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Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Where are the bad times?

When my parents separated, my mom took her clothing, her family's antiques that had been stored in the attic, and the photo albums from when my brother and I were kids.

Even though it has been 12 years, she occasionally goes through those albums and wonders why she got divorced. She looks at the photos of our family vacations, our holiday feasts, my 4-H pies, birthday parties, and little treasured moments from my childhood. Then she thinks about all the good times. All the laughs. Those books are proof that those good times really happened. It's all right there in those color photos.

But there aren't any pictures of emotional neglect. There aren't any pictures of alcoholism. There aren't any pictures of the rift that grew between them over the years. That's because we only take pictures of the good times.

I started thinking about this after reading a post called, "The 2 Habits of Highly Annoyed People" over at Pen to Paper. Her two habits were: 1) she sells herself short, and 2) she compares her life and her successes to the lives of people she reads about online. She wrote:

"I'm pretty sure from the pictures of their vacations that they had a higher household income than my husband and I (although, given the amount my degrading job was paying me, that wasn't too hard)... But does that equal more success? In this country, money often seems to be the measurement of success," she wrote. Fortunately, she eventually concluded, "I'd like to think that happiness is a better measuring tool, and though I can't measure the happiness of a couple I've never met solely from their blog, I'm willing to bet that my life measures up to the success I perceive."

And that seems to be the key issue. She perceives that their lives are more successful, but what can you really tell from a blog? It's like those photos in the albums from my childhood. If you just look at those photos, it looks like we were an amazingly close-knit family eating together, going on family adventures together, supporting each other. But my dad was barely ever around. He was off with his friends doing his own thing. And at mealtime, my mom ate in the kitchen, while the rest of us ate in the living room while watching "Three's Company" or "Cheers."

People typically don't capture the stuff that makes them look bad. They capture the good times. They capture the fun. The moments. The success. All the sadness, all the disappointments, all the failures, and all the medical dramas--that stuff doesn't often make it into the albums (or the blogs) because that isn't the stuff that most people want to remember.

Or maybe, just maybe--like us--they save the worst of the worst for some other place.


  1. which is why i personally try hard to make my blog a balanced one; including the bad stuff as well as the good. I also make it a practice not to read blogs unless they're either inspirational/informative for some reason, or balanced like mine (usually both). I really cannot be bothered with ones that make out their lives are perfect. I find that works for me.

  2. Yep... leaving out the bad is something we all do. Not intentionally of course. But I think it's because we really are trying to forget the crap too. So why capture it anywhere near home? Or yes, if you DO deal, it's elsewhere. Not always in treasured albums.