I’m writing to you with at least a half life of experience behind us now – maybe more depending on how this life works out! Neither of us knows how many days we actually have left, but the idea of 90 years old sounds a lot more appealing now that we’re halfway there! Having experienced the highs and lows of life, I decided to reflect on the lessons – dare I say wisdom – gleaned from our journey so far. As I take in the rear view, I am grateful for all the experiences, for they have made me who I am now. I do wonder, though, if the battle scars, and possibly even some wounds that haven’t even been recognized much less scarred over yet, have been as beneficial and necessary as I once believed them to be. Perhaps I’m asking if the once seemingly glamorous (and oftentimes most apparently fun) direction of following my arrow, was most fortuitous. Or was it actually a route that left me nearly bankrupt – spiritually, emotionally, and psychologically – if not physically and financially. I wonder if knowing then what I know now could and would have led me down a different path, one that could have ended with the same wiser me, but less broken and desperate at times. So with those thoughts in mind, I’ve drafted, this letter to you to reflect on as well, my dear younger self. As always, only you can decide…..but perhaps these points will at least be the foundation and source of deliberate contemplation for the decisions yet to be made in the (hopefully) second half of our life! While these might be in random order somewhat, I’ve learned that consistently applying these principles have made life exceedingly more enjoyable and exciting – dare I even say fun! – than during those times when I chose to just live randomly.
Get to know your Creator. Know God personally. Ask Him why He created you. Ask Him about the life He wants for you. Ask Him how you can know He is trustworthy. Ask Him why bad things happened to you and those you love the most. Ask Him how He’s going to use that all for good – yours and His. Ask Him how he sees you and listen when He tells you that you are a most beautiful treasured daughter, even if you don’t feel that way in the moment. Even if life up to this point has told you a different story. Tell him everything – He knows it already anyway. And ask Him everything. He desires nothing more that to have a relationship with you, and that starts with a two-way conversation. He speaks, so take time to be still and listen. Read the Bible. It is true that “if you seek, you will find”. And while you might take the long, wide, curvy path on this particular part of your journey, listen to those people that tell you about Jesus. Their approach might be flawed, and they are definitely flawed to the core, but one day you’ll know the Truth about Him and you’ll be changed forever. Grace covers all those flaws – yours and theirs.
Confront your demons. We live in an imperfect world with imperfect people…most of all, we are imperfect! We have been hurt, sometimes badly, and we have hurt others. Some of those hurts go all the way back to when we were just little kids and we had to worry about things little kids should never have to worry about. There’s still a hurt little girl that takes up a lot of head and heart space, and sometimes makes decisions for us that seem to fill up the hole that was made by others, but often ends up making the hole bigger. You see, dear younger self, you learned to stuff the hurt instead of feeling it. Who could blame you? Nobody wants to hurt and you were really too young to know what to do with it all anyway. So you found ways to rationalize it. Sometimes you thought if you could just be smart enough, pretty enough, sexy enough, talented enough, just ENOUGH, you wouldn’t be hurt anymore. Someone would love you and everything would be ok. But the truth is, it never really was about you at all. It was about another hurt person who didn’t confront their demons. They did they best they could with what they had, but you were part of the carnage they left in their wake. But you’re a wiser, smarter you now and you know you’re A-OK just the way you are! You always were. So, sit awhile and let all that hurt well up. Feel it. Take it in. Sit in it. Let it out. Then let it. It might take 10 minutes….it might take 10 years. It might take more. It probably will. The important thing is to understand that the proverbial demons are there and either they will have their way with your life or you will…but it can’t and won’t be both ways. Confront and conquer the demons so you can make your choices from a position of strength and clarity.
Forgive. It’s a gift you give yourself. The ultimate outcome of confronting your demons, perhaps, is reaching a place of forgiveness for those who have hurt you. Of course, you can’t do one without doing the other. So allow yourself to accept the hurt you’ve experienced, allow yourself to grieve for your own broken heart. Then forgive those, who in their own brokenness, hurt you. This is a process, and yes, easier said than done. You might even try practicing on yourself. Forgive yourself for the wrong you’ve done others. Then take a breath and take the bigger step of forgiving a small hurt by someone else. Grow in this and you’ll find your soul feels thousands of pounds lighter. Imagine how free you’ll feel once you’ve forgiven everyone for everything. You’ll eventually learn to value the process. You’ll forget all the reasons you thought it was good to withhold forgiveness! You’ll ask yourself why you didn’t do it sooner! So get started. And don’t worry…granting forgiveness is not a license for others in your life to continue to mistreat you. You’ll learn how to deal with this nagging concern shortly.
Live life intentionally. You’re a grown up now. No matter what has happened or not happened to you up to this point, it is up to you to decide how the rest of your life is going be. Decide what that is for you and be intentional about getting it. When presented with a decision, a choice, a temptation, an urge, a craving……take a pause and ask yourself if the outcome of your potential action is getting you closer to the life your want to live or further away from it. Choose accordingly….start today. It’s never too late! And at some point, you will realize you are now choosing for two. Yes, YOU WILL HAVE A BABY! He is going to be the most beautiful, richest gift you’ve ever received. And yes, you’re going to mess up a little bit – we’ve already established, we’re not perfect! All the more important that you reflect on this now, though. You may have a partner in this part of the journey for awhile, you may not. In fact, you may have to decide not to have a partner for the sake of the life you want for you and that beautiful little life you created. You’re responsible for raising a man…..not raising a child. Think about that. Start the way you want to finish. Teach him all the things I’m teaching you now from the beginning. Consider he will likely do what he sees others doing and not what he’s told! Evaluate the people you allow in his life. Ask yourself if they are the role model you want for him…if they are the adult you’d want him to be. Act with in intention in response.
Set boundaries. Set boundaries for yourself and for those who want to be part of your life. Living life intentionally to get the life you want means setting limits on what is acceptable by you and for you. By the time you get here, you will have learned clearly and painfully that you can’t control anyone else’s choices or behaviors. What you can control is how much you allow their choices and behaviors to impact your life. It doesn’t mean you set limits on how much you love them or how much you want only the best for them. It does mean that you allow them only as much time and impact in your life as they can manage wisely and respectfully on your behalf. When they demonstrate they do not and cannot respect your time, emotions, finances, health, YOU, it’s time to evaluate and establish a new set of boundaries. You once heard the saying “When someone shows you who they are, believe them”. I might add “….the first time”, although i know you have a heart that gives second and third and 100 chances. Let me just offer you this – set a reasonable expectation with yourself that people will change only when they choose to and there’s not a single tactic in your arsenal to speed that along. You can’t love them through it, you can’t threaten them into positive choices, you can’t teach them a better way, you can’t save them. The only thing you can do is decide how worthy you are of being treated respectfully, of receiving all the love you are so willing to give, of experiencing faithfulness and integrity in all your relationships. Love yourself enough to drop the people from your life whose decisions about that don’t match you own.
Practice self-restraint. Yes, here are those boundaries for yourself. The slogan of the times is “If it feels good, do it!” How many times have we given into those moments of temptation, only to find out it really wasn’t worth the extra 5 pounds, the hangover, the lost relationship, the evaporated opportunity, the morning after regret that shines as bright as the morning sun? Part of being a grown-up is learning self-restraint. Sometimes we didn’t learn this lesson when we should have – as kids. Yes, we were probably spoiled and got our way far too often. Unfortunately as we got older, getting our way meant getting a whole lot of everything that was bad for us – bad choices that turned into bad habits that turned into bad outcomes for us. “A moment on the lips, forever on the hips” doesn’t just apply to too much chocolate! Anything that robs us of our emotional, psychological, spiritual, financial, and yes, or course, physical health is not worthy of our engagement. Restrain yourself and instead invest your time and energy (and those bright sunny mornings) into that which enriches you in one or all of these areas!
Above all, dear younger self, remember that “today is the first day of the rest of your life”. It’s not just a cliche! Drop the past. Recognize that the thought you have now and the action you take in response to it determines the next…and the next…and the next. For the next 45 years. Live well. Laugh often. Love big.
Your 45 Year Young Self