“This is the first day of the rest of your life
'Cause even in the dark you can still see the light
It's gonna be alright, it's gonna be alright” — Steve Wilson / Matt Maher
I don’t look at Facebook much these days, but lately when I drop by I’ve noticed that there’s a lot of sadness being shared. Loss. Illness. Difficulties. Real Life stuff that isn’t pleasant at all. So much sorrow. Last year when I was barely managing to keep my head above the water of my own challenges, it was good for me to have friends to focus on instead. I was too mired in my NOW as it was. It consumed too much precious time that should have been spent on other things. Sometimes circumstances demand your attention, and the more significant they are the more attention they demand. So the suffering, the sorrowful thing, becomes NOW. RIGHT NOW.
Of course, this applies to joyful things as well as sorrowful ones. After all, anyone who has lived either one of these wonderful events knows that they are not the type of experiences that can take a back seat. (And they shouldn’t be made to take one, either; they both deserve the best!)
One of the beautiful things about life, however, is that NOW passes away. It softly shifts into THEN. This applies to joyful times as well as the painful ones, but it comforts me either way just knowing how transient moments are. And of course I think this is a perfect reason to photograph all of it.
The above photo is one of the first self portraits I made, just after my 38th birthday. I’ve carried on that project, making occasional photographs of myself and publishing a set each year around September. These photographs aren’t meant to be for me; I know what I look like. They are for my daughter. The photographer of the family can almost disappear, so I thought there might come a day that she would like to see how her mother looked at different stages. Sometimes, I’m not alone in them, because after all she is a huge part of my NOW.
I don’t beautify myself for a self-portrait. Half the time I’m not even wearing makeup, or I might be in my pajamas.
What I want is the Real NOW. I might add symbolism to it (see the one 3 above), but mostly I want it to be an accurate representation of who I was at that moment. Sometimes, symbolism adds itself, as in this one from my 41st (42nd? I’m losing count) birthday. . . .
It’s interesting to me, already after just 4 years of this exercise, to see what my camera sees of me. The mirror shows me a new NOW every day, but mostly I don’t feel like it changes much. My daughter’s NOW changes with astonishing rapidity. Even keeping my finger on the pulse of her daily life, it’s difficult to keep up. Being able to see the change in her in photographs highlights how quickly NOWs become THENs. NOW, she sometimes uses my camera to photograph me.
The NOW that burdened me last year hangs around. I haven’t been able to get rid of it entirely yet; it may be years before it’s banished to a THEN. But I know it will happen, just as surely as I knew the moment my daughter was born that (God willing) she would grow up and become a strong, independent woman. The spirit of my own female ancestors is too powerful to ever fade; it’s a constant NOW that pushes it way onward through generations.
Every day is a fresh start, a fresh chance, a new beginning, a new NOW. I might be waiting for the lingering sorrow in this house to become a THEN, but there is joy in the meantime: the joy of waiting and a new becoming. Each day is a shadow of the ones that came before; every NOW soon becomes a THEN.