Pic Your Path: The Story of Our Steps
Caregiver Susan Rathfelder attends her weekly weigh-in at Weight Watchers. It is a familiar ritual in her quest to improve her health and wellbeing; she immortalizes it with a photo of her feet planted confidently on the scale. “January 5, 2012 was the day I first stepped on this path,” states Susan. “Five months and 47 pounds later I am convinced that this is the best thing I have ever done for myself.”
The score? Who cares! Mindy Huber-Cameron is a caregiver and mother from northern California and tonight she is out on a baseball park date with her two favorite “guys,” her son and husband. She snaps a photo of her feet, perched happily upon her seat.
Today, 11-year-old Dusty Brandom and his family are the VIPs in the Oval Office. Dusty is a young man with Duchenne muscular dystrophy, one of the deadliest forms of MD. His family runs a non-profit organization called Coalition Duchenne, dedicated to eradicating the disease. Dusty meets with President Obama to discuss funding research and supporting health care providers. In the midst of these heady talks, Dusty takes a moment to greet another White House “celebrity:” Bo, the First Dog. A camera clicks; a memory is caught.
These are a few stories behind the places our journeys lead us. They are part of a creative photo project called Pic Your Path launched by HerSelf First, a program supported by Parent Project Muscular Dystrophy (PPMD) that helps caregivers invest in their wellbeing on a daily basis.
We know that caregiving is both challenging and rewarding; we know that women handle the majority of caregiving responsibilities in addition to managing their roles as mothers, wives, and professionals; and we know that when Mom is out of harmony, unhealthy, and stressed out everyone looses.
At HerSelf First, we believe that physical health is only one component of a caregiver’s self-care. Caregivers also need ways to nurture their souls, feed their desires and interests, and sustain relationships and activities that exist outside of the care provider role.
Our creative outreach provides accessible ways for caregivers to reconnect with themselves and others through tools that encourage introspection, support self-expression, and generate community. Pic Your Path is part of this critical endeavor.
The stories we tell about ourselves are the lifelines that connect us to each other and the world we inhabit. Everyone has a tale to tell about collective cultural experiences: elections, celebrations, and tragedies.
Likewise, the intimate tales of jobs, marriages, births, and personal milestones become artifacts of our existence. For caregivers who devote themselves in the service of others, these stories are often diminished in the ongoing struggle to find time and energy for the individual, left to blanch like photographs from the pre-digital era. Again, everyone loses.
Pic Your Path provides a way for caregivers in particular to preserve the journey, to record their time in the world by taking note of where they find their feet--at the mall, in the garden, en route to work, in the kitchen, at the beach, in the airport etc.
Take a second to snap a shot of your feet, post to the Pic Your Path Facebook photo sharing group, tag, share, and inspire others.
Caregivers lead rewarding and complex lives, which is reflected in the stories of their steps. Susan’s weigh-in photograph is the story of a woman summoning the courage to make changes and celebrating herself in the process.
Dusty, along with the famous feet in the photographic frame, contribute to a larger story about the power of the voice, about the relentless pursuit of hope, and about the difference made by one person. These tales and more unfold in the span of a single snap shot.
Mindy’s photograph captures a lovely moment that is all too infrequent in the life of a caregiver: a return to normalcy in a fun outing with her family.
We live in an age of connectivity where social media sites assure us that we share the same likes, dislikes, dreams, fears, and hobbies. It makes sense to use the same digital platforms to simultaneously turn that connectivity inwards.
As these photographs inspire and encourage others, they also provide important moments of self-reflection whether that is in relation to the caregiver’s experience or in relation to past memories and future desires.
With each step, with each click, the caregiver’s journey takes shape and like a retro-Polaroid. The “invisible patient” materializes. She is no longer lost to herself but found, present, and represented in her own, unique way.
To participate, join our Pic Your Path group on Facebook. Stop by our highlights gallery to peruse the most unique, fun, or unusual photographs, updated regularly throughout the week on our website: picyourpath.wordpress.com.
You can also email a photo in an attachment to Sheila@herselffirst.com. All photos must be original and please include your full name and a short caption.
We look forward to sharing in your journey!
Dr. Sheila C. Moeschen holds an Interdisciplinary PhD in Theatre & Gender Studies from Northwestern University. She is the Director of HerSelf First, a program that helps caregivers invest in their wellbeing on a daily basis. A scholar and writer, Dr. Moeschen’s work has appeared in Women’s Studies Journal, Disability Studies Quarterly, and The Huffington Post. Her book, Acts of Conspicuous Compassion: Performance Culture and American Charity Practices, is forthcoming from the University of Michigan Press. Dr. Moeschen resides in Boston.