What Are We Editing Out of Our Lives?

Feb 25, 2023 | Inspiration, Leadership

This weekend I got to go up to the mountain closest to our home. Mt Hood. Majestic.  Beautiful. And often covered in cloud. In fact the first year I lived in Portland I never realized you could see the mountain from the city because I only ever happened to be looking mountain-wards on a cloudy day!! Anyway, we arrived close to sunset and the view you can see that I snapped quickly, just before the clouds came in again. I grew up a long way from mountains, so the sight of one that could be drawn in a child’s picture book – snow on top then green trees at the timberline and below – still makes me take a deep breath. But this post is inspired not by the mountain but the picture I took.

When I went back to my phone to look at the photo, it didn’t look like the one you can see. Well it did. But along with the beauty of the late sun gleaming off the snow, there was a whole section below that included the road, street signs, dirty gravelly snow churned up by the snowplows… all details that I felt distracted from the beauty of the mountain. So with a quick edit I got rid of them. Now I could focus on the beauty.

Later I got to thinking about this idea of what we edit out of our lives – and how intentional or not we are about doing it. This is an invitation to exploration – not to judgement. On the one hand I hear a lot about selectiveness  – all types of social media invite a curation and a decision of what side of ourselves we are sharing and what we are editing out – with a strong bias towards only sharing what we perceive as the best in our lives and who we are. But all communication involves some element of editing and filtering. When someone asks how your day was, even when there is genuine interest, we are still distilling what is top of mind and/or we feel is safe to share and/or we feel like unpacking further.

The interesting question to me, though, is what am I editing from myself? And how does that either serve me, or hurt me, or possibly both? I have a tendency to ‘touch up’ the past so I almost always see things with a positive spin – holidays, work, relationships… and I love that about myself because my memories are almost all ones that I want to revisit. But I sometimes wonder whether I edit out too much of the hard stuff so that I don’t learn the lessons or I don’t pay attention to who I may have hurt without realizing. For example that great event I hosted and planned and took the lead on,  but I may have stepped on toes and missed opportunities to mentor others; that wonderful energizing (for me) holiday with so much exploration where I may have left others in my family feeling more exhausted than restored. What if I were to see the ‘icky’ bits of the ‘picture’ not as blemishes, but as intentional features, designed to both hold my attention, to remind me that life is almost always nuanced and also to allow the beauty of the good stuff to stand out more in contrast.

After spending some time reflecting on this I went back to pull out the original version of the photo and relook at it and couldn’t access it even after several attempts of trying. I had planned to put it at the bottom of this post. And I found myself feeling wistful and a little frustrated – a timely caution to myself to think twice before permanently editing anything – in or out – of my frame of vision.