The latest episode of our HE SHOOTS, HE DRAWS podcast is LIVE and in this episode I explain some recent events that have made a massive impact on my life and all because of photography and one word … Forgiveness.
You can check out the podcast episode at this LINK but I thought I’d also share here, what it is I read out in this episode that explains a few things…
“For more years than I dare recall I’ve had no contact with my Mom. Family issues, not unlike any other family I guess but the reason? Don’t really know now. Don’t really want to know to be honest. But something has changed in me over the past few months and I’m glad that it has.
All my adult life I’ve been black and white. Do wrong by me, upset me, you’re gone. Events and circumstances growing up made me this way; self preservation I guess. It hasn’t worked though.
I’m 47 years of age at the time of writing this and all my adult life, if not since my early teenage years, I’ve harboured anger. It’s always been there under the surface waiting for any excuse to show itself. Unable to do something would be my family’s fault. Bad traffic would be my family’s fault. Cutting my hand when doing some repairs at home would be my family’s fault. You get the picture. I thought I wasn’t missing certain people. I thought I could go through life without ever seeing them again. Heck, there was even an immature side of my personality that wouldn’t back down and was almost proud of how many years had gone by; it proved I took no crap…right? Wrong!
I got back with my brother Liam a couple of years back. Best day ever! We’re close. Always were. He didn’t do anything wrong but became a victim of circumstance as I kept away. My problem over the past few years since being back is finding it hard not to pay for everything when we’re together. I told him once that the owner of a local curry house gave me a take out that I took round for us all to tuck into, completely free. He didn’t. I just didn’t want Liam to feel embarrassed that I got it for us all.
I’d not seen my Dad for many years and found out last August that he’d died. For all the time Liam and me had been back in contact I’d explained that when the time came, I wouldn’t be able to go to the funeral. Lots of reasons but ultimately, funerals aren’t the place to see people you haven’t seen in a long time when feelings between you aren’t good. Funerals are emotionally charged times and people can react in ways you wouldn’t expect. That’s understandable. It wasn’t something I wanted to risk. My Dad made it clear he didn’t want to know me when he was alive. Face to face I asked him for a relationship and he turned it down.
This wasn’t a good time. Liam and me had words and didn’t speak for months but I couldn’t / wouldn’t let it happen again so we met, we chatted, we didn’t hold anything back. We talked and we listened. It’s going to take time but I’m here for him. Always. When he’s ready, his big brother is.
On the lead up to Christmas 2018 I saw my other brother, Greg. Solid, dependable, straight down the line. Love him! Said I wanted to photograph him in his Military Uniform so we arranged it. Was so good to catch up and I was so happy to do the portrait for him. Well…for him and if I’m completely honest, for my Mom. When I gave him the print, all framed and wrapped up I told him that ‘if he felt the urge’ he could wrap it up again and give it to our Mom. I wanted him to. I wanted her to have a photo of Greg that she wouldn’t normally get. I know she’s so proud of him. Who wouldn’t be?
I can’t explain why wanting to do this came over me…it just did. Greg gave her the picture at Christmas and said she has overwhelmed. We have a brother Scott who is autistic and lives local to Greg. Not seen him for years too but that time soon disappeared once I visited him with Greg (who sees him every week). Scotty definitely recognised me. That felt so bloody good! When I went a second time we got a photo of the 3 of us together. Such a great photo; all 3 of us smiling. All 3 of us looking at the camera. Photoshop no where to be found. Printed it out posted some copies…one for Greg and one for Greg to give to Mom. A big print is being done for Scott that will go on the wall in his living room.
I guess with the picture of Greg and now the picture of the 3 of us…I was holding out an olive branch…if that makes sense?
So now let me tell you about Reg Charles. A World War 2 Veteran I recently photographed. A former stranger that had now changed my life. I photographed Reg for my World War 2 project. Such a wonderful, calm, gentle man surrounded by a loving family. When I saw him a second time to deliver his portrait we sat and chatted some more. I asked him how he had dealt with all horror that he’d seen and experienced during World War 2. He said one word … Forgiveness!
This hit me hard. Driving home I couldn’t stop thinking about ‘forgiveness’ and what it really meant. If Reg can forgive after all he experienced then surely I can. Reg told me … Forgiveness isn’t weakness; it’s quite the opposite…it’s strength.
It was time to make a change. All my life I thought I knew what was best for me when really I didn’t. What I thought was best was actually causing me more upset, more anger. It was creating baggage; baggage I was sick and tired of carrying around with me. Hell I didn’t even know I was carrying it until something inane happened and served to remind me.
Bottom line … if I want things to be different then I need to do something different. I need to go against my natural instinct that clearly doesn’t know what is best for me … How can I possibly keep on doing the same thing but expect different results!
I binge watched Ricky Gervais’ new Netflix series, After Life; the story of a man who’s wife has died of cancer and left him a video diary of how to get on with life without her. He’s angry, he’s bitter and he’s on self destruct. In the final episode he’s sitting on a bench in a cemetery talking to an elderly woman he’s befriended and with a realisation that things can be different if you let them, he says he’s that he’s realised ‘You can’t change the World, but you can change yourself’
I sat with my wife Anne and explained all that I was thinking. I need to change this black and white bit of my personality. I need to get rid of the underlying, ready to erupt anger. I don’t like it. As ever she was totally and utterly supportive. Understandably cautious because what I explained meant seeing folks I’d not seen for a long time, but that’s Anne not wanting anything or anyone to cause us more upset. I love her so much.
So I visited my Mom. Greg had given her the heads up that I might. I asked him what reaction he got and he told me the first thing she said was ‘what shall I cook him?’
Felt weird that I wasn’t nervous. I just walked up to the door and rang the bell. Mom opened the door and beamed a big smile. I stepped in and we hugged…and we hugged followed by “Do you want a cup of tea love?”
We stood chatting in the kitchen for ages. So much to talk about but no going over old wounds; too early for those conversations if indeed they’re ever talked about. No need to go over the past…it’s the future that’s important.
Soon we were sat in the front room, still chatting. My Mom said that it felt strange…strange that the years apart don’t feel like they’ve happened. That’s how it felt for me too. We’d slipped back in to Mom and Son.
It’s early days but I’ll be going back again that’s for sure. I feel lighter. I feel different. I feel calm.
Strange? Weird?…No…it just feels right!”