The Power of the Picture

Photo by Juan Pablo Serrano Arenas from Pexels

Photographs reveal lot about family dynamics, our emotions and self-belief.

I remember my mum looking through early family photos of my ex-husband’s family. She noticed that my ex and his sister were always thrust to the front of the photos, with their mother’s arms around them, while the other brother was left to his own in the background.  It didn’t just happen in one photo, but in picture after picture. It tells you a lot about their family dynamics, and the fact my ex-brother-in-law – to this day – still feels like the odd-one-out in the family.

Almost ten years ago, we – my ex and I, our two kids and their spouses – had some family photos taken outside our house.  They’re lovely pictures.  We all have our arms around each other, either in couples or as a large group.  It’s a family, whole and complete, where everyone belongs.

Since the divorce, we have a big family/friend photo taken on the steps of my daughter’s deck every Canada Day.  My ex isn’t invited, but everyone who is there for the Backyard BBQ and celebration is included in the picture, and we all jostle up against each other to be in the frame.  I love those pictures.

And then this week, my daughter arranged for us to have family photos taken in our local park by a Flytographer.  They’re beautiful images – three generations enjoying being together.  Some are formal, most are casual and relaxed, with the photographer catching some gorgeous candid moments.

But one image in particular caught my eye – and not for the right reasons.  It’s the formal group picture – me in the middle with my son and daughter and their families on either side of me. Each group has its arms around each other while I am standing alone. (When I discussed this with my daughter, she saw it differently – I am the centre of the picture. They wouldn’t be there without me.)

When my daughter and her family were being pictured together, she asked me to join their photo, but I changed the subject and didn’t join in.  I didn’t realise at the time why… but I do now.

Comparing the photo from ten years ago to last week’s, I realise that over the past five years, I have internalised a belief that I’m no longer worthy of being loved and wanted – by anyone.  I know, rationally, that my ex rejecting me – especially in the way he did – says way more about him than it does about me, but the person it’s had the greatest impact on – despite the amazing support of friends and family –  is me.

How could I not believe that my daughter simply wanted me in that photo?  There was no hidden agenda in her request.  No feeling on her part that she’d better ask me in case I felt left out.  The simple truth is, she just wanted me in her picture for me… and I chose not to acknowledge her request because of the way I subconsciously feel about myself since my husband’s rejection.  If he didn’t want me… why would anyone else?

I was speaking to a friend last week who was recently widowed, and I almost feel jealous of her.  She is in the throes of grief, but her husband didn’t choose to leave her.  She was worthy of love.

Me?  I guess I have more work to do on myself than I realised.  Even after five years, I guess I am not as ‘over it’ as my rational mind tells me I am.  That even though I am loved… I still don’t quite believe I am worthy of it.

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