Listening with the Right Ears

Elden Murray Shadow Girl As the photo reception was winding down today I had the opportunity to chat with another of the photo club members. She congratulated me on my third place win and then began to tell me how there had been a lot of discussion among the judges regarding my entry, Shadow Girl, in the pictorial/abstract category.

“I was busy hanging things, so I got to overhear a lot of the discussion,” she explained. “They liked it because it told a story, which is what they said a photo should do. So, even if they didn’t like a few technical things, they really liked the photo. There was a lot of back and forth on it,” she said.

A part of me was pleased by this fact. I was already happy with the honorable mention and it was nice to hear that the photo had generated so much conversation, but another part of me, a part with which I am all too familiar, heard only one thing she was saying – “so even if they didn’t like a few technical things…”

What technical things? I thought. What did I do wrong?

Of course, I know that this was only a choice of words on the photo club member’s part. She was trying to explain why I received honorable mention as opposed to one of the higher awards and of course, there were probably a few technical considerations in drawing this judgment, but this knowledge did not stop me from picking at her words like a scab. Rather than absorbing the compliment she was trying to pay me, a part of me could only concentrate on what was wrong. What didn’t they like? I thought. What did I do wrong?

Such thoughts quickly spiral out of control like a negativity avalanche – what did I do wrong becoming what do I do wrong and then will I ever get it right and finally can I ever get it right?

I don’t like this part of me. It’s as if I’ve been trained to listen with wrong ears – all the good words drowned out by one seemingly innocuous statement that turns instead to poison infiltrating through my pours and sticking to the inside of my heart and mind.

I am aware of this part, familiar with the fact that most fall prey to it at some time or other, certain that this tendency to dwell on the negative formed early in my childhood. And, since I am aware, I am working on changing. I can hear the compliment paid and delight in that knowledge that my work is good enough for judges to deliberate over. I am not a child any longer and just as my body has grown so has my ability to listen. I can hear both voices and choose to listen with the right ears.