Post by Anna Davison for the Love for Love series.
41 years, you! It’s a bit unbelievable that you have been on this earth for 41 years. Looking back, there have been so many things you worried about needlessly. There were so many times you missed the moment because you were thinking about the past or stressing about the future. Sweetheart, let’s not do that for the next 41 years, OK? Can we agree on that? Good.
In an effort to put things in perspective, let’s reflect on some of life’s major moments and the difference a little time makes in our understanding of things. Here is what I would say, if I could turn back the clock and talk to you.
To myself at 5: It isn’t your fault he is leaving. This event is going to define so much of your personality. You are going to spend the next 40 years secretly believing that nobody will ever be willing to take care of your feelings or love you enough not to hurt you. This belief will cause you so much pain. It also means you will always care about other people’s feelings more than you care about your own. If there is one thing I could change – just one thing – it would be this moment. I wish I could hold you in my arms and tell you, “You are perfect, little Annie. Your feelings matter. You are so very lovable. And it is not your fault he is leaving.” Then I wouldn’t let go until you believed me.
To myself at 11: You are not a birdbrain, no matter what husband #2 says. The only thing I can tell you is that even though it hurts, you are going to use this as motivation to make sure you are wicked smart. You will overcompensate, but I can’t say it will be a bad thing. That drive is going to serve you very, very well in life. Oh, and he won’t be any concern for you after you’re 19. She’s going to divorce again and husband #3 is a keeper with a heart of gold. Hang in there.
To myself at 19: Six months after your 19th birthday, you are going to be engaged. You crazy girl! You’re just young, in love and marriage sounds like such a great idea. (Sigh.) A year later, you will wake up and realize this may not actually be what you want. You will make the bravest decision of your life (so far) and leave to go to San Diego State. I can’t even tell you how proud I am of that decision. Calling off the engagement was scary because it felt selfish. It was about time for a little selfishness! The move to San Diego is going to put you on a whole new course and I’m so happy that you took care of yourself for a change.
To myself at 23: The guy of your dreams is right in front of you. What are you waiting for? Dump the idiot you’re dating – NOW. (Sigh. Again.) Oh well, the good news is that great guy is going to wait for you. The year you spend being friends, and trying to set him up with your girlfriends, will pay off because it will give your relationship a solid start. You will both laugh about it on your wedding day.
To myself at 25: You are married and a full-time stepmom now. You are doing such a great job, but the secret you won’t admit to anyone is your fear that you will always somehow be second best. She isn’t ever going to come back and try to be a parent to them and you won’t ever understand why. You worry that even though day in and day out you are doing all the work of a mom, and you love them with all of your heart as a mom, they will still somehow always love her more. You are so ashamed of these feelings, honey. You feel so insecure about your role sometimes and you work so hard to be a perfect parent. The truth is that nobody can be perfect.
I wish I could tell you to just be you. Just love them. It is all going to work out. You wouldn’t believe me, but there will come a day when you will never even think of these feelings. Ever. These moment and any thoughts of her will be some distant memory to you – no longer any part of your life.
These hard times are the fire that is tempering the steel of your family. The hours and days of caring for them, guiding them, and parenting them will turn into a love for each other that is going to be stronger than anything you can imagine. Biology doesn’t matter; it’s all about the love and nurturing you give them.
To myself at 28: Babies are really difficult. Please, please don’t be so hard on yourself. Stop and enjoy this. Take in his smell, enjoy lazy days at the park, and don’t go back to work for a while longer. You are doing fine. Enjoy the time with this little guy and stop trying to schedule and control everything. Relax a little!
To myself at 30: You aren’t very happy right now and you and the hubby are pretty much fighting like cats and dogs, but it isn’t the end of the world. You will fall back in love with him – I promise. Raising toddlers and teenagers is tough business. Keep going to marriage counseling. The sooner you can both learn some better skills, the better off you are going to be.
Oh, and make sure you go spend more time with you sister. She isn’t going to live in San Diego forever and you are going to kick yourself that you didn’t spend more time with her when she lived here. I don’t care that you are busy and she is busy. You are going to wish you made time for what matters.
To myself at 35: I am so proud of you for being brave and taking the new job. It was scary, but you are trusting your instincts and it is going to be amazing. You are going to learn so much about yourself and what you are capable of. This change is going to lead to amazing things for you. You are going to wonder if you can really do it all. You CAN. Pat yourself on the back.
To myself at 38: You’re going to uncover a lot of old pain this year. It’s going to hurt. Keep breathing. Be gentle with yourself. This year is going to prove that you are stronger than you know. You’ve been a people-pleaser for a long time. That won’t change overnight. In many ways, you are just waking up. It’s a hard process. Be patient. It won’t hurt like this forever.
And today, to myself at 41: When challenges come in the future, can you please keep reminding yourself that these things aren’t as big, or as bad, as they seem at the time? Take comfort in the loving family and amazing friends you have in your life. Keep taking risks and being brave. Oh – and when it gets hard, ask yourself what the 80 year old Anna would say to you. I bet she will have some good advice.
In the meantime, keep meditating and do more yoga. Do whatever you can to be present in each moment and enjoy your life. You’ve earned it.
Anna Davison has always been a fierce lover of written words. She studied American Literature in college and her favorite book is Kate Chopin’s “The Awakening”. She tries to quiet her busy mind with daily meditation, yoga and running. She is inspired by the bravery of others in sharing their stories. She is particularly in awe of the power of connection that comes when we are vulnerable and open about our pain and our triumphs.
She lives in San Diego, CA with her family.