2018 was a very difficult year for our family. One of the hardest in recent history. Horrifying, in fact. However, as a tenacious chronicler of memories through pictures, (the annoying person with the camera), I’ve learned some very interesting and noteworthy things. The first is, unless you are an actual news journalist or war correspondent, you probably don’t take pictures during sad times. When a family member is angry and screaming, I don’t even think about photographing them. When a friend comes to me in all their vulnerability and tears, it would be unthinkable to ask for a selfie. In those quiet moments of personal agony, no photos are ever taken. So while 2018 came with lots of tears, I don’t have a single photo of me, or anyone else, crying. Here’s something else I learned from my photos. All those pictures of me laughing, and being silly... those were real. They were not forced or photoshopped. I experienced those moments... all of them. So while I reflect back on 2018 as A Very Hard Year, I must acknowledge all the silliness and laughter that occurred, too. For this reason alone, I am grateful for my photos. They are a joyful reminder that life is never all good, or all bad. 2018 had lots of wonderful moments. While I am generally transparent and authentic on social media, there are struggles I will never share publicly. Some struggles belong to family members, and are not for me to expose. Also, I have personal boundaries about what is meant for public consumption, and what is not. As a rule, I assume that anything I share on social media is public, and can be seen (hypothetically) by my children, my parents, my clients, and the pastor of my church. That’s the filter I use for sharing. I’m pretty open about most things... but not all things. Which brings me to reflection number three. You cannot judge the totality of a person’s life by what you see on social media. And it’s probably not that people are intentionally trying to bamboozle you. It’s that privacy is still a thing, boundaries protect us, and nobody really wants to see pictures of you crying in your closet. So, be careful about creating comparisons between your Real Life vs. someone else’s Social Media Life. It’s not a fair comparison. If you compared your actual life to the photo collage here, your life would have a hard time measuring up. And while all of these photos are real, 2018 was A Very Hard Year. Reflection number four. Cultivate the ability to laugh at yourself. There is no greater source of true hilarity than what comes from within. I have made it through some incredibly hard times by finding humor inside my own brain. Along the same lines, reflection number five... laughter heals. I learned this from my friend, Lydia, who is the High Priestess of the Laughter Therapy Movement. I look back at these moments of laughter and silliness, and realize they are what got me through. You may be asking yourself, “But how do I laugh in the midst of pain?” And the answer is, you just do. Perhaps it takes practice. Perhaps it takes being around the people who inspire the laughter in you. Perhaps it takes the ability to compartmentalize your pain. I haven’t discovered the key to explaining this magic, yet. I just know that it helps tremendously. Reflection number six. I don’t know what 2019 will bring. I hope it will bring joy and peace and love and laughter, FOR ALL OF US. No matter what it brings, I will continue to be silly, and to laugh. I know I will be surrounded by a Tribe of lovable people who will inspire me to keep going, no matter what. And I will continue to keep a photographic journal that will remind me, at the end of 2019, that whatever else happened, I laughed.