During the past two years I’ve become a student of the work of Brene Brown. She’s a researcher, author, professor, and social worker who writes about connection, shame, vulnerability, imperfection, and courage. I’ve been making my way through her newest book, Atlas of the Heart, and this quote resonated with me:
The bittersweet side of appreciating life’s most precious moments is the unbearable awareness that those moments are passing.In Brene Brown’s Atlas of the Heart, quoting from Marc Parent’s Believing It All
Brene defines bittersweet as “a mixed feeling of happiness and sadness.” As my kids grow up, I find myself feeling this bittersweetness more often. I am thrilled that they don’t need me to tie their shoes or wipe their noses or feed them breakfast, but I’ll admit that I’m sad to see their soft baby arms grow into lean muscles, see their wispy toddler hair turn into a tangle of teenage bedhead, and their pleas for me to play with them turn into an insatiable desire to play Minecraft. My youngest is only 6 years old and still loves snuggles, hugs, and being read to, but my 15-year-old is rapidly approaching the realm of driving, college, and departure. I find Marc Parent’s quote to be particularly relevant as I recognize the good moments with my little guy and realize that those moments will soon be gone.
For Christmas I gave several photography-related gifts. I made my husband and mom a wall calendar with pictures from the previous month of the previous year. It was fun to look through 2021’s pictures and recognize the growth of each of my children (and their hairs’ growth!). I made my family a slideshow of the past year that we watched together more than once. This year I also printed a hefty blog book for my younger daughter, who sometimes feels lost in the midst of siblings. It begins with her birth and documents her life through age 4 years. It was bittersweet to see how tiny she used to be, how her smile used to light up her whole face more often, and how carefree her movements were.
In photography I find a much-needed tool to help me mitigate the bittersweetness of life. Photography lets me appreciate life’s beautiful moments and keep them from slipping out of my memory. I find in photography a way to preserve those moments, and I think being able to preserve them tips the scale away from sadness and toward joy and gratitude for the beautiful life we are living.