It’s a trend in the last decade or so for writers or celebrities to pen letters to their younger, seemingly more innocent and vulnerable selves.
While sometimes introspective and poignant, this practice is a waste of time.
Letters lead only to wistful and wishful thinking.
Energy is better spent focusing on inventing a time travel machine. Time travel is an action plan.
The thing is, I have trouble understanding the directions to my 6-year-old’s “Blockers” board game, let alone the mind-bending quantum physics required to figure out how time travel would work.
The closest we writers will likely get to inventing a time travel machine is live tweeting a Quantum Leap marathon.
And so, we write letters.
Reading and writing letters are the next best thing to time travel.
I learned this last week as I was looking at old emails from the past 10 years.
Why was I looking at old emails from the past 10 years?
Because today I celebrate 10 years of being a mother.
I was looking for something in particular in my old sent letters.
A file called, “Tobey Grows.”
When I was pregnant with Tobey, I was a complete lunatic.
My husband told me so at the time, but I didn’t believe him. I thought he was just being an insensitive asshole.
But time traveling back into 2002 and reading the journal I kept both during my pregnancy and during Tobey’s first year of life, I see what a complete and utter crazy, control freak I was.
Don’t get me wrong: I was also really cute. Hot even. (Man, my hair will never be that blonde again. Damn, hormones.)
But I was convinced that I was so powerful…and yet often felt completely and utterly powerless.
I thought that by maintaining control over my world, over my child’s world, that I could somehow protect him. Keep him safe. Turn him into the healthiest, strongest human being ever poised to be President of the United States of America.
And at the same time, as I read these journal entries and think back to that younger, blonder time, I realize how terrified I was.
How in a moment powerful transformed into powerless.
A fall from a swing. A slip in the bath. A bug bite. An allergic reaction.
That’s all it took to turn me into a powerless heap of Jello.
My life as a mother hasn’t changed all that much. Powerful still turns into powerless in an instant.
But now, I know that powerful is an illusion.
I know that control is an illusion.
I know that I am not in control.
I’m not the driver.
I’m the navigator, sometimes.
I’m the backseat driver, a lot.
I’m the guy who writes the instructions manual.
I’m the girl upstairs who edits the manual three years later.
I’m the old lady who laughs at the manual years later when cars learn how to drive themselves.
* * * *
This is not an easy understanding to retain, dear 38-year-old Me.
I’m still very susceptible to believing I am in control.
That I can keep him safe.
That I can protect him from this scary world.
That he will make it…thanks to me.
I’m still a bit of a complete lunatic. And I still think my husband is being a complete asshole when he tells me so.
But, for the record, he’s usually right.
The only difference now, 10 years later, is I can recognize my craziness a lot quicker.
And acknowledge it. And forgive it.
I’m a lot more forgiving of myself now.
It took me 10 years to let compassion for myself in.
And while my hair is not as blonde, my shoulders are a lot lighter than they were 10 years ago when I first became a mother.
And the compassion I have for myself spreads to those around me…
To my husband.
To my own mother.
To my mother-in-law.
To my children.
To my friends.
To my enemies.
* * * *
Dear 38-year-old Me:
Since opening my heart to my son 10 years ago, I have become so much more vulnerable to pain, to fear.
And somehow, strangely, during that same period of time I’ve managed to let go of pain, of fear.
And let in love — a bit more.
I’m writing this letter to you today to remind you of that.
So that tomorrow, when fear creeps in, when control takes over, you remember that it’s all an illusion.
You remember that your husband is right.
You’re acting like a complete lunatic.
Love is more powerful than fear.
And breathe again.