I need to set a reminder to periodically look back through just my photos of myself. It's such an emotional timelapse of... Well, as many years as I choose to revisit, I guess.
Looking back on recent history, I see a woman who had a fun, adventurous pregnancy through unexpectedly historical times, who fought hard for her happiness and sense of self in the early days of motherhood, who actually accomplished a lot, and who created a delightful, beautiful and nurturing environment for her child where they played and grew together.
I know this from the perspective of having done it all at the time, with intention and perseverance, but wildness of these years has condensed it all in such a whirlwind that it can be hard to see myself in it. It's different to follow the pictures, with their thousands or probably millions of words, and be carried along on the story they tell.
I feel I'm at a junction in life where I can reach back and grab a little of my youth to carry forward, maybe in my body or perhaps just in my heart. That energy and optimism has been easy to forget in the last couple of years. Honestly, I long for naiveté and enthusiasm that I fear is never coming back. I feel anxious to conserve what I can, to stabilize just what I have in a world that has rocked to and fro far too much, and right at the time I had more to lose than ever before.
I felt my child's soul calling to me to come to Earth. I reached up into the stars, and we danced back down together. A paradigm shift transpired, and I wondered at the great mystery and deep knowing of my baby. I was left alone far too often, and I gave profoundly from myself.
The vulnerability I felt scared me, maybe too much to ever go back to that bewildering, primal state of early motherhood. I discovered new beauty, and I lost trust in the world around me. I slept little and felt the tension of the few strings that held me where I had hoped a fabric of society would offer warmth and protection. Often, the loss-averse nature of my own humanity dominates the emotional view, and I hold the growing independence of my now-kindergartner in a loving embrace that feels like there's room for both of us to thrive without excessive sacrifice.
But, the photos somehow don't convey the exhaustion or the fear. They are triumphant, and only mildly curated: self-portraits in moments of tenderness and laughter, me and my silly baby, learning and growing together in the big miracle of life's longing for itself. The toddler dances and goofy smiles, clumsy hugs and dimples, naps in wraps and international stroller adventures... These are the reward for that raw vulnerability, and tasting the honey alone is sweet indeed.
I have been stronger and more beautiful than I have known. When I castigate myself for what I failed to accomplish, I need to reach back for that younger version of myself and hold her dear.