Dear Self;

What would you say if you wrote a letter to your younger self? Mine would go something like this:

Dear Ana;

I write to you only from a few years ahead. Our 30th birthday is only a year away and we are about to marry the most amazing man — I have to say we did pretty good for ourselves! I approach you with caution because I know exactly where you are right now. Not physically, but emotionally, and my heart cries for you. Right now you have built a wall blocking out the kind words of caution from those closest to you, separating yourself from any feelings and outwardly emotions, because if you don’t have any, then no one can hurt them. Right? I hope this letter will find you in one of those moments where you are alone with your thoughts and have an open heart ready to listen. 

Forgiveness. Forgiveness is the hardest lesson you will have to learn in your life. A lesson I am still struggling to learn everyday. There are some choices we have made that have made life a little more rocky than it could have been. Forgiveness for yourself, dear one, hurts. Hurts to look at and hurts to heal, but is freedom. 

Listen to mom when she says, “Slow down Ana. You can’t burn the candle from both ends.” She is worried about those late nights that turn into early mornings, and the people you have chosen to call friends. No, you never get into real trouble but there is no reason why you shouldn't. But that boy across the bar? He is bad news, so stay away. And do you remember David, the guy you met in L.A. a few years ago? I know you remember because you stalk him on Facebook all the time. I will give you a hint — he’s the guy we’re about to marry. The years you spent “not caring” are tearing him apart. His heart is so deeply jealous for yours. Wanting to take care of you, to love you, to walk with you. When you decide to come back, be patient, be ready, and be kind. The road you will walk with him in those first years are not a fairytale, but they are worth it. I beg you please refrain from saying the words, “You want to break up don’t you?” Your fights are not because he wants to leave you, but because he wants to get closer but there is that wall again — I have to say we have gotten very good at building brick and mortar.  

These past few months have been tough. Dad will pass away when you are 28 and it will feel like you fell from Niagara Falls — paralyzing. He has been sick for so many years and, right now you think you are ready for him to go. Sitting by his bed at 4am on a Friday morning in April, you will break into a million pieces sitting on mom’s lap. The two of you got into a pretty big fight a few months before, really over the same things — he won't change, and you wanted a real parent. But this time you had enough and will stop talking to him all together. It is during this time you get a call on a Wednesday evening saying he has decided to stop dialysis. 

First, you will be very angry and refuse to be pushed into talking to him. This is obviously a cry for attention, he is an addict, this is what he does. Over the next two days you will fight with him to keep going, to have the next surgery. He is at peace with God and his decision, he will say, and everyone can see it except you. The things you see are deep rooted in the behaviors you have known all your life. Victim. Depressed. Addict. 

He will say they are giving him a medicine that will help remove the toxin build up and we will have a few weeks to spend with each other before goodbye. This however does not end up being the case. By Thursday he will be out of consciousness only waking up once but unable to speak. You will sit by his bed and in a desperate attempt to make a connection you show him a picture of you in your wedding dress. Even if he can't really register what he was looking at, this in some way, will comfort you. It will ease planning your wedding without him there. 

Thankfully the entire family will be there to see him awake to say their goodbyes before he slips back into a sleep state. Everyone will head home for the night but you stay behind for another hour gradually moving from his room to the sitting area not sure if you are ready to leave. At eleven ‘o clock, David will say we should go and you'll want to go back to dad’s room one last time. You will kiss his forehead, tell him “I love you,” that it is all okay and go home. Before getting into bed you will call the nursing home one last time to check on him and they will tell you he is the same and comfortable. 

Sleep will come quickly that night but will be shortened when the call comes that he has passed. It is the last days of arguing you will regret. Not regret telling him how you felt, but the way the words were said. You will wish to have spent those days in sweet time together, instead of at odds. A different perspective is your anger was your love for him in action — something to hold onto to help grieve.

I don’t tell you these things to make you sad or to be a “buzz kill.” I share with you because there are steps you can take to help make things a bit easier. Find peace within about Dad. No, he didn’t ever change but he loved you so much and in the best way he knew how. Find your way to love him where he is, and be grateful he is there now. Be kind to yourself and do yourself favors. Instead of going out tonight, go have a glass of wine with mom. Learn when your guard should be up, and when you can let it down. When your brother is home for Thanksgiving, make him your priority. He wont tell you, but it will really hurt his feelings when you go downtown instead of hanging out. The kid has been waiting to be your best friend since he was born, let that happen. 

Finally, regret will poison your thoughts and make you work for the things in life that are free. Instead, say kind words to yourself. You are beautiful, you are giving and you are special. You are The Lord’s precious gift and He wants you no matter what, you are clean from blemish by His grace and forgiveness that sets us free. 


Your future (still undone), Self

This letter to myself only 5 years ago is hard to read and even harder to write — I wept through the entire thing. To be honest, I didn’t want to write it at all. It felt like writing these bad and traumatic things was to admit I had done it wrong—oh hello pride, I was wondering when you would come out. The truth is I did a lot of things wrong and hurt some of the people closest to me, including myself. Admitting fault does not go hand in hand with beating yourself up over and over. But it does go hand in hand with confession and forgiveness. David always tells me, “You have to look at it before you can be rid of it.” It is also okay to say, “I should have done it different.” To say that is a step in the right direction to do it different the next time. 

We are all an undone version of our full self. How does a letter to your younger self read? Be honest and be set free.


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