Sunday, May 10, 2009

Challenges and Rewards

(Click on the thumbnail for the bigger, better version)

Each time I complete one self-assignment, I come up with another one for myself. Not surprisingly, a number of these assignments are connected to the next show coming up June 5. It fascinates me that as soon as I wrap up one job, the act of completion seems to create a space that is then filled by two or three new projects. It’s as if the projects bear fruit, or a little like those wire coat hangers that would multiply in the closet. (By the way, have you noticed that the plastic ones are sterile? They break. Sometimes, they disappear to who-knows-where. But, they don’t multiply. Hmm. Another of those scientific mysteries.)

At any rate, I decided to reflect on tests and ventures that I can wrap my head around and leave coat hanger mysteries to someone with more expertise in the area of closet life. What I know is that every challenge taxes my physical strength and my capacity for facing the unknown. Inevitably, challenges present me with moments when I wonder if it is worth continuing through the stress. Quitting, or not even accepting the challenge in the first place, can be such a tempting alternative. Still, if I see it through to the end—whatever it is, there are always rewards. Even if no one else recognizes the benefits of my having completed the course, the satisfaction of following through is a reward in itself and there is no way to know where that experience will take me.

SoFoBoMo 2008 was such a test for me. The fact that I actually completed a project, then had the courage to post it online (rather than hiding it away and believing that I couldn’t find a way to get it online), was a triumph over doubts. And, that victory over myself has, in turn, led to more risk-taking with my photography.

Over and over in life, the lesson is there to be learned. One step (no matter how small) leads to the next, and that one to the next, and so on until, before long, we look back and see that we have traveled some distance, and that the journey has been filled with discoveries.

Having confronted my doubts in tackling SoFoBoMo last year opened up all sorts of doors for me. Since completing that project, I find that I listen to even more impulses to try new things. The doubts still nag, but their voices have been muted by the little successes along the way—and even by the failures. After all, once you fail, get up brush yourself off and discover that there are no permanent bruises, the next risk isn’t so daunting.

There is no doubt that I will complete my SoFoBoMo 2009 project—somehow, some way. No matter how woefully behind I am this year, I will get it done. After all, I wouldn’t want to miss any steps in my journey.

P.S. That mountain just peeking above the clouds is our Bear Mountain and on the other side of the mountain is home. A trip to Bakersfield last Tuesday gave us an opportunity to enjoy this view.


  1. Anita, I appreciated and enjoyed reading your thoughts and experiences with challenge and rewards--the path shared is the path less lonely.

    In my own experience some "lessons learned" have only been recognized much later. In the moment, I've been too close, too emotional or too enamored with my own stories to see the bigger and clearer picture. With age and time I like to think I've gained a bit of wisdom in that regard--at least that's my new story.

    Where I try and stay grounded is by remembering daily that there are so many in this world who struggle for their very survival--my own challenges are trivial and sometimes I'm ashamed for the importance I place upon them.

  2. Oh, Earl, I was just thinking yesterday how blessed I am to be "struggling" with "challenges" that don't determine my very survival. By the way, I almost always recognize the lesson later—sometimes much later. Just slow, I suppose.

  3. Well, Anita: As they say, nothing succeeds like success. So many times we talk ourselves out of doing something because we believe that we cannot do it or don't have the time to do it. I'm a champion at this and struggle with my own self-limiting beliefs ... a lot.

    It is so encouraging to see you doing well with your shows and your endeavors in general. There are, in my opinion, no such things as failures, unless you failed to try. Seriously. They are simply successful lessons learned on the way to finding 'a way' to do something. There are so many ways to something ... you remember the phrase about skinning cats! :-)

  4. Paul - It fascinates me that while each of us knows full well how much we struggle, we imagine that everyone else sails through with never a doubt or fear. I find it a never-ending curiosity.

    I agree about so-called "failures". How can we move forward if we expect never to adjust our course?

  5. "I agree about so-called "failures". How can we move forward if we expect never to adjust our course?"

    I love the balance of life, too. How can we enjoy the sunshine if we have never known rain? How can we enjoy the rain if we have never known of a drought. There is no success without the feeling of 'failure'. yin/yang balance. I love it! :-)

  6. Paul - Amen to your point. Balance in all things—as difficult as walking a tightrope, but the big secret, right?


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