17 July 2012

Back from the brink

It has been a difficult day.  Nothing earth shattering.  Just what has felt to me like a long slog.  The house is clean, so having to try ignoring dust on the lamps and dog hair on the floor (for a change) isn't what has been gnawing away at my equilibrium.  Almost everything on the drafted-this-morning "to do" list has been highlighted.  I'm not beating myself up for having procrastinated.
Actually, the problem is no mystery.  It's just that I have been resisting owning up to it.

Here's the deal.  I have finally begun work in earnest on the photographs from what I'm calling the "Waterways Trip."  While we were away I did manage to download images every day, but I did nothing to or with them.  No key words, no captions, no editing.  (I described the current process of doing that in the post for July 11th.)  Until today, things have hummed along.  Today I met up with disappointment.

Many and I mean many of the photographs I made on May 23rd, our first day on the Erie Canal, are just terrible.  The composition is OK, but they're either muddy or slightly out of focus.  Initially, I tried "fixing" some of them, a process I don't actually know how to do, a process very different from what it takes simply to "develop" an image in the software program I use.

Gradually, I realized it wasn't worth it.  That the images themselves weren't worth the time and the energy I was expending.  And, beyond that, that they weren't worth the sadness and the sense of failure I felt building up inside me. 

My friend Sarah to the rescue.  No.  Not a visit or even a telephone call.  For Christmas Sarah gave me a page-a-day calendar written for busy women.  It didn't take many days into January until I began looking forward to the morning ritual of tearing off the old page and reading the new one.  About every four-to-six weeks the author, Anne Wilson Schaef, makes a distinction between perfectionism and excellence.  I have kept a few of them to ruminate over:

Excellence is being willing to take risks.  Perfectionism is being overly cautious and fearful.  (February 20th)

Excellence results in feelings of personal power.  Perfectionism results in anger and frustration. (March 31st)

Excellence is spontaneous.  Perfectionism results in control and conformity. (April 11th)

Excellence results in giving.  Perfectionism results in taking.  (Didn't write down the date for that one.)

And, here's today's page, that one brought me back from the brink:

Excellence results in quiet confidence.  Perfectionism results in doubt.

All I really want to do is put my photographs in order.  All I really want to do is (1) be happy with the memories they bring back of a marvelous time Tal and I had together and (2) feel proud of the handful of images that are really good -- and there are a few.

With all that in mind and with great calm I returned to my task, assessing what I had before me and simply deleted what I could not save.  Dozens.  It was like ripping off a band-aid, to use an over-used expression.  But, it's over.  Well, at least for that particular day.  I've not looked ahead ...

I don't know what I did wrong halfway through that pretty day, up through the Waterford Flight, the clouds puffy-white and huge, the sky a bright blue.  But, something was amiss with me or the camera.  The truth is, though, it doesn't matter.  The lost photographs don't matter at all.  Being miserable about it isn't going to help anything or anyone, least of all me. 

Yes, I want to make pictures I like.  I want to enjoy the process.  But, I'm not going to obsess over getting it right all the time -- or ever, come right down to it.  I will strive for the best I can do.

So, I'll end with one more quote.  This one -- from Maria Schriver -- a little less heavy than those from Ms Schaef.

Perfectionism doesn't make you feel perfect.  It makes you feel inadequate.

Amen to that.

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