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Saturday, April 11, 2015

Photographer for a night with the band My Excuse

I realize it has been since January since I've written.  A lot has happened since I last wrote, much that I want to put down.  Where to begin.  The fun stuff.  A couple of weeks ago I was able to take something off my bucket list.  Ginger's cousin, Steven, is in a band called My Excuse www.myexcuseband.com.  From Greece, they are fantastic and they are here on a US tour.  They were here in Tyler to visit family and rest for the coming tour and played at a small venue and I was able to take pictures of them performing.  So for a night I got to live the dream of being a rock photographer.  It was fantastic, but not for reasons you might suspect.  I was an artist that night, with a camera, with other artists, singing and playing music, all of us crafting our artistry.  I belonged.  I was accepted.   I'm not a professional, that didn't matter, I was one of them.

You see that is important, I was one of them.  For a long time in life, I've felt I didn't fit in.  I felt I had to change who I was to be accepted, to belong, or else I had to rebel and be an outcast. 
 So imagine a couple of years ago when this song came out called "Is It Over Now" by My Excuse.  Here is the link to the official song.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4wXNcKPg_GI  In words it described a struggle that has battled within me for so very long. Here are the lyrics and some of my thoughts and how the lyrics touched me are in blue.

Is it over now?
Is it over now?
Inside of me
inside of me
Is it over now
Did they take it all in spite of me
Oh Lord have they left me with anything?



After having been everything for everyone I wondered if there is anything left of Paul.  I've been the addict, I've been the person behind the person, been called (fill in the blank) Junior.  People always wanted me to be something else than who I was.  If I listened to Rock Music, that was wrong, if I dressed a certain way, that was wrong.  Believe a certain way, act a certain way and you are accepted, if you don't follow the crowd..Do it this way, be accepted....  So inside of me was it over, this people pleasing?  Is it over, can I be me, or is there anything left of "me". 
 

Did I go too far?
Is it over now?
It's got to be..
Oh Lord was I all they expect of me?



Did they have enough?
Have I pleased the crowd?
I'll never be..
Oh Lord tell me what have they done to me?
Oh Lord is this all I was meant to be
Oh Lord this is not what they promised me


And so, for so long I followed the crowd.  I did what was expected.  I said the right things, did the right things.  But there were cracks.  I'd rebel in small ways.  Who I was inside, the real me that wanted to come out, did, in subtle ways.  But I was losing myself.  I wondered, have I gone too far, is the real me even there?   The crowd promised that if I did it there way I'd find happiness.  People told me do this, or that and you will be happy.  And yet, if you haven't realized it yet, the more you give that "crowd" the more they want.   And the more you give, the less of you is left.  And it will lead you to paths that you wish you had never taken.
 

(Bridge)



And now my favorite part.  This is the part where I feel myself rising up from being beaten down.  The crowd can't believe it!
 

(softly)Is it over now?
should I take a bow
(drums start)
No I won't be afraid and I won't settle down
I will stand by the edge watch it all fall down
And I'll stare past the oceans and the sun and the skies
I could stand till the end if they'd all budge just a little bit..




 So a couple of years ago I realized who I was.  An Introvert.  An artist.  Seems so simple.  The artistic community embraced me.  I did not have to be someone else, in fact, your uniqueness defines you.  I was tired of being used.  I didn't have to be what people thought I had to be, trying to fit me in (a square into a circle hole).   And so I decided not to be afraid.  The crowd could not tame me.  And so I stood on the edge and let all that everyone wanted me to be to fall down into the oceans.  I looked at the sun and skies and saw possibilities.  Did the crowd budge?  They had to.  I was no longer part of the crowd.  Most of the crowd has fallen away from me now.  I'm not part of them, they have no use for me, I'm not useful to them.  That's okay, because I found a community of people who embrace me for me.  If I want long hair, to where bandanna's on my head, cut my hair short, take pictures, blog about hard things that people don't want to talk about, well, then I can. (If I want to run around taking pictures of a band I can!)   I'm no longer part of the status quo. 

No I won't be afraid and I won't settle down
I could stand till the end if they'd all budge just a little bit..


As you can see, the song touched me in pretty profound ways.  I'd hear the song and it would remind me of the times that I had never fit in, and I realized I was not alone.  Someone had felt this way and written about it!  Whether that is what the original purpose of the song was or not doesn't matter, it's how it touched my heart.  I've chronicled well my battle with depression.  Here is the funny thing.  When I am behind the camera, when I have a pencil in my hand drawing, when I am creating in photoshop there is no depression.  I am at peace.  I lose track of time.  I get lost.  And there are certain songs that touch a deep place within my heart, that help me carry on by verbalizing the feelings I feel, and this song is one of those songs.  And those are special songs, rare songs.  They aren't just favorites, they are life songs that turn back the depression.  These are things that I believe God has given me, tools to help me.  And it has strengthened my faith.  I know what I believe and I'm proud of what I believe in.  God has always been a big part of my life, continues to be so, and His guidance has been very important to me in my life.  And Ginger encourages my artwork, and recently has encouraged me to begin looking into upgrading my camera.

So photography.   Want to see someone's face light up?  Want to see Mr. Introvert turn into a chatter box?  Mention photography. I even have my own little niche in photography.  But I'm expanding.  And I'm stoked, this week some of my studio photography equipment came in!  So here are a couple of my favorite shots of the band members:












A couple of months ago I went through a very hard time.  For the first time I heard some of the rumors that were being said about me.  Hurtful, untrue and apparently long running.  And I stood on that edge.  The edge of whether to quit or to forgive.  Those things, untrue as they were, I let fall into that ocean.  Was it hard?  Oh yes.  But a few things saved me.

First of all, back in January, funny story.  I was getting into my new car, the Xterra (Ginger's old vehicle now mine!) and went to put a CD in.  CD player wouldn't read it.  Tried another one.  Wouldn't read it.  So I went to turn on the radio and K-Love was on and MercyMe's All of Creation was on, one of my favorite worship songs.  Well, I almost turned it to my favorite rock station but decided against it, just a feeling.  Then I heard about something called the 30 day challenge, nothing but Christian music for 30 days and see if there is a positive difference.  Well I immediately thought of Marty Thomas, a teacher and friend I had who had a similar challenge for us.  So I took it, the challenge.  That week, at work, is when the rumors and hurtful things came to light.  I'd get in my car to go to work and God would talk to me through the songs.  I'd get off work, same thing.  Ginger was amazed when, for date night, I told her to leave it on K-love.  She said she loved how we were both singing the songs together.  Now if you are expecting me to say I gave up on secular music at that point, your going to be disappointed.  My new work partner listens to the same music (classical rock/heavy metal) as I do, so during the day I would hear that on the radio.  Though now in my car, yes the CD player works and it has the following CD's in it:

Skillet "Rise"
Skillet "Awake"
My Excuse "Silent Revolution"
Lindsey Stirling "Shatter Me"

Three rock CD's (Skillet is a rock band who's members are Christian, their words, not a Christian rock band), My Excuse, Ginger's cousin band and an AWESOME CD, and a wonderful electric violinist, Lindsey.  All four have songs that touch me in certain ways and give me encouragement.  Oh yes, and my dial is still on K-Love.  However, as I write this blog I've been listening to Lacuna Coil's "Shallow Life" (I Won't Tell You is a fav of mine).  The thing about music is this.  I still love Queen's "We Will Rock You" and Foreigner's "Juke Box Hero" is one of my all time favorite songs that I can lip sync.  But I also love Hillsong United and Christ for the Nations.  My Excuse's "The Way She Moves" will kick the bass in the Xterra wonderfully well as I'm screaming the lyrics down the highway at 75 mph!  Songs don't have to be Christian to move you and yet Christian songs can move you.  If all you listen to is Christian music, I support you.  But I also support those that don't just listen to Christian music.  Work out your own salvation.  In the end I will answer for my own decisions, no one else, and I'm finally in a place where I can do that.  I'm comfortable in my own skin.  And rumors, well, are rumors.  I know the truth, and my true friends know me and the truth.  If you feel you have to talk about me falsely to feel better about yourself, well, it's sad, but I can choose how I respond.

But I digress.  Ginger and her support and listening ear saved me as well.  I was able to verbalize my feelings with her, tell her how I felt, and she was able to help me through the rough time.  I have a very dear friend at work that helped me as well.  And then there is Teddy, the lead singer's brother who lives here in Tyler (who knows photography).  We met a few times for lunch and we were able to talk (He and his brother know what it is like not to fit in).   Just being able to talk openly about my feelings was helpful.  And then of course there was my camera.  Taking pictures, for me, is therapeutic.  And finally, those things I can see in my mind can be taken out of my mind and put on a screen, or print.  Don't get me wrong, I still have much to learn.  I've gone from newb status to amateur at least!  Have a bad day, take a good picture, and bad day becomes good day!

So how does all this blog tie together?  Well, God uses many people and things to show Himself to us.  Through songs He guides us, reminds us, encourages us, even challenges us.  Through photography God has shown me His beauty and His craftmanship (Think it's easy singing in a rock n roll band?!?).  He puts people in your lives who have an impact they may never know.   More importantly, God has shown me I can be me.  I don't have to be "part of the crowd" I can be me.   People are going to talk about me.  They are going to say things, use my past against me, or just say things because they are bored.  Doesn't matter.  What matters is how I choose to handle it.  God has my back.  Because in the end, I'll be standing, and God will budge the crowd out of my way.

Baa

My niche: