Letter To My Younger Self by Tracy Moore

Dear Past Self,

I’d like to talk to you about what love is, and what it isn’t. As you go through the next few decades of life, many things are going to be said and done which will cause a lot of confusion for you about what it means to receive and give love. So many times, wounded parents fill their children with feelings of fear and rejection due to their inability and/or unwillingness to cope with their own problems. Their words sometimes leave behind even bigger bruises than their hands do.
The most important thing for you to remember is that your presence in this world is not something which you should ever feel guilt, shame, or regret for. As you get older, you will have a lot of things to heal from, and it may take a long time for you to realize that no one deserves to benefit from the fact that they have created fear or feelings of inadequacy in you. No, not even your parents. You will have grown so accustomed to walking on eggshells and feeling as though you can’t do anything right, that it may be difficult for you to create healthy relationships for a very long time.
Do not feel guilty for this either. Be gentle with yourself as you unlearn just about everything you’ve been taught about what it means to love and be loved. Give yourself the gentleness which you have deserved from the day that you entered this life. There are many stages to go through as you move through the upcoming healing process. You will feel anger, resentment, shame, guilt, fear, and uncertainty as you make your way toward wholeness. All of these feelings are a normal part of your experiences. Remember that you have been taught to question your every feeling and action. You no longer need to do this to survive.
It is normal too, to desire love and acceptance so much that you can be drawn into relationships of all kinds which are not healthy for you. This is because you have nothing to go by when it comes to recognizing healthy exchanges and fair treatment. No matter how hard this might seem, the first relationship which you will need to build in order to form a good foundation for all of the rest to come is the one with yourself. As time goes by, you will eventually reach this healthy stage in your life. Take the time to enjoy it. Savor the freedom which comes from letting go. Remember all of the obstacles you’ve made your way through over the years, and keep your eyes open for people who are in the position where you used to be as you were beginning to heal. A few kind words or a little reassurance from you can give them a jump start on their path.
Do not, however, take their burdens upon yourself to the degree that you are not living your life or dealing with your own stuff. This too, is a common thing which happens to people who have been through some of the things that you have. While it is good to care, you have to be aware of how much of what you do might be a distraction from dealing with your own issues. There is a lot of trial and error coming up, but you will realize that there is a difference between caring and avoidance, or even co-dependency. We do not have the ability to “fix” anyone other than ourselves. When the time comes that you find yourself thinking that you need to sacrifice parts of your very being in order to love someone enough-know that this is not true. Have faith in yourself. I do.

Love,
Your future self

***

Tracy Moore
https://pullupatoadstool.com/

Spirited Sisters: A Younger Self by Miriam Sagan

Sane is not exactly how I would describe my younger self. In my twenties I wanted just two things:
1. A boyfriend
and
2. To become a poet
These seemingly minimal needs were actually rather hard to achieve, in part because they were in direct conflict with my family’s goals for me, which were to have:
1. A husband
and
2. Academic success
You might notice that employment is only vaguely addressed here, if at all. Love and school formed part of the almost religious beliefs of my family, and my sanity has been bound up with them.
A wretchedly failed love relationship and dropping out of a PhD program left me less sane than ever. My goals then were to:
1. Be free
and
2. Write
I ran off to San Francisco, and by dint of therapy, trial and error, sheer will power, many boyfriends, eastern religions, massage school, feminism, re-birthing, and the 19th century novel I became less crazy, more self-accepting, and gasp, something of an adult.
The more stable me became the more mature me but soon less stable me by adding in
1. A husband
2. A move to Santa Fe
3. A career as a writer
4. A child
5. Widowhood
6. Re-marriage
7. An academic job
Is there a pattern here? I assume not by coincidence, I ended up doing everything both I and my mother found necessary to a sane life. Each also being a double edged sword..caring for a baby is grounding…a teen-ager induces insanity…etc.
What would I tell my younger self? I would tell her–you are not going to change. You will always be short, witty, moody, anxious, semi adventurous, bookish, fast talking…you will never care about your hair, so don’t even bother to pretend. You will be conflicted about religion your whole life. You will always love flowers and pickled things. You will be obsessed with death, want to get your own way, and never learn to type.
So get used to it.


Photograph by Hope Atterbury