Finding Balance: Making Memories vs. Recording Memories

I love reading the comments readers leave on my blog. It's like catching up with friends, and I always want to know how they can relate to things I'm going through in my life. But recently a blog reader in the midst of thanking me for a project I had created, asked me "but when do you have time to live?"

I laughed out loud and continued skimming through the comments. But her little question nagged at me for days. And as someone who is highly motivated by guilt, I couldn't let it go.

So when do I have time to live?

I work a full-time and a part-time job because "no" is apparently NOT in my vocabulary. I am raising a 10 year old, precocious little boy AND a determined sixteen year old daughter. I'm married to a man who actually wants to spend time with me, bless his heart. I serve in my church as the chorister for over 100 small children (and no, I can't sing). And I try to maintain connections with friends and family as much as possible.

Seriously, people? When do I have time to live? When do any of us have time to "live"?

It's a juggling act, and one I don't always accomplish. When my husband gives me that knowing, "You've lost your mind," look, I try to tell him that if people would quit throwing me curve balls while I'm juggling all the other balls in the air, then all would be well. I don't think he appreciates my "all hands on deck" attitude about juggling mom, work, and life duties. He's much more laidback than I and tends to take on just the right amount of stress in his life. (Smart man!)

So how do you juggle between Making Memories and Recording Memories?

Even I (maybe especially I) as the documentarian of our family often have trouble knowing when to serve as the photographer and story teller for an event and when to just enjoy the moment. It's definitely hard to find that balance.

So let's chat about the pressures of serving as the story teller in your family. These days we often feel compelled to . . .

* Photograph every bite we eat.
* Document our lives daily.
* Maintain an online personal journal (blog).

* Instagram one particularly special moment each day.
* Tweet cleverly worded updates every hour.
* Blog about our family adventures.
* Update our Facebook status with our daily doings.
* Capture every event, moment, and minute on camera.
* And creatively compile these memories into handmade scrapbooks that generations to come will cherish always.

Frankly, every moment of our lives could be categorized as a "memory," and if you're determined to document all those moments and minutes, you're bound to be overwhelmed. "Insta-everything" allows us to update our status right in the middle of making a memory. And while sometimes that's great, other times it's just too much pressure.

Tell me you don't find yourself questioning every moment as "Facebook-worthy" or realize you're mentally rewriting that recent conversation you had with your child in 140 characters or less with a clever hashtag to match? It's a lot of pressure to be the family memory keeper. But it shouldn't be. There should be joy in the process and joy in living; and if you're not enjoying it, then something's wrong.

People, put your phones and cameras down!

This month we've been attending my son's baseball games. And while the first couple of games I took my big honkin' lens and camera to photograph all the action, I soon got tired of lugging that sucker around. And since my phone is less "smart" and more "barely functional," I just can't count on it for fabulous photos. So for several games I found that I was without a method of physically documenting my memories with no status to update and no photographs to take.

Do you know what I realized? I LIKE being in the moment. I like using my eyes rather than a lens to watch his games. I like cheering him on rather than focusing on adjusting my camera settings. I prefer sitting in my nice, comfy camping chair on the sidelines rather than moving about the field making sure I've captured his game from every angle.

It became less of a chore and more of a cherished family moment, which is funny because that's what I was trying to capture all along. I found I was living in the moment and loving it!

Let's learn to be in the moment!

While I'm a firm believer in capturing your life stories and leaving a legacy of love in the form of memories for your family and friends, I'm also really keen on enjoying the time I have with them.

When Joey's time with us became obviously shorter, I started taking less photos and eventually I stopped taking them all together. And while on the one hand it killed me to know that my photographs of him were going to be a finite number, I also knew he'd rather see my face than see a lens. He didn't want to worry about smiling or looking good when it was all he could do to hang on. It wasn't about what I wanted any more. It became about what he needed. And somehow photographing every minute made the moments less sacred and more invasive.

So instead I focused on memorizing every part of him: his scent, the softness of his skin, the sound of his voice, the gestures and movements that make me think of him. And while most of the time I rely on my lens to do that for me, there are things that the lens will never capture. Things that are imprinted on the heart rather than on film.

When to use a lens and when to use your heart?

This takes some practice, and I confess I'm still learning how best to accomplish this. Here are a few things to consider, and how I judge whether or not to take a photograph, update a status, or to enjoy the moment.

I ask myself some of the following questions:

* Can I hold a camera or a hand?
* Do I want an updated Facebook status or real, honest-to-goodness face-to-face time?
* Can I hold a lens or hold someone in my lap?
* Do I want to Tweet or hold a conversation?
* Do I crave creative time or cuddle time?
* Is my family looking at a lens or looking at me?
* Did I disrupt an event or document a moment?

Learning to find the balance is an ongoing process.

Sometimes I get it right. I get enough photos of the event to remember, but I don't miss any of those fleeting moments to truly interact with the people I love. Sometimes I get it wrong and come away with a hundred photos of unhappy people who are truly sick of having the camera shoved in their face.You have to give yourself permission to fail a little, to get it wrong some of the time but work on getting it right most of the time.

The key is that in order to have memories you have to LIVE!

I think this is the one thing we most often forget. If all we are ever doing is updating statuses, or taking photos, or scrapbooking those memories, then we're completely missing the point! In the midst of documenting your life, make sure you're taking a moment to breathe, to live, to embrace, and to be in the moment. It really is what memory making is all about!

So when do I live? I live every day. I live when I forgo the camera for a kid. I live when I close down my computer and open my heart to listen. I live when I make the most of a moment before I document the day. I try to make the choice to live in the moment and make the most of my memories as they are happening and not just when I'm creatively capturing them in my scrapbooks.

Eventually I hope to find the perfect balance between recording my memories and making memories. I recognize it's an ongoing process, but it's one that's worth it!


  1. Oh Jen, you are so wise!

    THANK YOU. I'll be sharing this post often!

    We do face the pressure to "edit" our photos and "edit" our lives to make them post-worthy. But I chose long ago to be an authentic voice, foibles and milk mustaches and all. I want my kids to remember how things really were, because I know they'll face challenges in the future and I want them to know that times DO get tough, and you can survive them with a smile on your face and hope in your heart.

    One of my favorite taglines is "Life doesn't have to be perfect to be good."

    I love you all the more for your post today.

  2. Excellent post and your words of wisdom hit home.
    Especially "can I hold a camera or hold a hand"..
    Thank you for sharing!

  3. Beautifully written, Jen!

  4. Anonymous10:45 AM

    Bravo! So well said...and I agree with Lain, I love you more too.

  5. Love this! All from one little question; very "In-Site-Full" response.

  6. Well said Jen! Thanks!

  7. AliceZ2:44 PM

    Thank you, Jen, for putting into words what I've felt for so long! I, too, am guilty of wanting to capture "the moment" on film that I forget to enjoy "the moment". I recently decided to take maybe one-two pics,then put the camera down to enjoy myself, my family and "the moment'!!

  8. I think you should post this on FB. I gave up taking pictures of family and friends several years ago because they stopped smiling. I thought I was the family historian. But one day I realized I wasn't in any of the pictures and I lost so much because of it. I don't spend much time on FB. I don't tweet. I wouldn't know how to instagram. FB left me feeling depressed because everyone was having wonderful lives and had too many friends to count. Thank you so much for sharing yourself in an open, honest and powerful way. I love the way women communicate with each other. Bless you and your precious family.

  9. Awesome post Jen!!!!!

  10. I absolutely LOVE this post Jen!! Thank you. :)
    - April W

  11. Great job, Jen! You are one of my favorites to look to for inspiration. Our friend, Lain has made me realize we need to document it. It does not have to be the fanciest, etc. I love that both of you and others take the time to share with us! Many thanks!

  12. Anonymous6:01 PM

    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  13. Well said! I struggle with this balance in my own life as well. I think my family would tell me I'm failing at it... Sometimes it just so hard to pull myself away from this creative passion.

  14. Wow Jen. Well said! I've been struggling with this myself a lot lately. There have been occasions lately where I've either consciously left my camera at home or in the bag, and others where I've just forgotten to get photos despite intending to. After the initial "scrappers guilt" that I wouldn't have images from that memory to put on the page, all I could do was shrug and enjoy MAKING the memory for once!! Thanks for sharing this!

  15. I want my kids to remember how things really were, because I know they'll face challenges in the future and I want them to know that times DO get tough, and you can survive them with a smile on your face and hope in your heart.
    cheap bas gold

    gold for aion

  16. truly well said! GREAT post. :)

  17. I agree completely!! And made that decision several years ago when I realized that I hadn't "been" at my DS's birthday party but that it was well "documented." And part of my decision was to "downgrade" my camera. Most of my friends were busy with their digital Rebel blah blah blahs -- I love my pocket size, look at the big screen in the back, point and shoot, digital. I shot a couple of pictures and put it AWAY .... and be there in the moment -- recording the memory in my brain. The couple of pix as artifacts will revive the real memory.

  18. Anonymous9:08 AM

    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  19. Jen, this is beautiful. And the way you wrote about Joey brought tears to my eyes. He seems like such a special boy from everything you've written.

  20. Somehow I missed this the first time around, but boy, you always know just what to say. I couldn't agree with you more. At times I mourn the lack of pictures from an event (usually a child's birthday party that I spent a good month preparing for whatever theme they chose and then running it when party time came) but knowing that I was living that moment and relating those others who were there was so important at the time! I have a feeling you choose to live your life rather than responding to every personal comment on your blog. I respect you for that and respect you for speaking from the heart on this important topic! Thanks so much for all you do and share!!!

  21. Just to alert you, the comment from Blade and Soul Gold (timestamp 12:05 AM) looks like a real comment, but basically copied and pasted part of Lain's comments and that's it. It looks like it has links, too, but I'm not going there. I will not be offended if you delete this comment.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...