07 Jun Walking Around Resistance
This week I have been very focused on pulling together the elements for my new book of mall photos, “The Decline of Mall Civilization” as well as the images for a photo show I have coming up in July, and a music video for a friend, and take care of the kids because my wife is out of town, and take care of myself because I need to, but I’ve also been dealing with my mother who recently had a fall that led to a brain bleed and a lot of both cognitive and physical issues. That’s an intentional run-on sentence because sometimes our lives feel like that. Still even if a sentence gets a little messy we can still make sense of it, just as we can our lives, if we stay calm and listen.
When I say “deal with my mother”, I’m referring to equal parts helping her and processing both the reality of the situation and my reaction/response to it. I’m a photographer so one way I have been dealing is that I have been making images of her, but it’s a very fraught process because the images are largely very heavy. I’m conscious of the fact that my mother is somewhat private so I shared some of the more pleasant pictures the other day on facebook to let people know what’s going on with her. Again, the reality is a bit more difficult. I bring this up because it’s very related to the other work we’ve been doing, which is continuing to try to get “All the Rage” seen and understood. Sometimes it feels like I am getting nothing done even though I am working all the time. The more that I can slow down and work consciously, the more I can enjoy the work. It doesn’t mean that I get more done, but it does mean that the work has more meaning.
I am very grateful that I have the opportunity to pursue so many different types of “work”, photography, music, and filmmaking. These opportunities have not come easily though. While a lot of “people” express appreciation for our work people who are part of the systems of photography and film have rarely embraced it. This is not stated with the energy of complaint, but instead awareness. When we face resistance, we can push back, or we can step aside and walk around. Unconsciously, I have done a lot of stepping aside and walking around. For the most part we have self-distributed all of our work, and the few times we have worked with distribution partners, things have not gone well. I just turned 50, which often leads to a process of taking stock. I am enormously grateful that I am where I am and that I have found a way to carve out space to do the work that I do.
At the beginning of the year I decided that we needed to get out a second book of mall photos because it is the 30thanniversary of the work. I know that this creates a space for discussion which makes it possible to raise awareness of the work. Unfortunately, the year began with a health crisis with my mother, and a lot of work around another film, so the book kept getting pushed aside. Now I’m in the midst of this other health crisis with my mom but trying to push forward with the book in a mindful way. Thankfully, my sister has stepped up to the plate in an enormous way and taken on much of the day to day work of helping my mother through this crisis.
Yesterday, while my sister and I were meeting with the health care team at my mother’s retirement community we were interrupted because she had a small seizure in the other room. The nurse went to deal with it and we continued the discussion of her care. There have some been hiccups in the process but in general I am very appreciative of the work that everyone is doing. As I tried to express that appreciation I started to bawl. It was a complete surprise to me, but I just let it flow. Presence and repression often go hand in hand. When we are holding it together so well that we don’t even realize we are holding it together it will sometimes squeeze out in unexpected ways. Part of the reason that I broke down is that we have no way to understand what to expect in terms of my mother’s physical and cognitive improvement. As hard as I work to simply accept that, it can still be unsettling and overwhelming at times.
After that meeting I ran home to pull together elements for my book. I called the print broker who is helping me find a printer. We worked out a few details and then I mentioned the situation with my mom, because it has disrupted our communication. At that point she told me that her mom had sent her an article about Dr Sarno, and she was surprised to see my name in the article as well as the trailer to our film. That night she rented it and watched it. Her mom is about the same age as mine and suffering from a lot of pain. She and I only recently met due to this book but we have so many odd connections in common- all through music and art, but it was still kind of wild that her mother had introduced her to our film. It was an important reminder that the work that I do planting seeds to get the film seen often take a long time to germinate.
After the call, I rushed over to work with my friend Wotjek who is helping me get the images scanned and ready. It’s a long slow, and expensive, process. However, I want to make sure that it is done right. In the past I have often focused on getting things done rather than getting them done right. As I get a little older and wiser, done right becomes more important. Then I hustled home to deal with the kids. Thankfully my friend Spencer offered to help make dinner. Then I rushed off to Yoga. Right now, I need that more than ever. My daughter didn’t want me to go but she eventually demurred. When I got there the teacher told me that his mother, who had also watched the film, has been journaling and doing better. She’s kind of resistant to going to the local doctor I recommended, but he’s encouraging her. Both Tuesday and last night I was able to do the yoga in a very present way. A few times each night I was presently aware that I wasn’t being barraged with thoughts about things I need to get done, or other worries. That’s progress.
Even in the middle of this very tumultuous time I have been able to stay calm. I was even able to sit down and spent 20 minutes putting together these thoughts. They might seem a bit random but they are all connected. When one does many different things, those things start to intertwine in unusual ways. All of the work that I did, and do, to make “All The Rage” has been a powerful healing force for myself and others. It has also been a little frustrating in regards to just how hard it is to get it past all the gatekeepers in terms of health care and the film world. The same is true of the mall photos. As I left my mom’s place yesterday I got a note from a distributor, who declined to take on the book. Honestly, I felt no frustration or anger. I understood why it doesn’t work for them, but I also understand why it has value, so I knew that I just had to find ways of getting it to people. Last night I started that process by writing to several news outlets about the upcoming kickstarter.
I also continue to put in some time each day pushing our film forward. The fact that I talked to two people my age who were working with their parents to get them our film confirms on a deeper level that the film has enormous value. Still, as I talked on the phone with the print broker I checked the stats for our videos and saw that two people from a major public health conference that has a film component had watched about 10 percent of our film. It was clear that they won’t be showing it. I get it, they are health care people, and don’t understand why or how the film works as a kind of medicine. They have been trained to think in a completely different way. I think they are wrong, and that can be frustrating, but I won’t resist it, I’ll just step around and keep on trying to get it to people – one person at a time. Each day I deal with a dozen small rejections and every day I get a few small confirmations. I’ll bring my focus and attention to those confirmations and let those rejections float on past.