Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Dear Me

As part of an ongoing, very large project, I am going through all of our digital pictures. I am deleting the bad/blurry/duplicates. tagging people in them, writing captions, putting in the location they were taken at, etc.

I started working on this project two years ago. It's been a labor of love as I take a LOT of pictures.

Last night, I was in the January 2008 folder (I know, I know, that means I have like 8 years of pictures to still go through). And the memories came flooding back. I wished, so hard, that I could go back and talk to myself then. I suppose much like people write letters to themselves as a teenager, sometimes we wish we could go back and tell ourselves just a little bit about the future, just little whisperings to help plant seeds earlier, or help them grow faster, or ease our fears and worries. And so, here's a letter to my 28 year old self.

Dear Brandie,

Hi. It's me. Which is really you. And you are me. So it's me. But it's you. Is it us? I don't know, but there I go, being awkward already. I know, that's no surprise to you because I know that you often walk around and feel awkward. We'll get that in a moment though ...

I remember this picture. You were getting ready to go to the Oprah show. A big storm was moving in, so maybe you wouldn't be going. It was you and your mom going. You were going to sit in the audience, and on the off chance the camera caught you, you took this picture so friends would know what to look for.

You were filled with excitement. Going to a taping of the Oprah show? Awesome!

You were also nervous, because a storm was headed right at you. And you don't like storms. And you thought if things were bad, there was no reason to drive into the city after all.

Spoiler alert: you made it into the city just fine and you and your mom had a good time.

Anyway, you had your husband take this picture. And when you looked at it, you hated it. Your hair was too long and needed a cut. You thought you could lose 5 pounds. You hated your boobs - thought they were too big for the rest of your frame and were just so darn droopy. I think, you even commented when sharing the picture that you knew you needed a better bra.

That's just the cosmetic stuff. Internally, you felt awkward. You were sure that if you just worked harder, you could be a better mother, wife, daughter, sister. You felt positively not good enough. Truly, you weren't sure if you were worthy of being loved. Your life felt like a fairy tale, but you didn't feel smart enough, pretty enough, or kind enough to be the lead.

And you were tired. So tired. You imagined you were about as tired as someone could be! 3 kids, it's a lot of work to be sure!

You were so insecure. You felt weak. You wondered what was wrong with you. You would never think to describe yourself s brave, courageous, smart, pretty, funny.

That is not to say, you walked around in a depressed state thinking negative thoughts at all. You also had a lot of fun! Cooking with the kids, keeping up the house, your knitting and crafting. These were good things in your life. Despite all the nagging doubts and the not feeling good enough, you were for the most part happy. But we don't need to have a talk about those parts, do we? You already embraced them and loved them. You already are head over heals in love with you family. You already feel lucky to have them in your life.

Let me tell you something you haven't figured out yet though: they are lucky to have you in their life.

Oh, I see you, shaking your head and rolling your eyes right now. Oh yeah sure, you are sarcastically saying in your head, but it's true.

It's so true. Seriously. Ask them. They'll tell you. If you listen close enough, they are already telling you every day. There sweet comments to you, the hugs and kisses they freely give you, the thank yous, when they want to cuddle with you. This is your fairy tale, but it's their fairy tale too. Embrace it.

I know it's hard. For reasons out of your control, for reasons you had no control over, as a child you felt quite early that you must not be good enough. You thought you must be flawed. You thought you must be unlovable. People who were supposed to love you, did not. They were absent. Missing. The rest of your family, God bless them, stepped in and did what they could. But there was a hole that they couldn't fill. It wasn't their hole to fill. It was someone else's and that someone else, for whatever reason, was incapable of filling it. Trust broken by someone else. And once again, you placed the blame square on your shoulders.

As a child, you assumed the problem must be you. As children are want to do. Too young to see the bigger picture, we blame ourselves. I know you are just beginning to see this. But there is still a lot of hurt in there. You try to hide it. To stuff it down. It's okay to let it out some. It's okay to step back and look at the situation anew, with adult eyes. You deserve the peace that it will bring you.

Yes, this will be hard. But you know what else? You are so strong. You don't even know it.

I'm not talking in the I-can-run-for-miles-and-do-a-million-crunches-and-look-at-my-many-planks-strong. I'm talking inner strength. The strength that you pull up when you think you don't have single ounce left to give. The strength that you use to get out of bed even when you know the day ahead is full of scary, hard things. The strength to keep going, on those days when it feels like your body is fighting even the littlest step you try to take.

Oh, my sweetie, it's there. It's the strength you don't know about until you need it. You won't believe me right now. But it's there. And you will have to dig it out so much sooner than you think. You'll be scared. You'll be unsure. You'll be fearful. But you will be strong. You will take it a day at a time. You will use that strength to keep going. You will use it and find the beauty mixed in with the mess. The laughter mixed with tears. The smiles that are accompanied by sad, tired eyes. It's all there in this life. And you will face trials, as many before you have, with a strength that not even you knew you had.

Through it all, you will still doubt yourself. It's okay, you're human. Let yourself be human. Don't let it become a sign of weakness. Because that's what you will want to think, but it's not true. You are not weak. Parts of you might feel broken, but it's okay. We all have cracks. Every single one of us. But people, as you already know, are good. And they will continue to show you their goodness. And they will love you with your cracks. On your bad days. Through really tough moments.

You are loved so much more than you can even begin to understand. I'm not sure I can fully comprehend it even still today, but I've seen it. And I've felt it. And I realize it was there the whole time - so take some time to stop, to breathe, and to feel that love just wash over you. Because it's there and you deserve to feel it.

No. Really. You do. Trust me on this. I wouldn't lie to me. To you. To us.

You're pretty amazing honestly. I should probably feel a bit egotistical telling you this, but it's true. You are amazing.

Know what else you are? You're beautiful. I know you don't believe it. Okay, you don't even fully believe it yet today. From where I'm writing. But you're starting to.

This is the only body you've got. Sometimes you fight with it. The fatigue, the dark circles, the shape of it. You don't appreciate it. You want to change it, morph it, smooth things out. Oh, the laundry list you think of every time you look at your body of what you'd change. It's long. Shorten it.

Love your body. Learn to be comfortable in your own skin. You aren't going to look airbrushed in real life anyway, so let's throw that standard out the window. Someday in the future, you will find yourself looking at an old picture. And you will laugh, because then you wanted to lose 5 pounds (by the way, from where?!). And as you reflect on that picture, you wish you could go back to that body. On that day.

The point is, even if you did lose 5 pounds. You'd find something else to nitpick. And even if you gain 5 pounds, or, um, 10, it's not the end of the world. It might feel like it as you strive to look "perfect." But babe, there's no "perfect" out there. There's just you. Exactly how you are. And not only is that enough, it's more than enough. It is, actually, perfect.

Listen, I know I'm only 8/9 years in the future. I still haven't figured it all out. I am still not as comfortable in my own skin as I wish I was. I am still holding a spot in my heart where old hurts have not yet healed. But I've learned some things over the last few years.

Some of the things to come, I wish I could spare you from. But life doesn't work that way. We can't go backwards. We can only go forwards.

I can't really go back in time and share this with you. But I can write it today. And maybe in a month, a year, a few years, maybe I'll come back and read this again. I'll remind myself of where I was. And where I've been. And where I'm going.

I'll try to remember that I am not only loved dearly, but worthy of that love.
I'll try to remember that my body isn't perfect, but it is mine and I want to embrace it.

I'll try to remember to talk kinder to myself, to tell myself good job every now and then.
I'll try to remember to believe it when I tell myself these things.

Life is crazy! But you, you are fun. And you've got a lot to give others.

Now, go to sleep. I know you want to stay up late and watch the weather to see what the storm is doing, but it's not going to be bad enough to stop you and your mom from your fun morning. So go, rest. You look gorgeous! And you are going to have a fabulous time.

Smooches and love,

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