Browsing the archives for the Fear tag

Continuous Change

Change, family, Life as it is, Mistakes, Spiritual Journey

A very long time ago, I was introduced to the idea of continuous improvement – or to use the japanese term, kaizen. Nowadays it means a lot of formal processes and is an integral part in LEAN processes and Six Sigma and such, but when I first heard it 25 years ago, I only knew it was a powerful idea about continuous improvement – and that it had possibilities in work or in one’s life.

I’d love to tell you that I embraced it, and lived it fully, and give you a field report of what its like to have lived 25 years of continuous change. But I can’t.

Circles and Neon

My problem with continuous improvement – or even slight improvement – is that it involves change. And like Monk once said, “I don’t mind change, as long as I am not there when it happens.” And when I am busy trying to not make any mistakes, or do that perfectionism thing, I become rigid and inflexible – and so I resist change. And then that continuous improvement thing just can’t breathe and dies.

But this is on my mind at the moment for a few reasons. First, I am about to experience a significant amount of change in my life as my daughter will return home soon. And secondly, I have recently come to the realization that change is an intrinsic part of improvement.

My son and I have been living together alone for most of the past year, since my daughter was hospitalized. And while it hasn’t been perfect, it has – for the most part – worked. That is, it has worked in a way that is a change from the way things did not work when last my daughter lived here. So as much joy as I feel to have my wonderful daughter back in my daily life, I also feel some fear of the unknown.

They must often change, who would be constant in happiness or wisdom.
–Confucius

Things were not working well before, and then things did work, and that move from not working to working is both a change and an improvement. This next change is coming – and it can be an improvement. (While all improvement must be a change, not all change is an improvement.)

So as I have considered this and looked at it, and given myself permission to feel the feelings as long as it doesn’t keep me from getting things done that need to happen for this to work, I thought I would share some of the ideas that I am having on the subject:

  • I am the author of my life and so I can write this next chapter – or at least outline and start it – the way I think it could go. This is a rejection to the passivity that I used to have to change, and means I have a chance to influence the change to be an improvement. Maybe even a big improvement.
  • The only place I can author this change is in my choices of what I do. I don’t get to choose for anyone else what they will do. Trust me, I’ve tried, and it doesn’t work. But my own choices, that is where the rubber meets the road.
  • Some of the changes coming may be changes I will really enjoy. Like going to the symphony with my daughter again and shooting with our cameras.
  • Some of the changes I may not enjoy. I don’t like the decions that others make sometimes. And where that conflicts with my boundaries and my responsibilities as a parent, I sometimes must choose to do things I would rather not do – or in a more basic form, I don’t want to live through some of the things I have had to live through in the past.
  • I have chosen to embrace change – to be open to its possibilities. It feels frightening – but only in that way that doing the right thing seems to stir fear up for me.

So that is where I am. I have finally come to the realization that I will never have the sort of life that gets better and better every day unless I have a life that keeps improving. And continuous improvement really just means continuous change (that we hope will be positive more times than not).

If today is going to be better than yesterday, then I need to let the day change to let that happen. (Otherwise it would be the same, you know?)

If nothing ever changed, there’d be no butterflies.
–Author Unknown

How about you and change? How do you handle it? Are you comfortable with it? What gets you through the times when lots of things all change at once?

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An Open Letter to My Fears

Life as it is, Spiritual Journey

Dear Fears,

I know, you are happy to gather together like this en mass because when this happens, you often get to get behind the wheel and get to drive for a while. But not tonight….

First, I would like to take a moment… pause… and welcome you. All of you fears – from the ones about being laughed off the Internet fro addressing you openly, to the ones that quietly whisper of doom in the days ahead – have a place here and I welcome you. The kitchen is over there and feel free to help yourself if you get hungry or thirsty from screaming in my ear.

How My Camera Sees Hiway 6

I have some places I am choosing to go, and I have things to do as I get ready for my daughter to come home. I have plans for time off with my kids in the mountains, and I have goals that I am steering towards – regardless of the economic weather of which some of you enjoy reminding me.

You are welcome. But you don’t get the wheel. You don’t get to choose where I go, or how quickly I must move. Where I am is where I am, and that is ok for right now.

I will focus on the life that I have now – just as it is, and not worry about what may happen or compare it to the life i think i should have or others have. Life as it is is my focus, not life the way I want it to be.

So be welcome. Just know that you are the visitors and not the owner or driver. I suspect that i am far more vast a creature than i can even imagine, should you find plenty of room to occupy yourselves while I move.

Thanks,
James

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Fear and Courage

Life as it is, Spiritual Journey

I have a confession to make. I am not only an expert at making mistakes, I am also an expert on fear. Many of my friends describe me as being courageous, which describes my decisions and my choices, but usually my over-riding feeling at such times is fear.

Anyone who has worked with me for very long has heard me talk about fear. I may refer to the acronym of F.E.A.R. as False Evidence Appearing Real. In fact, if you listen to conversations between myself and my closest friends, one of the first things we we do is ask and listen to just what the other person fears, and then ask what evidence they have that this feared outcome will occur. Then we plan how to face it.

Long Have I Watched the Streets of Galveston

Many years ago, I was not as aware of fear, because I used to flee from it. I made safe choices, or at least the least frightening ones. I did some occasionally daring deeds and had some successes – but that was because I feared what might happen if I didn’t dare more than what might happen if I did. Some might say it motivated me, but the truth is that it drove me. And just like a hot air balloonist hardly feels any wind, I never felt any fear, for it was carrying me where it went. Have you ever rode your bike on a clear spring day feeling no wind, until you turned back and rode against a headwind? Fear didn’t motivate me, it drove me.

Those safe and fear-driven choices had their own consequences. My creativity all but vanished, for to create anything is to risk it being ridiculed. My relationships suffered, for I was careful in what I said and shared and did not stand up for much of anything. Even playing suffered, for while I had many hobbies to occupy me, I was too inhibited to risk reaching for joy.

Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear.
— Ambrose Redmoon

In time it was those relationships that got me to face fear. The way I was living was not producing the results I wanted so I started changing. I started doing it for them, then I started doing it for my own relationship with myself.

It’s frightening to go places where we have never been before. As a result, reaching for more joy than ever before or becoming a parent or dealing with a sudden emergency all cause fear. And it’s worse if you are intelligent and creative, because you have the mind capable of imagining a million little disasters and their outcomes.

After a while, I found that when i felt sudden fear, it often meant I should go back to that thought or situation and poke it with a stick and face it. I still feel it – that choking sensation of fear – but it doesn’t drive me any more. I get to choose where I want to go in life.

For years, this was written in my office and in my home:

I must not fear.
Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.
Only I will remain.
— Dune, Frank Herbert

I am a single father of two teens so trust me, I still know and experience fear on an intimate and real basis. Even now I am afraid as I write this how I might appear egotistical or sanctimonious, and still have all of it terribly wrong. Or worse yet, what if nobody reads this and I am ignored?

I’m still going to post this when I am done. The truth is that in facing fear, I feel it more – this is true is writing for publication, public speaking, being a parent, reaching for unknown joy or anything else worth doing. Fear may be a wall too high to climb and too wide to go around – but it is only tissue paper thin. I just have to step through it.

Courage is being scared to death— and saddling up anyway.
— John Wayne

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Art and Fear and Flickr

photography

I am reading a most excellent book called Art & Fear: Observations On the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking by David Bayles and Ted Orland. It’s one of those books that was just in my Amazon.com shopping basket from an earlier visit when I was placing Christmas orders – I kept seeing other photographers mention it so added it at some time in the past. I am very glad i did.

I’m not far into it, but on reading the section the explains the difference between quitting ones art and merely stopping it, I was struck by a couple of things that i would pass on. It seems many artists will quit creating when they lose the destination for their art – that is, the place where they will share and show their art. They go on to share the following strategy to keep from quitting:

Operating Manual for Not Quitting
A – Make friends with others who make art, and share your in-progress work with each other frequently.
B – Learn to think of [A], rather than the Museum of Modern Art, as the destination of your work.
(Look at it this way: If all goes well, MOMA may come looking for you.

I was reading this over coffee while my son was sketching a comic panel based on a story we had been telling back and forth and I was commenting on his efforts between paragraphs and pages. I read this section to my son, and he said, “Well, yeah. That’s what me and my friends do,” as he continued sketching into his overflowing sketchbook.

This is how my son does it with his friends – each of his friends has one or more comic stories they are working on or will sketch a hastily told tale from lunch at shool. And this is how we all did it as kids. When we would do something cool, we shared it with out friends and they shared what they were doing. And that joy in creation and camaraderie is why we were doing it.

I realized how much Flickr.com provides that same sort of vehicle for myself and my photography. Sometimes when I am just shooting something for my own sake, I will have others ask me if this is for a project or for a client – and i just say no it’s for me and my friends. And of course, what I mean by that is that I will post it to Flickr and share it with my friends there. Especially my happier mistakes like this portrait:

Innocence

That is part of what keeps me from the fear of shooting something that might not work. I am sharing it with friends who are all busy doing exactly the same thing with their work as well. This also means that I can try things that may or may not work and not worry too much about how they will be received.

Flickr is a frequent destination for my photography. What’s yours?

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