#053 – Intentional Acts of Acknowledgement

I was gonna call this ep Random Acts of Acknowledgement, playing off of Random Acts of Kindness and the whole “Pay It Forward” movement, which is giving kindness through, say, leaving money at the drive through for the person beyond you’s meal. There’s a lot of emphasis in that movement in doing these kind acts for strangers and it’s beautiful and wonderful and I hope people keep doing it…

but what about the people who matter to us?

The ones on our VIP list?

The people who have left a lasting impact on our lives whether they were in our life all our lives or for a short time?

Acknowledgement for these people is important too isn’t it?

We can be random and unexpected in doling out the acknowledgement, but I think we should be intentional in how we watch for opportunities to give acknowledgement.

As documentarians, we’re so lucky, because we literally can find these opportunities when we’re watching for moments to record. It’s like collecting $200 as you pass Go on Monopoly.

This ep is a little different, because it’s more story-based up front. There’s a wisdom nugget on Intentional Acts of Acknowledgement by the end for you.

Enjoy the story. 

Full transcription:

May 20, 2007

That’s the day I met my husband.

Today, May 20, 2019 as I’m recording this, we’ve known each other for 12 years. We met in 2007. I was busted by Canadian Immigration in 2009 (which I make light of now, but was scary AF at the time). We were married 6 weeks later at the top of 2010 (and now I thank immigration for that push).

Today, I woke up to find a love note on the counter and my day was just MADE before I even had coffee.

It’s not the “love” note. I know he loves me. I know I’m loved. He shows me by all the ways he shows up for me every single day—mind you, far from “romantic,” but it’s all love.

It’s in the friendship and partnership he gives me.

It’s in the give and take that comes with *considering* your partner—like allll the times I need to stay up to 1 a.m. just talking and he patiently listens and fuels my soul in response even though *I know* he’d rather be in bed or watching a movie or doing just about anything else other than enduring the deep conversations and talking about his feelings that I put him through.

Love isn’t all about affection and “I love you’s,” which I’m sure you know.

So, what got me about the note was that he paused in the middle of a busy, getting ready for work morning to essentially say, “you matter,” to me.

That’s an Intentional Act of Acknowledgement.

You may have heard of The 5 Love Languages and, with this note, assume Words of Affirmation is my language and it’s actually not. My Love Language is Quality Time. There’s an assessment + description of the 5 Love Languages on the site if you haven’t checked that out before. All 5 languages are wonderful, but there’s 1 or 2 that speak to your heart the most.

Anyway, when I think “quality time,” I think of our convos on the couch, our dates, being in the car together, bedroom time, etc. You know, literal time together.

Today, he just grabbed a scrap piece of paper and he acknowledged MY feelings around this date.

For context, you have to know that I’ve always celebrated this date. Him? Not so much. To him, he puts more value in our wedding anniversary. I could go in a deep rabbit hole here, but know that I never had boyfriends before Dave and, so, meeting him was this breath of fresh air when it came to love and guys and was literally life-changing for me. Dave? He still tells me stories about all his girlfriends through the years, so it’s no wonder that our wedding date means more to him.

All that to say, it’s no wonder that I always feel so much joy in my heart on May 20th and for a long, long time, he’s acted like it’s just any other day, “big deal, it’s the day we met, it’s not like we were actually together since that day,” which has hurt a little.

So, today wasn’t about a love note. Today was about acknowledgement for WHO I am.

In between the lines of what he wrote, I got the message that he considered how important this day is to me and responded to that through the 60 seconds it took to write me a short & sweet note.

I realized, today, that giving acknowledgement is a form of quality time when you’re not physically together. Isn’t it just the best to know you were being thought of even when you weren’t together?

Beyond a spouse or partner or whatever, this goes for your kids, your parents, a friend, anyone who matters to you. Even people who don’t matter to you on the level of family or friends, when they reach out with kind words to acknowledge you, it’s just the best!

So, what does this have to do with documenting? Where’s the wisdom nugget here?

Dave didn’t use documenting to spark his note to me today. He did that out of years of me making a big deal out of this date and learning how important it is to me. But, as documentarians, we have this upper hand to give intentional acts of acknowledgement. We can give the most unexpected “you matter” gifts, because of how we see in pictures (or however you document).

We don’t have to wait for a special date.

That’s what I want you to take away from this episode:

In the way I’ve practiced documenting through the years, it’s been an illumination that pulls together the past, the present and the future’s dreams all together, all-in-one. It’s a strangely beautiful way of seeing that, I think, awakens stories in my subconscious and helps them surface.

For example, awhile back, I played with my camera at the elementary + middle school I went to. I was there with my kids. I was shooting in real time, obviously, yet stories and people of my past + dreams for the future were all present in my mind.

The changes.

The things that have stayed the same.

If that sounds similar to how you’ve experienced documenting, make no mistake that those stories + thoughts surfacing are an opportunity to give acknowledgment. The mistake we make is by letting them leave our minds as quickly as they came in.

You can start, now, practicing that awareness muscle for them (what I talked about in episode 046).

Those stories are something to pay attention to. Don’t just cling to the real time moment. These are messages that come through you that are likely worth passing onto someone else.

For example, shooting at those schools, I thought about all the times I’d crossed that cross walk over the road with my friends. I thought about specific stories. Those stories are a chance to say, “thank you” to my friends. This one time, I’m so embarrassed to even talk about this, but in 4th or 5th grade, my friends and I were on that crosswalk and spit on the cars passing below one day.

I know, not my finest moment.

Another student’s parent recognized us. The next school say, she told the principal and then chewed us out. I can still vividly remember her words, “Do you know how disgusting it was to have to remove spit from my car with paper towel?”

As embarrassing as that was, I should really thank her for that moment, because it probably shaped who I am. If I hadn’t been caught, my asshole level could have kept rising. But, I genuinely felt bad.

So, that’s what I’m talking about when it comes to the other stories that surface when you’re documenting that aren’t necessarily a real time moment. The memories that pop up along the way. You can DO something with those.

They may seem so small, but you never know what someone else is going through.

What if that mom who called me out is over there wondering if she’s done enough in her lifetime? What if she’s feeling like shit over who knows what? Maybe, a thank you for something she did well could change everything?

You never know and that’s why I truly believe that those memories the resurface are not to be taken lightly. Documenting can help us capture them, because you can believe that when I look at those photos from the crosswalk between the schools 2 years later, those OLD stories surface again.

So, what I want to propose to you is to use documenting to give acknowledgement….. Intentional Acts of Acknowledgement.

Don’t just document for the dopamine rush of sharing a fleeting photo on social media. Remember, what comes before documenting is acknowledgement. Documenting is your response and it trains your awareness muscle (episode 046).

Homework:

Can you spare 1 hour over the next week? Break it up into six 10-minute chunks if you have to.

Go through your photos. See what stories in the pictures or beyond the pictures come up that are an opportunity to give an intentional act of acknowledgement.

What relationships in your life feel a little heavy? Could you start there, photos aside, to acknowledge something they’ve done well with you? A way they’ve left a positive impact on who you are?

Maybe you send them an email. A text. Make a phone call. Write a letter. Send them the picture that sparked it all & write about it on the back.

It doesn’t have to be long or done with the perfect words. Just something short & sweet & from the heart that’s unexpected.

Would you do that for me this week?

Connect to ONE person through an intentional act of acknowledgement. I’d be over the moon if you’d email me afterwards! Then moving forward, as you document, try to pay extra attention to those opportunities that come up. Get yourself a small notebook to carry with you and write ‘em down as they come up.

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Author: MarieMasse
I help client documentary photographers fine-tune their workflow + marketing game, so their work is filled with sessions that represent their voice + client values while earning a living. I shoot undirected, off-beat stories that aren’t preserved often enough (like the story of couples before starting a fam or becoming empty-nesters – a dream project of mine), so my clients’ old box of photos is a meaningful, visual diary of their life + legacy to leave behind.

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