For Christmas, I gave my sister an ornament. You know the ones…it has the year on it and then you add a cute family picture from that year. The picture I chose was a funny memory because we had to figure out using my ring tripod, and wrangle the kids off of their devices, then squish everyone into the frame and set the timer. We captured what we thought were great pics. Only to realize that my niece had been crossing her eyes in every single freaking picture. It was annoying and completely laugh-worthy.
So of course, I had to put that picture in the ornament. But what I realized as my sister opened the package at Christmas, was that my oldest niece wasn’t in the pic. And I felt so bad for selecting that picture. I apologized a couple of times and told my sister that she should feel free to replace the picture with one that includes my oldest niece. And my sister said to me, no, this is the picture that we will look back on and remember that niecey pooh wasn’t there because she was off at college.
I was so shocked at how simple and perfect that perspective was. What a new way of looking at this scenario. Maybe it’s just my family, but we do tend to acknowledge when all of the siblings are at an event, or all of the cousins, or all of the boys, or all of the grandkids. And when we photograph those events and someone is missing from the group, we do point out that all of the aunts/uncles/kids/etc. are there except so-and-so. And we do typically say that the picture would be so much better if the missing people were there. If that aunt was there or that grandchild was there to complete the group. We spend time focusing on who wasn’t there and how the picture would be better if they were in it.
But the thing I love about my sister’s response is that the absence of my niece is in itself a story. And this picture can remind us of how she was dedicated to school, even though it meant missing out on a family gathering that she would have liked to attend. We can commemorate the period of time that she was away at school through her absence from the picture.
There will always be times when people are missing from gatherings and events. Instead of creating a sense of guilt or sadness or FOMO around it, it’s so much better to focus on those who made it. It is more fruitful to acknowledge that people do have other things going on. We should choose to think of gatherings as a positive and joyous time to spend with the people in your presence, not a time to dwell on those who did not attend. That’s the perspective I’m going to try to have going forward.
Chime in–how do you handle FOMO?