Life is for telling

In my last post I told you about my holiday. While I was on holiday, I took many photos. I love taking photos.

Jon is not so enthusiastic about my photography. He likes the end results but not so much the process.

It leads to photos like this:

(I know I look like a wraith in this shot – it’s just the angle, honest. I think Jon looks like the children’s TV character Pob, if you remember him. Β Also – I am not naked, just to clarify.)

So – here is a snapshot (if you’ll pardon the pun) of our interaction on holiday. Jon had just delivered me on my sunbed, together with water, suncream, wrap, Kindle – and son.

“But the camera – would you be able to go back and get it?”

Jon scowled. He had been up since 6.30am entertaining a toddler while I had slept.

“I think you can do without the camera for once. Can’t you just enjoy things as they happen, make the most of the moment?”

I pouted. “But that IS me making the most of the moment. For me, recording is the enjoying.”

I could tell Jon thought I was a little bit weird. Perhaps it is weird. I know that everyone says we should ‘live in the moment’, experience everything fully without thinking about what it means or how to record it.

In a previous post I mentioned Donald Miller’s book on living our life as story. It has got me thinking a lot about story and how we bring meaning to our life.

It is a human instinct to want to shape our existence. Although we just float from one experience to another like a seed drifting in the wind, we don’t think like this. We shape, we structure, we punctuate. Our stories have beginnings, middles, endings, patterns, structures. We reflect on our experience, we frame it into art or story. We write poems, we take photos. We think of how we could summarise it in 140 characters or a Facebook status. Life is not just for living, it is for telling.

And I really enjoy the telling. For me, it makes the living more alive.

I have many more memories of my childhood and teenage years than Jon has. I can remember distinct events and feelings, whereas his formative years are a vague blur. He tends to identify memories through photos that have been taken.

I think this is because I kept a diary (journal) for many years. The years that I kept the diary are the clearest ones in my mind. I capture memories and treasure them up in my heart.

So I watched my boy splashing in the pool with Jon. For days he had protested at being in the pool, not liking the feeling of not being able to touch the floor. Now he was in a big rubber ring, in his Dad’s arms, pretending it was a boat. His face lit up with delight, and his joy spilled over to me. It was a magical moment, just begging to be captured for posterity.



This would have been where I would have ended this post, had it not been for a conversation I had subsequently with Jon. I had smugly outlined why the unexamined life was not worth living. So what was his objection to it?

“There is a big difference between writing a journal after an event and taking photos or tweeting while the event is happening. The trouble is,” he explained, “you think you are enjoying this great story, and your view is the one through the camera, where you can see us clearly. Unfortunately, our view of you is this” – and he held up the camera to his face.

I suddenly got what he meant. He had disappeared behind the camera. I felt immediately disconnected from him, and more like I was an actor who needed to perform rather than a friend sharing a moment.

If you are tweeting or taking photos throughout a meeting or conversation, there’s a good chance that you will feel it is enhnancing your experience, as you are able to be both participant and producer. But as soon as you become producer, you distance yourself from others there.

I like being the audience, the writer, the director – but I need to be careful that my recording does not distance me from others. Begrudgingly, I admit that the ‘live life in the moment’ brigade may yet have a point.

Next holiday I shall limit myself to a mere 300 photos. Promise.

Over to you:

  • Are you a ‘live in the moment’ person or ‘life is for the telling’ person?

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38 Responses to Life is for telling

  1. dave 26th July, 2012 at 6:43 pm #

    I remember taking students on a mission trip and one of the team constantly taking photos – as co-leader I should probably have been firmer, but I mostly ended up feeling sad that almost his whole experience had been mediated through a camera…

    • Tanya 26th July, 2012 at 7:10 pm #

      Yes – Jon and I were reflecting on the fact that the advent of digital cameras has changed the way we take photos. In The Old Days, when you only took 2 rolls of film on holiday, one had to be a little more judicious in the shots one took. Now, it’s all too easy to take thousands, and spend much of your time taking photos. It will be interesting to see what the long-term effects of this, I guess.

      Thanks very much for taking the time to comment!

  2. Vicky Beeching 26th July, 2012 at 5:05 pm #

    Love this! You are such a fab blogger!
    A totally agree. I think social media and ‘digital sharing’ in general has to be done in a manner that looks outside of ourselves and considers how we are coming across to others.
    Some would argue this limits us ‘being ourselves authentically’ and creates an external source of control that becomes oppressive… but as far as I’m concerned, being ourselves in any community means taking into consideration the effect ‘us being us’ has on those we’re around – and sometimes adapting our behaviour to help those around us feel loved and respected. Thumbs up on your conclusions!
    You always share great thoughts, but this is my favourite of your posts so far πŸ™‚

    • Tanya 26th July, 2012 at 7:06 pm #

      Thank you so much, friend! It is a great compliment indeed that you enjoy my posts, O blogging queen! πŸ™‚ Thanks for taking the time to comment – much appreciated.

  3. sandra delemare 26th July, 2012 at 4:11 pm #

    So true about needing to have a balance.
    I remember a holiday when the camera broke about 2 days in. There were several moments when I had to work hard at enjoying the moment and not bemoaning the lack of camera. Like the fantastic views across Naples bay from mount vesuvius, and the anenomes of all shades of blue through to white under the beeches on Monte Faito.
    As a writer, I often feel as if I’m more of an observer – especially in a crowd – rather than a participant. A mixed blessing – we sometimes see more when not too emotionally involved. The ability to see the wood from the trees, which can help others when we write about it.
    Great post – food for thought.

    • Tanya 26th July, 2012 at 6:52 pm #

      I would be freaking out if the camera broke mid-holiday! Those potential pictures sound incredible.

      I think it’s an astute observation that writers, poets, artists, are often the observers. Sometimes that can be lonely, I guess.

      Thanks so much for stopping by!

  4. Janice 26th July, 2012 at 3:01 pm #

    What a great post this was! So thoughtful and honest. I’m one of those with hazy childhood memories while my husband remembers everything. I’m intrigued by your idea that the years you kept a journal are more clear. Just on brief consideration, I think that may be the same for me, although I hadn’t realized it. I remember a difficult pregnancy that we went through and I can remember quotes from my journaling at the time far more than I can remember my exact feelings and thoughts. I know I’m a person who processes through writing, but you’ve really made me see a whole new aspect of that! And now I have GOT to start keeping a journal again. Especially as I’m feeling like these years of mothering small children are just wisking away without me remembering any of it.

    Oh, and the part at the bottom about the camera is great too. How often do I gloss over my husband’s lack of enthusiasm over something I’m doing when I should find out why? He always has good insight.

    Thanks for sharing all this. I’m not a person who takes many pictures and I think sometimes I regret that, but this is a marvelous post to consider all the things that go into having a balanced approach.

    • Janice 26th July, 2012 at 3:02 pm #

      ps- I love this series aobut Life being for telling. Your thoughts have been lingering with me as I think about the kinds of things I want to write…

    • Tanya 26th July, 2012 at 6:48 pm #

      Thank you for such a lovely comment! I don’t keep a journal at the moment – I wonder if I should. Maybe the taking of photos of my boy is replacing that a bit for me at the moment. Hadn’t really realised that before…

      Thanks for stopping by – so glad you’re enjoying these post!

      • Janice 9th August, 2012 at 8:21 pm #

        So I know your main point of this post was about the picture taking thing, but I wanted you to know that the comment about your journaling helping you remember has gotten me to start journaling again for the first time in years. And I’m loving it.

        So thanks for this post!

        • Tanya 10th August, 2012 at 9:31 am #

          That’s awesome!! Cool beans!

  5. James Cooper 26th July, 2012 at 12:35 pm #

    Good post Tanya, glad you had a great holiday.

    I’m kind of obsessed with taking photos of macro flowers (pref with a bug on! I can easily take a couple of hundred in an hour or two!). I rarely take photos of things I’m actually doing. I guess I like being the producer and I see photos as an artistic expression rather than a record/journal.

    (I also don’t have a recent photo of myself, hence the little cartoon avatar! And any photos I’m in, I always look very wraith like, the old ‘M.E. tired eyes’… – although I don’t have a sucker on my hands – honest!)

    Perhaps I need to take more photos of the things I’m up to!!!

    • James Cooper 26th July, 2012 at 5:51 pm #

      Watching the Olympic Torch relay on the TV made me think of your post. There were quite a few people watching this once in a lifetime event from behind a camera, or rather amusingly an iPad.

      How will those people remember it – from the photos/video they took or the fact they were taking photos/video? And will they remember feeling ‘part of the crowd’?

      • Tanya 26th July, 2012 at 6:43 pm #

        Interesting thought… I find it really weird to see people suddenly get out their phones and brandish them in front of themselves – but then I guess that’s ‘normal’ for those in a younger generation. It is interesting that people still want to be part of the crowd, still want to have it recorded on their phones, even though they can probably download it on YouTube any time.

    • Tanya 26th July, 2012 at 6:46 pm #

      Amazing photos! I guess you must have a pretty fabby-doo-dah camera to take those!

      I think you should definitely get some more photos of yourself doing things, tired eyes or not…

      P.s. didnt know you were a fellow M.E. sufferer….?

      • James Cooper 26th July, 2012 at 7:45 pm #

        Never thought of my camera as fabby-doo-dah πŸ˜‰ It’s a got a really nice zoom on it that lets you get really close up!

        I’ve had M.E. for 20+ years (I’m 33 got it 2nd term of secondary school…). Really grateful I can work from home (web designer) and have great (and understanding) clients!

        • Tanya 26th July, 2012 at 8:06 pm #

          20 years – gutting. It’s great that you’re well enough and determined/creative enough to maintain a job. Respect…

  6. HopeUnbroken 26th July, 2012 at 11:16 am #

    oh, good thoughts!!! while i love to scrapbook and journal, both, i’m often forgetting to grab my camera when i most want it. so, alas, i don’t have as many photos as i want! but after reading this, i’m thinking maybe that’s not as bad as it sounds πŸ™‚ you’ve relieved my guilt, LOL!
    you’re right about the balance. i probably need a few MORE photos, but definitely won’t feel quite like i’m missing out so much now after reading and contemplating these words here.
    have a great day!

    • Tanya 26th July, 2012 at 12:12 pm #

      Thank you! Always glad to hear that I’ve relieved someone’s guilt – I think we carry far too much of it around!

  7. Daniel 26th July, 2012 at 9:08 am #

    Kate and I have this exact same conversation. I dislike cameras. Partly I feel like instead of enjoying *now* we are busy making sure we have something to look at later; partly I feel like cameras don’t capture what is really happening. (I have photos of myself in the past looking very happy etc. but I know that I wasn’t that cheerful at the time – the camera lies by omission).

    Interestingly, I have much less of an issue with the journal – life moves, and we can capture it better in narrative than in image.

    • Tanya 26th July, 2012 at 9:35 am #

      ‘Life moves, and we can capture it better in narrative than in image’ – LOVE this thought. (and cheering Kate on, naturally).

  8. Lisa 26th July, 2012 at 8:24 am #

    really enjoyed that blog Tanya made me think, I am a twitter, photo n Facebook kinda girl, I’d never thought about it distancing me from others before, I think I will now be trying to be more of a live for the moment girl from now on x

    • Tanya 26th July, 2012 at 9:33 am #

      So glad you enjoyed it! It’s hard to get the balance right, isn’t it?

      • Lisa 26th July, 2012 at 3:55 pm #

        I would definitely second that x

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