around the various rooms, taking pictures of things. "Chris, what do you think looks interesting?" I was so touched that she wanted my opinion. There are a lot of people who would be more interested in taking the pictures they want to take and just have me watch. But she wanted my opinion. So I pointed out various things and explained why I thought they were interesting.

"I think this is interesting. I like the lines. See how most of the lines are horizontal, but this one line cuts across? I like that. And I like the shadows it makes."
She would say, "That is interesting," then take a picture with her iPod.

"What else do you think is interesting? And I would point out and explain something else.
She also took time to show me some of the things she had already photographed, and she tried explaining to me why she thought they were interesting.

At the end of the night, she invited me to dinner with her and her dad. She also invited me to trick-or-treat with her family. I politely declined, but that small gesture made me so happy.

I didn't take a single picture with my own camera that night.

It was the most fun I've had in a very long time.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Published: Less is More Than Enough

It's been three years since had to leave Wendell and move back to Nampa.

It's been two years since I first started writing my book. And now it's finally time to release it publicly. Today I finished publishing the book on Amazon. I'm also publishing it on Kindle, so you'll be able to buy a paperback or an e-book.

It's exciting to have my stories, my memories and my ideas out there for everyone to see. I know family and friends will buy some copies. It will be so exciting when someone I don't know buys a copy. Or even more fun, when someone I don't know writes a positive review! How cool would that be?

Here's a link to the book:

Less is More Than Enough

The Kindle edition should be available in the next day or so.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Family Time

Tuesday evenings are camera club meeting nights. I've enhanced my pre-meeting time by incorporating Taco Tuesday at Del Taco: 3 tacos for $1.15 (including tax), then a $1.06 for a sweet tea at McDonalds. Dinner and a drink for $2.21!

Sitting in Del Taco tonight, I noticed a family across the dining room: father, mother, teenage daughter. I was there for about 20 minutes total, and during that time none of the three ever put down their phone. Well, that's not entirely true. The father put down  his phone long enough to eat his taco.

They were all sitting 2 feet from each other, but none of them were there - none of them were present in the moment. I have to assume they were texting or emailing or playing games. Once in a while, one of them would look up and make a comment, one of the other people would respond, then they'd all go back to their phones.

I have a phone and I text. But my phone is usually in my pocket - not my hand.

Part of my desire for simplicity and contentment has been learning to live in the moment. I heard somewhere (can't remember where) that living in the past creates sadness and living in the future creates fear. Only by living in the present can I live in peace.

If you and I ever spend time together, I'll be present with you. I won't be checking my phone (or even answering my phone). I'll be talking with you, paying attention to you.

And I hope you'll pay attention to me.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Forgiveness is sometimes hard to give

When I'm wronged, it's pretty easy for me to forgive. I haven't always been this way, but over the last decade or so, I've worked hard to change. I've made a conscious effort to become a more forgiving person. It seems I've learned how to separate the act from the person. When someone intentionally hurts me, I don't take it personally. I feel sorry for them because what they do is a statement on their character - not mine. Their actions demonstrate that they are hurting, so they lash out at me. I can get over that pretty quickly.

But when they hurt my family - it feels much more personal. I realize that doesn't make sense. A personal attack should feel more personal. But attacking my family is much worse in my mind. I feel the need to defend my family, even though I realize it's not my responsibility to defend my family. We're all adults.

A recent attack on my family is really testing my ability, and my desire, to forgive. I know the offenders aren't sorry. They don't care at all that they've been mistreating someone I love. I am hurt (for my family) and angry at the disrespectful, uncaring, and unkind actions. 

So I've been praying two songs:
Feels Like I've Been Losing, by Tenth Avenue North
and
Forgiveness, by Matthew West

I don't know how long this will take. At this point, I don't want to repair this relationship. I want to end it. But that is certainly not a Christ-like attitude. I'm realizing this is my issue - not someone else's. My heart needs to change. I can't fix "them," nor should I try. 

If you think of me, say a prayer that I'll find forgiveness.

Feels Like I've Been Losing, by Tenth Avenue North
I can't believe what she said
I can't believe what he did
Oh, don't they know it's wrong?
Don't they know it's wrong?


Well maybe there's something I missed
But how could they treat me like this?
It's wearing out my heart
The way they disregard


This is love. This is hate.
We all have a choice to make


Oh, Father won't You forgive them?
They don't know what they've been doin' (oh no)
Oh, Father, give me grace to forgive them
Cause I feel like the one losin'


It's only the dead that can live
But still I wrestle with this
To lose the pain that's mine
Seventy times seven times


Lord it doesn't feel right
For me to turn a blind eye
But I guess it's not that much
When I think of what You've done.


This is love. This is hate.
We've got a choice to make


Oh, Father, won't You forgive them?
They don't know what they've been doin'
Oh, Father, give me grace to forgive them
Cause I feel like the one losin' (oh no)


Why do we think that hate's gonna change their heart?
We're up in arms over wars that don't need to be fought
But pride won't let us lay our weapons on the ground
We build our bridges up, but just to burn them down
We think pain is owed apologies and them it'll stop
But truth be told it doesn't matter if they're sorry or not
Freedom comes when we surrender to the sound
Of Mercy and Your Grace, Father, send Your angels down (singin')



Forgiveness, by Matthew West

And the last thing on your mind today
It always goes to those that don't deserve
It's the opposite of how you feel
When the pain they caused is just too real
It takes everything you have just to say the word...

Forgiveness
Forgiveness

It flies in the face of all your pride
It moves away the mad inside
It's always anger's own worst enemy
Even when the jury and the judge 
Say you gotta right to hold a grudge
It's the whisper in your ear saying 'Set It Free'

Forgiveness, Forgiveness
Forgiveness, Forgiveness

Show me how to love the unlovable
Show me how to reach the unreachable
Help me now to do the impossible

Forgiveness, Forgiveness

Help me now to do the impossible
Forgiveness

It'll clear the bitterness away
It can even set a prisoner free
There is no end to what it's power can do
So, let it go and be amazed
By what you see through eyes of grace
The prisoner that it really frees is you

Forgiveness, Forgiveness
Forgiveness, Forgiveness

Show me how to love the unlovable
Show me how to reach the unreachable
Help me now to do the impossible
Forgiveness

I want to finally set it free
So show me how to see what Your mercy sees
Help me now to give what You gave to me
Forgiveness, Forgiveness

Thursday, May 2, 2013

not all who wander are lost

A thought struck me today - caught me by surprise. Not that I haven't had the thought before. I've wondered about it over and over the last few years. Today it just seemed to come out of nowhere. There didn't seem to be a trigger. I was just brushing my teeth (maybe that's a common trigger and I just don't know it).

"What am I doing with my life?"

I don't know. I seem to be wandering, without real direction. I'm not being intentional about my moves, my choices. I feel as if I'm taking things as they come.

But maybe that's what I need to be doing. I don't feel lost.

I'm teaching for NNU, and I feel pretty successful at it. They keep asking me to come back.
My book is making progress - slow, but still moving forward.
My photography is improving. Not that I'm winning awards, but I feel like my vision is coming into focus (pun intended).
I'm the editor of the camera club newsletter and enjoying the creativity of that job.
My health is stable. I have no idea how long that will last, but for now I feel good.

There seem to be a lot of good things happening, in spite of all the challenges.

I'm grounded. I'm exploring. I'm seeking.

So although I'm wandering, I'm not lost.


Wednesday, March 20, 2013

I'm Working on It

Back on February 24th, I wrote a post about photography trends and how those trends apply to my life.
I posted the first one, "Monochrome" and I'm working on the rest. I'm the kind of writer who needs to think things through first. I thought it would be easy to work through them all, but it's requiring much more thought-work than I anticipated. So, I'm working on them, and I'll get through them.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

What is Fear?

Last week I went to a new doctor; I think this is #15ish. My rheumatologist referred me to a new ENT who is an expert in difficult to diagnose cases - which is exactly what I've been. Several of my doctors have told me I'm a "diagnostic dilemma." That might be great if I want to end up being the subject a journal article for the AMA, but that's not a goal of mine. I would like to author a journal article about something, someday, but not be the subject.

One might think that a new doctor, with new expertise, might create some new hope in me. Maybe this doctor will see something or discover something that's been missed before. In actuality, I responded in a completely opposite way. I went to the doctor with a sense of dread, of fear. I'm not afraid that he won't be able to help. I'm afraid that he will. I'm afraid that he'll discover the cause and heal me.

If he's able to cure whatever is happening, or eliminate all the symptoms ... well, then what?
My disability will be up in about a year. What if I'm healthy enough that I don't qualify for an extension? What then?

I've been working to improve my health and physical fitness, with the goal of not needing disability. But without that, what am I supposed to do? I like this life I have, which makes me feel a little guilty for being happy with life.

I know God has a plan. He's already mapped out what will come next and he's in control of all the steps. I'm content with my life and his guidance. But ... I wish I had a clue, a hint about what's next for me. I wish I could plan some things.

For now I'm examining why I fear. I want to discover what is happening that would make me even think about wanting to stay here. I want to know where that's coming from.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

I can't believe there's more!

Even though I've gotten rid of so much stuff over the last few years, or maybe because I've done so much, I still occasionally feel the need to purge, to get rid of more stuff. When I start I always have the feeling that there's nothing left to eliminate. I just know I won't find anything. And yet, I can't believe there's more.

This week the decluttering need has been hitting hard. Yesterday I started reviewing my list of possessions, recounting the inventory. As I'm going through the rooms, I keep finding things that were on my list, but that don't need to be on my list, so are coming off my list. Some of the stuff I'm getting rid of isn't necessarily a countable item, but more like packaging. For example, I have some photo CDs from a long time ago. Each CD was in a card stock envelope. Why do I need the envelopes? I don't. So I moved all the CDs to one container and threw away the envelopes. More clutter eliminated!

There are other ways I found to eliminate small bits here and there, but every little bit helps. One of the decisions I'm making is whether or not to include professional possessions on my list. Up to now I've left out those items. They were part of my school office. Now they're at home, so do I count them? I haven't decided yet.  When I get my list updated, I'll let you know what the new number is.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Monochrome

I wonder why monochrome images are more appealing to me than color images. It may be the subject matter that I like works better in black & white than in color. Or it may be the tint (lack of color) that appeals. I'll have to do more investigation to discover which is true.

Life isn't black & white, but then neither are photographs. B&W photos are rarely just black and white. Most often they are many shades of gray. The  high tones, mid tones and low tones all work together, and often the most beautiful part of images are the mid tones. In the book I'm writing I talk about the extreme road and the middle road. I am a person on the middle road of life. I don't like the extremes. As much fun as it might be to scale mountains, I certainly don't want to be there all the time.

Likewise, a good photograph is comprised of mostly mid tones, with only small areas of extreme tones. So in a monochrome image, only the darkest shadows will be black and only the brightest highlights will be white. Everything else will shades of gray, spread across the full spectrum of tones.

A good monochrome image also has good contrast: not too much contrast, not too little. The histogram should be spread across the spectrum (on most images). (If you're unfamiliar with histograms, I'll let you find that education elsewhere. I'm not an expert.) Of course there are situations that will have spiked histograms, extreme images, but most images are much more varied in tonal range.

Life too needs contrast - not too much, not too little. To be a healthy person I need to have contrast in my life.

  • I can't be all about work, or all about leisure. 
  • I can't be all about friends and neglect my family. 
  • I can't be all about people I know and never seek out new friendships. 
  • I can't be all about satisfying my cravings and never exercise.
  • I can't be all about exercise and never indulge. Of course I really should be exercising more.
Monochrome images are not always black and white; that's just one one format for monochrome. Other images might be yellow and black, or red and black (with gradients of each). So even when 'restricted' by a category like Monochrome, there are still a lot of options.

In my life I often feel restricted by my situation and my health. But I'm discovering a lot of options are still available to me. There are a lot of gray areas in my life, and discovering new shades of opportunity can be exciting and scary..

Lastly, good monochrome images focus the viewer's attention on lines, highlights and shadows. The images often become less about subject matter (what the photo is of) and more about subject (what the photo is about). Rather than a photograph of a tree in a field of snow, it's an image of loneliness or isolation. Rather than an snapshot of a mountain range, the monochrome image becomes a portrait of nature's majesty.

Where does my life focus the viewer? I know where my attention is focused. I'm focused on seeking God's will for my life, living content with my circumstances, and seeking significance in every situation. But I'm not the viewer. My life is the monochrome photograph and other people see me.

What do they see?
What do you see when you look at my life?

Only you can answer that question.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

And Implications Go To ...


"Since I don't know [who I am], maybe I'm trying to discover and express my identity through my photography. If that's true, there are implications about the nature of my photography and the direction of my creativity. But those things will have to wait for another day."


There are two ways to approach the issue.
1. I can look at my photography and infer my identity from the images.
2. I can look at my life and see which aspects show up in the images.

I'm not sure which of these approaches are the best, or most accurate, or which will yield true answers. So I guess I should try both methods.

Looking at my photos (and images from other people that resonate with me) I notice some trends.

  • Monochrome images outnumber color images nearly 2 to 1.
  • Details, especially small ones which may often be overlooked by the masses, attract my eye.
  • Minimalist images affect me deeply, almost regardless of the subject matter in the photo.
  • Long exposures are especially attractive.
  • Abstract images are among the most interesting to me.
  • Great images, without an emotional aspect, become mediocre at best.
  • The color images I like tend to be at one extreme or the other of the color temperature spectrum. I like cool blues and warm golds. But photos with middle-of-the-road, realistic every day colors don't do much for me.
I think I should discuss each of these trends independently. To put them all in one post would be too much - maybe not for a reader, but for me as a writer. Tomorrow (probably) I'll discuss my thoughts on the first trend and how I think that applies to my life.

Much to Consider

Recently I find myself putting a lot of thought into my photography. Certainly more than I put into it years or decades ago (which shows in the quality of the images), but also more now than even a few months ago. It's probably related to the extra thought that's going into my life.
  • I'm considering both the subject and the subject matter of my photos.
  • I'm working to discover - through my photography - what's important in my worldview.
  • I'm struggling to find balance between internal and external approval. I focus on the images and visions I like, tell myself that external opinions are less important, but experience disappointment when I don't receive approval.
  • I spend much more time post-processing images, searching for the right combination of composition, light, cropping, etc.
I guess the question for me comes down to this: Why do I take photographs?

There should be an easy answer to that question, and I've given easy-cliche-answers, like, "It's my creative outlet." But there has to be more to it than that. I take photos because it's a way to express myself. But that begs another question. Why am I not able to express myself in other ways? Or, What am I trying to express through photography that I'm unable to express in other ways?

Maybe my lack of a consistent voice, and frequent/prolonged periods of no more than a whisper, has limited my expression options. Photography then may have become more frequently chosen because other options are more limited. But that leads me back to, "What am I trying to express?" And for that I have no answer.

I'm unable to express the school counselor in me. My years spent in Wendell allowed me to express on a daily basis my caring for students and teachers. I don't have that option now. But photography doesn't seem like a good fit to fill that need.

I express my professional identity now through being an adjunct professor. (I don't know if adjuncting is a real word or not.) It's a different role than I've had before, but it's an enjoyable change. I taught some classes while I was a school counselor, but I'm teaching more often and different courses now. It feels ... good, satisfying, encouraging, to be asked to teach new classes. I think it means the NNU faculty trusts my ability to learn new topics and to clearly disseminate information to graduate students.

So photography isn't about my professional identity.

I express my love for family and friends and don't need photography to do that.

The only need I can think of that isn't being met is my personal identity, maybe even my value and my worth.

Other than what I do and who I'm related to, who am I? I've been struggling with this question for a long, long time. The question itself can be interesting.
"Who are you?" 
"I'm Chris McNaught."

Technically I've answered the question with my name, not "who" I am. But most of the time when people ask, they're really asking, "What's your name?"

"What do you do?"
"I'm a school counselor and an adjunct professor?"

The question asks about my activities, but I start my answer with "I am." That seems to be less about what I'm doing and more about who I am. But a school counselor is not who I am, it's something I do/did. 

I could answer with my life roles: I'm a son, brother, uncle, friend.
I could answer with non-professional activities: I'm a writer, golfer, photographer.
I could answer with beliefs: I'm a Christian, a conservative, a minimalist.
But do any of those really answer who I am? Maybe the sum of all these answers is the true answer.

"Who are you?"
"Who am I?"
"Yes, who are you?"

"I don't know."

Since I don't know, maybe I'm trying to discover and express my identity through my photography. If that's true, there are implications about  the nature of my photography and the direction of my creativity. But those things will have to wait for another day.


Wednesday, February 20, 2013

And Then? ...

This topic, I'm sure, is a repost/rehash of things I've written about earlier. But it's on my mind today so I need to explore what I'm feeling and thinking.

My life feels like I'm in some sort of limbo, and yet I'm busy and involved. I thought I had a new direction: pursuing a doctorate in counselor education. All the doors seemed to open. And yet that didn't work out. Physically it wouldn't have been possible.

I thought I had made a new commitment to exercise, but my attendance has not been consistent. I know I should be going every day, but I wake up in the mornings so exhausted, apparently from doing nothing.

I'm seeking a life of contentment, but that doesn't mean I've become complacent. I still need goals and a clear direction for my life. But I don't know what those goals should be, and I don't know which direction to head. So I exist, letting life come to me and responding. I'm not sure that's the best way to live.

I'm teaching some classes for NNU's graduate counseling program, and loving it. I appreciate the interaction with the next generation of school counselors. They keep me in touch with the profession. They provide excitement and new information and fresh perspectives. Plus, having to be prepared for classes is expanding my knowledge. It's challenging and I enjoy it.

I'm involved with the Boise Camera Club, as the newsletter editor and a member. The relationships I'm building with other photographers, and all that I'm learning is definitely improving my photography. I think I'm beginning to find my creative voice, to be able to identify the images and subjects that resonate with me and create emotional reactions. My technical skills are improving, which help my images more closely resemble my vision.

And yet, still directionless.
Am I supposed to be a life-long adjunct professor? I don't know.
Will photography lead to a career? I don't know.
My book is getting closer to being done. Is there another book in my future?
Will I become an author? I don't know.

So I guess at this point in my life I have to be content not knowing. There are so many things I don't know, and I'm not talking about things I shouldn't know or don't need to know. I don't know how a nuclear submarine works or why One Direction makes little girls cry and squeal - but I don't need to know those things.

I don't know important things like who I am or who I'm supposed to be. I don't know what I'm supposed to be doing. There are times I'm not even sure what I want to be doing.

I wonder what will happen in the near future and distant future and all I can do is just let life be what it is.

Monday, February 4, 2013

My Future Self

I have changed so much the last few years. My health, my possessions, my career, hobbies, friends, house, education, etc. Compared to the person I was when I was 36, there's not much about me that's the same. Of course this isn't unique with me. No one is the same person they were 10 years ago. Life changes and we adapt, which means change.

I recently read an article about an experiment in which psychologists compared how people viewed their former selves, their current selves and their future selves.
Your Elusive Future Self

While we are able to see the changes between 10 years ago and today, we are less able to project change into the future. Despite knowing that the future will change us, we have this perception that we've reached our true selves in the now, and will be that person forever. But it's just not true.

In the study the authors advocate looking at examples of my possible future for an indication of what I might be like. What are 56 year old single men doing today? That generalization certainly won't tell me what I will be, but it might give me clues.

So what do I do with this information? Recognizing that I will be a different person in 10 years, I can either wait for the future to change me, or direct that change. It's true that I cannot anticipate what life will send me during the next decade, but I can make plans and work toward the 56 year old version of myself.

I am making some decisions about the changes I will create during the next 10 years.

  1. I will be a musician in 10 years. I'm just learning the ukulele and I don't feel I've made very much progress over the last year. But in 10 years - I could see incredible improvement in my skills. While I can't become a ukulele virtuoso tomorrow, I can work 15 minutes at a time. Multiply that by 10 years (15x365x10) and that's more than 900 hours of practice. I won't become Jake Shimabukuro, but ...
  2. I will be in better physical condition in 10 years. I decided that today was the day to stop making excuses, so I went to the Rec Center this morning. I have decided that regardless of how I feel, I need to go every day - even if all I do is walk in and walk out, I have to go every day. I need to create a habit of fitness.
  3. I will be closer to fluent in Spanish. Like the ukulele, I need a little bit of practice every day.
  4. I will be better educated. I don't know if I'll have a doctorate in 10 years; I thought this year was the time to start a doctoral program. But I'm just not healthy enough. Will I be healthy enough to complete a doctoral program in the next decade? I don't know. But regardless, I will be better educated. I'll take classes and workshops, and attend conferences.
  5. I will be a published author with more than one book. Book one is almost ready, and I have a good idea for book two. I just need to complete them.
  6. I'm still working on a goal for my photography. How will I be a different photographer in 10 years? I'm not sure. I hope by then I'll have a more clear definition of my vision, my creative voice, my style. But I'm not sure how to define the change I want.
  7. I'm also working on other changes. Who do I want to be when I'm 56?
That is my elusive future self.





Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Doctor ... Notyet

Although the interviews at ISU went well, and I'm mentally ready to ... not sure what to put here.
Increase my education
Pursue a doctorate
Explore a new path
???

I'm mentally ready, but physically it's just not possible. Drive to Pocatello, a social with the other candidates and current doctoral students, a day of interview, and drive home. Doesn't sound like much, but it completely exhausted me. While they were interviewing me, I was interviewing them, and without knowing it, my body was paying close attention to the whole process.

I've withdrawn my name from consideration for this cohort. It's possible I could be healthier by fall, even healthy enough to withstand the rigors of a doctoral program. Possible, but not probably. And I would hate to take a spot, start the program, then have to withdraw because I just can't do it.

At some point I will get a doctoral degree. For now, I must be content with what I'm doing: teaching as an adjunct, writing, photography, and exercise. I haven't worked out in a long time though - which I will correct. And I think I have my next book idea.

I'm working on the mind map now, trying to organize my ideas, give the idea some structure and direction. But I think it has the possibility to be a good book. Who knew I might someday be an author? Not me.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Life Imitating Art

I recently read several books by +David duChemin. In one of them he talks about intentionality within the frame. As photographers we have the ability and responsibility to be intentional about what we include in a photograph. For example, that "car" in the background, which is distracting from the subject ... why did I include that in the frame?

Many people would answer, "It's in the picture because it was there."

But we have lots of options, as photographers and post-processors.
1. I could move, reframing the photograph, eliminating the distracting object.
2. I could crop the photo to eliminate the distracting object.
3. I could clone out the car.

The point is, everything in my photograph should be there on purpose. Nothing should be there "just because it's there."

I realized, while sitting in a Boise Camera Club meeting, this advice is exactly the way I've been living my life the last several years. When I started simplifying I was in effect asking, "Why is this object included in the frame of my house." Later I started asking, "Why is this activity included in the frame of my life?"

My photography is following the path of my life. I've been looking at my images, being very conscious about what I include in the frame. I've been focusing on finding the important subject in each image, eliminating the distractions, those elements that draw my attention away from the important. But until now, I hadn't connected this photographic path with my journey to simplify my life.

I find this interesting, intriguing, and worthy of much more thought and reflection.