A stack of old boards, an angry wasp, and those teeniny life lessons

Photo of highly-textured piece of old boardThis morning delivered some insight into one of the ways I've changed during the past few years. For the better, I like to think. As with many life lessons, this one involved pain and surprise. A little story for you:

You might be surprised if you knew how often I need access to a collection of photos of highly-textured, old, "ugly" boards and rusty surfaces, while I'm designing. The more distressed, the better. Warped? Knotty? Peeling paint? Rusty nails? Bring it on. I've bought Photoshop brushes specifically with the intention of simulating That Which Occurs Naturally Over Time. The results can be, of course, spectacular. But starting from scratch takes time.

Plus, there's very little like the real thing. Which is how it came to be that this morning, while visiting my parents in South Carolina, I grabbed my camera and headed outside to reshoot the lovely finds I discovered last night while walking around the property with my mom. The early lighting would be superior, of course. Plus have you seen the weather forecast for the East Coast this week? It's meant to reach 95 degrees later on today. Morning light appealed to me for a couple of reasons.

So I'd made the rounds, eventually abandoned the 1tripod I'd borrowed from Dad because while it would have provided a thrilling boost yesterday evening, in this light it just wasn't necessary, and it was kind of a pain to carry. The sun was rising higher. The sweat blurring my vision was reminding me that a bandana or other cloth in the pocket wouldn't have been a bad idea. And? Maybe next time, flip flops - while uber-handy - could be improved upon, too. It's not like I'm in the deep wilds somewhere, but still, it's remarkable the places you find you want to plant your feet while shooting Photos Of Things Most People Would Just Walk On By.

Having come upon this surprise stack of wood I missed last night, which included some old railroad ties, I looked up at the suddenly-very-present sun and wondered how long I'd been outside. Never mind. Just look at this wood! Turning back to the loveliness in front of me, I noticed a sound to accompany the possibly-angry flying thing headed my way. Buzzing. Loud. Not Really Peaceful buzzing. Of course all these sensations arrived in about a nanosecond, and then the creature was upon me. On my thumb, specifically. I'm pretty sure it was a wasp, though it was moving too fast for me to say for sure. Too fast, that is, until it had attached itself to my hand. As I shook my hand harder and harder, trying to detatch the evil demon from my flesh, I instinctively screamed from the pain. What Was This Guy's Problem? And just like that it let go and I had my hand back.

How is it possible something so little can inflict this kind of discomfort? Oh. Babies. Not nice!

Bee stings and the bites of tiny things that fly about are always good for a bit of blog fodder, but as I stood there in the increasing heat, my thumb pulsing with pain, that's not what I was thinking about. What I was thinking was that I really wanted those photos! I'd gone out there for a photo shoot, dammit, and I'd found the prize subject. Based on today's work load, and the anticipation of even greater heat later, the likelihood that I was going to head back out after I was feeling better was practically nonexistent. Plus who knew how long it would take before my thumb felt normal?

Decision time.

Let's pause for a little snippet from the blog post I wrote last time I was stung, almost 5 years ago, to the day, when I ran over a nest with my lawnmower:

Straight into the shower, pulling off my clothes, running cold, cold water on my feet as hard as the pressure would come. Not hard enough, let me tell you. Just sitting there with the water washing over me while I cried. Never think you're that tough. Well, I won't, anyway. Always kinda' thought I was.

To continue.

Recently, I've done a lot of reading, podcast listening, and reflecting on topics related to the choices we make. Related to the need to consciously make better choices. While there was no question that I was in rather a lot of pain at that moment, not to mention minor fear over what kind of pain I knew might be coming, something else rose to the top. The idea that I can choose to get what I came for, even under unpleasant cirumstances. For the first time in my life, when faced with extreme discomfort, I chose a new path. I did not give in to the pain. I made a conscious choice to ignore the pain and get what I'd come for, instead.

Between the moment I was stung, and the glorious moment when I finally put ice on my thumb, I shot about 150 more photos. Those 150 photos may never be seen by another human being. I may never choose to use a single one of them for my designs, or as a resource for the designs of others. I suspect I will, but even if I don't, the discovery I made because of those 150 photos will be enough.

Making the decision to push through that pain and continue to do what I'd set out to do was a huge lesson for me. Finding the internal strength to maintain focus on my goal matters. It matters a lot. Life will always throw us curve balls. (That's a lesson learned long, long ago.) It's what we do with those curve balls that can make the difference, if we let it. I've been asking myself a lot of questions lately about the seemingly insignificant choices I make every single day and how those "little choices" can make such a great impact. As I look for opportunities to grow, to become stronger, to become more focused on the things I want, it's excellent to discover evidence that I am instinctively making the kinds of choices I would have once shied away from. So I find myself saying thank you to that little wasp. Me! Thanking a wasp! For stinging me!

Of course, if it's all the same, I'll be incredibly grateful if my next set of life lessons does not involve bee stings. Or, for that matter, pain of any kind! Physical or otherwise.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go find that piece of ice. Contrary to the little story I just shared with you, I really am quite a big old baby when it comes to pain and dude. My thumb hurts!

1Note to self: Upon return to Greensboro around the 9th of July, get the tripod out of storage and put it in the trunk of car. And don't make that mistake again.