On a recent visit my best friend for fifty-one years placed three envelopes beside my morning coffee.
“I kept these for you,” Janice said.
Years ago phone calls were expensive for the volume of talking we wanted. We corresponded with letters – “notes to ourselves about our lives and ourselves.”
In retrospect the hours I carved out to write Janice – to reflect and contemplate decisions on the threshold of passages, challenging times, disappointments and joys – were the bread and butter of my self-development.
The letters in front of me were ones I wrote during the month following of my daughter’s birth, April 12, 1970. I was twenty-five, married for five years, had lived in five places in three years (following the career of my husband) and was an easily employed, happy teacher wherever we unloaded the U-Haul.
I looked at the letters written over 40 years ago and hesitated. I mean this is a damn long time ago and I recall an early adulthood route overloaded with societal markers and expectations I was beginning to question.
I read them.
The hour-by-hour description of labor and birth was in the first letter. The next two (both eight pages double-sided) described sleep-deprived days full of the wonder and practicalities of motherhood.
Then, there it was. Right there after making the choice between Pampers and a diaper service, were my most personal struggles. Concerns about the mother I would become, the good wife I was struggling to be and the blank space of my ‘self’ leaning in on me.
Looking back from a long distance I seemed like a young tree looking for sunlight. I was pretty soft and bendy in the identity department. I was trying to please a lot of people.
“This is me?” queried my today self.
Well, yes I wrote the letters, but the writer did not resemble much of who I am now except she did seem nice. I am nice.
In the end I did claim that woman writing at her kitchen table wearing bell-bottoms in the fetching house in the monied part of Akron, Ohio with the poodle, the entrepreneurial husband putting in his 10,000 hours headed to success and the beautiful baby girl.
I claim her not as ‘me,’ but as one of many selves I’ve been in life.
Five years later I would trade this self in for a new, improved one. (And, a less financially secure one.)
Trading selves is what we do as we grow up and change. Continue reading