When you hold something at arm’s length you want to keep your distance from it. You hold a smelly trash bag at arm’s length. You keep a stinky baby diaper at arm’s length. You’ll get closer than a ten foot pole, but not too close. You don’t get emotionally involved with something at an arm’s length away. You want to keep whatever it is, person, place, thing, or idea, from being associated with you.
If something is within arm’s reach, it’s close. You want to touch it. You want it near enough that you can get it when you need it. It is dear to you. It’s needed. You keep a water bottle within arm’s reach on a hot day. You keep your phone within arm’s reach when you’re expecting a call. You keep chocolate within arm’s reach because… well, because it’s chocolate.
On our honeymoon we discovered that while we could take photos of each other by passing the camera back and forth, if we wanted to take a photo of us together we either needed to find someone to give our camera to (kind of hard when you are flying with Dumbo at Disneyland), or we needed to turn the camera around and hold it at arm’s length.
Since then it’s become a regular thing for us. Several of our early attempts looked a bit like Kilroy had been there or that we were photo bombing each other. We have gotten much better at it though. With our photos we’ve seen our relationship at arm’s length on vacations, at family reunions, and sitting at home on the couch. We’ve kept our relationship at arm’s length at the hospital, at weddings, and at the family dinner remembering my grandpa’s life. We’ve watched the seasons change behind us, all while keeping the camera an arm’s length away.
Watching our relationship from an arm’s length away means we have to keep each other within arm’s reach. We have to be physically close to each other, holding each other in our arms, to both be in the photo. And at that distance if we were not also emotionally close together the photo would show it. You can definitely tell what is going on in the background of the photos, but the focus, the intense, tight focus, is us and our relationship.
At least monthly we hold each other in our arms and take a moment to hold our relationship at an arm’s length away. We get a picture of where we are at and make sure we are never too far apart. No matter what is going on in the background, seeing our relationship from that distance helps make sure we always keep each other close.