I have a great big project going on that has been needing all my creativity, emotional energy & a lot of my time. I have accepted the job of creating a photobook for my mother-in-law’s 90th birthday. I am currently swimming in 6 generations of pictures, stories and ideas. How does one really go about telling more than 90 years of family stories and history in a cohesive, readable, visually appealing way? I am trying to find out. There is so much to consider and there are also different points of view on what are the “best” or “right” family stories to include. We also have the pain of dealing with death and family tragedies. I am grateful that there are not an unusual amount of these events in her story, but they are there nonetheless.
My husband’s sister and nephew (mother and son) passed away suddenly last fall and in the aftermath of that, many of us took a hard look at what kind of legacy we were leaving with our families – what if our stories were cut short? What would we have passed on to our children and what would we be remembered for? I am thinking about the same things now as I am working on this project. I think it’s important to be intentional about living and giving and loving but sometimes I just get mucked under in the everydayness of a growing family. Sometimes often I need a mental kick in the pants to remember to remember. I know these things but sometimes I act like I don’t. So I am trying to let this project leave me changed for the better and not just mentally drained because of the scope of it (and the linear/organized thinking required – NOT my strong point at all).
Another aspect of this project that has gotten me thinking is wanting to tell my story myself. The problem is that there are some significant painful events in my life that have a tendency to loom large in my mind when I think about where I came from and how I got to where I am now. I am not ready to tell all those stories on my scrapbook pages but neither do I want those difficulties to ultimately keep me from expressing who I am now and how I choose to live my life. My mother-in-law told me that she always felt an empty spot for knowing almost nothing about her mom’s life before kids. Yes, at 90 years old, she was sad she didn’t know more about her mom. Like a part of her own story was missing. At the moment my teenagers aren’t especially interested in what happened in what they sort of consider the dark ages but as we all grow older perhaps they will eventually reach the point where they embrace the fact that who I am (and was) shaped who they are. I know that some people take a longer time getting there than others but I hope they do arrive at that point and that I haven’t left big gaping holes for them when they are looking for their roots.
Many times I have thought that “some day” I will start a scrapbook about myself. Get myself into the picture more often. Write my stories. Include the every day. Perhaps “some day” is here now. Even if I made a few more pages about myself it would hopefully leave less holes and be easier on whoever gets the awesome job of creating a tribute to me when I’m 90! Longevity really runs in my family but that doesn’t mean I should assume I all those good genes extend to me. At 89, my mother-in-law lost her eldest daughter, who was only 65 years old. She is sorely missed. Her son, who was tragically killed in a snowboarding accident was only 38. Such a short life!
What do I want to say with my life? What do you want to say with yours? Right now, I’m thinking about two ways to get my message out to my kids. Number one, LIVE IT. Number two, express it. For me, that means talking to people I love, encouraging them and also telling stories – scrapbooking. What can you do today to live out your values and express them to those around you? I’d love to hear from you!