Erika Ray Photography » blog

Do the Work

Last weekend I participated in a three day yoga workshop.  During the final day, the teacher explained how she had asked other students to keep a journal.  Write down their every thought.  Or everything they watched on tv.  Or all of their cleaning products for a year.  It was explained that during the year, you’d start to recognize patterns of thought.  Realize emotions are fleeting.  And at the end a gratitude for the practice.  For a year, pick a topic and write it down.  Every day.  For a year.

 

A year?!  “Umm…  How big are these journals?” I asked.  Multi volumes of journals.  

 

I sat there exhausted by the idea.  A whole year of my thoughts?!  Holy hell.  Who does that?  And for what good reason?!  Blah blah blah gratitude for cleaning… Why the fuck would I care to write tiny details for 365 days?

 

Oh…

Oh…  Wait.  

Just wait, Erika…

Oh.  You do that.  You understand the Why and the How.

And just like that I had a moment.

 

The reason I couldn’t see it while staring at this smart woman was because I wasn’t doing the work on my 365.  I was clicking, but NOT doing the work.  My camera had almost a month’s worth of images.  I’ve never gone that long between dumps and edits.  This time I had.  Most of the days, I took one photo.  Not giving a shit about composition or subject.  A few days, I took 5 only because I’m pretty sure I missed the focus on ALL of them.  Lots of boring food shots and blurry cat photos.  So I clicked everyday and felt smug about that fact.  But I didn’t care for the photos, so I didn’t do the work.  I couldn’t see the practice.

 

Without editing the photos or even culling them I missed my moments.  It was just a string of days stacking up on my camera.  Not seeing them made me ignore the point of a 365.  The point is to find gratitude and acceptance with your life. To notice your misses, not dwell on it and to move on.  It’s not to create 365 amazing images.  Not to create a portfolio of work.  That kind of pressure kills every 365 on Day 52 or 211.  You pick.

Sure some shots are beautiful because that’s the deal with life.  You get some beautiful moments strung in between the crap inducing moments.  In between the One Click days, were reminders of my life.  How my youngest continues to cross his feet when he builds lego.  Or how my oldest fights the camera and then still mugs the camera.  A cute moment when my youngest greeted the cat before hugging me.  A self portrait after completing said yoga workshop.  Remember that night I said, “Fuck it” and ate pizza with cheese?  I do.  It was Day 83 and it was no big deal.  A brother hug that was a gateway for wrestling and an annual tradition nearing a 20 year mark.  Those moments happened between the misses.  Some were perceived as misses only to see their glory beyond my initial emotion and the tiny LCD.  Those were my moments.  And I created them for a reason.  

Those moments of frustration are bookended by beautiful moments.   Frozen just waiting for me to notice.  But I couldn’t notice until I forced myself to sit with them.  Worrying about focus, shitty light, bad composition, icky scenes were keeping me from seeing the truth.  Perfection does not birth a full heart.

You have to do the work.

Make mistakes.  Learn and let it go.

Find some gratitude.

See your own truth and sit with it.

Accept it.
And give birth to your very own full heart.

 

That’s what a 365 always teaches me when I’m willing to listen.  

It was time to listen again.

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I guess if I’m being honest and you’re still around…

I could take away the photography angle and apply it to real life.
Notice it.  Sit with it.

And do the damn work.