Are You Missing From Your Own Pictures?

Last month, as I was skimming my 2011 photo files for great shots to feature in our Christmas card, I noticed something pretty important was missing.

Me.

There were plenty of shots of the boys with Brad, with relatives and with friends. But it looked as if I hadn’t bothered to show up for a single birthday party, school function, or family get-together. I was there – I swear! It’s a shame, because each photo tells a story about the time and place and people in it. I love flipping through pictures from my childhood – especially those with my parents included. Each one is like a little gift; a treasure chest of memories. And I want my kids to have that; for them to have evidence that their mama was truly present. But last year, I disappeared from our photos. Time and memories I can’t get back. And there are two reasons why I went missing…

1) I was almost always the person taking the pictures vs. posing for them. 

I think most mamas can relate to #1. We’re so engrossed in getting good shots of our family and friends that we forget {or feel too shy} to ask someone to get good shots of us.

So, despite not being a huge fan of resolutions, I’ve resolved to stick out my neck from behind the lens and ask to be included. On New Year’s Eve, we walked the candlelit trails at a local nature center; I took photographs throughout the evening, trying to capture the sweet outdoor celebration. Just before we left, I asked Brad to take the camera hanging from my neck and snap some pictures of me with the boys.  When he showed me the shots – with all three of us looking so cozy and happy – I squealed with delight. I was so relieved to have proof I was there, ringing in 2012 with my boys, knowing someday they’ll have that photo to remember the night, our bond, our joy.

2) If I was in any pictures, I deleted most of them.   

This is a harder pill to swallow. I love the ease of digital photography, but it also makes it so easy to instantly erase any photo I don’t love. Goodbye bad hair day. Goodbye extra weight. Goodbye zit. I realize, in retrospect, what a disservice I’m doing  – not only to my kids, but to me.

Each time I delete a photo of myself, I’m wiring a message to my brain that I’m not pretty enough, thin enough, radiant enough – not good enough. Even though, years later, I tend to love the photos I once hated. Don’t you look at pictures of yourself from 10 years ago and wonder why in the world you didn’t like the way you looked?

I’m starting to get there with this one: a photo of me and the kids last summer, up at Split Rock lighthouse as a giant storm rolled in. I remember I almost deleted it on the spot, but Brad wouldn’t let me. He LOVED the picture – the happiness on our faces, the wind whipping through our hair, me without makeup. So I kept it, begrudgingly. And now I’m starting to see past the flaws. Now I’m remembering that magical moment up there, watching the distant clouds move across Lake Superior, running through the rain to our car. Thank God I kept the picture, right?

So, part of following my bliss this year will be simply showing up and honoring my own beauty, my own place in this corner of the world. Not seeing past the imperfections, but finding the good in them. Capturing not only the beauty around me, but in me. And giving my kids the gift of knowing – and seeing – that their mom was right there with them, clutching them tightly and so happy to be there.