Do You See What I See

Aaron snapped this photo of me last weekend as we were celebrating my friend Todd's 40th Birthday (that's him there next to me). I've known Todd since my very first week at college - I was 17 which means we've been friends now for more than 20 years. He's part of a group of friends from college who all live here in town. He gives good hugs and laughs easily - always has.  

As I looked at this photo, the phrase that kept popping into my head was Do You See What I See? And then I started thinking about photos of ourselves and why we like or don't like them and all the underlying layers of stories that can go along at any point in time about who we are and how we got to right now. 

Here's what I "see" when looking at this photo: 

  • I see a woman approaching 40, with all the wounds and gathered strength from experiences that go along with midlife.
  • I see a woman genuinely laughing and enjoying being in the company of good friends. She loved that it lasted until the wee hours of the morning and included dancing. 
  • I see a woman who watched her new love and her old love stand together at this party in a long conversation about homes and kids and politics. 
  • I see a woman who loves wearing stripes and who debated about the white jeans but was happy with that choice in the end. 
  • I see a woman struggling to figure it all out and struggling to remember that she doesn't have to have it all figured out. 
  • I see a woman who loves and lives her work, sometimes to the determent of those around her because it can be tough to turn off. 
  • I see a woman who often spends a crazy amount of time in her own head - for better or worse. 
  • I see a woman with a 13-year-old son and a 6-year-old-daughter who sometimes questions where the time has gone and how did I get to right now? 
  • I see a woman who misses some pieces of the last chapter of her life but who also can't imagine this new chapter without the experiences of the last one. 
  • I see a woman who is, no matter what, thankful for the combination of experiences that have brought her to where she exists today. 

After writing these up I asked Aaron what he saw when looking at this photo. His responses were very typical Aaron - funny and sarcastic and literal. I like the opportunity to bring his voice into my stories. Here's what he saw: 

  • He sees that the guy with the tucked in shirt might make me laugh but the guy with his shirt untucked is the one that gets to put his arm around me. 
  • He sees that the only reason I'm not holding a drink is because I drank all mine already. 
  • He sees that I'm near the exit sign, which could potentially mean I want an easy getaway if I start to panic (back story: he's been with me on more than a few occasions - concerts and airplanes and such - where I've needed anti-anxiety medication to alleviate my issues with crowds/enclosed spaces/lack of control). 
  • He sees that I'm not wearing my glasses, which must be a sign of "something" and that come on, it's a 40-year-old birthday party and at least half these people should probably be wearing glasses. 

When he first messaged these back to me I laughed out loud. I love that he's a truth teller and witty and I love that his response was not the same as mine in terms of getting all reflective and serious. It's one of the things I like about him, that he brings a levity to the table for me that I sometimes forget to bring for myself. 


Photos are powerful story sparks. There is so much below the surface that relates to who we are and the ways we see ourselves. Take a look through your own collection of photos and pick one and answer the question, "Do you see what I see?" Begin each of your statements with the same repeated phrase, "I see..." 

This month's Story Subscription theme is Click. We're telling stories of our relationship to photographs and photography and supporting each other along the way. All Story Subscriptions include education and additional inspiration to help encourage you to tell more of the stories of your life. 

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54 thoughts

  1. Lize says…
    05/01/2015

    I love this idea, and all the observations.

    Reply 0 Replies
  2. virginiegoujon says…
    05/01/2015

    Love this idea!!!! Hahaha love Aaron's responses (yours as well :))

    Reply 0 Replies
  3. Laura_Steingiser says…
    05/01/2015

    I love the "he thought/she thought" idea. Both honest and insightful.

    Reply 0 Replies
  4. cathyzielske says…
    05/01/2015

    I love this. And you.

    Reply 0 Replies
  5. Maxpuppy says…
    05/01/2015

    I loved this post, easily one of your best of late! Always good to have a timely reminder to actually see and not just look!

    Reply 0 Replies
  6. Taryn411 says…
    05/01/2015

    Yin and yang. The best formula for lasting relationships.

    Reply 0 Replies
  7. lizziet5 says…
    05/01/2015

    Love this post Ali... the photo says it all and it's lovely to see you laughing and living the length and the width of the occasion with abandon!

    Reply 0 Replies
  8. MrsKnight says…
    05/01/2015

    I loved this picture when I first saw it (on Instagram?) Here is what I saw...
    Look at that honest smile- she is really laughing at something! She's having fun-good for her! She is always saying she needs to lighten up.
    White jeans look awesome-gals got balls that clank! Do I?
    That dude isn't Aaron, but she isn't uncomfortable with his arm on her. Must be a buddy.
    What's the story here? I hope she posts it!

    Reply 0 Replies
  9. Bookworm says…
    05/01/2015

    Hurray for longtime friends that can be part of the bedrock of your life. Love this post -- great journaling for an eventual layout, if you decide to make one, or just a great way to have already captured the story.

    Reply 0 Replies
  10. tealmyre says…
    05/01/2015

    Beautiful - the woman and the introspection!

    Reply 0 Replies
  11. fionahatfield says…
    05/01/2015

    I love that you did this with a photo. I especially love that when I looked at the photo I said to myself (before reading your comments) "Ali really likes to wear stripes" and "She's not wearing her glasses" :) Thank you for this post, it is a wonderful demonstration of finding the stories in simple everyday photos/life.

    Reply 0 Replies
  12. PamBaldwin says…
    05/01/2015

    This is super inspiring and makes me want to try it RIGHT NOW!! Thanks for such an awesome post :)

    Reply 0 Replies
  13. mtercha says…
    05/01/2015

    This is awesome. And I so appreciate that you shared it. Thanks. Michelle t

    Reply 0 Replies
  14. JeanneMurawski says…
    05/01/2015

    When I saw this picture, I saw that yours was the only face in focus. The rest are blurred. Unless you did that afterwards for privacy, it says something to me about the photographer's gaze. His focus is on you. Beautiful.

    Reply 0 Replies
  15. bookemper says…
    05/01/2015

    So cool, I love this idea!

    Reply 0 Replies
  16. karinpodolski_gmail_com says…
    05/01/2015

    I am going to do this with my daughter. Great idea and THANK YOU!

    Reply 0 Replies
  17. minimd12 says…
    05/01/2015

    So insightful as always! You are the epitome of mindful memory keeping. This picture in B&W is amazing. One thing to mention...have you ever tried mindfulness meditation for your anxiety? I've become a big proponent of the practice. It's has helped me feel more connected with my kids and less stressed about everything else. There's tons of app but I really like headspace as a starter. Also there's a campaign right now called mindful in May (raise money for charity:water while committing to sit in meditation for 10min every day in May). I post about my own journey with mindfulness on my blog www.mindfulmemorykeeping.com. Thank you always for the inspiration!

    Reply 1 Reply
    1. AliEdwards says…
      05/01/2015

      Thanks for the suggestions - I'll check them out.

  18. dogear6 says…
    05/01/2015

    Ali - this was great. I loved seeing both interpretations and I especially loved how you're lightening up on yourself. It's a good way to live life.

    Nancy

    Reply 0 Replies
  19. MonicaMcNeill says…
    05/01/2015

    Oh Ali I love this. The photograph, the words, the current that runs through both. Reminds me of an experience I recently had. Wrote about it here....

    http://www.monicamcneillphotography.com/journal/2015/3/8/see-the-good

    Reply 1 Reply
    1. AliEdwards says…
      05/01/2015

      Love that Monica - and those photos are awesome.

  20. Jacenda93 says…
    05/01/2015

    Awesome! I just found a picture of myself when I was 13 and in my childhood room. Around the picture was a piece of paper with notes of things I had observed in the picture, just like yours! I was going to use that picture for the I Want to Remember layout for the Type class! Now I have even more inspiration to use! Thanks Ali! You rock!

    Reply 0 Replies
  21. stkong7 says…
    05/01/2015

    Powerful post Ali! I love the perspectives, and gives a lot of food for thought.

    Reply 0 Replies
  22. desilei says…
    05/01/2015

    I am crying. Your words are so powerful and soul-stirring. I feel as if they were my own sometimes (but you write them and put them out on the internet for me! LOL) Thank you. --Desiree

    Reply 0 Replies
  23. papergoddess says…
    05/01/2015

    Gosh, love this. I've been so in my head and occupied lately. Just something nice to read. It's funny how I can relate to so much of what you say as far as your own journey, then I had to crack up at Aaron because it sounds like my boyfriend. I always have to remind myself, not everybody gets how 'memory keepers' think, and he often adds humor to those situations for me as well. Glad to see you are enjoying the ride, and even if not always enjoying, at least your on it!

    Reply 0 Replies
  24. KarenC says…
    05/01/2015

    I see a woman with pure joy on her face; living in the moment and comfortable in her skin. It makes me smile too!

    Reply 0 Replies
  25. barefootscrapbooker says…
    05/01/2015

    I see your word for the year: GIVE.
    Giving your attention to those around you.
    Giving yourself to the conversation by leaning into it.
    Giving your physical space to a friend through physical contact.
    Giving your joy through genuine laughter.
    Giving yourself the time and space to enjoy life and just BE.
    Magical.

    Reply 2 Replies
    1. kathyb says…
      05/02/2015

      I love this. A great response/comment.

    2. AliEdwards says…
      05/02/2015

      Thank you :)

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