I’m in the midst of a HUGE family photo project. It basically means going through every photo that is on my computer, starting way back to 2006, sorting them, editing many, and having them printed in albums. It’s one of those projects that has been on my mind and on my to-do list for approximately seven years. Yikes.
Part of the beauty of doing it now, all this time later, is that I’m choosing to print photos that I’m certain I would not have chosen if I was consistently keeping up with the albums. It’s the after glow effect. And as I’ve been going back and looking, I’ve found myself totally in awe with who we were in some of these photos, some of them just two years ago.
We have grown up so much in seven years! Not to mention we had a baby who has grown, too.
While we were in Hawaii, looking through photos of True from just a year ago, it occurred to us that our baby isn’t an actual baby anymore. No diapers. No bed rails. No everyday strollers. No interrupted sleep, and on and on.
It happened so fast. And now? He’s a boy. With a voice. A vision. A personality. Words. Conversations. It’s totally crazy. In some ways, I long for the baby days, but in others, I don’t. I’m just so glad we captured it all with photos, videos, storytelling, and journaling. And that we were there. Fully present, in awe, in love, in struggle, in all of it as we grew up a family.
It all makes me think of those tender first two, two and half years. My heart was in a constant state of expansion while being incredibly conscious of every move, every feeling, every decision. The letting go. The fiercely holding on. The birth trauma fall out. The intention to try and capture every amazing detail, knowing it would slip by soon. The intention to also try and allow myself to feel the sometimes heaviness of it, knowing it too would slip by soon. All the conversations and choices we were making as we laid the groundwork with how we would talk to True, how we would parent him, how we would teach him, how we would allow him to teach us. They were, perhaps, the most important years of our life. We were building and constructing and learning how to navigate a totally new, crazy kind of love.
And now, here we are with a 3.5 year old boy who blows our minds, daily.
The other day it went down like this:
True: Mama, what is joy?
Me: Hmmm, what do you think it could be?
True, very matter of factly: I don’t know.
Me: Hmmm, what does it feel like?
True (after a long thinking pause): Oh I know what joy is! It’s loooovvveee.
Me: Yes, it’s definitely a part of love, kind of like an expression of it.
True: And love is hugs and kisses.
True (walking over toward me): I’m going to give you some joy out of my heart.
He then gives me lots of hugs and kisses (man, kids are the best). Then, he walks back over to his seat.
True: I gave you all the joy in my heart and now it’s empty.
We then had an entire conversation about how giving and receiving works, how we have to be sure to fill our hearts, our joy tanks, with lots of love and joy so that when it comes time to give it to others, we don’t deplete our supply.
We talked about how to fill up your joy tank. For him, it was getting lots of hugs and kisses from friends and family, telling stories, playing music, playing with the big kids, and watching Frozen and Doc McStuffins. It was awesome. Who knows if he really got it, but I love that we’re having these kinds of conversations. It makes my heart totally explode.
Later, it made me consider all the ways that I do or don’t fill up my own joy tank, but more specifically, how I give and receive from it. When is my joy tank empty? How does it get filled? The whole thing led me to a big aha: I’m very good at filling up my joy tank with things that I know will replenish me (alone time, inspiration, art dates, creativity, etc.) but 1) I’m working way too hard at it (joy shouldn’t be a reward) and 2) I am not very good at allowing my tank to get filled by others.
Ever independent and self-sufficient, I’m too busy creating and maintaining and managing how I must take care of my joy tank, how I must be sure to make time to fill it, be responsible to it, etc etc – all without considering that I alone don’t have to fill it, and that joy shouldn’t be the reward after finishing our to-do lists, or after we’ve worked so hard to create it (like, for example, a vacation). I’m also learning that their joy doesn’t actually make it into my tank unless I am conscious of receiving it, either from others or in those simple simple still moments where I’m not working for it, but rather it’s just there in the moment, in the stillness, in the play.
Big ahas for me!
Something about my spiritual awakening experience taught me that I wasn’t fully allowing myself to receive it on a deeper level, on an intrinsic I am worthy and valuable level. And this is part of my joy work – understanding that I don’t have to work at it so much. There is an endless source. Of love. And joy.