I am an anxious person by nature and genetics. I tend to be hyper-vigilant and overly reactive. I've come to understand, over the years, that there are three main triggers to anxiety (and also depression). The triggers are: Ambiguity, Loneliness and Indecision. I would have to say that the election cycle of the last full year has caused most of us, regardless of party, to grapple with continuing doses of ambiguity and no little measure of indecision. Not knowing how to proceed or what challenges might lie ahead causes businesses and people to worry, slow down and become more cautious. My year in 2016 has been a textbook example of the results of these psychological barriers. The loneliness comes when we adapt a "bunker" mentality and sit in our offices, behind closed doors, refreshing news sites to try and discern some sort of rational pattern in all the noise. Only to find that there is no rational pattern.
When the results of voting started to be broadcast last night I have to admit that I was crestfallen because, as a very liberal democrat, my party was losing; badly. But miracle of miracles... I woke up this morning without a psychic hangover. I didn't get my electoral wish but I did get the twin bastards of indecision and ambiguity out of the way and off my back. There's nothing I can do to change the results and so I am now ready to get back to my own work and recapture the pleasure of living without the dread of "what might be."
Instead of feeling depressed or angry I felt a sense of resolve and direction. The things I can control (to some extent) are my own actions and my own art. I'd put so much on sub-conscious pause to await the outcome and with the issue decided I feel freed up to engage again. I was up before my alarm and in the pool by 7 this morning. Most of my pool mates were glum but we didn't rehash the election we put our heads down and swam well, and fast. We exercised our control over something we enjoy.
I have made it a policy here not to discuss politics. We all have different points of view and there are ample places to argue out the issues of governance and social order but there are fewer and fewer places to read and comment about many different aspects of photography without having to wade through an endless stream of advertisements. While I have admitted my own affiliations (above) I make no judgements here about the U.S. elections other than to say I was disappointed. I'll be moderating comments as usual. I have deleted several this morning of a political nature but, happily, none were virulent or combative. In fact, I agreed with the sentiments expressed but felt the need to hold to a line of neutrality that, I hope, makes this space a fun and stress free resource for people who want to mostly read about my adventures in photography and the ecosystem that surrounds those adventures.
So, what is the calming thing for me that allows me to move forward with enthusiasm and a sense of meaning? It's just doing the work. The everyday work of photography. Looking, seeing, understanding, recording and sharing. Taking care of the business I can take care of...
On the blog today we are featuring a set of images from a shoot I did many years ago in New York for a company called, Primary Packaging. The images are of skilled craftspeople who come in everyday and do their work. They do it diligently and well. The work provides structure, continuity and belonging. It's not much different than editing images or making clipping paths.
I would imagine that most of the people in these images have retired by now. But it's a reminder to me that while the world swirls around outside our walls the work is the thing that sets our routines and mastery of the work gives us pleasure and a sense of continuity. With the elections behind us I am hoping we can all turn our attention back to things we truly love and enjoy. The pursuit of photography is near the very top of my list.
A side note: If you are experiencing anxiety over which you feel you have no control I strongly suggest seeking help from a trusted health care professional. It is possible to learn strategies to cope with or even remediate anxiety. I'm also a proponent of some short term pharmaceutical assistance to reduce the horrible feelings attendant with anxiety so you can get a handle on fixing it. See your doctor! See a counselor or mental health expert. Talk about it. Getting help is far preferable to sitting alone too nervous and distraught to participate in the richness of life. I know. I've been there. And I never want to go back. end of public service message. Just say "NO" to panic attacks.