Be in the picture. (It’s not what you think)

My mom is one of the smartest people I know.  There was a commercial on TV about having a readiness plan in the event of an emergency. So, I asked my mom what she would take from our house if she only had 5 minutes to grab things.  Without hesitating (this was clearly not the first time she had thought about it), she said “all my pictures”.  That really stuck with me.  Pictures weren’t that important to me and I really didn’t understand why they were to her.  

 I’m not sure when it happened. But it does, to most people (mainly women) at some point and it certainly did to me. I despised having my picture taken unless I was 100% perfectly groomed, with a new dress and every hair in place. 

When I was 5 years old, I imagine I was a whole lot like M (well-played, karma).  Spunky, wild, and begging to have my picture taken any chance I could. “MOM, take one of me up here in the rafters of the garage!” I never even considered what my hair or makeup or outfit looked like. Chances are pretty high that I was covered in dirt, bruises and scrapes (a lot like M) and had a huge smile, the kind where you can see the sparkle in the person’s eyes many years later.  

Perhaps puberty is to blame, or society with their images of perfection…but I’m not interested in placing blame. 

In high school I was uncomfortable in my own skin (as I imagine many are at that age). I didn’t enjoy having my picture taken most of the time, but I still obliged my mom or grandma when special occasions demanded photos. 

I had a lot of fun in college (there, I said it). A lot of fun. I joined the best sorority in the world and quickly learned how to pose for pictures so I would look marginally better in them. We took more pictures than anyone could ever need (and yes, we needed film then). It was just a thing we did. And…looking back at them, I’m so glad we have those pictures. 

So, not to go all amateur philosopher on you, (but this is my blog, so I get to do whatever I want), but I believe there are two branches of the “meaning of life” and I’m going to oversimplify them to the point where my philosophy major friends will likely unfriend me…but here goes:

The first is to be happy, and the second is to leave your mark on the world. 

When I married the man, we had a photographer and a videographer like people sometimes do. I’m certainly glad we have pictures of that day — but I’m mostly glad I have pictures of all the guests and family on that day. I will look at that album about once every few years (when searching through the boxes in the basement for something else, generally) and I never look at pictures of me in there — but all the other people of that day. 

My body doesn’t do pregnancy well. That was a big understatement…but, it doesn’t. So, I definitely didn’t want any pictures taken of me. This was true when I was pregnant with M as well — and also the years in between when my body wasn’t “normal” anymore.  Those Johnson girls and I have a saying about that now anyway:

Normal is a dryer setting

Between M and P, I realized a lot of things. I grew as a person in ways I couldn’t have imagined. I changed. My perspective was dramatically different. Because of the sign I saw (see blog post from June 2017). 

So, I started allowing people to take my picture whenever they wanted. I willingly jumped in to pictures (no matter how I looked…but a side effect was that I started taking better care of my appearance because I knew someone might take a picture of me.  I even honed my ninja photobombing techniques. My mom even commented that she was surprised I let her take my picture when I was pregnant with P. 

Here’s the thing. Funerals make you think about life. I had a streak where I was attending too many in a short period of time…which shifted my amateur philosophical ramblings into hyperdrive. They all had picture boards or slide shows with pictures and I was always drawn to them (I’m socially awkward and NEVER seem to have the right words to say in these moments, so looking at the pictures gives me something more comfortable to do). It made me start to wonder what pictures they would find of me one day….I had childhood pictures (albeit FAR less than my sister since I was the youngest), I had senior pictures, wedding pictures, and…. pictures of me that one time I had my hair done for someone’s wedding…and…. well, there wasn’t much else. Don’t get me wrong I am a mom of 4 girls. I have a million pictures of them. But, if you needed to find a picture of me as an adult, you would have been more likely to find a live unicorn making muffins in your kitchen. 

So, I decided those johnson girls needed some pictures of their mom with them. Their mom doing stuff (I am actually fortunate to do an incredible amount of stuff). My nieces will want to see a picture of their Aunt one day. They deserve them. My picture board at my funeral will have happy memories because of this shift. There are definitely some photos I cringe to look at – but through my girls’ eyes, I am beautiful and that’s all I need. 

So, I’m pleading – be in the picture. Some say that selfies make our society narcissistic… I say take a crazy selfie with everyone you meet.  Because they are fun!  Smile and let the camera see the sparkle in your eye. Be alive.  

Author: thosejohnsgirls

I am an average, nearsighted, perfectionistic, suburban midwestern minivan-driving, professional educator and mom of Those Johnson Girls. I have absolutely no idea what I'm doing, but I get by with a little help from my friends. And coffee.

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