Zoom Out: Choosing to Let Our Real Selves Be Seen

Don’t you just LOVE photo filters?  They can transform a not-so-great picture into a work of art.

And with our phones attached to our hips like another appendage, we are one photo-snapping generation!

But when we choose what to make public-what to plaster across our favorite social media platform-most of us are as cautious as museum curators in deciding which pictures to include and which just don’t make the cut.

We are all about personal branding (even if we don’t realize or admit it!)

Of course this is nothing new-Solomon wrote in the book of Ecclesiastes that there “is nothing new under the sun”.  It’s simply that what was once reserved for the rich, famous or infamous is now available to every Tom, Dick and Harry-and their kids.

I know when I want to share a moment on my little farm or show off some newly completed craft project, I’m very careful to zoom in and crop out the messy edges of my home, my property, my life.

It’s truly not that I’m trying to “be somebody I’m not” it’s more about trying to only let people see part of who I really am.

roosevelt in box on table spring 2017
The cute, cropped, curated photo.

Because who wants all the ragged and untidy borders of their life exposed to the masses?

I’m afraid there would be too much ‘splainin’ to do (like Ricky used to say to Lucy) if people saw it all.

  • I might have to own up to my less-than-perfect housekeeping or my procrastination that means I still have piles of junk on my porch nearly four years after Dom left us.
  • Someone might freak out that my cats are allowed on the kitchen table (where we don’t eat) because it is too hard to keep them off.
  • People may whisper that they just can’t understand how I live with piles of books stacked everywhere and random animal supplies in baskets by the door so they’re handy to grab on my way outside.

But when I edit the life I expose to others, I’m also limiting my opportunity to make genuine connections.

Because if the people around me think I’ve got it all together, then they can be afraid to admit that they do not. 

struggle with insecurity highlight reel

If the folks that follow me on Facebook think my life is all giggles and glitter, then they might be reticent to reveal that theirs is shadows and sorrow.  If all I ever do is talk about, post and promote the high points of this journey, then who will want to tell me that they are in a valley and can’t see sunlight or maybe that they’ve even forgotten what sunlight looks like.

So I’m going to zoom out. 

Stop cropping. 

Quit editing. 

Be real.

That doesn’t mean you won’t see funny photos or hopeful posts or encouraging memes on my timeline.

But it does mean that I’ll be out there-big hips, messy house, piled up books and all.

roosevelt in box on table spring 2017 zoom out
The REST of the story.

Time and Time Again

Since Dominic ran ahead to heaven we have celebrated four graduations and a wedding.

Wednesday night was another one.  My daughter, Fiona, graduated nursing school.

We are so excited for her!

fiona grad jumping

And, as usual, our family rallied round, pitched in, showed up and made a great fuss over the accomplishment.

It was beautiful and hard all at the same time.

Because time and time again we join hands and hearts to celebrate an achievement, a milestone, a special moment or a holiday and there is always, always, always one missing.

Every photo is just slightly askew- one daughter, three two sons.

family fionas grad (2)

We’ve gotten good at closing ranks, squeezing out the space where he should be standing.  But our hearts mark the gap.

Our hearts will always mark the gap.

I am much better now at actually enjoying these things-I love the way my daughter’s friends surround and encourage her, I laughed at the antics of the children that enjoyed running from adult to adult, getting more attention than they knew what to do with.  I sat and listened with great pride as Fiona gave the closing remarks to her graduating class, drawing from a deep well of wisdom that includes heartache as well as hallelujahs.

And it was all good.  Really, truly  good.

But you have to go home eventually.

Hugging necks and saying “good-bye” is when it always hits me-I hug harder, cling longer, make sure to whisper not only “I love you” but everything I need to say-just in case.

And grown children text their mama so she knows they are safely home.

Dominic’s legacy is this:  We never miss a chance to celebrate one another.

We cling to the good and try to let go of the bad.

We love fiercely and openly and are not ashamed for one minute of our tears or our laughter.

Because you never know.

love the ones god gave you

 

But I Had All That BEFORE!

I absolutely understand that when people say things like, “Just think of all the wonderful memories you have” or “He brought you so much joy” they mean well.

Because it’s true-I have beautiful memories of Dominic.  And he DID bring me great joy.

But I had those things BEFORE he was beyond my reach.

Childhood memories, photographs, mementoes from school and athletic teams-they were already displayed on the walls and shelves of my home.

But there were things I had then that I don’t have now:

  • his physical presence;
  • his laughter ringing down the hallway;
  • his text messages telling his absent-minded mama that there were storms headed her way;
  • his level-headed relationship advice;
  • and his tech-savvy, “I can fix it” help when I crashed my computer or other electronic device.

I don’t have a hundred different uniquely Dominic parts of my life anymore.

And I miss every one of them.  

missing from me

 

 

 

 

Not Funny Anymore

We took this picture celebrating Father’s Day 2013 and it was supposed to be a joke.

IMG_0674

Dominic had a habit of finding somewhere to be for the end of May (which includes his birthday) and the first couple weeks of June (Father’s Day) nearly every summer for the last six years he was with us.

I had to schedule his high school graduation (we home schooled) for the ONE weekend out of the whole summer when he would be home before he entered college in the fall.

In 2013 he was studying abroad in Switzerland.

So on this day when he was absent (again!) I brought along this picture and thought it would be funny to have him represented in the obligatory Father’s Day photo-little smiling Dominic.

It popped up in my Facebook memories the other day and I realized it’s not funny anymore.

Now the only way Dominic CAN be part of a family portrait is if one of us holds a picture of him.

I hate that.

Who could have guessed that our messing around would now mess with my head?

 

 

Bereaved Parents and the Question of Photographs

When I shared this post awhile back, it sparked quite a discussion among friends and an online community of bereaved parents to which I belong.

Pictures are a mixed blessing to those of us who have buried a child:

We love to see our dear one’s face beaming back at us but we also long to touch and hold the one represented by the two-dimensional image.  And when others share a photo on Facebook or Instagram, we are sometimes caught off-guard as our newsfeed scrolls by–There he is!  Our hearts stop for a moment.

I love to get pictures of my son through email or in notes and letters-many are ones I would otherwise never know about.  So if you have photos that a bereaved parent might like to see, think about sharing them.  And write a line or two about how our child is still part of your life.

We miss our children and welcome ways to connect with them through others.

“Pictures are everywhere today–much different than when I was a child and you had to go down to the local studio to get a decent family photo. Poloroids were fun and fast, but the number of shots you could take was limited to the film in the packet.

One of the challenges facing bereaved parents is what to do about photographs–both the ones that exist and the ones yet to be taken.”

Read the rest: Bereaved Parents and The Question of Photographs