Let’s film you
In the fall of 2021, Dillon Hayes of All I Have, LLC, emailed my husband to see if he would be open to participating in a documentary. The prospect sounded exciting. I joined the conversation when Hayes expressed a desire to not only film my husband at work but the entire family, our journey to this point and something of our life at home.
Years have passed since I spilled the ink on our interior lives, even though the book was only published last year, so the idea of butterflying our hearts for the public nudged me out of my comfort zone. To support my husband I said “yes,” but with some reservations.
We declined the first suggested weekend and Hayes postponed the second. Finally, the time came for the last weekend in January when Hayes, his co-director Julia Grimm and sound technician Rill Causey would descend upon our little nest with their cameras and microphones.
First a quick edit
As the weekend approached, we cleaned and “edited” the home clearing this and that while maintaining my vintage maximalist design aesthetic. My daughter asked, “but if we do the hard cleaning now, they won’t really see our real lives.”
“Our lives aren’t just cleaning, no more than my mothering is just yelling or your childhood is just rule-breaking. By doing some of the hardworking now, we make space to show a fuller picture of who we are,” I explained.
The film crew arrives
At 7:30 a.m. the crew of three arrived. They set up and got down to business as we finished our breakfast. Day 1 focused on the family, homeschooling, playtime, and formal interviews with me in the afternoon. It felt so strange to be on display, acutely aware of the camera watching, creeping closer and closer. My mind reached to perceive what we look like through that camera lens.
“We look very strange.”
That was the only impression I felt within myself as the children recited antique catechism questions, poetry, and I read scripture and took the answers to endless math problems, and one flower order.
They ate when we ate. My husband and I spoke to each other in quiet tones, even as we were alone in the house.
The children behaved remarkably well, with little to no resistance at school. They and I were on the same page after the lunch break, both eager for the weekend to begin, unable to focus.
The formal interviews spotlights an insight to myself
That afternoon, during the formal interviews in my bedroom surrounded by antiques handed on to me by my grandmother. There, I answered questions about our history, our children, our losses, emotions and the will. I continue to be struck by the tenor of the conversation.
We have lived with a sense of adventure in our lives that comes from knowing that so little is guaranteed. We must dig deep into the present moment while we have it. It’s the feeling of throwing everything into a holiday when I had no idea if we would be in a home or a hospital. While we’re here, we’re going for it. That was my feeling, going for it to the fullest. I realized through these interviews how foundational this sense has become in our lives and how exciting life feels because of it.
Openness to experience, conscientiousness, extroversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism make up the old five-factor theory of personality.
My husband and I differ exceedingly on the last four factors. But the first, openness to experience, is a strong point of agreement for us. To a fault, perhaps, but also to a great deal of joy. The degree to which we practice this comes from the grief, despair, and fear we faced. Our days are not guaranteed, so we make the most of them as they come to us.
In those interviews, we also spoke about fear: the fear of commitment or responsibility, the fear of taking a chance, and the fear of those terrifyingly dark emotions.
And about those dark emotions
I finished reading Healing Through Dark Emotions: The Wisdom of Grief, Fear and Despair by Miriam Greenspan. The last chapters resonated less with me than the first. Most of the book was revelatory in a way I’ve never experienced before. Greenspan explained the emotional alchemy possible when we allow ourselves to pay attention to the emotions that move within us, consider what they are telling us, and express them in a healthy way. It is only through numbing them or avoiding them that they change into something toxic, she argues.
When addressed and expressed, what do the emotions change into?
- From grief to gratitude.
- From despair to faith.
- From fear to joy.
Check. Check. Check.
At the end of the evening, the cameras went down and I relaxed. The crew and I sat around the living room with the children, untangling marionette puppets and exchanging ideas.