Saturday, April 16, 2011

Pretty Dead Things

Things are starting to come up in my yard and it reminds me of a metaphor I discovered and photographed last year. I'll start from the beginning. Tulips have always been my favorites and they became even more favored once I had space to plant them and became aware of how easy they are. Even though I hate gardening, I always have a thing for photographing what comes up in the spring. No reason. I just do it, but then I feel sorta hmmm, matured I guess, because I know from printing experience, photographing floral shit in your yard for no reason is what many retired folks do.
One of the new things I learned about my mom was that she loved pink flowers. I'm pretty anti-most-things-traditionally-feminine, so I avoid pink for the most part, but planted pink and white stuff for my mom and my inner 80-year-old-hobbiest photographed them. Under most circumstances, I would never admit to photographing pink flowers, being more a fan of body parts, abstraction and digital weirdness, but...

I noticed things when the flowers started to whither and die. They became somewhat cool to photograph. In color, it isn't anything special, but in black and white, it starts to be all about light and texture and in photography, that's more delicious than hot macaroni and cheese on a rainy day.

So, you ask, what does that have to do with grief processing? Well, first of all this was what I did while hanging out in my grief garden last year.

Second of all, I thought a lot about how these flowers became much more rich, deep and fascinating to me while they were in this weak dying process. I thought about my mom in particular and how amazing she was while she was sick. It's easy to be happy and positive while we're healthy and all is well, but going through sickness and the tough times are when we really see what we're made of. My mom was always friendly, kind and positive and even when she was dying a torturous death due to medical error, there could be no doubt that her traits were authentic, because most of the time, she still was all of those things. She worried more about us and provided support and counseling to us in her greatest time of need for as long as she could. Like these flowers, her light and texture was more evident as she was leaving the world.

Also, my dad was alive this time last year, but I feel like I saw him differently after losing my mom as well. He had always been strong, rational and absolutely-no-nonsense, but without my mom, his shell fell off and for the next year and a half, he was fragile and sensitive. He too developed a deeper texture.

Also, I think for those of us who live, getting hit with losing half of our immediate family in a short period of time brought out a new texture in us. I think the relationship between my siblings and I have changed. I don't know about them, but the way I look at the world has become more wrinkled like these flowers, but also the wrinkles are what makes it richer in a sense. Life isn't as beautiful as it used to be, but now I can see the beauty where it is. I don't think I knew how well I had it, until I lost it, but losing it, makes me love what I have left even more. Like a good photograph, contrast brings out the best in things. Or, at least it makes it more interesting to examine.

Does this make sense? Looking at these photographs again now, I'm thinking this may be another photo project for this season. I see things I would like to do differently. I have a whole body of work in my mind. We'll see how that goes.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

I want Sacha Goldberger for a grandson

Is this art therapy? I say hell yes.

A few years ago photographer Sacha Goldberger found his 91-year-old Hungarian grandmother Frederika feeling lonely and depressed.  So to cheer her up, and put a spark back into her life, he turned her into a superhero! He took a series of awesome photographs of her wearing costumes in unusual superhero type posses. "Grandma reluctantly agreed, but once they got rolling, she couldn't stop smiling."

For the full story and photos, go here.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Gratitude Journal

One of the things I am discovering about myself is that I care about what inspires people. The technicalities of good mental health (think CBT and DBT skills) are great, but there is a part of me that wonders if it is sustainable if one isn't excited about his/her own environment, I mean radically excited. Body mind and soul excited. One thing that has surprised me throughout life is that there are so many people who wander around without passion about things: just having jobs, paying bills and doing the same inactivity every night. I partly blame this on television, but that's a discussion for another time.

"I am having trouble finding my purpose," seems like a common complaint among people I know and I'm not talking about people diagnosed with mental illness either. But what I have also noticed, is not many people go out of their way to foster excitement, opting instead for routine and what is comfortable.

This directive speaks to the ho-hum issue: the gratitude journal. Evidence also suggests keeping such a journal is good for you... look it up...

Cover of little gratitude journal
Inside pages

If you click on this image, you'll see a slightly larger version.

This sample is not a typical gratitude journal. A typical gratitude journal involves mindfully noting things you enjoy throughout the day, creating lists and ranking your overall day. After two or three weeks, one can go back and examine the higher ranked days and find ways to incorporate what inspired them into future days. So, for example, one might notice happier days involved taking a morning walk, soooo... perhaps more morning walks are in order. There are several recommendations for getting the most out of a gratitude journal, such as notice the details and aim for variety.

Anyway, this journal was made using the accordion binding technique. Here's an instructional video about simple accordion book making. I make mine a little differently, using individual pages, stuck together end to end with medical tape, so my book size, page amount and paper stock options are limitless.

I also have a gratitude lecture that can stand alone about the how and why this matters.

In the meantime, I hate to over-stuff a blog post, but I love these videos and they fit the gratitude topic perfectly.

Here is my ideal patient at termination. This is what I would love to see when our work is done. (P.S. I don't know this kid, but oddly this sorta looks like my bathroom!)

And on a slightly more serious note, watch this guy...