By Kristi Holl
In addition to a Covid family death, I lost two friends in December, plus my last (and favorite) uncle. Along with grieving, these losses caused a severe autoimmune flare-up for two weeks. With Christmas around the corner, I found it difficult to feel the joy of the season. And writing? That felt out of the question, so the work-in-progress languished. Everywhere I turned were reminders of loss and the pain of suffering loved ones. It seemed there was little I could do but pray and endure and pretend, so I didn’t dampen anyone else’s holiday mood.
But there was more I could do, which I learned inadvertently from my teenage granddaughter, Abby. She’s taking hundreds of my W.I.P. England photos, resizing and refocusing them for use in blogs, plus Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest posts. Fascinated, I watched her use an app to change photos from bright and cheery to somber and shadowy, in keeping with my mystery series.
Photoshop Your Days
Abby was taking reality (the amateur photos I took), and either brightening or darkening the mood by what she chose to emphasize. So, I tried it myself, experimenting with a Yorkshire Dales graveyard photo (shown first below.) Using cropping and blurring and tints and hues, I brightened the mood (the second photo) and then used the same techniques in reverse to darken the mood (the third photo.)
A light dawned. Could I finagle with my own downcast soul in the same way?
How could I use such techniques to change my downcast mood? Could I take the circumstances of loss and sickness—the true snapshot of my current life—and adjust my mood by choosing what to focus on? What could I crop out that wasn’t helpful? What tone could I brighten? What heightened contrast would give a truer perspective?
Emphasize Eternal Truths
Yes, the truth was that these were sad days. But what else was true? Several things. I was in the enviable position of knowing without a doubt that all three who had died were with the Lord. I also knew these loved ones were out of terrible pain now, and we’d see them again one day. True, I felt unwell, but thanks to Covid, I was already expert at ordering food via Instacart, so two Christmas dinners arrived with all the prep work done. And since I love Christmas music and Christmas movies, I filled the empty quiet spaces with more intentional joy and much less brooding. It was Philippians 4:8 in action.
But in addition to thinking about things that were true and uplifting and kind, I had to crop out a few things from the current picture. I needed to stop thinking about negative events in the world and in the extended family that, beyond fervently praying, I couldn’t change. I reviewed my old copy of Codependent No More by Melody Beattie to remind myself what problems I was responsible for, and which problems in the extended family I clearly was not responsible for fixing. I needed to stop focusing on the dark, discouraging parts of the picture and instead view the whole situation (which wasn’t nearly so disheartening).
Making these seemingly small changes reminded me of another book on my shelves, The Upward Spiral: Using Neuroscience to Reverse the Course of Depression, One Small Change at a Time by Alex Korb, PhD. According to science, these small “photo app” changes could literally shift my brain chemistry from darkness and depression to hope and joy.
So, if your 2021 New Year looks less joyous than in previous years (for any reason), don’t despair. Do some creative cropping, refocus your view, and brighten the picture. Watch how you are transformed by the renewing of your mind!
Kristi Holl has fifty-six traditionally published books with both Christian and mainstream publishers: forty-six juvenile books, two books for writers, and eight novels for adults. One of her historical mysteries, A Dangerous Tide, features Jane Austen and is housed in Jane Austen’s House Museum in Chawton, England.