the slower awakening

Tomorrow, I will embark upon my 50th year (that means I’ll be 49, by the way): the last year of what theoretically could be classified as “the first half of my life” (although I have to admit here that the resident “optimistic cynic” in me says that every year). Considering the fact that I never really expected to make it past 25 years old, whatever age I turn is always kind of a weird thing for me. That particular shoe never dropped: the one I flirted with in various ways for the majority of those first 25 years years, but somehow managed to avoid. I never died, I mean. I am accustomed to living moment by moment. In those early days, it was a literal thing; I moved from impending doom to impending doom, just barely keeping my head low. And in my later years, I live from project to project, moment to moment in somewhat less dangerous terms, but incessant nonetheless. I’m not sure I truly know how to live peacefully; I can pull it off, but it’s mostly awkward, I think.

But, to be fair, while my life is still a little hectic, the scope of that activity is pretty much limited to working hours, kids, and the soccer fields, and all of these are largely self-contained. I leave work at work, most days, and since I don’t referee anymore, my time on the fields is no longer caught up in everyone else’s opinion about how well I, or some other be-whistled person, am performing. We play, we do our best, we leave. It’s recreational. I only get upset about the score if I didn’t do the things I’m supposed to do as a goalkeeper; otherwise, what matters about a game is largely the comradery and the exercise. I almost don’t even get mad anymore when we tie or lose to a team of children half our age or less, playing in our league because they weren’t the former top star 20/30-somethings that play in our upper adult leagues, and they don’t want to lose all the time. Yeah, it almost doesn’t bug me: games like last night, and I’m happy if I get a hand on it before it hits the net, let alone make saves. Some tie games are not case studies in mediocrity, at least.

So…yeah, my life is already slowing down: I measure time in 90-minute segments which occur only once or twice a week. But the concept of not working, not playing….not living. These thoughts are foreign to me. But then I look around and remember that I live alone.

That all having been said, it strikes even me as a little weird that one way I’m moving myself “forward” is to go back to some of my first “high resolution” digital photographs and reprocess them. And oh how I wish I’d had the software back then, that I have today. I’m certainly liking the results, and comparing them with what I’d done originally, (that is also a bit of comparing the difference between what I thought looked good then versus what I think looks good now) is also an interesting exercise. It’s also handy that working with these older files, since they’re smaller, is a more pleasant task just by virtue of the reduction of wait-state.

I missed the turning of the trees this fall, but I no longer get upset about that, especially not up here where life it still mostly a study in brown, even with the greenery out. We had an early cold snap, so there wasn’t a ton of color, locally; when we have an early cold snap, even the more colorful trees can wind up just dropping their leaves immediately, while everything else goes from green to brown in a matter of days. I’ve also been battling with the luckily-for-me more passive aspects of my anxiety and depression: the general lethargy and ennui that really have more to do with the mechanics of living alone than with those conditions themselves. I do what I can in that regard; the kids are frequent visitors. But it’s a fairly isolated life nonetheless, certain relatively unavoidable negative emotions were a bit high, and the motivation to go out and shoot wasn’t particularly immediate.

To mediate that, then: the photo work. I have dozens of images from as far back as 2002 that were never really processed for any variety of reasons, but primarily because I was doing all the shooting and editing when I worked for myself, so spending time on my personal photography became more of a chore. What? Me have bad attitude? This is where I failed at the stay-at-home dad gig, truth told. Whether it was work, or family, or things around the house, taking care of my own personal needs was naturally last on the list. I don’t regret that, really, and it’s certainly not meant as a comparative to what my ex-wife or any other parent puts out for their kids, but digging into these relics of a time when these few photos represent the rare moments that I managed to steal for myself (handfuls of portions of days across 2002 through 2009), is a reconnection with one of the oddest periods of my life. My anxiety was actually at its worst back then, but none of us understood that anxiety was a thing I possessed: I was just a bit (a lot?) unpredictable and overemotional. Through these windows into that self, I see that there is a sense of dread behind every photo from late 2003 and early 2004 (the impending move), and a sense of guilt and remorse behind almost every one since (the move was especially hard on my son, and the divorce was especially hard on my daughter).

So, it’s interesting (although sometimes disappointing, yes) to look back into the products of that version of myself, at this distance and at this deeper familiarity with the very things I feared were to come at the time. But maybe why that’s why I can view this as an interesting exercise and not have it terribly compounded by current things. I’ve already come to terms with the results of the move and the divorce: I’m living in the aftermath, the exactly likely, plausible, predictable future state that I dreaded in 2003 and ultimately made happen to its fullest extent in 2009. I live within the “it is what it is” which resulted from reactions to the fear of what it would be.

A window into how I think, if you care: All of that above means that the best thing I can do at this point, is actually do something worthwhile with those stolen moments of long ago, and turn them into something more than what I anticipated they’d ever be worth. Reprocessing them with today’s attitudes and perspectives is something that strikes me as more substantive even than taking them out, dusting them off, cleaning them up, polishing them, and returning them to the mantle. I don’t have a lot of physical mementos of my past; all I lack here is the visceral contact, but the meaning is so much more. Maybe it’s a weird approach, and maybe it’s not the kind of thing that other people identify with, but I can see it as a good thing to do throughout this, the last year of the first half of the rest of my life.

You still here? Heh… If you’re interested, my photography is available at I’ll be trickling these images out over the winter months.

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