I spent much of my Labour Day weekend going through photos.
While I kept up with the boys’ Project Life scrapbooks while they were here, it was the only creative pursuit I had then. I have gotten back to needlework and crochet, done a little artwork, and now I was ready to head into scrapbooking, even if it meant going through all the photographs on my computer from my time with the boys and deciding what to print, how to scrapbook them, and how to deal with my mixed emotions about that time in my life.
And I discovered something interesting.
After about two months of the boys being in my life, I started to disappear from it.
There were pictures of the boys, the animals, my husband… but for long stretches there were no pictures of me.
My scrapbooks are full of my experiences, and my face. Me shining with happiness over a birthday gift, or sweating with exertion on a hike. Me and my husband dressed up for an event, or on the road for a trip, or trying something new. Things I’ve created, hobbies I’ve pursued, happy moments in every day life.
But that was gone.
I found some selfies that I never used for anything because my eyes were too red from crying. I found photos where I had documented damage to my home and belongings, videos I took of long, violent tantrums, of me getting hit and kicked, of the house being destroyed. I found pictures of the boys; some happy at the park, some in time out, some angry and refusing to do something or other. But I had a hard time finding me.
I knew I had lost myself in the time they were here, but the visual proof of it made me take a step back.
And then I moved past the time when the boys were here, and suddenly, I started cropping up in my own life again. It was more than a month before I caught myself smiling, though. When my parents had said, on a trip earlier this year, that it was surprising and so good to see me smile again, I don’t think I really understood how long it had been that I hadn’t been able to.
I see myself doing things I enjoy again. Spending time with my husband again. Experiencing life again.
I don’t blame the boys for the loss of myself in my life. I don’t know why everything that happened happened, and they suffered as well, long before they met me. Trauma begets trauma; they left some of it with me. I hope that, one day, they find a life filled with happiness rather than anger. I hope that in the future, they are able to share more love than pain, to experience family rather than to fight it with everything they have.
I am grateful, even as hard as everything was with them, to have had time with them. But I am more grateful that I have found myself within the maelstrom of emotions and pain, and am slowly finding the sunlight again.
I am grateful that I can enjoy thunderstorms and rain on my face instead of tears. I am grateful that my home is a place of peace and somewhere I want to be, rather than a place of horror and strife and somewhere that I will do anything to avoid. I am grateful that I still have love and friendship in my life, despite how hard I tried to push both away.
I am grateful that I have learned how to treat myself well, again. The way I would want a friend, or anyone I love treated.