Monday, July 17, 2017

Stories to Tell

When it comes to documenting the hard times, my advice has always been to push through, to tell that story, because if our albums are going to truly share our lives as we live them, they should radiate light but also acknowledge the shadows, the dark and difficult moments. We should be cautious about the difference between spinning the story of our lives and telling that story, truly. 

In the week before my recent surgery, when all I seemed able to do was to fixate on fear, I encountered a design team deadline. It occurred to me as I worked on the page that if something went wrong during the procedure or with my recovery, this could be the last page I would ever make.  And that left me overwhelmed.  

I pushed through, however, letting my feelings shape my focus, and I ended up creating a layout about my love and admiration for my daughter, and her bravery in moving forward in life, a separate person from her worrywart of a mother.  When I was done, I thought, if this is the last page I ever make, then so be it.  Imagine saying that about every page you make.  Morbid and possibly even melodramatic, I know -- but it was a breakthrough for me all the same.  

Though the surgery itself went well, other health concerns surfaced in the weeks that followed the surgery, and whatever peace or closure I might have felt in creating that "last" layout vanished, along with my creativity.   Scrapbooking seemed like something my other self, my healthier self, cared about. I wasn't sure if I would ever be that self again.  

There was no pushing through. There was just an urge to surrender to the worry, to shut down. For the first time in over a decade, I started seriously considering giving up scrapbooking. Don't all life stories end mid-sentence anyway? 

Then the days pieced themselves together into weeks, and the new and unknown became the normal and unknown. I haven't stopped worrying, but I have been making a greater effort not to let my worries consume me.  I've been spending time with family, and I am humbled by love's power to endure even as our bodies struggle to do so. 

This moment happened last week: 
Here's my uncle, in 1967 (the layout is from 2014): 
Maybe what I need to understand is that when I was thinking about stopping scrapbooking altogether, it was because I was coming to terms with the fact that my own narrative was possibly changing on me.  The fear that I had run out of stories to tell paralyzed me. 

I can't let that fear control me.  My uncle, the storyteller, still has stories to tell, even though he cannot shape those stories into words in the way he used to do, but they are there, in his eyes, in his smile, in his hands, in the family members who surround him and, even in his voicelessness, listen. 


  1. Jill,
    I always marvel at your creativity and ability to share so much passion through your pictures and accompanying words. I hope that you continue on the path to successful healing and that you come through this experience stronger than ever. The experience you captured between your uncle and your mom is a beautiful one...thank you for sharing it with us! Maria ()"o)

  2. Jill- Although I don't know you personally, I have come to adore you through your words (many words) and layouts. You are a brave, courageous soul and I will pray for your needed strength and healing. Even the hard times are the moments that make up your story, as you stated above. Much love to you and your family!

  3. Your words and your layouts/journaling brought tears to my eyes. May God bless you with His healing touch so that you may continue to share your truly heartfelt and meaningful work with us. You have a gift to be able to connect with many hundreds (thousands?)of people whom you have never met in person through your scrapbooking. Your words have always drawn me in first, followed by the wonderful creativity of your work. Thank you Jill-o

  4. Thank you so much for your thoughtful words, Maria, Jeane, and Mary! They mean a lot to me.