What’s In The Bag?

Heathrow Airport Arrival 2013

Coming home is particularly sweet after an extended time away.

There’s the obvious happiness of seeing my husband John waiting for me, and the ahhh feeling I get when the plane lands safely and I make it through customs and immigration, but this time has been different and I have been trying to figure out why.

I recently returned from a ten-week stay in the US and have been a bit overwhelmed since my arrival a little over a week ago.

I hear you thinking, What do you mean overwhelmed … how long can it take to unpack your bags and settle back into your routine?

Sometimes, it’s not about the stuff in the bags.

As you can see I am pushing a very full luggage cart and it’s not the first time I have arrived from an international flight looking like a smiling beast of burden. This collection of suitcases is fairly light compared some of my past Heathrow and Gatwick arrivals. Due to decreasing weight allowances, but increasing checked baggage costs, I tend to travel lighter on my trips between what I think of as my two homes.

Except this time.

This time the extra bag I checked carried some favorite product brands I can’t get in the UK along with some new clothes and other things I have needed for a while.

Needed might be questionable, but …

I tend to be a big charity store shopper with Salvation Army, Goodwill, and second-hand shops being my ‘go to’ places. This does not mean I don’t buy new, but when I do I tend stick to the sale section. Thrifty shopping can be just as bad as spending too much on new, a lesson my normally bulging closet would illustrate had its contents not been recently whittled down.

Thursday, John and I took seven huge garbage bags filled with clothing to a local charity shop along with several bags of barely worn shoes and two big boxes of books. I think I struggled more deciding which books to give away than I did with clothes and now after looking at my bookshelves and wardrobe more critically, I have decided to go back through and do another purge.

Remember when I said it’s not always about the stuff earlier …

I have been working on multiple parts of the house since I got home, clearing away clutter and organizing what is left. I have even been in the attic going through boxes and throwing out or giving away things while doing a total overhaul of what is allowed to stay. I’ve emptied a wardrobe and a too-full dresser in the guest room and I’ve reorganized other parts of the house as well even giving away loads of my books that were cluttering John’s study, but what I haven’t done is finish tidying up my studio space.

Studio sounds a bit grand for what I do there, but it is my creative get-away space and where I do most of my writing and photography work. It also doubles as my dressing room and has an en suite bathroom attached to it both of which have been an absolute tip (trash site) since I arrived ten days ago. I left it very tidy when I flew to the US in early July, but with the big clear out over the last week things have fallen into a bit of state.

Looking at it feels overwhelming and I have been finding ways to avoid slogging through what’s left to finish it off.

I decided to take a look at how my need for perfection keeps me from getting more done creatively after reading this post by Nadia Eghbal titled  Why I Wore The Same Outfit Everyday For A Year.  As good writers and bloggers will often do, she got me thinking.

Sure I can clean like I’m still in the Army getting ready for an inspection, or make a time-consuming special something _________ insert what ever suits you here, but be sure it’s something that could use a bit more of this, or a touch of that because that’s what my rarely satisfied self would do with something I make.

I could say I’m only nesting with all this clearing and decluttering, making room for the birth of some semi-new blog or book idea, or even some business daydream that can travel with us when John and I pack up and go and some of that would be true, but I have to wonder if there’s not something bigger underlying my need to restrict and control disorder in my environment to the extent that it distracts me from other parts of my life needing attention.

I’m not going to spend any more time mulling that one over as I do better when I make a decision and move on. With that in mind, I am committing to tossing a few extra things into my partially full give-away bag.

I am willing to begin by dropping in my perfectionist tendencies along with a too tight sweater and a dress that’s really a little young for me. Then there’s that old comparison rag where I tend to judge my work against that of others. Yep, that’s going too.

That will do for me for now, but what about you?

If you’ve got something you want to get rid of, something that’s keeping you stuck or distracting you from your next best thing, feel free to leave it behind in a comment.

Go ahead, I’ll bag it up and dispose of it for you.

Because you know I do like a tidy work space, and I’m already going that way.

Defining Moments – Giving Up The Gold

Defining Moments

Having found a box and bought packing supplies, I found it slightly ironic that when I began to pack up most of my photography equipment to send off to sell, ‘Defining Moments,’ were the words that came to mind.

Perhaps it was a subtle whisper from the ghost of Alfred Eisenstadet.

While not a picture perfect moment, it was a defining one for me. I’ve been holding on to an idea of who I am that no longer fits me. I wrote about this in detail a few weeks ago when I gave you a look at some of the images from weddings I’ve photographed in the past.

Wedding photography as a career no longer suits my lifestyle. That doesn’t mean leaving it behind is painless and it’s about more than the just the idea of losing money on expensive equipment.

I love the energy of a wedding day shoot and the private access it gives me to the stories of the people involved. There’s a thrill that comes from knowing you have an almost open invitation to discreetly document the moments they might not remember until later when they see your work.

I may miss the excitement of wedding day drama, but the business side of it leaves me cold and life passes too quickly to waste time doing things that don’t give back enough to support your passion. I always hated when potential clients wanted haggle over my fees as if we were at the corner market buying and selling fruit. It felt demeaning to us both.

As I was going through my camera gear making decisions about what needed to go, I had everything laid out on a low table in our living room and could see just how much I’d invested over the years. I mentally added up the cost of certain pieces as I picked up a camera with my favorite lens still attached, but it was the weighty feel of it in my hands rather than the money that made me pause as I considered how once it was gone, I was unlikely to ever hold one so substantial again.

I took off the lens cap and looked through the viewfinder and had a serious heart pang at the thought of letting it all go. It’s a lot of money I thought, maybe I should just hang on to this one camera and lens, maybe I could use it for …

After loads of internal dialogue, I replayed the logical reasons why I didn’t need this equipment if I wasn’t doing professional work, but it was the memory of a story I’d heard that reassured me that I was doing the right thing by selling it all now.

Hoarding Your Gold

Most of us have things like this in our lives, they hang around taking up space long after we’ve moved on. I told John that seeing the money-making tools my photography life laid out for me to touch felt a bit like the story of the miser who kept his gold under the floorboards of his house. I can’t remember the details, but what came to mind was the image of the miser up late at night when everyone was asleep, taking out his gold and counting it while admiring its beauty and imagining all the things he could buy with his fortune.

The problem was he never spent it, never shared it, and died with it still hidden under floor.

My camera equipment has been like that for a while … safely tucked away, but not being used. While it was here, there was room for ambiguity about the future, at least with regard to one area of my life. Giving up ‘my gold’ may seem like I’m closing a door on photography, but I’ve got another idea more suited to the life I’m constantly creating.

I’ve been using a camera for over forty years and that’s not going to change. I like shooting on the fly so my gear will likely stay small from now on. It’s funny to see echos of my current style in this playground snap taken when I was ten. It’s one of the few pictures I still have taken with my first camera.

I do love the action shot!

Speaking of action shots, I took this one a few minutes ago. With the exception of a few items, that’s my professional photo life all wrapped up tight and tidy in a box … next stop MPB Photographic. Here’s hoping someone out there finds a good use for my gear.

I’ve still got what I need for now.

“The camera doesn’t make a bit of difference. All of them can record what you are seeing. But, you have to SEE “

Ernst Haas