Am I courageous?
I’m Pete Carr. I'm a photographer and this isn't a photography newsletter. This is a form of "Rubber Duck Debugging". Writing helps me process thoughts and work through problems. So I write to my computer about issues relating to mental health and being autistic. I then share it with you fine folk. There's nice photos too. 🖖
These photos are from the Llŷn Peninsula in Wales around the area of Abersoch.
The following is part 3 of 4 discussing anxiety.
“With courage nothing is impossible.” - Sir William Hillary, founder of the RNLI.
I recently heard this quote from a photographer I respect and admire called Jack Lowe during a talk they gave at the Northern Eye Photo Festival. The way they work takes courage. I'm a freelance photographer and I earn my money from commissions. However Jack is trying to make a living from a project by building an audience. No commissions just audience support. That definitely takes courage. It is possible according to the 1000 true fans idea but getting to that point by being that dedicated to one thing takes courage. I helped, in the little way that I could, by buying a keyring from them with this quote. The question is where do I need it most? My car keys? Every day wander bag? Work camera bag?
Upon sliding the keyring out the packaging I stared at the word "courage". I stared at it so hard it lost all meaning. Coo-rage - aggressive pigeon sounds? Core-age - your twenties? Cou-ra-gee? Is that elvish? What the hell is this thing "courage"? Do I put it in my tea or spread it on my toast? I checked Amazon who recommended the Cartoon Network classic 'Courage the cowardly dog'. I passed and checked ebay which recommended me 'Scooby Doo meets Courage the cowardly dog.' hmm Maybe I was going about this the wrong way. So I consulted a mythical being called the diction fairy. The one in Cambridge told me;
Courage: the ability to control your fear in a dangerous or difficult situation.
Fascinating. So with the ability to control your fear in a difficult situation nothing is impossible? OK so I have a tiny issue with the phrasing of "nothing is impossible" as that feels like it's setting me up for failure. "But I had courage! I HAD COURAGE!!! Why didn't the paper aeroplane carry me to New York?" Maybe simply, "courage helps"? Maybe... or maybe I'm missing the ambitious sentiment of the original quote that if you can control the fear then nothing is impossible. The quote isn't meant to be a hug it's meant to be rocket fuel, from a sustainable energy provider obvs.
A few hours after buying this keyring I saw a talk by photographer Brian Griffin who mentioned that they need to work without a net on photography jobs. As they got older and more confident as a photography they felt that they lost their edge. They needed anxiety to push them. I found this way of working really odd. I'm desperately trying to get away from anxiety. It makes me too stressed to think. That might be an autistic thing though. Anxiety doesn't really push me. Instead it drives me towards shutdown. Still, an interesting idea non-the-less.
Both these talks made me think back to the anxiety train I've been riding for a few weeks... months...years... lifetimes? A couple of weeks ago I pondered whether anxiety is something I will always have and something I need to get used to having. Could I be like Brain Griffen and control that anxiety to be able to work and even thrive? Is that possible? Is that courage? It can't be though because people are courageous when they run into a burning building, scale a mountain, or turning down paid jobs because you need to focus on a photography project. That takes courage. Me managing my anxiety takes a fleet of boats load of effort but not courage despite what the diction fairy said.
What if I'm wrong and I am actually being courageous on a daily basis? Is that my secret Cap? I'm always anxious and subsequently always courageous? Standing outside with my camera is me facing my social anxiety to some extent as I have to work in the public realm. Asking a stranger if I can collaborate for 5 minutes on a portrait because they look cool is anxiety inducing. Talking to someone I sort of know causes social anxiety. Taking a phone call causes anxiety. Most things I do cause it. If I'm always facing anxiety or fear then I'm always being courageous. If I'm always being courageous then nothing is impossible.
Huh. A wild epiphany appears.
All I need to do is teach myself to recognise that feeling is courage not anxiety. When I feel it I'm feeling my power. That's all I've got to do. Not impossible right? I'm courageous.
Or… maybe it is important to recognise anxiety as that is your brain telling you something. Maybe it’s bad to rebrand it as courage. Could this thinking lead to toxic positivity? Ignoring that there are bad things in our lives that are part of you and need to be addressed and instead just saying “yay courage feels woo!”
And/or... maybe this feeling is something I need to listen to as an autistic person and I’m continuing to be ableist from listening to abled neurotypical people? 🤷🏼
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Pam’s Jim Is CIA (she/her) on Twitter: "ADHD friends: what has helped you manage your life? Whether it’s meds, skills, tools, apps, whatever it is…I’m at the end of my rope and I’m fucking tired of feeling I don’t know how to steer my own ship."
Lissy Marlin on Twitter: "I'm used to talking very openly about my mental health journey, but I've been quite hesitant to share how I made it to my ADHD diagnosis as it was, without a doubt, the darkest time of my life. As if 2020 wasn't hard enough😩 #CosmicTakeOverhttps://t.co/RCa4FQeCoA"
“Be bold. Be brave. Be courageous.” Christopher Pike, Captain USS Discovery.
Thank you for taking the time to read this newsletter. I’ll be back. Feel free to subscribe or send to a friend.
I'm streaming photography in various forms on Twitch.tv/petecarr. Stream schedule is Tues/Wed/Fri at 7:30PM GMT and Monday at 2PM GMT. Photography focused but accessible. Friday is a look at art events I've photographed. You can also ask me about autism and there's cat cam too.