my cure for paralysis

In Community, contemplation
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I’ve never faced a blank page quite like the one that’s staring me down today. Even when I haven’t been shooting much (and for the record, I haven’t been lately) I have always had a swirling head full of ideas about photography, beauty, memory and observation that have allowed me to find my way to a post whenever my turn has come around on the rota for the five years we’ve been sharing here at Viewfinders. But this is no standard creative block, it’s more like paralysis. I have been struggling for days because I have absolutely no idea what I can share here right now that will be either of use or of interest, and I know from a query I sent to my fellow contributors, I’m not alone in this.

In truth, I’ve been mired in mental paralysis for a few months now. As someone with compromised immunity, the parent of a child with compromised immunity, and the child of a recuperating senior in need of assistance and companionship living on her own a few states away, my internal sense of navigation has been spinning loose and free since shortly after our stay-at-home orders were put in place in March. Do I stay put to best protect myself and my child, or do I go to my mother who needs my assistance and diversion more now than she ever has? If I go to help my mother, will I be able to safely return to my husband and kids?

The week before last things with my mother shifted. I felt I had no alternative but to leave my house for the first time since the world shuttered, head up I-95 to check in on and support  her for a while, regardless of the risks.

A quick message from a dear friend and fellow Viewfinder who knew of my ongoing dilemma and was checking in on me signed off with the encouragement to pack a camera and a book. The books were already in my suitcase, but I hadn’t given any thought to bringing a camera. This wasn’t going to be a trip for picture-making. Nevertheless there was something in her words that rang true. I brought a camera just in case.

I had long stretches of solitude after my patient retired for the evening. And a few times, without really thinking about it, I reached for that camera.

When the morning light and the setting sun cut golden angles through the house I know better than any I will ever know, I did it again. I have no idea when those photos will be developed, so my phone images stand in for them here.

I make sense of my world and my mind – sorrows, joy, and all of the in betweens with a camera. It steadies that internal compass, and helps me find my center. So how lucky I am to have wise, kind friends who know this and know me.

And so I’ll move through this mental paralysis the only way I know how. Keystroke by keystroke, photo by photo, decision by decision, forward.

Be well,


  1. You’ve hit on an essential truth. As big world troubles spin and swirl us, small world troubles do not go away. Whether it’s caring for an aging parent or homeschooling a child or wrestling with ongoing mental health or financial issues, life goes on. And it’s easy to get overwhelmed. But you have hit on the solution. Breath-by-breath, photo-by-photo, or in the beautiful words of Anne Lamott, bird-by-bird. We will be well.

  2. You’ve made beauty out of chaos, Debbie. I too am finding photography to be cathartic in these bizarre times. I was away but just read the many texts going back and forth..seems you followed your gut, always a wise decision. Beautiful images, beautiful words. xoxo

  3. It steadies my internal compass as well. Everything will go back to they way it was, I’m sure of that. In the meantime, keep taking your camera everywhere because it does help – I know for a fact. xo

  4. I’ve felt the same paralysis strike my own creativity and forced myself to sign up for an online cyanotype class and a year’s (!) membership to our local printmaking studio. “bird by bird” and print by print we move forward. Feeling a bit giddy as I have several of your posts to catch up on!

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