The afterglow effect

Apr 19, 2016 | Life in Progress

I’ve been doing a lot of reflection. About the last 5 years of motherhood, the last 10 years as a working artist, the last 17 years with John, and really, about the last 40 years of this remarkable journey as a human being.

This post is a bit of a tribute to all that reflection, and also a portal for me to access a way of joyfully reflecting on (and celebrating) my life in the present, the NOW.

after glow effect

This shot was taken the day we crammed a tiny black Honda Civic Accord hatchback with our most treasured possessions. Photo albums, jewelry, books, all three pairs of my beloved overalls. We’d started dating 12 weeks before. We were 24 years old and deeply in love.

We set off for Portland, Oregon with John’s yucca tree taking up the entire backseat. We were on an adventure. We still are.

Although I was savoring our new found in-love-ness, there was so much I didn’t know back then. I didn’t know how truly blessed I was. I didn’t know how many opportunities and privileges were swirling in my young life. And I definitely didn’t know that John was going to get more handsome, year after year (oh my, he really has).

Today, as I flip through our beloved photo albums and meander down memory lane, I’m seeing it all so differently. I don’t see two crazy kids making reckless decisions. I see bravery, adventure and the beginnings of a true partnership.

Have you ever noticed how looking back often has that afterglow effect? It shines a light that shows you just how much grace and joy you had. The time and distance reveal the truth and beauty that filled your life back then. The afterglow is a softer view of your yesterday self.

In the afterglow, we see how lovely, how smart, how tender, how amazing, how perfectly imperfect, how cool we were. We see ourselves in a full, true way, and we become awed by what we see.

Wow, she was only 23. How courageous she was, deciding to move 3000 miles away to create a new life. She was a brave seeker who lived with a full, open heart.

The sad truth is that it often takes so many years for us to see these things. And the afterglow doesn’t create these truths – we were those things in the moment, but we didn’t see it.

And that means we are those things right now, too. Right now, we are brave in love, brave in sadness, brave in grief and anxiety, brave in the healing of our hearts. And we don’t need to wait on the afterglow to acknowledge these things. We can choose to view our lives with a gentler perspective, today. Right now.

That’s become my practice lately: to close the gap on the afterglow effect, so that I can view myself and my life through that softer gaze NOW, instead of waiting 15 years.

I am continuing the practice of learning to see the sweetness that happens in and around the cramped to-do list, the inevitable exhaustion of parenting, the messy hearts and all the unknowns I can never predict. I am choosing to see myself for the woman I am today, and to see John for the man he is today. Everyday, I’m choosing to see our son True with these fresh, celebrating eyes.

I’ve made myself a promise not to wait and reflect on my life at a later date, anymore. I’ve opened my heart, so that I can take it all in right now – in ultra high-definition clarity. And in that clarity, I see purpose, meaning, and pure love.

Now, instead of the afterglow, my life is all… glow.

My wish is that we all cherish who we were before, and also who we are today.


Sending much love,

Show/Hide Comments (7 comments)
  1. Nicole Austin

    just what i needed to hear today, thank you! i was just thinking about this, that i will have a different perspective of myself, today, in the future. but reading your words has helped me see that i can have a loving and forgiving view on that very same person today! 🙂

  2. Connie

    Your post made me think of my life and the similarities. My husband and I married and left three days later to begin our life together in North Carolina…in that year I had just graduated from high school, married, flew for the first time and became a wife. Today is my 66th birthday and we will be celebrating our 48th anniversary this fall…feeling blessed?

  3. Julee Castillo

    My husband and I were looking at our old photos the other day, remembering how young we were when we moved away. It was scary and exciting to start that new adventure together. Here we are-years later- the same, but different. Still exciting to be together, but comfy. Nice that it isn’t so scary. Funny how I found this post just after we looked at those photos. Thank you for sharing your story. It makes me smile and remember mine. I wish you and your family many happy years ahead.

  4. Michelle


  5. Shannon Watson

    Simply beautiful, Kelly Rae. Written with your generous open heart and wisdom. This is how I choose to live my life, too. Huge blessings to you and your family as you embrace your precious life together, Warmly, Shannon

  6. Dawn Burnside

    One of the most beautiful, inspiring, lovely posts I have ever read. Thank you for sharing your beautiful art, life, & precious family with the world. I am so inspired by it.

  7. Sabine

    Dear Kelly,

    really crazy, just one hour ago before I read your post I looked through a box of old photos and had the same experience of afterglow. And I asked myself why couldn´t I see in the past how great some things were. But I´m happy that at least some years later it becomes clearer for me 🙂
    It is a good idea to take this feeling into the present.
    Thank you for this inspiring post (and sorry if my English is not so good – I´m writing from Germany :-).
    Kind regards, Sabine.


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I’m Kelly Rae Roberts

Before I picked up my first paintbrush at the age of 30, I was a medical social worker. I followed my creative whispers, and today I’m an artist & Possibilitarian. I’m passionate about creating meaningful art and experiences that awaken and inspire our spirits.

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