I finally got around to transferring old home videos from VCR to DVD the other day, following a lengthy battle with a VCR/DVD converter that lasted for the better part of the afternoon and included lots of swearing and threats on my part and a steadfast refusal to “record” on the part of the converter. But once I got things working correctly, I was able to sit back and watch lots of old footage of birthday parties, holidays and family gatherings.
The first thing I noticed was how different my kids looked back then. Where they ever really that small? Did my son really speak in that high-pitched voice? His voice is so deep now that he’s actually hard to hear in a crowded, noisy restaurant. Then I notice my husband. Did he really have that much hair back then? But finally, I notice….me.
I’m rarely standing directly in front of, or even looking at, the camera. I’m hovering around the edge of the frame, handing out sippy cups to toddlers, lighting the candles on the birthday cakes, and tidying up the wrapping paper as the kids tear into their gifts. You can sometimes hear my voice off-camera, shooing the dog out of the way, prompting the kids to say “thank you” or offering someone a tray of Christmas cookies. Was that really me, always on the edge, directing the others, cleaning up after them, but never really in the thick of things? And is it still me?
Honestly, I’m not sure. Even in my middle age, there’s always something, or someone, who needs my care. And like so many women, I tend to put the needs of others first, without even giving the matter much thought. It is, after all, part of what being in a relationship means….sometimes caring for others more than we care for ourselves. Selfishness can very quickly equal loneliness. But at what point does putting others first mean I’m not meeting my own needs at all, not using what little creative talent I have, and not being true to myself?
If someone were filming my life now, would I still be that shadowy figure, almost hiding around the edges? It’s hard to know, but it’s something I need to think about. I think it’s something all of us need to think about, if we want to live fully and genuinely. I think each of us needs to find our own balance between what we do for others and what we do for ourselves, because no one was meant to “hide their light under a bushel.” Not a single one of us.