One evening last week—Monday, I believe it was—I was on my way to work when I had one of those thoughts I believe most of us have from time to time in one way or another. It was late in the evening, already dark, and a fog had settled over the city. Neither a heavy nor a light fog—a medium fog, I guess—it softened the edges of things near and obscured things entirely only at about three or four blocks distance; getting palpably heavier and thicker around the Lake Street/Marshall Avenue bridge, both because of the relative lowness of the area and of the presence of the Mississippi River below. The quaint round-globed streetlights on the bridge were haloed with a lovely pearlescent glow, and the red warning of the traffic light was somehow less unfriendly than usual.
I was struck by the beauty of that view across the bridge and up Marshall as far as Cretin Avenue (where buildings finally faded from sight) and I thought, “I really should phone in to work and tell them I’ll be late, turn around and grab my camera and tripod, and come back here to try to get some photos of this!”
But … well … I didn’t.
I didn’t because at work we were in the midst of another quarterly peak, and because on Sunday and Monday nights I’m the only production support person there; so it’s really rather important that I be there. I wouldn’t have felt right about blowing off even part of that night. It got me thinking, though, about the age-old conundrum (or is it a paradox?) of work versus … versus what? Versus creative endeavors? Versus “what we’d really rather be doing?” … I don’t know—something like that. There is, of course, the most obvious and mundane aspect of that puzzle: we most of us have to work to support ourselves and—for those of us who have them—our families; it’s the rare and business-savvy individual whose creative endeavors pay the rent. In addition, many creative endeavors are themselves costly—photography perhaps more than most—so income at a mere sustenance level would be insufficient to allow me to pursue and engage with my muse.
Less obvious but rather more interesting to me, however, is another aspect of the tension between working a “day job” (which, in my case, is actually a night job, but never mind) and doing creative stuff. I guess you could call that aspect the “showing up” factor or maybe the “being there” factor. This instance is an excellent example, because the unvarnished truth is that had I not been on my way to work, I would not have been driving east on Lake Street toward St. Paul at half-past nine that particular evening and therefore would not have been at that place at that time to observe the beauty of that scene and to want to capture its beauty in a photograph. Pretty darned ironic, eh?
In a larger sense, that “showing up” or “being there” factor really is a fundamental issue for me. Past experience suggests that if I don’t have an obligation to an employer, it is quite likely I will spend a lot of my time sitting around the house, intending to get around to doing something—any number of things—Real Soon Now. Very few of the things I’d like to do actually get done. Furthermore, if the thing(s) I’d like to accomplish involve getting dressed and leaving the house … well … let’s just say that’s harder yet. I don’t believe I’m lazy and I don’t think it’d be quite correct to say I’m “motivationally impaired” either. It’s hard to pin down. Sometimes I joke that I’m a living example of Newton’s first law: when I’m at rest, I tend to remain at rest unless acted upon by an outside force. (In case you’re wondering, the second half appears to apply as well: when I’m in motion I do tend to remain in motion ….)
The fact that I’m clinically depressed probably accounts for some of my lethargy and my rather chronic inability to get things done. Indications are that I have some degree of ADD as well, which probably adds its own special je ne sais quoi to the mix.
Yes, the antidepressants and the ritalin mitigate the worst of it—with their assistance I’m able to wake up and get myself out of bed on workdays and, you know, hold down a regular job. On the mornings I don’t have to work overtime I’m able to go home after work, relax for a few minutes, and then take Gavi to school, which is very pleasant and lets us spend some time together—some mornings we chat and catch up, other mornings we just quietly share the space and time. In the evenings I’m usually out of bed in time to see both her and Susan for a little while. So I do have a wee bit of home life. Come to think of it, I am also able to spend some time reading every day, mostly while laying in bed [although I do rather wish that I could read at least a bit faster (and comprehend more fully too, while we’re on the subject)].
At this point it seems legitimate to take a step back and ask, “What are you complaining about, fredcritter? It sure looks like you’ve got a life.”
Yeah, well. See, one thing to mention is that it’s now been a week since I first started writing this. Which points to (at least) two things: 1) I don’t remember/am no longer sure exactly where I was going with this and 2) that’s too darned long to have had to spend writing up this fairly simple narrative and bunch of thoughts. Which in some ways makes my point. I think. Maybe. Whatever my point is or was.
Why has it taken me so long to write this? Other things came up. I got distracted. I lost focus. I got sleepy. I had to go to work. I ran into times when I couldn’t quite formulate my thoughts and/or write about them coherently. I wrote myself off track and didn’t at the time know how far to back off, where to restart, where to go from there. Shit happened.
So what is the point? Where am I going with this?
The point is that I love taking photographs but I’m not doing that very much/often. That I love sharing photographs, but I’m not following-through on the ones I have taken—I’m not getting them up somewhere for people to see, even if that “somewhere” is merely my photo pages on the web. That I love making music but I haven’t been practicing and I haven’t been making it to many music gatherings. That I love keeping in touch with friends old and new, via LiveJournal if naught else, but I’m not reading and keeping up with everybody to the extent I’d like and I don’t post nearly as often as I’d like. That, in summary, I’m just not doing many of the things that are very important and rewarding to me.
Okay, I’ve now outlined what seems to be the matter and flirted with why. As Theodore Sturgeon would say: Ask the next question. I guess that would have to be: What am I going to do about this?
Well, I need to remember that I can’t do it all at once—that I can’t simply toss it all, cut the soles off my shoes, sit in a tree, and learn to play the flute. I must have patience as I take the time to develop habits that will allow me to do more of the things I want to do. On the other hand, I need not to be so patient as to not actually start doing anything. Perhaps I can break down some of it into smaller pieces that I can easily start doing. Okay, let’s make a list.
- Carry my camera with me all the time. I did this for quite a long time, but then I quit. Why? Because I bought a new camera backpack that is really too big and too heavy, and because I wasn’t taking out the camera and using it anyway. So …
- Rather than running out and buying a new backpack, see if I can’t winnow down the stuff I carry in it so as to make it lighter and easier to carry. Then start carrying it. If I really need to get a smaller one, think carefully about it for a while but then go ahead and get it.
- Take advantage of photo opportunities rather than passing them by.
- Put the tripod in the car trunk so I’ll have it when I need it.
- Make some time/opportunities to explore and photograph. Maybe one day a week after I drop Gavi off at school.
- Music. Discuss with Susan and Gavi when I might be able to practice without disturbing them, since when I most get the urge is when they’re asleep.
- Hmmm. While I’m at it, I guess I might as well remind myself to start flossing my teeth on a regular basis as well …
Okay. That sounds like some good places to start. Let’s see how it goes.