If you didn't take a picture, did it really happen? And if you didn't share that picture on instagram, did it definitely not happen?
Those are silly little things we mutter as a joke sometimes, lamenting how big social media has gotten, and how profoundly it's altered how people present themselves, or even view themselves. And I'd like to think I'm above that...that I don't tie any of my reality or worth to tangible records of smiles, or yummy meals, or adorable messy faced kiddos.
But the truth is, I a little bit do.
I love to skim through my phone camera roll at night, reflecting on all the fun little moments that I captured that day or week. It's a reminder of the pieces I wanted to hold on to. It's mementos from a life well lived. They're not all gorgeous shots, far from it often times, but they're mine. And all those square snippets tell a story that I value, not for the "likes", but at least for the comfort and reassurance they provide: We spend time together. We had fun. I'm doing a good job.
And it's not bad to have these snapshots to reflect on...but sometimes, as I lay in bed and open up my photo app...I'm met with nothing. Or at least nothing new. I realize I didn't take a picture all weekend. Or that the last shot I have is a week old. There are no freshly preserved memories. No pixels saved of our recent reality. And in those moments, I'm sad. I start to question the quality of the life we've been living. If I don't have any pictures, does that mean we didn't do anything worth taking a picture of? If something had been that fun, wouldn't I have wanted to document it? So does the lack of photos equal a life that's lacking?
Clearly I know that's ridiculous. My kids are adorable, even if there isn't a single picture to prove it. (though there are indeed thousands.) A party is not less fun without photo documentation (though a photobooth is a pretty good time...) A path less photographed is no less beautiful, or memorable, or challenging, or enjoyable.... I know that the pictures don't make the event, the events make the pictures, but still. I want the pictures. I want something to show me, and others how amazing life- my life- is. Not to boast or brag. But to celebrate it, and validate and magnify the joys that are truly a part of our every day journey. This is why I take pictures. To capture a teeny tiny piece of the fleeting magic to keep forever. To lock in the emotion of a moment, the expression of a certain phase, the trademarks of a season.
But sometimes...I don't have these mementos. Usually it's because life was going too fast. It was live it or snap it- or maybe survive it or nothing. Other times it's because life was too deep. We were immersed in the laughing, or snuggling, or cheers-ing, or crying, and it didn't feel right to step outside of those moments. And occasionally it's because the moments weren't mine to capture. My story overlaps and touches and weaves through so many others', and those pieces aren't always mine to save or share.
So I'm learning to be thankful for the pictures I have, and not regretful of the shots I've missed. Because the blog entries, and scrapbook pages, and instagram books I fill up, tell a portion of my tale, and I'm so grateful for these volumes. But the stories and images kept in my mind and heart are equally valuable, if far less visible. And though there is comfort and beauty in keeping real souvenirs, I pray I'm able to find peace and security in my emotions and memories, regardless of what I literally have to show for it. And I hope that for you too.
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