Do you ever look at vacation pics and need to remind yourself that your smiles are covering up all of the stressful stuff you were dealing with at the time? Like revisionist history, these pics are “proof” of how happy we were in Paris (pick-pocketed), our trip to Miami (laptop stolen) and on the last day of a Spring Break cruise in 1989 (optic neuritis that made my vision skip like the annoying vertical hold on a 1970s TV set.) Actually, that last one was impossible to forget.
But you know what I’m talking about. Perhaps even as recently as last week during the holidays. The snapshots that pave the way to a memory that proves “a good time was had by all” even if that’s not the case. But for people with MS, these pics are the false evidence of the dreaded response “but you look so good” when you try to describe how you felt otherwise.…. And while I can’t forget the tainted event that I’m smiling through, I’ve learned to let these snapshots comfort me.
Over the years I got better at hiding how I feel in photos. If you walk around my house there are pics all over the place. I’m really good at looking happy- and while some of these shots are honest to goodness happy- I’ve reconsidered the ones that have a painful back-story.
Like this one:
In 2006, Keith, Madeline and I were in Washington, D.C. for an MS related event. We were walking across the grassy mall to the Smithsonian Air and Space museum when I collapsed against the nearest tree barely able to move. Madeline sat down on the ground next to me and “snap”. The smiles take over. It’s not hard to remember how rough that trip was. (pic below) I know what you’re thinking. “But I look so good…”
After years of resenting that phrase, I’ve found a way to make it work for me.
Noticing the good when you know it wasn’t so good, has its perks. And the feigned smile can remind me of who I am in spite the rough moments I suppressed to conjure that happy face. And even though it was a forced expression at the time, it serves to remind me that there were some really great parts to that vacation. (Madeline lost her first tooth in D.C and the tooth fairy found us, we went to the National Geographic Museum and took a pic of Mads on a pretend panda cover and the fab restaurant we found in the museum of American History. (We refused to eat McDonalds at the Air and Space Museum!)
If I’m only left to my memory devices- I assure you the challenges would be a lot longer lasting than the happy moments.
So it’s not the “but you look so good” said by people who just don’t get it, but it’s the ability to find and remember the parts there were so good. And if you position yourself just so- you can even pull up the good moments while in the middle of one you don’t want to remember too clearly..
That smile reminds me of the “me” who, in spite of the challenges I endure daily, can always find the moments that prove how I’ve learned to live with my increasing limitations and not get stuck under them. And that brings a smile to my face. (closed mouth, proud expression, accompanied by a nod). Not my standard smile with tons of pearly whites- And honest smile that is empowered by taking control. Something that my life with MS often lacks~
Do you have snapshots to revisit? Feel free to comment and post. I’d love to see em.
This quickly brings up a reminder I always seem to give myself- Happiness is a choice. There’s always something to be grateful for. You are such an inspiration to so many folks and I consistently feel blessed for you in my world and my life. Love you!
Love the photos, Amy, and your brilliant smile that shines all of the time. Love your spirit for that is what draws me to you every time.