Sunday, June 20, 2010

Embracing my duality

This week I’ve been in a very dozy state of mind. I don’t often talk about the cognitive effects of cfs on this blog, and more dramatic symptoms like migraines or physical weakness are better known by the general public. However, what is generally described as “brain fog” is a major part of the syndrome.

I used to have a fantastic memory. And I used to be very organized and capable of thinking things through in a highly analytical way. Sadly, this isn’t the case any more.

It’s easy to believe that the issues I’m trying to resolve are just more complex and abstract than the problems I had to deal with at uni, and of course my brain is aging too. And I know lots of my friends do show similar albeit milder memory problems, but that is with families, careers and generally really busy lives to manage.

I’m talking about the days when you stare at the clothes in your wardrobe for ten minutes, trying to decide what to wear, and you aren’t even planning to leave the house that day. And eventually you walk away, still in your pjs. The only decision you’ve made is to try again in an hours time. It seems to me that there’s little doubt that your decision-making skills are “affected”.

The interesting thing about one set of skills diminishing is that it can lead you to enhance another set. As a teenager taking maths, chemistry, physics and so on, I focussed on being  rational, thorough and logical. All good, you might say, and generally I agree. Although…does that mean I can never be spontaneous, intuitive and passionate? I hope not.

I recently read Eric Maisel’s book “Coaching the Artist Within” and in it he discusses duality. He argues that it is easy to set up dualities such as logical and intuitive, disciplined and flexible, doing and being, and then opt for one side of the duality, taking it as your own. His point is that the creative process demands all these things at different times, and to declare that you are logical and disciplined (as I have in the past) and apply it rigidly, is to install limits that can only hinder the process.

I started off talking about the cognitive effects of cfs, and I’m not suggesting they aren’t limiting, or that they aren’t serious (obviously they are very serious as they are caused by insufficient blood flow to the appropriate areas of the brain).

However, what I am saying is that on those days when my physical energy is okay, but the brain fog has rolled in, I am forced to work in an intuitive, responsive, visceral way, and this has been a valuable lesson.

I’ve been working this way this week, using a trial version of Adobe Lightroom  (more soon) and Photoshop to process some of the photos I took on my recent beach holiday. I find processing photos is one thing I am able to do when my energy is very low. I tried to print some out and quickly found I was not up to the problem-solving required to make my printer behave, so for now these images remain screen-bound. I hope to have prints available soon and also to experiment with them a little further with some mixed media.

Amanda Watson-Will Kingscliff Community Hall

Amanda Watson-Will: afternoon on the beach

Amanda Watson-Will: blue monday


  1. The photos look great! I especially like the community hall picture, with the vivid contrast between the green grass and the red bricks!

  2. Very interesting photos. I hope you tell us more about that process as you go on. I so admire your courage and perseverance as you deal with life with such gentleness and generosity.

  3. Like these photos too. The Community Hall one looks cross processed. Love the blurry beach image with womand and dog: that has the makings of a print methinks :O)

    Foggy is horrid. The worst fog I find is when you are simply left staring into space with nothing but custard in your head --- a sort of gloopy mush that will not let anything useful or practical get past it. You really feel like a zombie.

    Hope it will soon pass. No doubt the emotional stuuf you have been and are still dealing with has some effect on your thought processes too.

  4. Thanks for your comments and feedback about the photos. I'd be happy to talk more about how I work with them. You're right Cusp about the woman and dog - it would be good for a solarplate print, I think.

    Foggy isn't good. I get especially frustrated when I have a number of things I want to do and I just can't get my head around where to start. Often I find it is better not to attempt anything that I could mess up, because I am very likely to do just that!

    Sometimes, usually when it's a beautiful sunny day, I find it is possible to just accept the fog, and kind of relax into it. Nothing gets done, but I can be happy anyway! Most unusual for me - I'm so goal-oriented.

  5. Love the photos, the last one especially.

    Hope that the fog clears soon.