This oil painting features a cameo of me- it’s an unexpected self-portrait. That’s me in the red dress with my camera, taking a picture of this fountain to paint later. I took pictures from this faraway perspective and also up close. What I didn’t know is that while I was doing this, my husband took a picture of me at the fountain that he shared with me later. This made what I thought was just a task for work into a sweet memory. So I added myself into the scene, as seen through the eyes of my husband.
I hadn’t intended on adding any people, especially not myself! But now when I see this art, I think of how my husband does spontaneous things on occasion that surprise me. This art, for me, has become more about that memory (a real life action) than the fountain (a tourist attraction that thousands of people have photographed and hundreds of artists- especially students- have painted).
I’ve been sorting through photos to choose some to frame. Photographs can be an important influence on mental health, as the careful selection of which memories to focus on can be healing, empowering, and motivating. When we have few photos or only photos from the past, it can be easy to believe that our best days are behind us, gone. And if our photographs are nearly exclusively of times when we are on vacation, at a photo studio, or at special events, we see only our social or public selves, not our “everyday” authentic selves. The message we may inadvertently send ourselves it that our true selves are not valuable, as this side of us doesn’t make the cut for displaying in our space.
It’s important to occasionally re-assess the photos we display, and update our space with current, real memories that encourage us to live in gratitude for the present and hope for the future. Our chosen photographs can be part of a private selection, displayed only in our bedrooms or other non-public areas of our homes. It’s not important to share our favorite memories with others. But it can be significant to display these photos to ourselves and those who live with us.
Who we are in our real lives is enough. Although the best-of-times photos are important to celebrate (and will likely compose the majority of our framed collections), we do not need to be our vacation selves, our special event selves, or our social selves to feel alive. Just be. Honor real, ordinary, everyday moments as highly as the days we’re “supposed” to commemorate.
More important to me than the iconic fountain and famous landscape is knowing that my husband thought the lady in the red dress was worthy of photographing. May we still be surprised by those who love us, and live in wonder that we are so blessed to live another day. While special moments are perhaps few in comparison to everyday actions, it is the average day that is uniquely ours alone, and extraordinarily special. May we create lives worthy of remembering.
God bless and keep you, this day and always.
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