Photographs tell stories, at least to me they do. They have always been the way I’ve captured memories to revisit at a later time, to share with those who’ve been absent. They have told the stories of what I have loved and who I have loved.
I’ve been photographing everything around me from a young age. When I had children, this increased exponentially, suddenly the camera was always in use as I captured every moment, every first.
But what do you do when you must put those photographs away, pretend like they don’t exist? How do you bury reminders of a past, of memories that are still ripe and sweet, years later? How do you do this when keeping them out are constant reminders to someone of a past they want to forget? Of a person they no longer are, outwardly? How do you expunge those years, and should you?
Some things can’t be forgotten.
I wrestle with this. On the one hand I want to be sensitive, these photographs remind them of who they no longer are, but on the other hand these same photographs remind me of a happier time, when the future was bright and hopeful. They are not only a tangible reminder of the past but they are a part of me. I am the photographer. I am the mother. In this case, I am the creator of both art and life.
I’ve tried my best as a mother: to provide understanding and support, to teach them the skills necessary to navigate life, and to be more resilient, but above all I have tried to show them how loved they are. Unconditionally.
Sometimes this falls short, no matter my motivation, no matter my actions.
As a parent you put your child’s needs ahead of your own, but sometimes your needs and theirs are at war. As it is for me now. I have robust memories, with many of them being photographic, and now I must put those away and with them a part of myself. At times it feels like one more piece of me is being buried and I cannot breathe. I am banging my fists against the lid but no one hears my cries.
The photographs are the latest in a line of things that I have had to turn my back on. I am not prone to pity parties but I grieve, oh do I grieve.
Some might think this is selfish, to feel this way about photographs, but it is really about more than captured images. It’s about forgetting 15 years of a life. It’s about surreptitiously reliving them. It is what I struggle with. It’s not that I am not thankful for what I have, but it is a loss and as such it behaves like the tides, ebbing and flowing, but never ceasing.
The changes wrought are incalculable. I grieve for the past and for the future. There will be things I will never experience and things I experience but in a way that is more challenging and isolating than I ever anticipated. This truly is a matter of only understanding if you walk in my shoes.
But these are small things and, in some cases, future things.
We adjust as we go along. Tentative steps taken, often with a heart that aches with loss but also one that feels a modicum of joy as things align. It is the past that is rearing its ugly head. As we go forward into this new life I am no longer allowed to revel in those memories. I must be secretive about the happiness I felt because it makes someone I love uncomfortable.
It’s the latest of cuts, and probably the deepest, and I feel as though I am bleeding out. How much can I lose and do I have the right to feel this grief when it’s not my life that will be challenging?
I don’t know the answer to that. I’m just searching for something to staunch the flow of blood.
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Photograph taken from Tumblr, source unknown