September 18, 2018
the trellis blog.
I’m a keeper of memories. When I think about scrapbooking, a giddiness firework explodes inside me.
I realize we aren’t all built this way—my husband bears with my need to have a craft closet; and whenever I talk about my dream of designing a craft room, he just closes his eyes and bows his head—but I am dedicated to preserving my family’s memories. Like many parents, I take, organize and store a gazillion photos. But my happiest indulgence as family historian is keeping individual line-a-day journals for my three children, in which I’ve written every single day of their lives since the days they were each born (they’re 7, 6 and 4).
I distinctly remember opening my first child’s journal, on the day of her birth, to embark on the first of the five years of daily entries; my sister remarked incredulously that it appeared I was setting myself up for failure. It seemed intense, I’ll admit. But I wanted this keepsake, this future treasure. My inner obedient student likes the idea of a daily written assignment; and full disclosure, I held an insecurity about embracing my new at-home mom status; frightened about what a day’s work now meant. The journal would be my quantifiable proof that my days at home with my child were each important and substantive and of value. And so it became my natural day’s end for over seven years. I’d write my entries to my children directly as if composing a long letter, and writing to each one somehow connected my end-of-day emotional dots.
Some might assume that these daily entries would be tedious, and sure, there have been days when I begrudgingly opened the journals. But with time, the entries documented our family history, captured what would otherwise have been fleeting memories, and have given me the sense that my future adult children will not only know their mom in her 30’s and now 40’s, but also offer them detailed insight into their own early development and growth.
But just after Thanksgiving 2017, I skipped a day, then two, then three. Very aware of the undocumented passage of time, I struggled to make sense of the change in my behavior. The shift was conscious yet unsettling; freeing, yet incessantly absent. But still, I deliberately rejected the daily ritual for the next nine months.
The time commitment didn’t break me, because it doesn’t require thatmuch time to write a few lines daily. My system, however, plagued me. Although initially appealing that all three of my kids would have a dedicated and individualized journal, the abundance became an overwhelming and daunting task. So I quit, and I validated my choice by patting myself on the back for the accomplished entries.
Alas, I couldn’t shake it. I couldn’t stop being upset about my disconnect from the journals that I deeply treasured. Not documenting had somehow changed the way I experienced motherhood. I actually felt untethered and disorganized and sad that the details of my kids’ lives (and my history) were slipping away unnoticed and then becoming insignificant and forgotten. By missing so many entries, I felt like I had somehow lost my recognition of the becoming process of my children. My favorite definition of become is: to begin to be. And it seems to me that those beginnings of being happen in subtle, sometimes unrecognizable ways that cameras can’t capture. And it’s the becoming part that intrigues me the most about the human experience.
But still, I didn’t pick up the journals that sat like an invitation on my bedside table, every single night. Yes, I am a preserver of memories. Yes, scrapbooking is my favorite hobby. Yes, documenting my kids’ lives brings me tremendous joy. But my flawed system of memory keeping no longer worked for me. The system’s brokenness closed me off, made me defiant and kept me from doing something that I wanted to do.
And as I write this, I’m struck that perhaps this piece about systems for memory keeping is actually a piece about noticing one’s changing self. Because get this. As I was planning (note, PLANNING—nothing had actually happened yet) to resume the journals with a new school year, and simply accept and pay no attention to the missed months of documenting, an ad for Qeepsake opened my world to EVERYTHING I needed to resolve this situation and resume my memory keeping. Generally, I hate ads. I never click on ads, but this one spoke to me and I clicked. If you, too, are a hard-core memory keeper, trust me: Go. To. Qeepsake. Your life will be forever and beautifully changed.
But if broken systems resonate with you, I urge you to consider the systems in your life that are turning you off from something you want. Are you not exercising but want to? Are you not reading but want to? Are you not exploring your faith but want to? Are you not earning money but want to? Are you not eating clean but want to? Perhaps, then, it’s the system that’s holding you in place and keeping you stuck. And if that’s the case, talk about the flawed system to people you trust; get creative; follow a lead that pulls you. Be available for the unexpected lift that will allow you to redesign your system, get what you want, and keep up with who you are becoming.
Begin to be.