Some time ago, I was reading about the Japanese Internment Camps and specifically Manzanar.  I became intrigued with one part of that story.

There were few photographers who were privileged to document the camp.  Dorothea Lange was one of the photographers. She was deeply opposed to the encampments and relocation.  Her photos were rugged and showed the camp from her perspective of injustice.  The barbed wire fences, the make shift horse stalls where the Japanese prisoners were held in the dusty desert of Manzanar.  Her photos were chilling and eventually were confiscated by the American government.

 The Government then hired Ansel Adams to photograph the camps but he had to play by certain rules.  He could only take the pictures if they were tightly cropped on the subject- no guards were shown, no barb wire, no razor wire, no injustices.  His pictures were to paint a hopeful picture of life in an Internment camp.  Images of order, fun, even joy were the result of his project on Manzanar.

Then, a man named Toyo Miyatake came onto the scene.  He himself was a prisoner and a photographer.  He was allowed to take one prized possession into the camp so he took a camera lens.  He had friends who helped him build a wooden box, weld the lens to a pipe and he began to secretly take pictures of life as a prisoner.  Many times, his camera and photos were confiscated.  Finally, the Government decided to allow Toyo to be the camp photographer.  They got him better equipment, set up a studio and dark room and he captured what life was really like for the Japanese.

His pictures were honest, some showed the realities and difficulties of camp and the injustices.  Some showed happiness.  He captured their spirit of resilience in spite of the difficulties they faced.

So what does this have to do with my life?

Sometimes, I feel like I'm in the Internment Camps of disease; the confinements of something I didn't plan on, nor did I ask for participation in.  It takes no effort to find the injustices. Sometimes, I feel ripped off and even at rare times angry at what could be called unfair.  I see other moms with healthy kids, a husband who provides well, plenty of friends, spa days, dance classes, piano lessons, a well rounded life with a myriad of great things.  At times, I feel more than sad.  Many more times, I just really don't want to do this anymore and the thought of one more struggle leaves me looking for the closest exit. At least with my hand on the door, I can slip out when it becomes too much.  Yes, even ending it all and letting someone else be in charge has crossed my mind, more than I should allow.  Sometimes, the picture I paint in my head is much like the one Dorothea Lange captured in Manzanar; grim and hopeless and someone needs to confiscate those thoughts from me.

But then, life can feel like an Ansel Adams photograph; cropped in tight and you don't see the heartache that is always cluttering up the room or the razor wire that keeps us isolated on the fringes of what is everyone else's normal.  I have put out so much energy to make my life seem nearly picture perfect, even with a disease such as this.  I have gone to such great lengths, more for my kids than anyone.  Admittedly, there was a time I wanted to be that perfect picture but shielding and protecting my kids from the realities of this harsh life took a front seat to pleasing everyone else with the appearance of ease.  So, I laughed in the face of trouble.  I made my kids think chemotherapy could be funny, even totally doable, easy breezy.  They believed me when I told them...this too shall pass and even when it didn't, we all laughed and kept going. I can't remember now, how many times I said, "Don't worry, it means nothing!" but it meant everything.  Mind over matter right?  As long as I kept the symptoms cropped in tight, they didn't notice they were nothing like their friends.

Really though, I love the work of Toyo Miyatake.  I love his balance, I love that it was okay to show the struggle in the mix of making the best of things.  It's true, the imprisoning of the Japanese was wrong.  Tearing them from their homes was the deepest wound of injustice.  I loved that Toyo still found a way to live a life of purpose.  He didn't submit to the daunting thoughts, he didn't give up; the Japanese people as a whole didn't give up.  They found a way to carry out the normal things of life the best they could.  They didn't remain stuck in their circumstances. His images are beautiful and striking, complementary.  They are messy yet productive.

I love this example so much and not just for those who deal with the misgivings of disease but anything that seems inequitable. We can take any perspective as there are always plenty of options and ways to bend the situation.  I suppose if we were perfect at life, we would take the honest approach and work through our salvation and come to place that we fall gently into where there is peace and contentment, even in the worst of times.  Ideally, wouldn't a murmur free life be almost bliss?

I try so hard to do this...God knows I try but sometimes the divine design of adversity can stretch us a little too far, too fast and we stumble to catch up to where God needs us to be.  I guess that is where I am at, in the mess of life...just trying to catch up to a God who needs me to be strong and mighty and perform a work he has in store for me and for my children.   So excuse me, if sometimes, I paint a Dorothea Lange's not wrong but it's not where I want to stay.  And, sometimes, you'll enjoy the sugar sweet images of 'we've got this' even when we clearly don't.  But mostly, when you leave these pages, I hope you leave knowing we are trying to figure out a really hard mortal existence with a strong foundation of Faith and belief that without a doubt, God hasn't brought our little troubled family this far to drop us now! We are in a mess.  Life is messy but it's beautiful and striking too and blessed.  A blessed mess.

This is know!!



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