Notes to My Younger Self

Sometimes a photo just grips you, jumps off the page {or screen}, arrests your attention, flat-out grabs you by the lapels and refuses to let go until you acknowledge its power.

The picture above did just that for me.

It’s the tail end of a busy day at the office and I’m finally home, breezily surfing through a few favorite blogs, glass of pinot grigio at hand, dividing my attention between others’ wise words and an elderly songwriter on America’s Got Talent, singing a catchy little tune with the most surprising, ribald lyrics {I’m telling you, it was hilarious}.

And then, BAM… the snapshot above.  Came on like a ton of bricks.  The very last thing I saw coming.

There is so much about this photo that I love {and I wish I could credit the photographer, but I don’t know his/her name!}

What if… really and truly… WHAT IF we actually could stand face-to-face, grip-to-grip, completely exposed to our OWN soul/body five decades into the future.  AMAZING.  That would be staggering.  In fact, that would define staggering for me.

To be able to pick that woman’s brain, figure out how she finally figured it out, learn from her accumulated experience {and how nice that I don’t have to explain a thing to her}… holy cow, I’d do anything for that interview.  Except maybe age five decades to meet up with her.  If I’m honest, even facing my 88-year-old self scares me speechless.

Why?  Even that thought is riddled with fear for me.  Discovering the bone-chilling, in-your-face answer to THE  question… Did I live a worthy life?  She alone holds the answer to my most relevant, current questions…

What if I never mastered those fears that plagued the socks off me those first three decades?  What if I never actually figured it out and spent all that time wiling away so many lost moments and opportunities?  What if I’m still alone {husband- and kid-wise}, those I love having preceding me to heaven, and “alone” takes on a whole new meaning for me?  

What does Claire actually “look like” then?  

What if I’m not that published novelist, master businesswoman, world-changer, light-bringer, [fill in the blank] that {while I know my identity isn’t performance-based} in reality – again if I’m honest – actually shapes my every day?

How on earth did you make it?  Did you finally “get” what was most important and find the courage to live according to those truths?  Does being an octogenarian finally free you from the shackles of others’ opinions?  

I HAVE ONE BIG HOPE.

And it’s this… that I will have developed the faith to make most of these questions {that seem so important now} a moot point in the waning shadow of my life.

And even now, if I had faith even the size of a mustard seed, I likely wouldn’t be asking them at all!

Each of the questions I just asked my older self are driven by one thing ~ Fear.  And they’re all founded on one thing ~ Self.  Not surprisingly, they’re primarily negative at the core.

As curious as I am now, they’re certainly not questions I hope the 88-year-old Claire will be pondering.

That one picture showed me how driven I am by fear.  Not love, not a heart for others, not accomplishing my God-given purpose.  Fear is mighty strong.  But thankfully, it’s not our strongest emotion {and if we choose to tap into it, we’ve got superhuman spiritual strength to bust through that fear}.

LOCKED EYE-TO-EYE WITH THE ELDERLY CLAIRE, here’s what I {naively} think {and hope} she might say to me…

  • IT WAS NEVER ABOUT YOU.

“All those times when you agonized about why someone would act/say what they did, they really weren’t even thinking about you at all.  Even {and especially} if their actions were extreme, in your book.  You will never be able to cure anyone else of their demons, selfishness or fear.  All you can do is try to manage your own and leave the rest up to God.

“The sure way to a stale life is to focus on yourself.  And here’s a corollary to that… when people act the way they do, there’s a reason for it ~ and often it really has nothing to do with you.  Just as you embrace life through your own experiential/psychological lens, you’ve gotta give others that same grace…”

  • YOU ARE MERCILESSLY CRITICAL OF YOURSELF.  It borders on the astounding.

She might say to me, “Claire, if you even began to judge others as ruthlessly as you judge yourself, you never would have made a single friend on this planet.  By all means, freaking give yourself a break.”  {I pride myself in thinking that I’ll be a cool old lady and use words like “freaking.”}  “But I’m really serious about this one.  By cutting yourself down, you’re not doing yourself ~ or anyone else ~ any favors.  So please, starting right now… JUST STOP!”

  • WHAT IS THIS OBSESSION WITH HOW YOUR BODY LOOKS?

She’ll say, “Honey, we’re all destined to look like me at the end!  Shriveled and old and baring the brunt of a life well lived!  How about being grateful instead about how that little body of yours powers your every action and goal?  {By the way, you have no idea how fit you look right now.  Case in point, 10 years ago did you berate yourself for being fat?  Um-hum ~ all 108 pounds of you.  Sit tight… If that’s your focus, you’re in for a world of hurt!  It’s just flat not about the outside. Additional years will reinforce this for you.}”

  • I’M CONVINCED {AT MY OLD AGE} THAT WHEN GOD LOOKS US OVER AT THE END, HE’LL BE SEARCHING FOR OUR SCARS AND NOT OUR DIPLOMAS.

I suppose she’ll say, “This is one of my favorite quotes from the great Brennan Manning.  Don’t you DARE be ashamed of your scars ~ they alone are proof that you survived!  And not only that, that you made something of the tough cards you’d been dealt.”  I think she’ll say, “Lost job?  Debilitating illness?  Abandoned by your spouse?  Poverty?  Homelessness?  Alcoholism?  Infertility?  Fill in the blank… How did you use those things to rise above?  And through your life-message, inspire others going through the same?  If, in any small way, you eased others along that gut-wrenching, transformative path, you had one heck of a ministry. Atta-way-to-go, little grasshopper.  YOU DID GOOD!”

  • DROP THE PRETENSE.  BE REAL WITH PEOPLE.  IT’S THE ONLY WAY YOU’LL EVER GET THROUGH TO THEM.

I think at this point, the elderly Claire might again reference the amazing words of Brennan Manning {clearly one of my heroes of the pen and faith}, and say, “Transparency is the only way.  Everyone wears masks.  If  you want to make a real difference, rip off that misleading persona and have the courage to just be YOU.  I PROMISE you ~ from the tips of my aging, arthritic toes ~ it’s the very best gift you will EVER give to the world.  Not to mention yourself, little sojourner.”

The picture above isn’t entirely new to me.  One of the most amazing, winsome Christian men I’ve ever had the opportunity to know showed me a very similar picture a while back.  That picture clearly showed him {in his 80s} standing with his arm around a small, male child.  Of course, my first question was, “Who’s the little kiddo?”

He told me that it was an actual photo of him as a young child that he had superimposed on his own current photo.  When I asked why, he asked me, “How many of us would love to shield “life” from our own tiny selves?  Have the opportunity to go back in time and protect our child-selves from the sometimes ugly “life” that we know is coming for us?”

I’ll be honest with you.  When he asked me that, I started sobbing.  Of course I’d go back and shield that little Claire.  {And I’ve had it easy, all in all!}  Perhaps it’s not so different from learning from my decades-in-the-future Claire.

None of us have a time machine ~ either to the past or to the future.  All that we’re given is RIGHT NOW.  Despite our circumstances, most of us ~ hopefully ~ have a heck-of-a-lot-of-life left!  How are we going to use the advice our future selves would give us to make a difference moving forward?

What will you do to ensure the future YOU is well pleased with your lifelong journey?

Just a little food for thought…

Claire Signature

3 comments on “Notes to My Younger Self

  1. Claire, dear, I’ve always loved u; but all the more do I love the gift God has given to your writing! Joy

    Like

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