My Unhealthy Photo Obsession, My Messy Beautiful

I confess snapping photos has become an unhealthy obsession. Yes, I’m the typical mom who loves to share photos of her kids, but there’s a catch. My messy, beautiful life has me seeing every moment as a memory I don’t want to miss recording. For the past year, I’ve worried every smile, every silly thing, every step could be her last. So I don’t want to miss any of it. I scheduled a photo shoot for her February birthday, because it was before the two-part craniotomy. It makes sense to do a photo pre-scar. Obviously! And now it’s between surgeries and I am thinking of doing it again! What the hell – let’s photo the staples for posterity. She’s smiling and it’s bluebonnet season! Why not, right?!

But people, It’s only been two months since she turned two! Pretty sure you’re supposed to do photo shoots once or twice a year, max. My husband rolls his eyes and holds tight to his wallet. I tell him, “But, her face has changed. You can see her sparkly eyes better as her cheeks have diminished. And it feels like something new to capture.” Clearly, I have a problem.

I have a compulsiveness to document it all, just in case. In case that awful dark thought ever came true. The thought that tortures me; a gargoyle perched in the corner of my mind stalking and paralyzing me from just being normal. Even if a seizure doesn’t take her away, we always face the chance she wouldn’t fully recover. I worry we are risking losing more than gaining. And then I think, is this state she is in now really so bad? We want her to at least come back to this  But it’s not forever. We’re in constant limbo until the next seizure hits. And now with surgery looming again, it’s just as big a fear. So I quickly snap again.

I take pictures of her 20 times a day. Maybe more? I’m not sure. Then I look back and if the expression is one I’ve already captured, I’ll delete it to make room for more. Or maybe save it for a few weeks to be sure I don’t need it. Or if I already have one in that outfit, I figure it will get confused if I jumble too many moments together in the same ensemble. But just in case, I hold on to most of them. Just. In. Case.

Looking for the beautiful bright side to this ginormous mess of photos I’ve created, I do have an amazing collection to work with. I have a growing montage on my bedroom wall. (Also not a cheap compulsion.) I have spent numerous hours agonizing over how to build the self-directed photo books just right. I obsess over how to store the images, too. I’ve researched and tested several options. I don’t trust any one system. So I use them all. My digital memories are in the cloud in two separate file storing tools, plus on Snapfish. Plus, I have a copy on the hard drive. I even bought this new Mac so I could make sure to create DVD movies of everything as another back up. You could say it’s becoming a sickness.

Another happy point means I am by far going to make it easy for my kids to have plenty of photos of their childhood. The grandparents aren’t hurting for ways to cover the fridges or fill their frames, either.

And yes, there are now many more pictures of the second kid than the first. Normally I think it’s the reverse. I have huge mommy guilt for focusing on her more. But in my defense, he isn’t changing as often now that he is older. AND more importantly, he never sits still for the camera. This is what most of my shots look like.

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So yes his squirmy pants and silly faces make me extremely sentimental of their moments together and I keep snapping away whenever I can. It may be hard to believe, but I only share a fraction of what I really take. My phone is always full. Videos, too.  I swear I do try to fight the need, sometimes, ok occasionally. I force myself to put the phone down and enjoy the moment. Then she smiles or makes a great face and I’m snatching it up again like a mouse greedily grabbing the cheese from the trap. I am definitely nearing psycho.image

It’s hard to imagine a time where I could let go and not feel this need. I hope it comes, soon, sometime after this surgery. Hopefully it’s the last of its kind and then this is all behind us. And then, maybe, I will resort to normal crazy mamma status with the regular intervals of collages and candid moments. But please forgive me now, while I suffer through this little OCD phase.

Time to clear out my camera again.

This essay and I are part of the Messy, Beautiful Warrior Project — To learn more and join us, CLICK HERE! And to learn about the New York Times Bestselling Memoir Carry On Warrior: The Power of Embracing Your Messy, Beautiful Life, just released in paperback, CLICK HERE!

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