Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Importance of Revisionist History (or, why I scrapbook)

Okay. I'll admit it. I'm what self-help books refer to as a "negative first reactor". (I actually got that term from one of my favorite parenting books, Raising Your Spirited Child, by Mary Kurcinka. I loved it because it talked about how my feelings and attitudes interacted with my kids' feelings and attitudes. Lots of self-insight there!)

"So what is a negative first reactor?" you say. Here's an example: my trip to NYC with my sister Charlotte so we could be on TV. The trip was an absolute surprise and thanks to the way TV works I had no time to think about it or process the whole thing until I was alone in a hotel room staring down at the 1:00 am milieu that is Times Square. I started to shudder and backed away from the window. I frantically phoned Charlotte--our cell phones are more like walky-talkies than anything else--while I lay in the fetal position on the bed. It had all happened so fast and I just kept wondering what I had been thinking.

Charlotte eventually arrived and we spent the night plucking my eyebrows (which always need a good weed whacking) and planning what we were going to say on the show the next day. We woke up early and helped each other get ready. We laughed when we realized we had unintentionally bought matching pants. We giggled when our driver opened our doors for us. We gagged when we realized how much make-up they had put on us. We pulled faces at each other when we thought the cameras weren't on us (they were). After the show, we wandered around Times Square for three hours gawking at all the weirdos (you've heard of the Naked Cowboy, right?) and stopping in all the shops. We ate the famous ice cream and posed with giant toys. The only thing we didn't do was take in a Broadway show (there wasn't time), but I did tap dance on 42nd street :)

When we were saying goodbye at the airport she asked me if I was glad I had come. I couldn't answer her. My first reaction was no. I had hated New York. It was all materialistic and shallow and loud and, well, cement. I swear we didn't see a living plant anywhere. We could barely see the sky above the massive, moving billboards Yuck.

That was in April. Now, fast forward to a few weeks ago. Winkflash was having a deal so I decided to get my pics printed and try to catch up my scrapbook. As I looked through the folder that had our pics from New York I found myself smiling. Then when the pictures arrived in the mail, I found myself laughing. It was such a crazy thing to do! It was great story to tell people! It was fun! I was glad I had gone! As I scrapbooked the pictures, the happy memories grew stronger and the frustrated, scary moments faded.

I've had similar experiences with pictures of my kids. While many of my memories of the months after my first baby was born are frightening, looking at her scrapbook reminds me that not every moment was bad; I wasn't always a screw up. The process of choosing my favorite pictures, handling them, cropping them, gluing them, decorating them has become a celebratory process. It gives me the opportunity to go through my memories and examine them and, well, rewrite them. Leafing through the books with my children reminds me that our family is good family--even if we have problems. My scrapbooks give me back the feelings and experiences that my depression erases.

How do you restore your perspective? What things do you do to help you combat those nagging, ever-present negative impulses?


Charlotte said...

Awww! This post just made my whole day! I'm so glad that you have such good memories of our trip now 'cause I sure had a BLAST with you. If there was any way to make it happen, I'd say we should do that every year! (But maybe not to New York:)) Also, now I want to scrapbook. yay for revisionist history!

Lacey said...

That was inspiring! Scrapbooker though I am not, the idea of gaining the perspective you describe is so intriguing. Think I might just give it a whirl. :) Thanks!