I once read that singer Carly Simon took a polaroid photo every day and kept them in a special album. As I remember it, she did so to spur herself to record specific things for which she was grateful. I like the idea of doing something each day to jolt myself into more gratitude. I tried Carly’s gratitude photo idea one year and made it eleven days. I found that file recently and couldn’t remember exactly what about my vacuum cleaner made me so happy on one of the days, but I’m glad it brought joy.
Another year I started a special calendar on which I recorded something I was grateful for every day — for about seventeen days. Then it stopped abruptly. Apparently, I get grumpy mid-January every year.
Today, on the third day of the new year, I’m still feeling optimistic and chipper about 2012.
Yet I was thinking about the reality of a new year and how everything doesn’t have to be all shiny and grand and happy and perfect for it to be damn good. Good enough. Better than most of the world has it, in fact.
Perhaps we get all twisted around our expectations of a year being “the best ever” or of our lives and relationships being “perfect.” Maybe we set ourselves up for disappointment when we demand of those we love that they scratch our every itch and meet our every need, their presence assumed to insure that we’ll have nary a moment of loneliness in life.
I realized something when I looked back at photographs from 2011. Out of all the hundreds I took, the ones that made me happiest were “reality check” photos, acknowledgements that things don’t have to be perfect to be good enough, that there can be beauty in spite of incompleteness or imperfection, that we can be drawn to and feel comfortable with something (or someone) that’s scarred and battered. In fact, who feels comfortable with someone who is “omni-competent?” Where is there room to be yourself?
We live with an “all or nothing” mentality — as if our efforts must produce perfection or they aren’t worth the energy. We act as if we have to have it all together or no one will enjoy us. We assume our lives must be long and productive and that we must be constantly “on it” to justify our space on the planet. What about this tombstone I found, of a 31-year-old woman doctor who died in 1884, and the epitaph that says, “She hath done what she could?” How many of us would be content with that?
What if we believed that we are valuable just as we are, beyond our efforts and striving and hopes to be so perfect? What if we loved each other unconditionally? What if we loved ourselves (Gasp!) that way? Radical!
I want that life.
That’s why these are the photos that stand out to me from this past year. Because although I always marvel over another beautiful flower, the sight of a perfect sunset, or any number of things, what my soul most craves is confirmation of what I know: that I am a flawed, imperfect human, deeply loved, inherently valuable and, I believe, made in God’s image… and that is good (enough).