“I’m a scrapbooker.”
There. I said it without cringing, without ducking my head, without apologizing by averting my eyes from your all-knowing gaze and the judgement I expect you to rain down upon me. Yeah, I know that look all too well. The one that asks, “But why would you waste your time on something so frivolous?”
Maybe you know that look too. Maybe you get it from your spouse, your colleagues, your family members, even *gasp!* your children. Maybe you’re constantly defending the time you spend in your scrap room, poring over photos, painstakingly finding the embellishments that compliment your priceless story and carefully crafting your journaling.
Hey, I get it. I really do. It’s taken me a long time to proudly walk up to someone at a cocktail party (if I attended cocktail parties, which I don’t, because they’re so far removed from my reality they might as well be alien meet-and-greets on Mars; so scratch that – I’m more likely to be at a playgroup with my 3-year old) and admit that other than my gorgeous girl and wonderful husband, scrapbooking is my passion. The thing that lights me up inside. My raison d’être.
“But why, Liz, why?” I hear you asking.
And the answer, my darling fellow scrapbooker, is one that perhaps you can understand too.
In 2014, I had a daughter. My first child, a perfect little baby girl. Who turned my life upside down in ways I could have never imagined or anticipated.
You see, I had a fabulous pregnancy. I adored every minute. I read books on pregnancy, on labor and delivery, on parenting. I furnished and decorated a beautiful nursery.
And despite all that, I was 100% unprepared for Kaylee’s arrival.
In my naive, first-time mama-to-be haze, I thought I’d be able to return to work as a freelance writer while the baby babbled happily beside me. I pictured myself continuing my amateur painting practice while she napped. I thought I’d write the great Canadian novel during midnight feedings.
(Yes, I’ll wait while you laugh. No, really, it’s okay. These days I can laugh about it too.)
As you might imagine, I quickly learned that my idealized version of life with a baby was as far removed from reality as my house is from that cocktail party on Mars.
My daughter was – and is – delightful. But I struggled with the loss of my identity. A crippling bout of post-partum depression didn’t help.
For months, instead of writing while she babbled happily, I rocked, bounced, and sang to her while she cried. And rather than writing during midnight feedings, I glared bleary-eyed at my iPhone and scrolled through Facebook status updates from people who were undoubtedly sleeping through the night.
I adored my daughter, but I couldn’t walk past my office/studio without bursting into tears.
And then, one night when I collapsed into bed after Kaylee finally went to sleep, my husband had an idea. “You need a creative practice,” he announced.
I looked at him like he’d grown a second head. What exactly did he think I did all day? I couldn’t even find time to create a sandwich by sliding a piece of cheese between two slices of bread, and he wanted me to make… what?
“Are you nuts?” I glared at him. “Ain’t nobody got time for that.”
“Then make time. You’re focusing so much on everything you’ve lost that you can’t see what you have, right here in front of you. Take 10 minutes and remember who you are.”
Alright, so as bizarre as it was to hear my husband transform into Mufasa from the Lion King, I thought maybe, just maybe, he might have a point.
That night, I came up with the idea of keeping a gratitude journal. But not just any gratitude journal: one with photos and words. One filled with intimate, meaningful memories of those simple, day-to-day moments that I was mired in. The moments that made up my life: as routine and uneventful as it was.
So I grabbed a 12×12 scrapbook album, some Project Life supplies, and set to work.
Every day, I challenged myself to find 10 minutes to tell a story. Most days that’s all I could manage. Some days I did a little more. And I missed days. Many, many days. But by the end of the year, I had a decent-sized album filled with small, incredibly powerful nuggets of bliss and gratitude (and hardship and chaos too, because – come on! – it’s life!).
And that’s when I realized that my brilliant engineer hubby was on to something with his unexpected insight into my need to reconnect with the part of me that desperately needed to create, and reflect, and remember.
Since then, I’ve been lovingly hand-crafting a legacy of treasured moments. I’ve done this by rediscovering what meaningful creativity means to me. And in the process, I’ve rediscovered who I am.
“I am a scrapbooker.”
Maybe you’re one too?