11.10.2010

a peculiar correspondence

a dear friend and i were chatting the other night about what our erudite 80+ year old self might want to pass along to our present self.
Wheels started turning. hmmmmm, yes, interesting idea. what perspective might it bring?  what might i see needs attention in order to maintain healthier more fulfilling
relationships
health
goals
peace of mind
mental or emotional health
etc.
Hence

Dear Ali,
Let me introduce myself.  I'm you but down the time-line a bit.  People still call me Ali but i foreworn you gently that people who once might converse with you in a check-out line or coffee shop, don't tend to notice you are there.  I suppose this is a part of life at the end, slowly disappearing that is.  If I'd known this fact at your age, I would have struck up as many conversations with the magnificently wise and weathered ones that were all around you and you were too busy to notice or too cool to see.  Now the invisible, unapproachable-y one is me.  Being on the other side of invisibility but being still so fully alive internally (even though the external might be growing less so) is a lonely day to wake up to each morning.
So with that, I'd advise: Notice folks you might not notice if you are ardently looking to be seen and heard because you might be in the prime of your life or career.  These are the ones who have the fascinating stories and lives, even if appearing less than exciting on the surface.  Listen. Hear. Observe. Give. Collect wisdom of others who've lived through far more of the tsunami of changing seasons, decades, trends, what have you.  Because it could give you the perspective and hope you need to know the sky is not falling, you'll make it through what may seem an impossible phase with husband or teenagers or a job or well, you get the picture.
I still don't know much Ali, but I know you spent way too much time being afraid of way too much.  I know, I'm still quite ambiguous in my rhetoric.  I've worked on directness in communication but usually what still comes out is (sometimes unhelpful) philosophical metaphors to try to explain what i want to say. 
You'll get over this frustration, you'll embrace your quirky you-ish ways of saying things, even if you still get quizzical looks from your sons and your husband.  You'll learn to laugh and express yourself in the midst of the quizzical moment instead of withdraw and feel unable to use words well, unable to connect well.  So you might as well get over this sooner than later. 
Life in the awkward, flawed critter moments can be some of the best opportunities to laugh at oneself rather than disdain oneself. 
Oh, and back to the fear.  Please stop being afraid.  Please stop focusing on all those things you think you lack as a grown-up, a mother, a wife, a whatever.  Please stop berating yourself with harsh judgments of 'shoulds'.  It does not one iota of good.  In fact it steals exuberance from too many hours of too many days of too many years, trust me.  Don't waste those many's with fretting over what you should be.  Just enjoy the gifts around you, the passage of life up to the point that is today, the things you've learned (from successes and failures both) that have brought you to present moment. 
Kids need love, support, belief, honesty, and to be let go of.  They need a present parent who admits when they are wrong and says they are sorry rather than clamoring through life trying to convince their kids they have all the answers.  They need a parent who attempts to be open and honest and committed to a team oriented process rather than a hostile takeover to produce a perfect product...when it comes to being a family and growing up together.  Kids need to know how to fail and succeed with resilience and grace by watching and getting to ask questions along the way, rather than handed a manual of 'how to succeed in life' with a heavy emphasis on monetary material.  Kids need to know you don't have all the answers, you are weak sometimes, you are egotistical sometimes, you are imbalanced, you are balanced, you feel sad, you feel happy, but its what we do in response to all those 'you-are's' that matter.  The responses to all those things are what affect the future or contribute to the health of body, or relationship with loved ones, or mind, or what have you.
So, let yourself off the hook 34-year-old-ali.  Work on the things that matter.  They don't cost you any money, and they bring quite a lot of nice connected feelings between yourself and your boys.  Let go a little bit at a time and stop fretting about the future of who and how they will be and how you don't want to 'mess up' or mess them up. 
In fact, today my white haired wisdom comes from a little tattered book they gave me (you) in treatment some 60 years ago:

132. Risk
To laugh is to risk appearing the fool.
To weep is to risk being called sentimental.
To reach out to another is to risk involvement.
To expose feeling is to risk showing your true self.
To place your ideas and dreams before the crowd is to risk being called naive.
To love is to risk not being loved in return.
To live is to risk dying.
To hope is to risk despair.
To try is to risk failure.
But risks must be taken,
Because the greatest risk in life is to risk nothing.
The people who risk nothing do nothing,
become nothing...
They may avoid suffering and sorrow,
But they simply cannot learn to feel,
and change, and grow, and love, and live.
Chained by their servitude, they are slaves;
they have forfeited their freedom.
Only the people who risk are truly free.

So dear Ali, throw off the cumbersome coat of avoidance and fear,
and laugh, weep, reach out, expose feeling, dream, love, live, hope, try... risk.
And don't forget to work out every once in a while...
oh and one last thing, lay off the bread pudding just a little bit.

Best regards.

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