8 Questions and Photographs That Could Change Some Perceptions You Have About Your Life

Article’s photographs by Fred Swan ©

My wife and I went to the beach last week.  I was hoping to find visual images that I could photograph that would reflect some of the questions that can step forward as we become more aware of our own process of aging. The haunting effects of time and the elements are perhaps nowhere more evident than on the surfaces of the buildings and the objects that hem the edges of continents and islands.

As I reviewed the photographs I had taken over a period of days, the visual impact of time and oceanic environments resonated with my hopes of finding images that would reflect the beauty of the passage of time and the resilience, and impermanence of all things. 

As we age and become increasingly aware of ourselves as entities in time we can begin to ask ourselves questions about the meaning and purpose of our lives, questions about where we are going and what we are leaving behind; questions whose relevance – in the face of time – seem increasingly difficult to deny.

I am used to the process of titling paintings, usually identifying those titles before or early in the process of creating a work. Looking at a group of photographs and then considering them as metaphors for questions we might ask ourselves was a reverse process, but one that evoked many feelings about my own experience with aging.

I’ve included the eight questions that came to mind that were prompted by eight of the photographs. I’ve also included four additional photographs that I encourage you to look at from the perspective of your own experiences of resiliency and accomplishment and one closing photograph that is captioned by the challenging question posed by the poet Mary Oliver.

Knowing that few will have the time to drop everything to ask themselves questions of such a personal nature, I encourage you to save this article for some quiet moment you might find in the days ahead. I have also listed the questions on a separate page without the photographs. Here you could copy > paste >save to desktop, and refer to at some other time. Click here.

1. When I think back, what challenges have I encountered; what scars have I experienced and overcome that I am proudest of?
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2. Is there is an important aspect of myself that people have not seen or been aware of and how might I let go of what I want other people to think about me so that I am freer to become who I feel I truly am?
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3.  Are there dents and nicks from my childhood that I am silently tending and what is keeping from letting let go of them?
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4. As I am becoming older am I giving myself permission to become more comfortable with the beauty of who I am in the present or do I spend time mourning who I believed I used to be?
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5. Who are the people who have believed in and loved me despite the flaws I feel I have and are they aware of my gratitude?
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6. As my body ages, can I keep foremost in my thoughts that the changes – including pains and illnesses – are one thing and how I relate to, label, and focus upon them is another?
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7. When I look in the mirror and witness the passage of time, do I allow myself the kindness and acceptance that I show others and can I begin to give myself the daily gift of smiling at my own reflection?
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8. Is there some unnecessary responsibility I have assumed or anything I do or that another person does, that is keeping me a hostage and can I make a conscious effort to begin to set myself free?
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From my own experience of resiliency, I am confident that…

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If I could change one thing about the way I look at my life that would make me feel more peaceful it would be…

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When people look at me what they don’t see, and what I wish they could, and what I feel really good about is…

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Despite the challenges of time I am going to promise myself …

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“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”
Mary Oliver
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