Dear Self…

I have a friend who is experiencing the most terrible of times.  She is heartbroken, flat, without hope, overwhelmed and filled with grief.  Her pain and suffering are not illusory (despite my continuing belief that life is a game – it’s real enough while we are playing it) and the problems seem insurmountable.

I considered writing a letter to this friend, suggesting how she might help herself emerge from these black times, but that feels wrong.  I haven’t walked in her shoes.  I can’t tell her what steps she should take.

So instead, I’ll write my letter to my Self – the Self I was in 2008: the year I had left my teaching career, my painful, trustless, crumbling marriage, my beloved grown-up children, my home and friends, and moved to London to care for my mother.  Woman, Old, Face, Portrait, White

She couldn’t acknowledge her dementia, couldn’t see why life was becoming uncomfortable and confusing, so directed all her anger, fear and spite towards me.

I’ll write to the Self who lay shaking and crying on the spare room bed, after dodging most of the vicious blows and scratches for barring the front door at 3am and not allowing Mum to ‘go to the hairdressers’.  The Self who had turned the gas tap off on the hob again, after finding it hissing, and was wondering how long before the house would explode.  The self who knew that – one way or another, even if she didn’t blow us up – we both had to be out of that house within the next three months because there was no money left.  The Self who had nowhere to go and no one to turn to.  Those are shoes I’ve walked in.

Dear Self,

I know how black it feels.  I know how heavy all those fears and injustices are.  I know it’s 3.30 in the morning and you’re at the darkest hour – in every way.

You’re asking yourself what you have done to deserve this.  The answer is: you have grown strong.  This isn’t retribution; it’s a rite of passage.  You have given yourself the opportunity to be tested as never before – and to overcome each and every difficulty, to emerge stronger and more confident.

You’re protesting that you didn’t want this ‘test’ – you want to go back to when things were easier: not great, perhaps, but easier than this.

It doesn’t work that way.  Your life has been moving towards this point for quite a time now.  It’s here, and I’m here to help you through it.

Me?  Yes, I’m yourself – one of the millions of Selves you create with your every thought and emotion.  The me who is writing this lives eight years in your future.  She’s happy, comfortable and lives a full and independent life, surrounded by like-minded friends, with a pretty home of her own, inspiring children to teach and learn from and a garden to tend.  She has all you now dream of and more.  I don’t expect you to be able to imagine that life yet, but it’s waiting for you, dear Self, once you get through this time.

You think you’re alone.  You’re not.  All your past and future Selves are there with you.  They send you exFace, Soul, Head, Smoke, Light, Sadperience, wisdom and inspiration.  They are as real as the Self you are, lying on that bed.  You are – how can I explain ideas you haven’t yet encountered? – ‘entangled’ with more other Selves than you can imagine.  Everyone you have cared for and loved, shared with and learned from is there with you.  Just like those little sub-atomic quantum whatsits you’ve read of in science books, you and those people – the ones you see as ‘living’ and the ones you think of as ‘dead’ – become forever entangled.  That means you only have to lie there in the night asking for support and comfort, and they will come flocking to you.  You know, already, that we are more than our bodies.  You know we are also spirit.  That is how they reach you, care for you and hold you up, if you can just allow them in.

Dad’s there – of course he is.  He knows exactly what you’re enduring.  Grandma, too.  She’s barely left your side.  Trust that they are with you.

Now I want you to look into your life.  Yes, I know, the one that totally sucks.  Only it doesn’t – not TOTALLY.  I want you to find something in there – and it can be a tiny, seemingly insignificant something – that is better-than-awful.

Park, Hirsch, Enclosure, Animals, AntlerYour body, for example – it’s working pretty well, isn’t it?  Certainly the sleepless, interrupted nights aren’t helping and the IBS has flared again, but your senses work, your legs, your arms…  Take that body tomorrow – once Mum’s gone to the daycare centre – and give it a treat.  Take it to the park.  Leave the sack of worries at the gates.  Stroll in the sunshine and watch the squirrels and deer, the movement of the trees and grass, the ripples in the river.  Listen and smell and immerse yourself in nature and don’t allow yourself to give a single thought to the worries or fears.  This is your healing time.

When you get back to the gates – yes – the problems will still be waiting for you.  There will be a difference, though.  You’ll have created a piece of your Self they can’t get to.  Nurture that ‘safe’ fragment of you; spoil her rotten!  She deserves it – YOU deserve it.

You don’t need others advising you about what to do, or telling you how much you matter to them or protecting you.  You’re very slowly and wonderfully growing into the Self you can be – that strong, independent woman you were born to become.

It will keep hurting for a while, and there will be problems to overcome, but trust.  You’re going to come out of all this just fine – and it will be you (with a million Selves to back you up) who does it.


Your Self   (please…)

15 comments on “Dear Self…

  1. This reminds me of a time not so long ago when my wife and I left the farm. A series of circumstances had left us destitute. Now with our property, house, and vehicles gone, we were hitchhiking on the side of the road. We had less than $300.00 to our name. We tented the first couple of nights, the first one in a full-on blizzard. But we, like you, came back. We were not alone, and as far as I can tell, we are living our best version of life this far.

    • Likewise.
      I’m happy that things worked out well for you, too.
      When everything in life has once been stripped away, it’s difficult to ever take things for granted again. I’m so very aware now of the blessings in my life.

  2. Thank you for sharing this. I truly hope your friend can find her way, to muddle through. These words have most definitely helped me this morning, as life right now is very challenging. Some days I struggle to keep faith that things will shift and will be ok. And then a friend comes along to remind me that this too, shall pass.

  3. Such a beautiful piece of writing, Jan. I particularly like the ending. I have been thinking about the several selves bit (I linked it to the ‘multiple personality’ thing, that unless that is an entanglement between the personalities, it is not really a problem, that is actually normal). It feels good to have read my kind of thoughts on your blog. It reinforces my belief that I have been thinking in the right direction, but I would probably not have come up with such an empowering enablizer from my several ‘selves’ thinking, at least not for some time, so your writing essentially made my brain work short. Again a case of synchronicity for me. Glad to know you are doing well and getting stronger, gauging by what you have written here. 🙂

    Much love,

      • I dont know what is happening in your life these days (considering that we sometime get glimpses of a person’s current life from interacting with a person in the present) but there seems to be a crispy sort of clarity in your thinking (as guageabled by your words)

      • Wonder if the clarity is also because you are thinking about death in the inquiry for After Life. Nevertheless, there seems to have been a ‘planetary realignment’ sort of change in the quality of your writing. We, the readers, are the beneficiaries too 🙂

      • I haven’t been consciously aware of the change you perceive in the way I’m writing now, but maybe it’s something that is more visible to others than to myself.

        After Life is, I’m sorry to say, moving VERY slowly. I’ve got many pages of thoughts, but organising and finding the best ‘voice’ for them is proving difficult. I have this overriding conviction that we have moved beyond needing to be told what to believe. In fact most of the difficulties people have in thinking about ‘death’ stem from various ‘experts’ telling us what IS. Hence my comment at the start of this post that I don’t feel qualified to write advice to my friend, but only to my self.

        This is a double-edged sword for a teacher/writer! I feel free to make my own choices and decisions about All That Is – in every sense of that term -but I feel less comfortable asking others to take anything I say as their truth.
        Blogging is fine. I don’t need to convince anyone – just say it like I feel it. Somehow, though, I have to steer a path between a book of meandering anecdotes and musings (dull!) and a this-is-what-happens-next type of treatise.

        Never mind. It will all come clear as it evolves.

        Thanks for all your lovely comments.
        Jan x

      • The book is becoming your Moby Dick…taking you places and having you see things that otherwise would not have been possible!! I am soo glad this is happening to you. Happy journey! Looking forward to more of your musings en route!

        Stay put..fasten your seat belt and dont you ever think of getting off! This could become adventure if it isnt already and teach you things no one else could ever really teach you. Enjoy!!

      • About entanglement, ‘the universe does work in mysterious ways’ I am told. Something is up in the air (from the workings of the Universe’s Management, id like to imagine..hehe)

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