When the Story Gets Difficult: Honoring the WHOLE Story
By Dani Taylor
When life changes happen, in addition to what tumbles around in our brains on its very own spin cycle, the memories can be difficult to deal with – both in our digital world and our physical memory bank.
July 8 of this year marks five years since I staked my claim on my own Independence Day. That was the day my children and I moved out of the home plagued by abuse and rage became #TeamIronClad. Since then, we have focused on celebrating ourselves, our blessings, the magic of our world.
BUT WHAT DO WE DO WITH THAT STUFF FROM THE INTERIM?
For the last five years, I doubt that my kids thought much about the status of our pictures and scrapbooks from that period, but I did.
For years before claiming my Independence, I had been tormented by the guilt of raising my children in such an unhealthy place. My memories of their early years were blurred by the tears and fears. I looked at photos of their faces and could see only the clenched jaw and fists of my ex-husband. I saw the confused eyes of my three little bundles-of-awesome – all belying the smiles and sunshine.
I was proud of the new safe home I had created, absent of fear and boasting genuine smiles. Still, I felt the mom-guilt of having stopped most of my traditional scrapbooking with a screeching halt, freezing the children in time about nine years ago when too many photos had shadowy stories lurking behind them. Some stories they still recall, but most faded because they were so young.
I owed it to my children to fill that gap, right? I wrestled continuously with the dilemma –
…dredge it all up and figure out a way to mask it?
…or continue to put my fingers in my ears, close my eyes, and say, “blah, blah, blah, I can’t hear you” to those noisy images?
The first option sounded torturous and dishonest. The latter, as we all know from our own experiences, would be a direct route to failure.
These things have a way of manifesting themselves in our world until we face them.
So, this is my story of how I have further solidified the foundation on which the Independence of #TeamIronClad exists without denying any part of our story or making a false presentation that would eat away at the very fiber of my being for eternity! (Okay, so after all we experienced, I think I’m entitled to be a little dramatic about eternity….)
Of course, the TRUE Transformation was venturing off the path we were on and using the biggest sticks we had to clear a new one. But because traditional scrapbooking was how I began #DanisPixelChix, the issue of how to handle paper albums, printed photos, and digital files was a fairly large limb across my new path.
At one point, I decided to print photos for each of the kids’ traditional albums starting in 2015 – the first year we were on our own. I love creating the pages, and so I enjoyed that.
BUT … BUT … you know what’s coming – what about those five or six years in between?
I knew better than to expect myself to live with the gap, but I just didn’t want to look at it all for the weeks, months, or more that it would take to create three kids’ traditional albums for that time period. AND WHAT THE HECK WOULD I JOURNAL about those often-frightening days???
In 2015, in pursuit of the digital scrapbooking software I loved, I joined #Forever as an ambassador, downloaded the latest version of #Artisan and continued creating. I rallied my former digital customers, and I started a free storage account. I used it to back up my photos from my phone and avoid the “storage full” message.
With my new status as a single mother and constantly being summonsed back to court by my ex-husband, I hadn’t managed to finish any digital photo albums. Then #ForeverDesignAndPrint launched. In an hour, I created a digital photo album commemorating our first months as #TeamIronClad. I printed a copy for my grandmother who gave us refuge in her house for the summer. And I printed a copy for us that stays on our coffee table still.
But I wasn’t yet taking full advantage of the resources #Forever offers. MY, how times have changed.
TRANSFORMATIONS HAVE HAPPENED:
I used to be someone who scrapbooked exclusively AND chronologically with traditional albums for the kids and digital family albums. I AM NOW SOMEONE WHO SCRAPBOOKS JOYFULLY. (Celebrating our family with beautiful digital designs AND getting my fix of paper creativity by creating traditional pages I want to create when I want to do it.)
I used to be someone who used digital storage as backup. I AM NOW THE MASTER AND EXECUTOR OF A MEANINGFUL #DigitalEstate.
I once dreaded facing those old memories. I have now found a place for them and MOVE FORWARD IN WHOLENESS AND JOY.
Here’s how I did it … the tools and processes I used:
The entirety of our photo library is contained in #Historian – all our photos from 2002 to present, along with a fair amount of extended-family history that pre-dates 2002. Historian enables me to edit photos and securely back them up on my external hard drive.
The best of our photos reside in two permanent #ForeverStorage accounts –
The #TeamIronClad account is our primary account and contains selected photos from every year – averaging about 1 of 5 photos from Historian. (This is the #DigitalEstate I will bequeath to my children.)
Our secondary account is in my oldest child’s name and contains most of the images with which I have struggled. (And bonus: my techno-geek boy loves using it to preserve his own photos and videos!)
In addition, we have a #FamilyPhotoNetwork with #0Forever: Each of my children and my (new & improved!) husband has a free account. We are all linked through “friends & family” to share photos seamlessly, defying loss of images and video caused by device loss, storage-full, physical disasters, etc….
My story includes my children’s stories, and they cannot be edited out. Our primary account is about family history and the celebration of everything #TeamIronClad – from the mundane to the magnificent.
Because it is a home for my heart, there is no room in that space for those dark times. The fact that we don’t want to see those photos presently, doesn’t mean they should be eliminated, and putting the onus on children isn’t fair. I certainly didn’t want to ask them to choose preservation or deletion; thus, the secondary account – photos that are hurtful for us to view are now secured in my son’s account in a single album named simply “2002-2014,” with no comments from me. Eventually, the kids will decide when they want to look at them and what they want to do with them. By creating this secondary account, I am further empowering my children via this bit of autonomy. Maybe one day, those photos will aid in reparations and healing, or maybe they will ultimately be deleted or just ignored.
This purging* of my #Historian vault has been an emotional process. Over the period of a several weeks, I made it my mission to complete this process before our five year Independence Day “anniversary.” Mission accomplished is a victory for me, and it is with a clear conscience that I can say I have validated every part of my children’s story. I have documented names, places, and dates without commentary.
As I have, on my children’s behalf, travelled to some dark recesses, I have found another bit of healing, and as the five year anniversary drew near, I knew I had done the right thing for my children – both in seeking our independence and in not omitting any part of their story.
So what part of your journey do you need to conquer?
*A note on the purging technique: Historian makes it really easy to send photos to two separate accounts. For the photos going into our primary account, I simply move them into the work area and periodically upload to my Forever account. For those going into the secondary account, I created a folder on my desktop. As I’m purging, I select a batch of photos using CTRL-click > right click > share > send to > file > choose the pre-made desk top folder. I put them into this folder, and at the end of each purging session, I log into my son’s account to upload those photos; after which, I delete them from the desktop folder.