Aaron snapped this photo of me last weekend as we were celebrating my friend Todd's 40th Birthday (that's him there next to me). I've known Todd since my very first week at college - I was 17 which means we've been friends now for more than 20 years. He's part of a group of friends from college who all live here in town. He gives good hugs and laughs easily - always has.
As I looked at this photo, the phrase that kept popping into my head was Do You See What I See? And then I started thinking about photos of ourselves and why we like or don't like them and all the underlying layers of stories that can go along at any point in time about who we are and how we got to right now.
Here's what I "see" when looking at this photo:
- I see a woman approaching 40, with all the wounds and gathered strength from experiences that go along with midlife.
- I see a woman genuinely laughing and enjoying being in the company of good friends. She loved that it lasted until the wee hours of the morning and included dancing.
- I see a woman who watched her new love and her old love stand together at this party in a long conversation about homes and kids and politics.
- I see a woman who loves wearing stripes and who debated about the white jeans but was happy with that choice in the end.
- I see a woman struggling to figure it all out and struggling to remember that she doesn't have to have it all figured out.
- I see a woman who loves and lives her work, sometimes to the determent of those around her because it can be tough to turn off.
- I see a woman who often spends a crazy amount of time in her own head - for better or worse.
- I see a woman with a 13-year-old son and a 6-year-old-daughter who sometimes questions where the time has gone and how did I get to right now?
- I see a woman who misses some pieces of the last chapter of her life but who also can't imagine this new chapter without the experiences of the last one.
- I see a woman who is, no matter what, thankful for the combination of experiences that have brought her to where she exists today.
After writing these up I asked Aaron what he saw when looking at this photo. His responses were very typical Aaron - funny and sarcastic and literal. I like the opportunity to bring his voice into my stories. Here's what he saw:
- He sees that the guy with the tucked in shirt might make me laugh but the guy with his shirt untucked is the one that gets to put his arm around me.
- He sees that the only reason I'm not holding a drink is because I drank all mine already.
- He sees that I'm near the exit sign, which could potentially mean I want an easy getaway if I start to panic (back story: he's been with me on more than a few occasions - concerts and airplanes and such - where I've needed anti-anxiety medication to alleviate my issues with crowds/enclosed spaces/lack of control).
- He sees that I'm not wearing my glasses, which must be a sign of "something" and that come on, it's a 40-year-old birthday party and at least half these people should probably be wearing glasses.
When he first messaged these back to me I laughed out loud. I love that he's a truth teller and witty and I love that his response was not the same as mine in terms of getting all reflective and serious. It's one of the things I like about him, that he brings a levity to the table for me that I sometimes forget to bring for myself.
Photos are powerful story sparks. There is so much below the surface that relates to who we are and the ways we see ourselves. Take a look through your own collection of photos and pick one and answer the question, "Do you see what I see?" Begin each of your statements with the same repeated phrase, "I see..."
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