Take the Damn Picture
I spent this morning agonizing over whether or not to share a video from last weekend. It’s a video that depicts me doing something I love (and doing it relatively well), surrounded by people I enjoy. In the grand scheme of things, it’s a few seconds of a great weekend.
But...well...I look fat.
I’ve been shooting “competitively” (i.e. going to matches, ultimately I’m only competing with myself) for about 4 years now. And I have never participated in a match that I didn’t leave happy. Whether it was due to the unbelievable camaraderie, achieving some goal or surpassing a previous performance mark, or the simple unadulterated therapeutic pleasure of time on the trigger, I love being on the range. But I refused to allow anyone to record me while I was shooting, which is a very common practice among shooters for one of two reasons: either for social media content or for the inherent training value of being able to review your performance after the fact. I, however, had no desire to see what I looked like while shooting.
This has been a quintessential element of what I am now calling my “Ostrich Phase” - as in shove your head in the sand and the unpleasant stuff doesn’t exist, right?! I stopped taking pictures...or if I did take them I certainly didn’t share them. I stopped recording special moments because I was ashamed, embarrassed and even *disgusted* (man...talk about a harsh word) by what I saw.
And then a recent phone meltdown caused me to lose six months worth of pictures, including every image I had of our work in the aftermath of Hurricane Florence, Hurricane Michael, and the California wildfires. More importantly, I lost the last picture I had with a friend of mine who committed suicide shortly after the picture was taken. And again, I didn’t like the way I looked in that picture, so I’d never shared it. There was no getting it back. And I am heartbroken by that loss.
Another reason I’ve recently acknowledged that it is important for me to have evidence of these memories is that I have what is known as Mild Traumatic Brain Injury or mTBI, my little souvenir from the good old days running the friendly highways and byways of Iraq. Please understand that I have a very mild case and don’t face a fraction of the challenges that many of my friends and colleagues do, but the two primary symptoms I experience are basically a form of ADD and difficulty with memory recall. In the process of undergoing neuro-cognitive therapy at the VA I was introduced to a method for overcoming this small deficiency in my brain, which involves keeping/organizing various reminders of events, including mementos with brief identifying notes and photos labeled with names and dates. As I began to sort through some of the things I do have I came to realize that I have substantial gaps throughout the course of the nearly five years since I left the military. Though I do remember much of what occurred, I’m saddened by the loss of detail because I feel like that equates to a loss of the valuable lessons, experiences, and interactions I had during those periods.
And so I have resolved to start taking the pictures, recording the video and (as evidenced through this blog project) sharing the experiences - the good, the bad, and the ugly. And I encourage you - no, I beseech you - to do the same Because it’s a criminal shame to allow our own insecurities to keep us from fully experiencing - and REMEMBERING - what life has to offer. The basic truth is that nobody will ever think as critically about me as I think about and talk to myself. And even if they do - that’s alright. If I’m feeling strong that day I’ll brush off their opinions and go about my business. If I’m not feeling so strong then I’ll spiral down the rabbit hole of self-doubt and question insignificant details and manically seek defensive arguments and justifications that negate whatever comment or judgment burrowed into my consciousness...but you know what? That’s ok, too, because like Alice, every time I’ve gone down that rabbit hole, I’ve found my way back.
So after all of that, I’ve decided to summon the courage to share a 20-second video. I’ll watch this video, and the others, to evaluate the ways in which I could have improved my performance - less time focused on close targets, for instance - and instead of cringing and being embarrassed by something that I don’t like the look of, I will do my best to turn those potentially negative feelings into motivation that continues to push me to achieve my goals.
I’m guessing that I’m not the only one who struggles with this type of internal turmoil when it comes the things I love the least about myself. I wish I could tell you that I’ve figured out the magic pill, the 10-word answer that will change your life. But, of course, I haven’t. The only thing I know for sure is that it’s not worth shying away from the experiences or sacrificing the memories. Trust me. You’ll never get those moments back.