It’s 5:00 am on a Thursday morning and I have just pulled myself away from The Vorrh by Brian Catling. It is the most amazing book and I can’t put the damn thing down! Which is a problem because I need to be at work in an hour.
I’ve been getting up at 5:00 am for the past four years to read and write. Yet I am having the most difficult time, just now, writing a narrative for these photographs.
The experience of making and producing these images has literally changed my life. They represent a significant shift in my approach to making photographs and, more importantly, they have set me free.
It’s true. These photographs have set me free.
For as long as I can remember I have suffered from social anxiety ranging from mild to debilitating. Like everyone else of my generation, I pretended I was ok and pushed through. Which of course, made the anxiety worse.
As I grew older “my secret” became increasingly more difficult to hide. At one point I remember saying to myself, “I would give anything for this anxiety to go away. Even for just one day, just to experience what it feels like to be normal.”
And then, ten years ago, I walked in to Dr. Julie Brock’s office and sank into her couch. Julie looked at me and smiled.
I had arrived.
The initial stage of my recovery with Dr. Brock was pure elation, hope and gratitude. I felt as if I had been given a fresh start, a second chance. I felt born again.
But my recovery was also marked by a growing, wallowing sense of resentment and grief.
Grief for a life, I suddenly considered, only partially realized, a life less than half fulfilled. The initial euphoria of my recovery became increasingly diluted by a constant stream of hypothetical questions impossible for me to answer.
I didn’t want my recovery to become a fulcrum separating my life into a before and after me, a good and bad me. I needed to accept the person I was before my recovery, and own that part of my life. Before this grief could eclipse my recovery and propagate only bitterness and resentment.
But owning my story based solely on elastic and temperamental memories was going to be impossible. I needed something tangible. A narrative I could hold in my hands so I could let it go and move forward with my heart. Elegy is the first in a three-book project I’ve called earth descent.
“…it becomes so simple when you surrender grief to the ongoing act of living.” — Richard Wagamese, Embers (2016).