Peter forgot the camera on our trip to Amsterdam.* Being camera-less, though, was surprisingly freeing: rather than stop the fun at metered intervals to capture the moment for posterity, we just kept going in the moment. And our memories of the trip will remain colored by the energy, scents, feelings, textures, and sounds of those moments, rather than being reduced to a two-dimentional visual representation. I don’t mean to knock photographs….I love looking through old pictures….but there was a subtle, but real, difference in this trip because the experience was just for the two of us, right then.
If you want me to tell you all about it, about the warm and rowdy Dutch bistro we found the first night, about the luminous waist-high tulips, about the three consecutive nights of 10-hour sleeps, about the charm and relaxed graciousness of the city and the people who live there, I’m happy to. Ask me next time you see me. But for now, I’m really happy with the moments in my head, just for me and Peter.
Having cancer has, predictably enough, taught me so much about living in the moment. I’m not sure I even knew what it meant to live in the moment before I got sick….my life was a serious of lists, action items, timelines, and goals. Happy, productive lists, action items, timelines and goals, but nevertheless, it was always about the future. When my future became less infinite, it changed my wiring, somehow. Suddenly (was it sudden? I don’t remember) I understood that life is this minute.
This whole living in the moment thing has made me a much better mom, for certain. I spend a lot more time on the floor with my kids, make much bigger messes, and read many more bedtime stories, because I’m just having fun rather than ticking an item off my list. I have lost a little bit of my punctuality, since I don’t check my mental to-do list as much, but you know what? Who cares? I’ve never had anyone say to me “you know what I like about you, Jen? You are always on time.” So maybe I was the only one who cared about that, anyway.
The forgotten camera, though, showed me how pervasive this change has been. Despite what Kodak tells us, pictures don’t capture moments. Perhaps they help us remember moments, and we conjure the details from our memories, but really, they are very incomplete records of our lives. And they take us out of the moment, sending us to a place in the future where we will want to remember now.
So chew on that, my friends. And next time you are vacationing and find yourself taking pictures of the gorgeous sunset, ask yourself if there is any chance that the sunset will be as lovely without the sound of the waves, and the icy beer in your hand. And if there is any chance that you’ll forget that moment, if you just give yourself over to taking it all in.
*Full disclosure: we actually did have an iPhone with us, so we took a few snapshots, but most of them are of tulips at the Keukenhof that I want to track down for my own garden.