Life force

Flowers and trees / Still Life
  • ISO: 400
  • Shutter: 1/80 sec
  • Camera: NIKON D80
An orange chrysanthemum is pictured on black in this studio photograph. (Photo by Carmen K. Sisson/Cloudybright) (Carmen K. Sisson/Cloudybright)

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Northport, Alabama

So this is me, slowly trying to come back to life creatively after a long — too long — hiatus from photography.

It’s a good place to begin anew. If the early years were the dark side of CloudyBright, perhaps the remaining years will be the light. Churchill’s “black dog” still chases me relentlessly. I doubt that will ever change. I like to say that antidepressants help, that antidepressants make it possible for me to be more productive, more “together,” but sitting at my desk every night, I know this isn’t true.

I’ve learned what perhaps other people have known all along: You get out of life exactly what you put into it. Some days, like today, it takes such an unbelievable effort to slog through the malaise. There was a time when getting out of bed and putting on my clothes was the most I expected from myself, and even then I didn’t always succeed. I rarely, if ever, cut myself that slack anymore. I can’t afford to, not for longer than a few hours. If I let it, it would suck me in, drag me into a spiral I’ve fought hard to destroy.

So instead, every night I take fingers to keys and think over my day, examine how it went wrong and where it went right. I think about what my goals are for tomorrow — not what I want to do, but how I want to live. Who I want to be. What I need to do to get where I want to go. I use that list for the next days’ blueprint. I make concrete actions on my calendar with an astounding amount of geeky “action agendas” a la the GTD, or Getting Things Done system, of which I’m an unabashed fan.

The CliffsNotes summary is this: Do what’s next, which usually translates into very small, very doable actions. Not vague “goals” masquerading as intentions like, “Get serious about photography again.” Not looking as far ahead as, “Post to CloudyBright tonight.” First the subject must be chosen. Then the camera battery must be found and charged. The lights and backdrop have to be set up. The subject has to be placed. Ad infinitum. There are a million small detours where goals can veer into somedays. I’ve met them all.

I’m ashamed to admit how often I depend on my daily, hourly, by-the-minute flight plan to keep myself moving forward. I don’t think other people have to do this; I no longer care; it works for me. It offers a concrete way to analyze my trajectory each night, to look at how I spent the previous 12 hours and ask myself honestly if I achieved what I set out in the previous night’s analysis to achieve. Every Sunday, I review the list I made on New Year’s Eve, the things I think need to happen over the next 12 months and ask myself what can be done in the upcoming week to further that agenda. I keep columns of “this week,” “this month,” “this quarter,” “this year.”

If it sounds painstakingly thorough, maddeningly precise, incredibly dull, and majorly obsessive, it’s all of those things and none of them. It’s a forced push towards self-betterment, a Type A over-achiever’s fierce determination to be what I know I have the potential to become. I don’t have time for failure, on a personal or professional level. It’s not what’s next.

Music: Riot by Three Days Grace (lyrics)


About the image

An orange chrysanthemum is pictured on black in this studio photograph. (Photo by Carmen K. Sisson/Cloudybright) 

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