Photography as Therapy

Taking pictures is savouring life intensely, every hundredth of a second. ~ Marc Riboud

This quote clearly captures what photography has done for me since my diagnosis of Breast Cancer, two years ago. I believe that when faced with a life-threatening illness, you can either try to make the most of life, “savouring it intensely,” or you can feel sorry for yourself and be miserable. I have chosen to live my life to the fullest.

I have always loved taking pictures. From as far back as my early days in school, I would constantly capture with my camera, any subject which intrigued me. My love for photography travelled with me on family vacations, special occasions, to university and back home upon graduation. The births of my daughters years later, provided an excuse to whip out the camera and chronicle their every waking moment (to their annoyance and dismay) and they were relieved when I would become absorbed in capturing nature or events, deflecting my camera’s focus from them.

I believe that being an avid amateur photographer over the years has transformed my vision. I automatically frame scenes in my head before looking through the camera lens and then capture what I have seen with the camera. My technical skills may not be up to par, but for me conveying emotion through my lens can be as important as technique. I am constantly learning.

After I was diagnosed with breast cancer two years ago, I found myself pursuing things I loved: hiking, visiting new places…and photography. If I had to choose only one area as the subject for my camera lens, it would be nature. Beauty that we see every day in a sunrise or sunset, in waves crashing on shore or the vibrancy of a newly-hued bloom, compel me to capture each and every moment. However that is not enough if I am the only person who sees them. It is more important for me to share with others so they too can appreciate the beauty of the moment.

I experience what I call my “photographer’s high” when the sun peeps over the mountains, and the early morning sky morphs into a range of hues that are as fleeting as a breath of air, but no less wondrous in its brevity. It is at times like these I know that I am blessed and I have no thoughts of gloom or impending death.

Everyday occurrences such as the fisherman tossing his net in the water, and women washing clothes at the riverside while their children splash in the river, are transformed from being mundane tasks to intriguing slices of life which can define a nation’s core. I also have a fascination with graves and graveyards, not because I am eager to join their residents, but because there are so many “buried” stories waiting to be unearthed.

It is in capturing moments through the camera’s lens, I am filled with comfort and purpose, leaving no room for self-pity and despair. There are far too many treasures out there that I have not yet seen…or shared.

Don’t worry…be happy.

Worrying works. 99 percent of the things you worry about, never happen. ~ Unknown

One of my greatest fears is public speaking. Every time I am askedPart of the 2015 Cheltenham Festival crowd. Bumper crowds are on course to top the record of 237,000 to address a public gathering, my heart races, my sweat glands become overactive, and I remain in perpetual terror until the event passes and my heart rate can return to normal. I do not know anyone who has actually passed out while speaking in front of an audience, yet I am convinced each time that I may be the first to do so.

After living with a potentially fatal illness for the past two years, I have realized that standing up and speaking before an audience is not the worst thing that could happen. Recently I decided to share my story with my church family (at least 200 persons) during Sunday morning service. I simultaneously prepared and agonized for days in advance, but the time came and guess what? I survived! In fact I was overwhelmed by the positive responses I received from people who were in the audience, not only after the service but for several days following…in the supermarket, my neighborhood and even in the restaurant I sometimes buy lunch.

We tend to spend time agonizing about things over which we really have no control, however the best approach may be to pray, face our fears head-on, and then move on.

My next challenge:Colbeck Castle (3)
I have accepted an invitation to speak to a photography group about using photography as therapy. Will my heart race…my sweat glands become overactive…will I be in perpetual terror until the day passes? Probably. But maybe to a lesser extent than before.

Overcoming Obstacles: Give up…or Get up?

“Obstacles are like steps, when you overcome them, you go higher.” ~ Terry Mark

Sticking to any diet and exercise plan is never easy.  There were many times I would feel that trying to be fit and healthy was too hard.

It was hard to stick to my diet when people would be having their cake and eating it too…right in front of me.

It was hard to get up before 5am to exercise when everyone else in my house was fast asleep.

It was hard to go to a restaurant and order chicken broth, salad with no fat (or low fat) dressing along with a glass of water, when the rest of the table was indulging in rice and peas and fried chicken, doused in gravy.

And it was hard to spend an hour on meal preparation for the next day when I could be on the couch watching “Scandal” or doing some online shopping for things I wouldn’t really be using anyway.

I remained motivated by doing several things:

  • Focused on my REASON: I kept my photos when I weighed the most nearby, so I would remember why I was doing this in the first place;

    fat face pic
    Mrs H Funeral group - edited

  • Set a series of small GOALS: (such as fitting into a dress one size smaller), then rewarding myself (buying a dress in the new smaller size) when achieving each goal;

    Sunset Beach Vacation 112

  • Focused on the REWARD: As I grew to love exercise, my reward could actually be an extra half hour at the gym (which helped me to reach my ultimate goal. 🙂 )
    image1

The most important thing to remember is that a setback doesn’t need to be permanent. Family and friends provided core support during some of my weakest moments. So, find and build your support system, which will make your journey an easier one.

Would you prefer to give up…or get up?

Why I Run.

Running is the greatest metaphor for life, because you get out of it, what you put into it. ~ Oprah Winfrey

One of the misconceptions people have about me, is that I have always been an active person. Nothing could be further from the truth. In high school although I may have been slim, that had nothing to do with me participating in any form of sports. In fact I skipped Physical Education for an entire term because I was inadvertently left off the attendance register. Once I realised the omission, I did not return to class, a fact which was reflected on my Report Card with a tersely written: Carla has not attended PE class this term.

So when people think that I was always a runner, Nothing could be further from the truth.

When I began my weight loss journey, I started with walking because that was the only thing I could do without feeling like I was about to suffer a heart attack. As I began to lose weight, I started running. To my surprise, one day I realised that not only had I stopped thinking it was undue torture, but I actually began to enjoy it.

 Tru Juice 2016

 

I love running for several reasons:

1. Running is not dependent on the availability of anyone else. It is something I can do on my own, and not have to wait until someone else can do it with me. If it rains, I can run on a treadmill.

2. Running is a great stress reliever. I enjoy listening to music while running, which also has a very calming effect on me.

3. Running helps me get organized. I run early in the morning so I use that time to plan my activities for the day. Since I run early, no other activity can derail me.

4. Running allows me to experience the wonders of nature. I have been blessed to see some of the most beautiful sunrises at the end of a morning run.

 

5. Running results in weight loss (assuming you are not eating copious amounts of food after a run.)

6. Running also increases my level of endurance. When I started to run, I could barely run for a minute without gasping for breath. Now I am able to run a 10k non stop, with energy to spare. My next goal is to run a half marathon before the end of the year.

 

When I started running 5K road races, I discovered a whole new world where people looked forward to the social interaction of like-minded persons who loved early morning runs that were over before the sun began to peek over the mountains;

who ran even though (as a friend of mine would say) no one was chasing them;

who knew that it wasn’t enough just to cross the finish line…precious minutes or even seconds had to be cut off the time for the previous run;

for whom a bib was not what your infant wore while eating to protect clothing, and most importantly…

who knew that chip timing had nothing to do with how quickly you consumed that bag of Lays Sour Cream & Onion potato chips.

Running - Hope Gdns

It is also very rewarding to bring home some racing bling.

dsc_0654

Running is not for everyone, so my advice is to find an activity that you like to do, whether it is swimming, badminton, tennis or trampoline jumping, and create your own goals to achieve. The health and emotional benefits will be well worth your effort.

On your mark. Get set…