At the suggestion of my mentor and as part of my self-help program I’m practicing different actions to take every day for 30 days. Yesterday I got self-love. So I told myself that I can and will get a job as a copywriter. It’s part of this neuroplasticity thing that creates new grooves into my brain, new roadmaps that are more along the lines of a yellow brick road and not the heart of darkness they’ve been conditioned to follow. As part of that process I wrote a letter to myself—my future self looking back on my past self.
But before I reveal my letter, I want to share something Tara Brach mentioned in one of her more recent talks—I think it’s the one about freedom from fear-based beliefs—about a study in which 50-year-olds were asked if they thought they’d change much in the next decade, and then they asked other 50-year-olds (or maybe 60-year-olds?) if they’d changed much in the past decade. Most of them thought they wouldn’t change much in the next decade, but when reflecting on the past decade, they realized that they’d changed quite a bit. I know that I’ve changed dramatically over the last decade, and now that my 39th birthday is fast approaching, this idea of change and growth is a big theme in my life. Let’s just take a moment to look at my life 10 years ago.
At 29 years old I was engaged to be married to my first husband, and at my older age I thought I was taking a scientific, safe approach to a good marriage. He would be a good provider, and I’d be a (fairly) good mother, even though I didn’t really want kids. We owned a house in a trendy suburb just outside the city. Working at a company he owned, I felt trapped, incapable and unable to go anywhere else, having been fired as a copywriter, which surely meant I was a failure and should just give up. Every night I came home and drank a bottle (or two) of wine, and every morning I looked at myself in the mirror and wondered what the hell I was doing, and hated myself for taking the safe approach to life. I felt like I was dying, and I thought my life was over, since 29 is so old and the beginning of real adult life, the get-your-shit-together age, and I believed that the way that it was then was the way that it would always be. I didn’t believe a higher power existed, but if it did, it couldn’t or wouldn’t help someone as insignificant as me. Starving children in India—they deserve help from God. But me? With my comfortable lifestyle in which I had no reason to complain, and only myself to blame for my problems? Never. I believed I was incapable of love, but I knew that if I had children then I could love them, so I hoped that I could get married and be taken care of financially so that I could focus on my children. And I never dreamed I’d get sober.
No one knows what really would’ve happened, but I think if my first husband and I had had kids we’d have fought all the time, because that’s what we did anyway. And we’d have gotten divorced anyway, and our children would’ve had to suffer and grow up in that environment. I probably wouldn’t have gotten a master’s degree, I wouldn’t have met my second husband, I wouldn’t have moved to DC, which means I probably would not have gotten sober.
Some part of me wants to argue that I’d have gotten sober anyway because my sister got sober, but I’d have done it in another city with other people, and maybe I’d have had kids which would’ve been hard and we’d all be dysfunctional, but we’d have loved each other anyway. Maybe they’d have grown up to be alcoholics and drug addicts and blame me for their problems, and maybe they’d get sober and maybe not. But it doesn’t matter what would’ve or could’ve happened. Because none of those things happened, and my life now is most important, because it’s all I got.
Today love and a rewarding job still feel like distant dreams, but I do have hope, buried, but it’s there, daring to rise to the surface. When I first got sober, that’s all I had, a tiny glimmer of hope, and that’s all I needed. I need to remember that.
When life gets hard, I think of moving back South, but my life is finally starting to take root here. I have a network of women who help me, and who, hopefully, I also help. Recently I learned that my sister and her family may be moving to Richmond, which is only two hours from me, which means my parents will be nearby more often, which means I can visit my family without the time, money, and effort it takes now. One of my friends lives in a comfortable high-rise where she parks her car in a garage, protected from the snowy elements, she works from home, and she’s not far from the metro. What if I had that life? It looks like a pretty good life to me. So why not me? If I got a job as a copywriter making enough money, it’s doable. So here’s to possibilities.
You really will get a better job that you enjoy, and you’ll be competent and confident in this job. While you may encounter some challenges, you’ll overcome them, and you’ll lose fear and gain conviction. The reality is that everyone’s afraid sometimes, we all just have different ways of expressing it. You’ll be able to walk through the fear and do what you need to do to put your life back together, all on your own. You’ll get help from friends and family, but it will be you who takes charge of your life. You don’t have to rely on a man to do it for you.
You’ll get your own apartment that you can decorate however you want, and it will be a comfortable haven where you can read, write, cook, and do all the things you enjoy. You can live near your workplace so that you don’t have to spend your life trapped in your car, in your fishbowl commuting back and forth to work day after day after day. You don’t have to be in that fishbowl.
It may seem like it’s taking forever, but it’s been nine months since you left your job. Who knows what will happen nine months from now? You could have your own place by then living the life you want. And remember then how you felt when life was comfortable. Bored, right? Stagnant. Remember to be grateful for what you have. Learn to be okay with a quiet, peaceful life, because everything changes all the time.
You will find love. When people meet him, they’ll say, Oh, I can see you two together. Because you’ll be true to yourself, making your personality shine through, and he’ll like that, because he’ll love you for who you are. Not who you used to be or may become, but who you are now, today. And you will love him and appreciate him for who he is. You’ll laugh together. Conversation will be easy. Neither of you will feel like you have to change to make the other person happy.
Life will never be perfect. But it can and will get better. You can look back on this time as one of growth. You know now that you can downsize your lifestyle if you want to, and you still may do it again one day. You still can move to Hawaii if you really want to. The point is, what do you want to do? Life is what you make it.
Today you live in a place that’s the best place possible for your dog in her last days and months. You have food, shelter, a job, relationships, love, time. You have everything you need.
I have everything I need. I will be taken care of. I can take care of myself with help from my higher power and my friends and family. I am strong and beautiful and smart.
One last thing. All those things I beat myself up for, how I didn’t say what I should’ve said or didn’t do what I should’ve done, how I’m not good enough or smart enough, I can apply that same approach to the things about myself that I like, instead of pushing those positives to a corner. The way that I appreciate song lyrics, gourmet food, a dark sense of humor. How I’ve made sure that my dog has had a good life the past 12 years that I’ve had her. And with practice, I’m capable of becoming a better writer who can use her talents to earn a living.