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My Life In A Box

June 21, 2011

My cousin sent me an email: “Hi. We need pictures of Granny and Sam.”

Granny is my paternal grandmother and Sam is my father. Both are deceased.

We’re preparing for a reunion of the Keels clan, my grandmother’s father’s side of the family. My cousin wanted the pictures for “The Book.” The book idea is new to our reunion tradition. It’s purpose: to document bits of family history and pay tribute, in words and pictures, to those who have passed on from the body.

I knew just the photos of Granny and Sam I wanted to include; shots I had taken of them. Granny’s was taken when I was about 16 and she was 72. She had come for dinner and I snapped the photo while she was standing outside, preparing to leave. She admonished me with, “Teressa, don’t you take no picture of me,” pointing at me as she always did when giving me direction and pretending to be seriously upset. It was characteristic Granny…MY Granny.

For my father, the photo I had in mind was taken on my friend Bob’s boat one Sunday afternoon, about 20 years ago, as we cruised the Chesapeake Bay. Sitting in the passenger’s seat, wearing his favorite blue-gray cloth jeff cap, smoking a Camel, unfiltered, I caught him at just the moment when he looked back over his right shoulder and said, “This is the life!” He was so right. It was a great day in many senses, a day when my father — whose disposition was happy-go-lucky — was especially happy. I treasure that memory.

As I rifled through a VERY large box filled with photos, looking for those two particular pictures, I relived much of my life. Every decade, and I’ve had a number of them at this point, was represented. Everyone I ever loved dearly was right there, again. Every friendship, every fleeting and authentic love relationship, every milestone and accomplishment, all documented. There were images that captured the joy of parties at my home and the homes of friends, past family reunions and awesome trips to places far and near.

There it was, my life in a box. As I looked at each photo, much of the energy and emotion captured in the snapshot flooded my senses. I was right back there, reliving the moment. My “visit” left me with a new depth of joy, gratitude and appreciation for the road I’ve traveled, and those who have walked with me.

Yes, I located the exact photos I was searching for. And, what I found in that box got me thinking about “pivot points” that shaped me – those important life-defining decisions and actions. The photos gave me a chance to review my life and relive, even if only briefly, many love- and wonder-filled moments, and the many choices I have made that created my present.

In retrospect, some of my “pivot points” became clearer. For example, in first grade, I became a majorette. That experience helped me overcome shyness about being looked at. It helped me feel less afraid to perform in front of people. In fifth grade, I was selected by the Student Advisor to be a “Safety.” My job was to help fellow students behave in ways that were consistent with safety standards. Things like not running in the hallways, and crossing the street at the corner when the traffic light was in their favor. The following year, the advisor appointed me Safety Captain. With that change in status, I began learning about the role and responsibilities of leadership. When I was twelve, I “joined the church” and learned how to be a dependable member of the choir, the usher board and youth fellowship. Sunday School and the sermons strengthened my values.

On and on the list of “pivot points” went, including my decision to break up with a boyfriend – a really nice boy – with whom I felt stifled. He seemed to “need me” just a little too much for my comfort. Then, there were graduations – high school, undergraduate and graduate school.

Of course, the whole of my life is NOT really in that box of snapshots. My whole story lives in me – in my memories and in the way I allow my life-defining pivot points, to shape my present.

When was the last time you looked back on your life and reviewed the road you’ve traveled? Doing so may open the door to a new story and fresh awareness of important “pivot points” in your life.

Learn more about “pivot points” and how they have shaped your life in “LIES That Limit.”

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