To be human is to have a collection of memories that tells you who you are and how you got there. Baldwin
A few days ago, I had the chance to spend some time with our son. He has a demanding career and a family of his own, so our opportunities for relaxed, reflective conversation are far too infrequent. Our discussion turned to experiences he had as a boy and the images that shaped him as a man, husband and father. He called them “snapshots.” He vividly described some of those events, and we shared our personal perceptions of those incidents. For example, when our family moved to a neighboring town for better schools, our new home was located next to a private golf course. My son was encouraged to become a caddy at the club, and he acknowledged that this first job taught him a work ethic and how to relate to successful business people. Similarly, our daughter, who runs her own business, described a conversation that she had with a fellow waitress. Daughter Christina was still in high school while her co-worker was a middle-aged mother. And yet they were earning the same wage. The fellow server/mentor advised Christina, “Study in school so that you can work with your brain rather than your back, as we are doing today.” The ruefully insightful waitress reinforced the “family value snapshot” that our two children had heard at home. A favorite “snapshot” from my son involved a moment of sage career advice from a club member who had befriended him. Our daughter recalled vividly her first pocketful of tips, and how she garnered the value of hard work from that recollection.
My son shares my name, and we mutually shared and benefitted from contacts with his Grandpa Fred, my father-in-law, during his formative years. Having to Inform him of Fred’s unexpected passing, roughly 30 years ago, remains among my most painful memories. But Grandpa Fred and Grandma Amy were wonderful confederates in the shaping of our son and daughter’s lives. During our recent visit, my son recalled vivid, life-shaping events that are ensconced in his memory and provide a roadmap for his parenting style, and how he lives his life in general.
Those powerful images are his “SNAPSHOTS.”
Many of my readers are familiar with my concept of the “Snowman.” The Snowman is my simple metaphor for cognitive therapy; the notion that our lives are dictated and defined by a few fundamental ideas. I label them as our “operative beliefs.” When my son shared his concept of “snapshots”, it naturally reminded me of the top “ball“ of my metaphorical snowman which houses our operative beliefs.
Perhaps the shared concept is genetic.
Whether it is my son’s idea of life’s formative moments being encapsulated in “snapshots” or my concept of each person’s “operative beliefs,” I am convinced that we all possess a select few ideas about ourselves and the world overall. In that vein, I believe that a happy, successful life flows from the direction and lessons as captured in those “operative snapshots” to mesh the father’s concept with his son’s. I also sadly understand that human failure and dysfunction similarly emerge from troubling images and memories that lie, submerged, in our minds like hidden reefs that destroy passing ships.
Homework: Consider, carefully, the “snapshots” that populate your mind. Do they serve you, just as my son’s photographs from his Grandpa Fred have throughout his life? In the alternative, if some of those mental pictures are disturbing or debilitating, recognize and accept that such snapshots only retain the power over us that we bequeath to them. With insight and will, they can be exorcised once we accept that such change is possible.
In summary, appreciate and value your esteemed “snapshot” remembrances, just as you edit out the harmful images that contaminate and taint your personal album.
A good snapshot stops a moment from running away. Eudora Welty