“"Look at everything. Don't close your eyes to the world around you. Look and become curious and interested in what there is to see." (John Cage)
I've become fascinated by the way our experiences of life beautifully ebb away before the seeds of renewal begin to show themselves. Although 'good practice' says that I should 'deadhead' the yellow roses at the side of our house, I'm learning to honour their process and see the colours they show as their petals naturally fall.
Over the last couple of weeks, I've had enough time to 'look at everything'.
My reckless complicity with the relentless demands of the last few years has left me suffering from 'burnout' - which, unless you have been through it, seems like a ridiculous, imaginary condition. Even from within, it feels very odd. For me, there is the sudden recognition that the world is completely monochrome, that work has taken over everything and you are missing in your own life. Only slowly, and through a haze of continued exhaustion and distress, do glimpses of colour start to return along with gently emerging question, "What was I thinking....?"
Clearly not much.
But I was doing a lot. And now, as I take a tentative peek at my email inbox, I see the continued assertions from the management media to 'increase personal productivity' and the hacks that 'get stuff done.' But actually, as I look back, I realise I was moving too fast to read them. First in the office, last to leave. Working through each weekend. No diary 'white space.' Skipping on sleep - no problem. On my phone when I'm on vacation. And if I can just get that next task done. And then maybe just that one too...
As friends and colleagues have kindly checked in with me, the theme of their messages has been, '...really sorry to hear that.....but not surprised....'
Honestly? Neither was I.
So now, as I wrestle with the shame of not living up to my own expectations and the stigma of poor mental health, I'm photographing flowers. Slowly.
It's a daily (digital) practice that has been associated with healthy behaviour, mindful reflection and improved well-being. I know it's going to take a while and I'm determined to give myself the time I need as I shed tasks and commitments.
I'm looking carefully at renewal and I plan to see the colours as the petals fall.
Fast Company claims that 'Creative Burnout' is inevitable - but offers 10 ways to beat it.
You might like Ruth Davey's article on the PhotoVoice website where she explores how to see your life, work and the world with fresh eyes.
Have a look at Paul Stanley's Peripheries website or his @visionanalogue Instagram feed for his daily flowers.
This article by Liz Brewster and Andrew Cox describes the use of photography for everyday well-being.
Finally, take a look at Dave Ulrich's beautiful 'Zen Camera: Creative Awakening with a Daily Practice in Photography.'