Looking at family photos people post at this time of year and thinking about how we tend to believe the facades we see in the images instead of realizing that often much more lies behind the smiling faces and manufactured poses. We tend to ascribe happy, cozy narratives to other families’ images without considering the secrets, darkness, trauma, and pain that those images can never reveal…pain and rejection and heartache and histories that we might know personally but don’t see in others’ stories because we see the facade. We see the image. We see only what they’ve allowed us to see. Because images frozen in time? They can only say so much. And they can say whatever the figures in the image choose for that moment.
I guess that’s why I try to keep it real. I’m not advocating we put all our stories out there and air all our grievances and pain without using appropriate boundaries, but I’ve lived with facades for too many decades and they don’t interest me at all. I can’t do it. I’ve been the smiling kid for the family photos. The smiling daughter. The smiling sister. The smiling mom. The smiling granddaughter. And there was always so much hidden behind the smile. So much. But smile and say cheese and pretend for a moment in time. No thanks anymore.
I realize that some photos do indeed reflect reality (for example…I am really crazy about my husband, and while our marriage isn’t perfect, the smile you see when I’m with him is my most genuine), but before you assume that images do portray what is real, consider what you might not see. Consider that their lives might not be what the image suggests. Consider that the image is but a moment. And consider that your life might be more than normal, even with (or especially with) your story of pain and heartbreak, of family dysfunction and chaos and boundaries and separations and a history that no one know but YOU.
And whatever you do, do not give in to the temptation to need that perfect family photo to post or send. Take the pictures, yes, for posterity’s sake, but let’s all acknowledge these pictures are but facades. And facades never tell the truth. They only tell a story. An oft fictionalized story.
Now smile. Say cheese. And back to reality.