I am paging through a giant photo album and looking at pictures that show my history. Some of the pictures give me goose bumps and fill me with a mix of confusing emotion. I don't know whether to smile, laugh or cry as I stare at pictures of me with my dad when I was a baby. In each photo he is giving me a look of adoration like I am the center of his world. I think I spent the better part of my childhood trying to pull that look out of him. I guess maybe it was there all along and I just had to look.
One thing that strikes me about most of the photos taken of me is my enormous grin. In every photo, you can see my teeth. My smile fills almost my entire face. I also notice that most of my photos are completely unselfconscious. I look free of all concern. I'm looking at a picture right now where I have the end of my hair wrapped between my lips and my face is plastered with an almost naughty smile. In other photos, my wild blonde wisps are wind blown and uncombed. Other photos show me with clear camera consciousness that seems to reveal a propensity to perform.
There are many photos of me in costume. Sometimes I am acting in a play and other times, I am dancing in my living room. I giggle when I look at photos of myself with my skirt or tutu pulled all the way up to my chest instead of my waist. I do not look concerned about this bizarre fashion statement in any of my photos. Frankly, I look quite pleased. My legs are long, tan and muscular. From the look of the photos, I rarely went inside or put on shoes. I am always laughing or smiling at some joke that has eluded the photographer. Now I wonder what was so funny but I can't help but smile at the girl grinning impishly out of the photos.
My photos almost always show me in action. Only the school photos have me posed. In every other picture I am in motion. I am running, I am dancing, I'm hiking, I'm on a playground, I'm in a field or a garden, I am continually on the move. My eyes are shining. My skin is glowing. I look fearless. When I look at these pictures, I remember the girl I used to be. I am without regrets. I think I have smiled more than I have ever frowned or cried. People tell me I look much younger than my 32 years, maybe that's why.
Parts of the last year have been very hard but I realize that it has been a very good life thus far. I told my husband the other day that MS has changed my life for the better. I have not felt as relaxed as I do now since the childhood captured in these photos. My whole life has come back into focus and perspective. Somehow I feel less overwhelmed, knowing I can be just who I am without pretense or apology. Today I am grateful for the life I have already lived and the one I get to continue living as I see fit.