Live Meaningfully – By Ayesha G. Shenk, M.A.
So, when my husband walked into my office and saw me scrolling through my phone, he asked me what I was doing. (Of course, he and I both knew full well that at this moment I was supposed to be writing this article as it was the only small window of the day that I may have to do so.)
I honestly ratted myself out, explaining that I was creating (and then re-creating, when the website crashed) the photo book of family pictures that I was putting together for our almost-one-year-old. He just nodded and said ‘mmmm hmmmm,’ disapprovingly.
“I don’t know what I’m writing about yet,” I said.
“Well I know you’re not writing about a photo collage,” he said.
Ava is about to turn one. She’s a whirlwind of activity. She laughs, dances, eats, and loves passionately. She has so many people who love her and whom she loves. (To be honest, it’s hard for her to meet a stranger without charming them.) So, as she’s beginning to talk, I decided to put together a little picture book to help her connect names and faces, especially for those whom she does not always get to see. As I began this project it seemed quite simple and as though it would be a fairly quick and easy task.
What I realized instead is that it has taken me hours of scrolling through digital image after digital image of our life and our friends and family. So many memories. So much joy.
Somewhere in the midst of all this digging and reminiscing, I must have subconsciously decided to make the pictures mostly candid ones…
As I reflect, I believe this may have been for a few reasons really:
One: They seem to convey more action, more emotion and more authenticity.
Two: Nobody’s face actually looks as perfectly curated in real life as it does in a staged photo.
Three: I want my daughter to know and embrace real life, silly expressions, and love in action.
Which brings me to an interesting thought as I work through this project…
I get up every morning and find myself amid all the same trappings as the rest of us. Make sure the kids are properly dressed (and fed) before school…do the same for myself – add makeup, jewelry, heels, etc…don’t leave the house without all of the dishes in the dishwasher, the laundry done, and the counters wiped clean… Note to self: go through car wash, finish grocery list, do the kids have food for lunches? What’s our schedule this weekend? Did I remember to send that email?
Find myself in my well-appointed office on Park Avenue. Meet with clients all day long (and work hard to dig beneath their coiffed appearances) to get to something real. Speed out the door to head home or to a baseball or softball field. (Perhaps post picture on Facebook of my kids’ amazing-ness.) Head home, finish dinner, clean house, put kids to bed, cuddle with husband, sleep fewer hours than necessary… repeat the next day.
Though it’s an inarguably amazing life and I am so blessed, most of the ‘off’ hours of the day are consumed by ‘need to dos,’ at least in my brain if not in my motions. When I’m in session, I’m lucky to have a complete respite from the whirring of my brain, as it’s easy to remain totally focused on my clients. But, most of the rest of the hours of the day are pretty jam-packed up there.
And you know what? Not one of the things on my constantly pending list of ‘need to dos’ is worthy of a photo. Certainly, none of the candid ones with which I am filling Ava’s book.
Don’t get me wrong, I strongly believe having some sense of order and the house being clean is good for our own mental health and certainly a better environment in which to raise healthy, happy children. But, it is of note that the pictures I choose for this little book are the most ‘messy’ joyful ones I can find.
Yet another reminder to balance, I suppose.
I want my children to know that life is often messy and full and joyful. That though there are responsibilities and duties that make us functional members of society those are never to eclipse being authentic, kind, loving, connecting and being true to ourselves and others. I want my husband and I to remember that although we take our commitment to parenting very seriously, it does not mean we have to take ourselves seriously. I want my friends and family to know that no matter what – whenever they choose to visit us- whether the countertops are wiped down or not, has no bearing on how happy we are to have them and make more (candid) memories with them.
I want you to think, look through your photos and decide which version of you really ‘looks the best.’ I would wager it’s not the posed family wedding photo as much as it is the one of you dancing at the reception…
Live fully, love wholly, dance silly.
Till the next time,
Be Well; Live Meaningfully.
Ayesha G. Shenk, M.A. practices at 2150 Park Avenue North as a Licensed Mental Health Counselor and can be reached at www.livemeaningfully.net or 407-796-2959.by