The Long-Lost Memory Card
I was prepping for a shoot, digging around for a long-lost memory card. It's been a while since I've needed sixty-four gigs.... four years. I've only recently begun to find joy in taking pictures again, and on Thursday morning, I had a shoot for the first time in a long time.
I found the card and inserted it into the camera, naturally checking to see what long-lost photos might be living there - but I immediately wished I hadn't.
If I'm being very, very raw with you, I've spent the last three years getting over something traumatic. Yes, it was a breakup. Yes, breakups can be traumatic. Yes, I am so sick of talking about it, referencing it, alluding to it, bringing it up whenever someone gets to know me. But it comes up eventually, because it's such a big part of my story. You know how there are events that split your life into before and after? This was mine. And after, I left a community of people and a place I loved, and I haven't been back there since. I got rid of every reminder of that time, that place, that person - threw away every keepsake, deleted every photo. Except, apparently, these.
I flipped through three images and took a deep breath, felt a twinge in my chest and my heart beating faster. They were portraits. Smiling. Happy. I stopped and took my finger off the back button.
I have two options, I realized. I can look through them all, or I can delete them all.
I am kind of an all-or-nothing person. I’m working on it, but in this case, I really didn’t see a door number three.
So, door one or door two? One of the lessons I've learned in the past three years - of therapy, new friendships, and so much more growth than I can summarize here - is that going back over things in your head or your heart is only good for so long. You take what you need to take, you learn what you need to learn, and you move on.
I've already gone back to that place of longing and heartbreak, regret and blame, nostalgia and trauma too many times. I don't need to go back there anymore.
Sometimes I still do, and this summer started out that way. Overwhelming reminders of summers past were everywhere, from the color of Lake Michigan to the scent of the breeze on a daily walk home. On the Fourth of July, I was haunted by these ghosts. The holiday was spent by the lake in a suburb with friends from People Church, who love and care for me, but I couldn't seem to shake it. I teared up as I looked out over the railing at Lake Michigan - a place I love so much, but yet one that holds so many painful memories. I was trying to let go, to be carefree like everyone around me, like the bright blue sky. But the past hung over me like a dark cloud.
My small group leader spoke hope into me. Look at you - you were made for summer, she said, trying on my sun hat. You'll overcome this. I believe that. Jesus has so much more for you than this pain.
And it’s true – pain isn’t what He wants for me, for any of us. But there are still, and there may always be, things like this - things that hurt. Like this memory card.
The reason I purged all of my belongings three years ago was to avoid a moment like this. A moment that would ruin everything, halt my progress, cause the foundation I’ve spent three years building to crumble and everything I’ve built to come crashing down. If I saw the physical proof of good memories, clear as day in a photograph, I knew that I'd shatter.
And at times in the past three years, I would; I did. But here's what happened on Thursday morning:
I took a deep breath, and I cleared the memory card. I waited for the fallout - the tears, the shaking.
Instead, I just exhaled and thought, well, that sucked! And I went on with my day:
To a shoot for the opening of one of my favorite clothing boutiques, with a camera I once only dreamed of holding, in my favorite new shoes and my favorite dark lipstick.
I stopped at the coffee shop in my favorite neighborhood, where I now live, for an iced soy chai . I chatted with the friendly baristas, as I do nearly every day.
I went downtown, I shot the event, and I took home a free bouquet from one of my favorite florists, and a few new pieces for my wardrobe.
I hopped a train home to Michigan to spend a long weekend visiting family, arriving home past midnight to snuggle with my dogs.
Last time I visited home, it was just in the beginning of the summer, when the Michigan landscapes and even the sun itself, it seemed, were too triggering - so I hid in my basement bedroom until it passed.
This time, I go for a walk. I play with my dogs in the yard. I take photos of everything, from mom's garden to my shoes. I jump on our trampoline and dip my toes in our pool, playing lifeguard while the children of our family friends go swimming. I meet up with Taylor and Matt and we spend time running into Lake Michigan, jeans soaking to the knees, and eating ice cream. I don't realize until the end of the night that this would have hurt a month and a half ago, but it doesn't now.
I count all of the things I didn't have back then, from this new home where we've moved, to the dog I rescued, to this camera in my hands. But I count the things that are harder to count, too. The strength and the maturity and the growth. The friendships. Each lesson learned and each obstacle overcome.
I have spent the last three years just trying to be okay, telling myself that I was, even when it felt like I wasn't. In the beginning, I really wasn't. I didn't handle it well (and I need to give myself more grace for not knowing what I didn't know). But yesterday I finally realized that I've somehow reached the point where I'm not just okay - I'm good.
A week ago, I fell and hurt my knee pretty badly. The sidewalk tore open my favorite jeans and my skin; it was an awful mess. The gruesome wound was so bad at first that I couldn't look at it when I changed the bandages. It hurt to walk, sit, stand, and bend.
But each day, as I've carefully tended to the wound, I've noticed that it is healing. Little by little, slowly and yet more quickly than I'd expected. Seven days later, there's still an injury, but I can walk, and it doesn't hurt nearly as much anymore. Sometimes I almost forget it's there.
As for this giant emotional wound - three years in, I think I'm there, too. It may still always hurt, but less and less, I believe. Someday it will just be a scar.
This is what we must learn: time does not heal all wounds, not by itself: we have a part in that, too. Some will fester if they're left unaddressed; some will stay raw, hidden beneath a Band-Aid until we decide to stop covering them up. And there comes a time when just need to stop touching them.
I don't think I need to treat myself like a victim any longer - I don't think I need the Band-Aids anymore. It's time for the fresh air to work its magic, for the Healer to do His work of restoring what once seemed beyond hope. I know that I am only twenty-four, and that there will be more heartbreak and pain, and maybe some more places to which I decide I’ll never return.
But I can feel it, finally. The healing. It feels something like a clear memory card.