Lessons in Doing Hard Things

This month we are talking about life lessons, words of wisdom, things we value … you know, deep stuff! LOL
I loved Dani’s post about her Dad’s randomly numbered life lessons. She managed to convey important life lessons and life revelations in an easy and light way. Sometimes we are afraid to scrapbook about the deeper things because we feel like it’s going to be too hard. Sometimes it is, but you know what?

You can do hard things!

Let me tell you the back story … 

I was chatting (virtually) with a friend a few months ago about how I missed being in a book club, and the “forced reading” it made me do, so she invited me to join hers. It’s virtual right now (as everything is, am I right?) but I jumped at the chance. Last month we read Glennon Doyle’s latest book Untamed in which she is constantly telling herself and her children “you can do hard things”. This resonated deeply with me. I feel, and have felt for a long time, that I’ve been doing hard things. I get frustrated that others (i.e. my husband) can’t see how hard I am working and instead they keep piling on the tasks and responsibilities. I now know it’s actually because I can do hard things that I am asked to do hard things. What’s that saying? God only gives you what you can handle? Apparently I can handle a lot!

Just before our Zoom book club meeting to discuss Untamed, I was going through my stash of journaling cards looking for something to put on a card for a friend. I came across the card you see in the photo above. I think I actually stopped and said “huh!” when I saw it. It was just such a coincidence and came at such a perfect time for me. I knew I had to work it into a layout at some point.

And here we are! 

My parents have passed, and my relationship with my adopted family is currently strained, so I find myself in the unique (or maybe not, who knows) position of having to teach myself my own life lessons. This one though I feel could have come from one or both of my parents. I am fairly certain they would have said these very words to me if they could. And I know they lived them every day of their lives! That’s partly why I am so tough! You live how you are shown, and they showed me how to be resilient, strong, caring, fun, kind, and creative. Now it is my turn to show my girls how to be all those things. I hope I’m doing it right!

So how do we scrapbook about hard things? 

Scratch that. 

First let’s ask a different question – do you scrapbook about hard things?

It’s totally okay if you don’t. For a lot of us, scrapbooking is about having fun and being creative. It can be hard to do those things if your subject matter and/or photo choice evokes pain, anger, fear, grief, or sadness. But I personally think we work through those types of emotions in a different way when we are creating. If all music were cheerful and upbeat, how would we express our love for someone who has left us, or our fear of a new venture? And remember, just because you create something, doesn’t mean you have to share it with the entire world. Sometimes it’s okay to make a layout and tuck it away somewhere private for you to look at and take comfort from when you need to. 

My heart is not heavy when I look at this photo, quite the opposite. I LOVE the photos we got of me and my girls. I don’t have many. As the Family Memory Keeper (and yes, it’s a capitalized position like Principal, or Prime Minister – LOL!) I am cognizant of this failing. I always intend on doing those cute selfies with my girls that I see all over social media and yet, when the time comes, I feel awkward about asking  them to pose with me. So getting this photo plus many others, including individual shots with each daughter, just about made my year. And it’s been quite a year, am I right?!

But while my heart is not heavy, it is full. Full of love. Full of wonder (how the heck do I have 3 almost grown daughters and how the heck are they all so beautiful??) Full of guilt – don’t ask, the reasons are many. If you are a mom of any type, you know what I mean! Full of regret and trying to forgive myself for those regrets – roads not taken, opportunities missed … my perception, maybe not theirs. Full of hopes and dreams for their futures. Full of fear and anxiety which this current global situation is not helping! 

So you see, what looks like a light and breezy photo of me and my girls on a gorgeous fall day, has many hidden layers. Layers that are not reflected in my journaling. As I talk about further below, on the day I made this, all those deeper thoughts and feelings were trapped inside so I chose to keep my journaling lighter. And shorter. I may come back to write all of my hopes and fears down and tape it to the back of this layout … I may not. Both options are totally fine with me as I am happy to look at this layout and think about my girls, that day and the fun we all had, and just sit in my Motherhood. The good, the bad, the ugly, and the dreams.

Here are some tips for tackling deep thoughts or emotions in your scrapbook layouts.

1. Hide your journaling. Use a pocket or a tag tucked behind your photo to keep your deeper thoughts and feelings hidden from public view. I once made a layout about how heartbroken I was to discover that my third child was going to be another girl. On the surface the layout looks like it’s about a tough pregnancy but if you open up that card with the typewriter on it, there is a whole lot of very personal journaling! 

2. Showcase your journaling! Sometimes your topic is a hard one to verbalize but not necessarily a private one. I made a layout about visiting my parents grave with my two youngest daughters (scroll down to Day 17 – Saying Hello). Instead of going for hidden journaling, I used my journaling to frame the layout and bring focus to the photo.

3. Choose your favourite products. I’m a big fan of always scrapbooking with products you love (and for scrapping from your stash for that matter) but in this case I’m talking about using your most favourite papers, designers, motifs or colours. Use things that make you happy to look at and you will automatically feel better about looking at your finished layout. No matter what the subject matter is!

For this particular layout I wanted to accent the fall vibes and Vicki Boutin’s Wildflower & Honey line helped me do that. The back ground paper didn’t need much in the way of accents and a quick dig through my stash located some long forgotten buttons and brads which added just the right amount of colour, texture and “pretty” to satisfy my need to bling things up. 

4. Go easy on yourself. If you have pulled everything together and you just can’t put pen to paper to tell the hard story, that’s okay! Look at what you have completed and make some notes. Put a sticky note on the back with what you want to add, to say, to design, and then walk away. Maybe one day you will come back and add the journaling you wanted to at the time, or maybe you won’t. I’ve got a lot of experience working through grief and I can tell you that it doesn’t “get dealt with” in a one and done manner. It’s like waves and when you’re in the water, you just have to ride the waves until your feet are on solid ground again. Also, if you come back to the layout years later and hate it – rip it up! Or redesign it into something you love. It’s just paper and ink after all. 

Hope these words of wisdom help you know how to deal with trickier subject matters. 

And remember, you can do hard things!

3 thoughts on “Lessons in Doing Hard Things”

  1. Thanks for this post, Alison… I generally only scrapbook the happy things, but I have been considering some about grief and loss, as those bits have been so prevalent for all of us, I think, this year. Great thoughts on how and why to do that. And beautiful layout!!

  2. Thanks, Alison. Your words apply to many people. I have journaled “hard things”. It helps me by allowing another opportunity to really look at the “hard thing” for what it truly is. Sometimes, acceptance comes with it. It is almost like a confession of sorts.

  3. This is a great reminder. I am a big advocate of scrapping the real things, the hard things. I want my albums to reflect the entirety of life, not just the Instagram happy version.

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