So it's the last weekend in January and I'm sitting down to write my first blog post of the year. I usually come out of the starting gates of each year with lots of enthusiasm for the intentions I've set: to write more, take more photos, get outside more, and more, more, more. Well, this is not the case for 2018. And I have a back injury to thank for that.
Three days before Christmas, I took a little spill. Okay, a big spill. Down the front steps to my home. Actually, it wasn't even down the steps. I just shot straight off the top one and landed squarely on my back, upper spine connecting with the front edge of the next step down. Thanks to my compulsion to carry my cell phone everywhere, I was able to text my mum for HELP. Dad came to the rescue initially to get me inside from the -17 degrees Celsius at the time, and next came the local First Responders who provided jokes and oxygen while we waited for the ambulance. After more x-rays I'm comfortable having in this lifetime, and a shot for the pain, I got to leave the hospital ER with a "fracture" between two of my vertebrae. Merry Christmas!
This isn't really a story about my back, though, it's a story about learning to surrender. For a couple weeks I really had to give up trying to accomplish anything that required much movement. It was hard. Being confined to a recliner, with a heating pad, made me want to get up and do things. But my back wouldn't allow it, so I sat instead, and breathed, and watched episodes of The Great British Bake Off on television. Once I could start moving more, packing my camera around was not yet an option either. A camera and a lens is quite heavy, I found out. And here we were, getting into one of my favourite seasons for photography. So I watched the snow fall with my new BFF, the heating pad, and let go of any expectations I had of capturing the beauty outside.
This slowing down and letting go happened in all areas of my life, of course. If was a bit like going through a detox of sorts, and once I realized the anxiety it caused went away when I just accepted "what was," I started to feel much better. My world did not crumble because I couldn't do something. I realized each day isn't always about an accomplishment. And the funny thing, is that I somehow haven't lost out on life because of not doing as much. I've had to make choices for activities based on my limitations, so I just learned to make those choices count. And I've been happier with the outcomes and shift to quality over quantity. In essence, I've started to determine what really matters to me and how I best want to spend my time. I think this is called Mindfulness.
This philosophy has had an effect on my photography as well. I've started putting more intention into what I want to shoot, instead of "just shooting" and hoping for a good outcome. I suppose many photographers already know this, but I'm finally figuring it out myself. I joined a year-long photo challenge (Dogwood Photography Challenge) to keep me shooting with intent this year. My limitations have come in to play in a different way here that has surprised me a bit. I see myself as an outside nature photographer, which is truly where I find my inspiration and passion. However, while learning macro photography last summer, I found an appreciation for subjects that were more "still life," and I haven't found a way to explore that to my satisfaction yet. I've been uneasy showing this side of myself and not sure of how it would look with my other work. Honestly, I've been worried about what other people may think. But, because of my back and this challenge, I've started down this journey of indoor, tabletop photography. I'm still a little hesitant, but my photo for the week two assignment garnered the most positive reactions of all my submissions so far, and it has nothing to do with nature or the outdoors. Go figure.
Physically, I'll be on the mend for a bit longer, but I've made a lot of progress since the big slip. As I heal and can do more, I'm trying to keep in mind that "more" is not always the best option and "letting go" has some of the greatest benefits. It's amazing how a physical limitation led me to a non-limiting look at life. In fact, one of my new mantras is, "Let go of expectation and look forward to surprise." Some people might find that scary, but I find it very freeing. I'm excited to share what I don't yet know in my photography this year. Who knows what I'll see through the viewfinder. The only intent I have is to finish my 52 challenges, but I know that won't be all. I've opened myself to a lot more opportunity to expand my photo horizons.
Happy belated New Year everyone. May it be a good one!