“Live with integrity, respect the rights of other people, and follow your own bliss.”~Nathaniel Branden.
For those of us born in the baby boomer generation, most of our childhood photos were taken in school. Cameras were not common place. Photos took days to be developed. What you saw was what you got. And although we may smile as we look back at those days of innocence, those eyes that had not yet seen the world, at the time we saw only the flaws of the pose. Is that how I really look? I remember my mother being unhappy with the candid shots her son-in-law would capture, and then being even unhappier with his response: “The camera never lies”.
For those with money there were more choices: from the ‘posh’ non-auto focus cameras to the ‘instamatic’ cameras, easy to point and shoot. We had to choose between black and white or color. And then they had to get printed. And since you had to pay for good shots and bad, you took your time about choosing your shots. Your vacation or special event was brought back to life days later when you picked up your pictures, what had I taken? Sometimes the shot was not that great, but the memories it brought back was what counted.
The version of ‘instant’ came with the Polaroid camera – one that took the shot and printed it out while you waited, shaking it (or blowing on it!) to make it dry, peeking at the images as they emerged. A few years ago I saw my teenage great-niece with the modern day version of the Polaroid – what memories it evoked! She had a lot of fun with her instant photos (non-digital)!
Fast forward to the present, where our children and grandchildren will have copious photos and videos to review from their earliest moments (from in utero even, such an intrusion of privacy!). We share in our friends’ and family’s photos in social media. We can scroll through images of joy and celebration; poses in front of exotic places, besides plates of delicious food; in moments of true happiness.
But the ability to take any number of photos allows us to delete and adjust, choosing only those most perfect shots. We are all guilty of this. We try to take the views of our homes that show only the perfect angle, avoids the wall that needs repainting, the kitchen that is in need of a clean-up. We show our image with our stomach sucked in, our most flattering appearance. I suspect that if you came to my home you would be amazed to see the size of my garden, the corners that are still in need of clearing out (the former owner was a hoarder of all manner of items, including those hula-hoops that entertained my young guests; a couple of surf boards that are a conversation piece in one corner).
In the years before cameras and photography, members of the aristocracy were preserved for posterity through their portraits. For the most part the artists were smart enough to ‘photo shop’ out the flaws; to remove those features that were less than flattering; to smooth out the lines, and soften the edges. When your livelihood depends upon satisfying your customer, you make sure that the end result is pleasing. But are we doing the same thing today? My daughter and I took a set of photos together when she was exactly the age I was when she was born. The Glamour Shots team did such a beautiful job that we ended up buying the whole package. My teeth gleamed white, my face was flawless, I joked that I would stop showing up to events, I would just send one of the photos in apology for my absence. Why show up and remind people of the truth?
We often put our best face forward in all aspects of our lives. Just as we expose only the positive in our social media feeds, we hide our troubles and trials from others. We allow even our close friends to believe all is well even as we hide the distressing truth of our personal struggles and pains. But this façade makes it even harder for others who are going through tough times. For it makes them more isolated, more unique. Everyone else has successful lives, successful children, health and happiness in abundance. And when someone does ‘put their business out there’ we are appalled, embarrassed, uncomfortable.
The reality is that we all have done things of which we are ashamed. Our lives are balanced by times of supreme happiness, and days when we can hardly get out of bed. All of us are touched by tragedy along with joy. And we need the support of others to get through the dark days. Many of us try very hard to post only positive images on social media, especially to counter the negative actions coming from high places. But we also need to be accepting of the good and the bad; to demonstrate unconditional acceptance of good shots and bad. That is life.
Perhaps I find joy in something you would not: ‘Low me, nuh man?’ (trans: Allow me please). Perhaps I have been gaining weight, am looking older, am wearing a dress you have seen before: ‘Low me, nuh man?’ Perhaps I am living my life in a way your belief system disapproves of: ‘Low me, nuh man?’ If, as quoted at the top of this message, we are living with integrity and respecting others, then let’s follow our bliss: ‘Low me, nuh man?’.
On this Friday morning, I will continue to post beautiful photos of nature, because they bring me joy, even though I have only one orchid that has managed to bloom! I will continue to choose the shots that please me, as I am vain enough not to want you to see that unflattering photo of me! But I will try to be more honest in showing the cracks along with the flawless views, the weeds along with the perfect flowers. And at times I may write of things that are not in line with your beliefs or values. ‘Low me, nuh man?’
May you see beauty without perfection; the joy within the pain. May you feel free to follow your bliss, regardless of how the photos look on social media!
Have a wonderful weekend Family!