All of us have one – a favorite photograph.
An image of us or of a loved one (or both) that, no matter how often we look at it brings a smile to our face or prompts tears of joy to well up in our eyes. A moment – frozen in time – when life seemed to make perfect sense, when the pieces of the puzzle more neatly fit together, when our minds and our lives were less cluttered, when we felt free and unashamed to be silly, to just be our unadorned selves, to express ourselves – to speak and share our truth.
Maybe yours is a moment of PEACE – of you (or a loved one): curled up in a blanket in front of a fireplace, with a favorite book in hand, on a cold winter’s night; walking along the shoreline of the beach with the warm summer surf lapping over your sandy bare feet; asleep on the floor with a four-legged best friend and protector snuggled up nearby; at a quiet candle-lit dinner for two; or rocking a child (or grandchild) to sleep in the soft glow of a nursery night light.
Maybe it’s a moment of CONNECTION – of you (or a loved one): in the warm embrace of a parent, friend, lover or sibling, or holding a newborn for the first time; at a gathering of friends or a reunion of family; on the receiving end of a proposal or a first kiss; lost in a father/daughter wedding dance; or simply holding the hand of a loved one as they face the fear of the first day at a new school, of surgery or test results or on the doorstep of death.
Maybe it’s a moment of ACCOMPLISHMENT – of you (or a loved one): taking a first step; crossing the finish line of a race you almost didn’t enter and weren’t sure you could run; graduating from high school, college, law, graduate, nursing or medical school; being recognized by colleagues at work, for your selfless giving or for your musical, theatrical, artistic or literary talents; or reaching a milestone in a battle with a life-threatening illness or addiction.
Maybe it’s a moment of ANTICIPATION – of you (or a loved one): bounding down the stairs on Christmas morning; tearing away the wrapping paper and catching a first glimpse of a special gift; seeing an old friend as they first step off an airplane after too many years apart; waiting by the window for that special someone to pull into the driveway at the end of a long day; or uncovering your eyes at a surprise party you never saw coming.
Maybe it’s a moment of PLAYFULNESS – of you (or a loved one): pretending mom’s pots and pans were a snare drum set; on a slide, the hanging rings or a swing at a favorite childhood park; playing “dress up” with a neighborhood friend; covered with flour or bathtub bubbles from head to toe after an afternoon of baking or during an evening bath; or on a horse, sliding into home plate, in mid-serve, on a stage, at the keyboard or singing karaoke.
Whatever the moment, its power is real.
In seemingly impenetrable darkness it is a sliver of light.
In the quicksand of despair it is a lifeline of hope.
In the stormy seas of self-doubt it is a lighthouse of love.
In the midst of chaos it is comfort.
Most importantly, contrary to what our Inner Critic would have us believe and however dire they may appear, it serves as irrefutable evidence that our present circumstances are not the way our life has always been, nor are they how it is likely to be going forward.
A few weeks ago, I received a note from a young woman I’d been corresponding with for several months. She had little in the way of a support network and had been battling her demons for some time. It was a particularly dark and difficult day. “I’m tired of the fight,” she said, “really tired – of everything. I want to give up.” Had there not been 2,000 miles between us, I gladly would have dropped everything I was doing and rushed to her side to hold her heart in my arms and reaffirm its worthiness. Instead, I texted her back: “Do you have a favorite photograph?” I asked, “an image of you taken at a simpler time, when you were happy, healthy and carefree that you’re especially fond of?” “Yes,” she replied without hesitation.
“Then please put down the phone,” I said. “Find it and place it in a prominent spot in your home or apartment – on a mirror, the nightstand near your bed, the refrigerator – somewhere where you’ll be sure to see it several times a day.” “Why?” she asked. “Because in my heart I know that the you in that photograph hasn’t gone anywhere! She’s the real you and she’s just waiting for you to find your way back to her – to rediscover her.” “It’s just so hard,” she responded. “I know it’s hard,” I readily acknowledged. “It’s likely the hardest thing you’ll ever have to do. But, I also know the rewards are worth the effort. That girl in the photograph is counting on you to find her and set her heart free. Make that your life’s inspiration. A sort of real life game of hide and seek! Ready or not . . .”