Sunday, March 28, 2021

Worth a Thousand Words

One of those dating website gimmicks of 'pick which one describes you better' got me thinking recently. It was something to the effect of 'snap a photo' or 'experience the moment' and I realized that I live in both camps pretty regularly and some of my biggest regrets are picking the wrong one for the experience at hand. The elevation of the Eucharist atop a cold and rugged Blanca Peak...I chose not to snap the photo and I'm forever regretting it. Playing with Little Bit and trying so hard to snap a selfie of the two of us that is Insta-worthy...I should've just savored the moment because they'll soon be far too few. I want to be the person like the photographer at the end of The Secret Life of Walter Mitty who says "If I like a moment, for me, personally, I don't like to have the distraction of the camera. I just want to stay in it." It's got me wondering why I so often want to take the picture and why I find it so much easier to remember the joy or wonder of a moment when I have the photo in front of me. There are certain photos that truly are worth a thousand words, or a thousand seconds of reminiscing, or a thousand attempts of reflection on the good. 

This picture could just be me and E at Christmas time. But there's so much more that this captures for me. This was taken around the time that she was independently and frequently signing "auntie" when she saw me. It warmed my heart so much to see not only the recognition in her eyes, but to have someone so light up when you walk in the room covers a multitude of insecurities and loneliness. This picture brings all of that back. It was also taken while I was in the middle of a shift at the hospital, and it reminds me of some of the best parts of working at South: the relationships I've built over the years, the purpose of our work, the generosity to the community, the unique gift of working at the same place as my sister, my own professional growth and how I've helped others grow.

Wind, wind, wind, click. Wind, wind, wind, click. Ahh, the magic of disposable cameras in 2002. This is one of those moments where I probably should've just basked in the wave of the Holy Spirit that washed over the crowd as JPII rode by instead of frantically trying to snap a lousy photo on a cheap camera. But while there are far more compelling images of our late great pope, this one is mine. It immediately brings back the heat, the soaking wet sleeping bag, the meals in a bag, the flags and banners, the hard gym floors, the fast friendships, the foreign languages, the massive rows of port-o-lets, the bus (mis)adventures, and the soul-altering experience of being surrounded by 800,000 Catholics hearing "JPII...he loves you too." Even the storm clouds bowed to the sacramental presence of God that final day, and this picture still makes me tear up. 

It's Christmas Eve day. It's both an eve and a day. It's a Christmas miracle! Obviously it's not Christmas Eve day in this picture. But again, the photo means more to me than it does to anyone else looking at it, and it's why I think I treasure them so much. This reflects my 14er adventures (Mt. of the Holy Cross, a beast conquered too soon after my flatlander lungs moved back from Omaha) and getting to share those adventures with my family, some of my favorite TV (the above Christmas miracle reference is from a particularly memorable episode of Bones), and most importantly, the fun of sharing inside jokes and constant movie/TV quotes with the wombmate. Only we get it, but that's enough. I love going back through my 14er pics and remembering the good of those days, because in the moment there was good of course, but also a lot of struggle and pain and questioning my sanity. Like with Kilimanjaro, where the farther past it we got, the more awesome the trip was, these pictures are a positive-memories-only version of battle scars. 

I'm tempted to not even write about this picture and just leave it here in all its glory. Definitely one of my favorites for the shock value. But also one of my favorites because that summer was one of the hardest and definitely one of the best things I've ever done, sundaes not withstanding. I credit Totus Tuus for some really solid formation, a chance to stretch myself in ways I didn't know was possible, the ability to drink black coffee, praying regularly for my future spouse, familiarity with Liturgy of the Hours, relationships with some of the amazing men who would become priests and Companions of Christ (leading to Brian Larkin Sundays, Catholic Stuff You Should Know, Gregorian Rant, and other nuggets being a part of my life), and this photo as a reminder that things are never quite as bad as they look. 

I could keep going with pictures that represent more than the image. And I'm realizing with music playing in the background that I could do this with songs too. The story is where the magic is at. And I've been reminded frequently the last few weeks that we were made for story. It's been good for my soul to live for a minute in the stories of these pictures, and to find the goodness, truth and beauty in them. 

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I reserve the right to make this blog as worthless to read as I feel like, and also to write as infrequently as I deem necessary. Just thought I'd let you know since I finally decided to share my blog.