Scrapbooks, self-editing and the not-so-pretty version of my life story

I’ve been working on my scrapbooks for the past few days, and honestly, it’s not my favorite activity. Look at my process and you’ll see why.

1. Develop photos. (Until last week, I hadn’t developed photos since 2008.)

2. Look at photos. Sort by event. Wonder what to do with the lousy ones, where people have turned their backs or turned into white ghosts with red eyes or become blurred, distorted versions of themselves.

3. Look at colors and patterns. Decide on the proper placement of the photos, decide on color scheme and mood to create, and decide how to do this. (I’ve read too many scrapbooking magazines with featured spreads from people with entirely too much time on their hands.)

4. Realize that I don’t have the supplies I need. My cardstock colors don’t work. I can’t spell any complete words with my dwindling supply of letter stickers. Those cute themes I developed need embellishments (butterfly stickers, soccer ball stickers, etc.) that I don’t have.

5. Groan when I look at the prices. (Of course nothing is on sale when I need it. Now that I’m this far into the process, I want it over with. Now.)

6. Come home with more stress and less cash.

7. Get the stinkin’ photos and overpriced stickers on the page. Then realize that I have no page protectors.

But my biggest issue with scrapbooking is picking what photos to use. It’s not just my inner perfectionist who wants a Creating Keepsakes magazine-worthy page. It’s the memories attached to each photo.

As a young woman, I scrapbooked my way through my life. Childhood. Junior high with my Little Orphan Annie haircut. Eleventh grade homecoming with the horrible purple dress and the use-the-entire-can-of-hairspray updo. All the important friends and activities and birthday celebrations.

Then I got to my senior prom. Bad experience. Don’t ask why. I hesitated. How should I create a page about a really awful night? Easy. I skipped it.

If you look at this scrapbook, you wouldn’t know that anything upsetting happened; you wouldn’t know I went to prom; in the scrapbook-version of my life, prom doesn’t exist. But I hung on to those photos. They sit in photo albums that don’t have pretty stickers or creative embellishments or fancy lettering. I don’t show them to anyone.

There’s the rub. On the one hand, I have a creative scrapbook to show friends. On the other, I have the photo album that holds all the blurred photos, the unflattering ones, the ones where I remember how I was hurt or hurtful. I don’t want anyone to see those, so I conveniently edit them out of my cleaned up version of my life story.

Most of us edit our stories this way. We dump certain photos in a shoebox and kick it under the bed and display others in frames hung on the living room wall. Even when I’m close to someone, I don’t want to show them the pages that hold my darkest secrets, the wounds that won’t close and the scars that won’t disappear.

Some editing is wise. I shouldn’t tweet or blog about everything in my life. It’s not safe.

But self-editing can come at a price. I edit too much and skip over the raw stories, not telling even trustworthy friends the secrets that need to be told. I crop the photos until the ugly image is minimized, telling others that, no, this doesn’t hurt that much. I may do such a thorough editing job that I convince myself, too—at least until I pull the shoebox from beneath my bed and cry in secret.

This kind of editing only hurts. There’s no healing or confession or growth when I hide the ugliness in my life from people who love me and want the best for me. It’s hard to pull out the photo album and show someone those photos. But it’s the only way for healing to begin.

How much do you “edit” your life? Are you willing to share your pain with trustworthy people or do you pretend those areas don’t exist (or minimize their impact on your life)?   

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4 thoughts on “Scrapbooks, self-editing and the not-so-pretty version of my life story

  1. It’s a particularly interesting question to me in this day and age. I keep a journal, and my journal is my life — good, bad and ugly. But then, it’s written purely for me.

    On the other hand, I live out loud a lot these days — blog, Twitter, Facebook, etc. And there’s a fine line between conflicting interests there — transparency, “branding,” appropriateness, etc. I try to be pretty honest about my life — I’m pretty quick to admit my faults — but that doesn’t mean I’m going to advertise them, either.

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    1. I agree with you about not advertising our faults. I think we’ve got to have discernment about who to share our secrets with; obviously, trustworthy people! Sharing my personal pain on Twitter wouldn’t be appropriate. On my blog, I try to be honest (about my faults, pain, etc.) but not so specific about some of the details and the people involved. (Like I did here with the prom incident example.) I’ve written and deleted things for my blog/FB/etc. because I felt they weren’t appropriate. I cringe when people rant on Facebook about private matters; true, they’re being “open” but it’s not an appropriate medium to use for expressing that particular type of thing.

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  2. Interesting question, Laura. I’m a very private person so rarely talk about personal experiences. I haven’t “edited” them out of my life so much as pushed them into the background. They’re in the past and I don’t want to relive them, which is what would happen if I exposed the tender places for scrutiny. True forgiveness (both the giving and getting of it) depends on dealing with a wrongdoing and then moving on. I guess how anyone deals with an unpleasant memory depends on the nature of the situation and one’s personality. In my scrapbook I wouldn’t feature such a photo but would usually tuck it inconspicuously into a collage where it’s less likely to evoke questions.

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    1. I’ve noticed that some of my more unpleasant memories aren’t as painful as they used to be. Time and forgiveness have done a great deal toward lessening the pain, and so when I think of them, I’m not as likely to relive all the pain involved at the moment of hurt. It’s like the difference between being in a car accident and driving by one on the highway. Others, though, I actively try to edit out and hide from people, and sometimes I wonder how much of my current self (personality, issues, attitudes,etc.) have been shaped by those photos stuffed in a shoebox under the bed.

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