Musical Interlude: Neunundneunzig Luftballons (99 Red Balloons)

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Have you ever really listened to 99 Luftballoons? The entire city laid to waste over some red balloons?

Here’s a link to the lyrics in English

Essentially, the song’s about a misunderstanding about someone releasing a bunch of balloons, which turned into a military attack. This hooky German song is remarkably pointed even today, with the increased paranoia about terror attacks. How something so innocent and banal could be trigger aggression when the emotional climate in which we live is so taut with tension.

There’s a great cover of this song by Goldfinger, which I really enjoy. It comes up on my Pandora station often, and usually at the end of the day. And, while I liken my departure from work to be not unlike being released like so many red balloons, I’m hoping that my departure doesn’t result in being shot down by extreme military force.

 

Why I don’t.

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So, I feel like I should address something that you might be wondering if you’re a new reader to the Saurus. I talk a lot about my family and post pictures, but none of myself or my family. And while, in this electronic age of constant visual access to people’s lives, of Facebook, Instagram and what have you, I don’t post so much as a thumbnail of the doings transpiring. Why?

As some of you may be aware, I am estranged from my family and images publicly available on the Internet would find their way into their hands. So, we live our lives on a sort of privacy lockdown. That’s not to say that it’s impossible to find images because they exist, but my privacy is important. To protect my family is to shield my son of some painful experiences, even if it’s only witnessing what it does to me.

Lemony Snickets series of unfortunate events says (regarding the loss of a loved one) “If you have ever lost someone very important to you, then you already know how it feels, and if you haven’t, you cannot possibly imagine it.”  And I think that’s also true of this. If you’re family is good and healthy, you can’t possibly imagine what a damaged home feels like. But those who have been there know and truly understand.

Family portrait: results

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The family photos were delivered on the longer side of the promised estimate. However the promised disk never did arrive. I was able to view the images online first, with watermark to prevent downloads. I was surprised at some, and happy with others. For example, he included some lovely candids, which were truly beautiful and no less than two of my son crying.

I think that a good children’s photographer should be more engaged with the children, rather than relying on the adults who are also posing, to produce the desired outcome. I am pleased with the shoot overall, but may hesitate before dropping that kind of money in lieu of a portrait studio.

I will still use them for the holiday photos. There’s some really sweet moments. I forget how exhausting events like this can be. It does make me anxious to try out the camera again.

Upward

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For those of you who are regular readers of my blog, it’s not exactly a secret that I struggle with depression. So much of my life is affected by it, in spite of my continued efforts to be well, cope and recover. I think I feel it most heavily in the fall months, as the daylight fades sooner, the weather turns colder and the impending holiday season presses heavier on my already taxed heart.

I wish I could say it gets easier with time, but it doesn’t. Like parenting, as some of the wiser people I’ve talked to say, it just gets different. My coping skills aren’t the best, I fixate on things that I can’t change, trying to will certain things into existence that just simply won’t be. I lament my inability to change the things I want to, languishing in the angst beyond the point where it’s healthy. But I am becoming more aware of this pattern of behavior, and in acknowledging it, it is easier to loosen the grip and let it go.

In addictions counseling, the theory goes that people must hit “rock bottom” in order to truly begin to recover. I’ve bottomed out a few times in my life, and I will say that recovering from mental illness is never as simple as that. Each day is a struggle. Some days are good, some are walking on fire. The problem I encounter is that I must recover alone, because no one can get into my head to fix it for me, nor would I want to wish that nightmare on anyone.

Part of working through one’s issues is the constant need for self-examination, reflection and understanding. I lean heavily on the Buddhist philosophy of the four immeasurables: Loving Kindness, Compassion, Appreciative Joy, and Equanimity. It is through these principles that I work to extinguish my sense of self, the root of my suffering, and to simply be present in the moment, to practice love, compassion and acknowledgement of all things around me, and in doing so, find enlightenment and oneness with the universe.

The struggle is constant, awareness is dire, and the biting sadness and emptiness is ever-present. The point of my recovery that I’m working hard to understand is whether I feel worthy of mental well-being, love, and friendship. Most of my life, I’ve spent feeling unworthy, subhuman, and alone. The small beginnings of worth that manifested in the past have always been reliant on the way others regarded me. The trick I must learn is to value myself for myself, for in doing so, I hope to no longer rely on the opinions of others for my worth.

Photo Friday – Spain

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Happy Foto Friday, Everyone! Today we begin a new series of photos taken while my husband and I were on a cruise of the Mediterranean. These were photos taken during our day trip to Valencia, which was the last leg of our tour before returning to Barcelona, the airport and then home. Enjoy!

Early morning, there’s practically no one around. Very peaceful.

 

Down the drain

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Back in the day, I used to be a portrait photographer. It was a side business, but one that kept me very busy. My client base was steadily increasing when some stuff hit the fan, and I got really turned off by the ugly side of customer service and, frankly, humanity. Because the work was so time intensive and the payoff not that great, even after doubling my prices, I began to wear out.

I took a hiatus from shooting, and only recently fell back in love with the work. So, after testing the waters for my own family’s portraiture at the local portrait studio, I thought I would try something different. I wanted to get some outdoor family shots, on a nice fall day for our holiday cards.

I did some web research and found a reasonably priced gentleman, whose work seemed to fit what I was looking for. We picked a Saturday in mid-October, and met at the historic area of New Castle, Delaware. It was a location I knew I liked, but also one I’d actually taken many photos of myself, both for my own use and for portrait sessions I’d been hired to do.

Though my son had been a pro at previous photo sessions, this was not the day he would comply. He clung to me with a death grip for the entire shoot. He fussed the entire time and refused to engage with or even look at the photographer. As the time wore on, I came to understand that any hope I’d had of a respectable and usable portrait was just not going to happen. By the end, I was exhausted and near tears. And, since the work was already done, I had to pay for the session. I haven’t yet seen the images, but I can’t imagine there’s much to salvage from the day. I’m just devastated.

Fierce Grace

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In college, I studied psychology. Although I don’t regret a single course I took, because I learned so much about the human condition, I decided not to pursue it as a career when I graduated. I still come back to the things I learned as an undergrad. One particular experience that truly shaped me as a person was a weekend course I took called “Spirituality and Wellness.”

The class ran over a series of weekends, which was an ideal way for a young person like me to nail down another credit in my major rather quickly. The professor was from the religion department, and I had taken several other classes he’d given, including the seminar on Buddhism, which also rocked my mental world and forever shaped my outlook on life.

The weekend course was equally great, particularly the documentary video called Fierce Grace we were shown part of. The class felt so strongly about how moving the documentary was that we asked to watch it in its entirety. I’d highly recommend watching it, if you get a chance.

During the video, they talk about a letter the subject of the documentary, Ram Dass, sent to a couple who’s daughter was murdered. The letter, which the mother tearfully reads, has stayed with me all these years.

Dear Steve and Anita,

Rachel finished her work on earth, and left the stage in a manner that leaves those of us left behind with a cry of agony in our hearts, as the fragile thread of our faith is dealt with so violently. Is anyone strong enough to stay conscious through such teaching as you are receiving? Probably very few. And even they would only have a whisper of equanimity and peace amidst the screaming trumpets of their rage, grief, horror and desolation.

I can’t assuage your pain with any words, nor should I. For your pain is Rachel’s legacy to you. Not that she or I would inflict such pain by choice, but there it is. And it must burn its purifying way to completion. For something in you dies when you bear the unbearable, and it is only in that dark night of the soul that you are prepared to see as God sees, and to love as God loves.

Now is the time to let your grief find expression. No false strength. Now is the time to sit quietly and speak to Rachel, and thank her for being with you these few years, and encourage her to go on with whatever her work is, knowing that you will grow in compassion and wisdom from this experience.

In my heart, I know that you and she will meet again and again, and recognize the many ways in which you have known each other. And when you meet you will know, in a flash, what now it is not given to you to know: Why this had to be the way it was.

Our rational minds can never understand what has happened, but our hearts– if we can keep them open to God – will find their own intuitive way. Rachel came through you to do her work on earth, which includes her manner of death. Now her soul is free, and the love that you can share with her is invulnerable to the winds of changing time and space. In that deep love, include me.

In love,
Ram Dass

Regular readers of my blog know that I’m not religious, although I try to understand my place in the world knowing there must be something bigger than me out there. It just isn’t something I can connect with, in spite of my efforts. However, if I ever got close to it, it is through reading this letter that I understand everything.

Foto Friday – Storm Clouds

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Happy Foto Friday, everyone! Today we conclude our cloud series. The very first thing that I began to photograph obsessively when I first got into photography was the sky. I was obsessed. After a while, though, I branched out into other things. But recently, a summer storm whipped through and in the early evening the sun was setting as the sky cleared. I stood out on my deck and shot these as the sky lit up like fire. We’ll start a new series next week! Enjoy!

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