ScrapMoir How-To #35: Change Your Lens for Writing Memoir and Scrapbook Stories

by Bettyann Schmidt on August 11, 2011

catnav-scrapmoir-active-3Post #114 – Women’s Memoir Writing, ScrapMoir – Matilda Butler and Kendra Bonnett

by Bettyann Schmidt

Respect the past in the full measure of its desserts, but do not make the mistake of confusing it with the present nor seek in it the ideals of the future. ~ Jose Ingenieros

Memoir Through a Different Lens

memoir, memoir writing, memoir writing and scrapbooking, journaling, autobiographyWriting a memoir, lifewriting, journaling and creating family history scrapbooks all have the power to foster a sense of pride in our past, heal old wounds, remedy depression, give hope. However, the chance also exists that writing our life will mess up our present and future.

Sometimes, when our life feels out of control, we wish to go back to that place where big problems didn’t yet exist. Childhood, for example, when parents made the decisions and shouldered the burden, and we were allowed to simply play and go to school. If we aren’t careful, we might end up letting those nostalgic feelings hinder our growth in the present.

Conversely, in some instances, writing life stories for your memoir reveals past hurt that becomes our fault; we take the blame for a dismal life, and our present and future become overwhelming because we feel the damage has already been done. We get stuck in the past while our present and our future cease to exist.

Memoir: Telephoto and Wide-Angle Lenses

The first gift my husband gave me after we were married was a zoom lens for my Canon SLR camera. We’d met in photography class at our local community college, so we enjoyed a common interest.

I treasured that lens. Suddenly I had a different perspective through my viewfinder. A young doe in the front yard eating an apple off one of our trees in fall came to life. I was able to view the scene up close, watching my subject in action from a distance.

Recently, going through some of my old photos, I began looking through an invisible telephoto lens, where I was then able to see the story, with all the details suddenly visible.

While a wide-angle lens seems as if it is giving the whole picture, it is only when you use a closeup lens that you see there is more than meets the eye.

July 20, 1963The photo of me on my first wedding day, posing in between my parents, at first glance reveals a bride with a nice looking set of happy parents.

When I study that scene in detail, however, another story comes into view. A story I missed all these years, since that picture was taken.

My wedding day in 1963 ended up being a disaster, caused by the groom’s family. They caused a loud commotion in the back of the church just minutes before the bridal procession began. They became angry over some detail of the wedding and refused to sit in the front pew on the groom’s side of the church. 

This was an omen I realized too late.

The family I married into was loud, angry, hostile, and combative. In public or otherwise.

I remember vividly, standing in the vestibule in tears, not knowing what to do, when my father placed my arm around his and whispered, “We don’t act that way in church.” He looked straight ahead down the aisle and waited for the organ’s first chord.

At that moment in time, my father knew what to do, how to handle a tasteless situation. He took charge. He was raised with class. Both he and my mother, though suffering hard childhoods, raised in poverty and adversity, had ingrained dignity and respect.

The detailed picture here, when I used my invisible zoom lens, showed that I made a poor choice in joining a family lacking those qualities. I thought, because they lived in a beautiful home in a more affluent section of the city that they were better than my family, who still lived downtown among the poor, where my immigrant ancestors first settled.

My immaturity set up a series of events, over a span of 20 years, that changed me, caused me to live differently than I’d been raised. I belonged to a different family from that wedding day forward. I forgot where my roots were.

Yes, some bad things happened in my childhood that negatively impacted my view of my family, but I made the bad decision to leave the family. I wasn’t forced to leave.

Until my present marriage, where I found “class” again, I’ve shouldered the burden of that bad decision and its consequences.

You have to accept whatever comes and the only important thing is that you meet it with the best you have to give. ~ Eleanor Roosevelt

memoir, memoir writing, memoir writing and scrapbooking, journaling, autobiographyI remind myself these days to look at life through a zoom lens to understand a situation and then wide-angle lens and try to get over the rough spots with as much class as I can manage. It’s in my genes.

Please leave your thoughts in the Comment box below. How have you dealt with your past and any bad decisions you made? Have you learned to view your past in a different, broader way? If you have ideas that help other readers, we’d love to share them. Until next time…

And be sure, if you haven’t yet, to download a free copy of my e-book here on Women’s Memoirs: ScrapMoir: 7 Steps to Combining Your Photos, Your Memories, Your Stories.

Bettyann Schmidt
Be sure to join me on my blog, Journey2f.blogspot.com

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You may also be interested in Bettyann Schmidt’s article on:

ScrapMoir How-To #23: Using Political Turmoil in Writing for Scrapbooks and Memoir

ScrapMoir How-To #28: Scraps of Life for Scrapbooking and Writing Memoir

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Matilda Butler August 11, 2011 at

Bettyann:

Your post reminds me of the old Pentax camera I had. When I first added a telephoto lens, I was amazed at the results. In one photo taken in Mexico City, I was able to capture a fountain and see droplets caught mid-air. Then I swapped out that lens for my wide-angle lens and took a picture that included the fountain and the cathedral behind it.

Thanks to your blog post, I can see that I can apply that same technique to both photos and my memories — looking for details and meaning while still seeing the context.

Great idea.

Bettyann August 11, 2011 at

Thanks, Matilda. That telephoto on my old Canon sure made a difference in how I looked at photography, and seeing these old photos now I’m working with for my memoir, that just came to mind, the lens angle. I felt I wasn’t seeing the whole picture when I looked at these old prints. Makes it a lot easier to write the story when you get behind the image. Your Mexico City photos sound great, especially water droplets in mid-air! Brings nature to life.

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