If you’ve spent any time in a therapist’s office, you’ve probably heard about self-care… which is what, exactly?
Well, there’s really no single, solid definition.
Just think about those activities you engage in on your free time, without being asked. How do you extinguish your time when all your irksome adult responsibilities have sunk beneath the horizon? (If only for a day). What activities give you a sense of fulfillment?
Simple as that.
For me, I burn away sunny afternoons wandering the streets of Denver with my camera hanging from my neck, immersed in the vigorous chaos that promises never to be boring. I hike on serpentine trails engulfed in the smell of pine, well beyond the city’s frantic stretch.
The camera keeps me grounded in the present, forcing me to listen with my eyes. To be mindful. It’s only recently that I’ve truly understood the words of the late, great Bob Ross: “Beauty is everywhere.”
And this is true, even with depression, a chimera that seems to suck away all color in life. This is true, even with anxiety, a chimera that shakes the base of the skull with fear in the face of a future submersed in an impenetrable fog.
Black and white photography demonstrates that beauty flourishes even when the color is absent. Photography itself lifts our feet from the ground of quaking apprehension, capturing a thin slice of time to remind us that now is the only reality, resting between faded memories and mirages of tomorrow.
Art is mindful self-care, whether expressed through music, paint, or one’s own body in dance. So draw with charcoal your own perspective of the world we inhabit. Read the masters of the printed page. Jump online and paint a painting with Bob Ross!
Self-care isn’t about fighting depression or drinking to numb the senses (an activity I’ve indulged in many, many times). It’s simply rethinking how the mind reacts to the presence of these chimeras causing such havoc in the head.
By refusing (if only for a day) to engage in the duel, I regain my own mental equilibrium. I finally get the rest I need to duel it out again with the chimera in the therapist’s office or on those sleepless nights buried beneath uncertainty and worry.
So between (and sometimes during) those weary and bloody mêlées, I purposely leave the battlefield by walking through the camera lens. “I’ll deal with you two tomorrow,” I say to the chimeras in my mind, shaking my finger vigorously.
“I’m escaping this silly game we play to take some photographs of downtown Denver. Maybe go for a walk around Wash Park. Maybe eat a slice of pizza topped with four different cheeses. Self-care is not so clearly defined, you know.”
What hope does depression or anxiety have in the face of someone who doesn’t take their monstrous presence so seriously?
Container for Memories
I lift my boot and step inside
Feet landing firmly on the front door
Lying flat and motionless on the foyer floor
A breeze kicks up the dust in clouds of white
Plaster as powder filling the air
Filling my lungs
I cover my mouth and squint into the shadows of long hallways
Cracked bricks knocking against the soles of my boots
My cough echoes off the surface of bare walls
Empty walls punctuated with holes left by the heads of angry sledgehammers
One leans alone and inert against the spiral staircase
The wooden handle broken in half
My leg falls through the fourth stair
The brass railing shaking violently as I catch my balance
Wings flail by my wide eyes in a flash of glossy, black feathers
I clear my throat of dust and spit over the edge
Sunlight spills into the second floor
Falling through two vacant windows
Shards of glass glistening in the sunlight
My skin now warm against the silent shadows surrounding me
This mansion of memories
Partially absorbed into the ground
But the memories remain
Hidden deep beneath the surface of blank walls
Deep beneath the surface of a blank stare
The eyes looking inward
Into the container for memories
Photographs and Word Scribbles copyright Mike Yost 2017