Sunday, March 15, 2009
The prompt for today’s Sunday Scribblings is: Dear Past Me, Dear Future Me.
I joined Facebook a few months ago becoming part of a new demographic—middle aged people who are currently stealing Facebook from the young. I’m still not on twitter and hope not to find this necessary to my personal well-being.
Facebook has been an enormous time waster but has also had the delightful effect of connecting me with a few childhood friends. Speaking with them has brought back memories of that childhood.
Who was I, 40 years ago? 35 years ago? I was the shy, brainy, awkward kid. I was the shortest in my class for years (except for my equally tiny best friend from kindergarten who I’ve now reconnected with via Facebook).
If I were to write a letter to that long-ago self, I think I would say, don’t worry, a few bad times lie ahead but being an adult will allow you/me more power than just control of the car keys. You will take control not just of your circumstances but also of your self, not always, not perfectly but the changes of growing up will smooth off the rough edges and make life a bit easier.
As to my future self, what do I say? That I’ve already had a taste of the aches and pains that are to come with ageing and fear them getting worse. That I have a morbid dread of losing my mind with age. That I’m looking forward to grandchildren and the future they represent. That I am not particularly afraid of death, but I am afraid of loss and of the process of dying. That I hope that the wisdom of age is not overrated.
A couple of days ago, a patient told me that I “radiate calm.” I wanted to laugh but didn’t out of respect. The comment made me think, a lot. Could I possibly generate calm for other people even though at times I feel like a bundle of nerves?
As a 7 or 12 year old, people would have called me shy or moody, quiet or reserved. My grandmother (not the one I was closest to) accused me of being unfriendly because I was so reserved and didn’t look at her. Her unkind remark taught me that I had to make eye contact or people would dislike me for my social anxiety. As a 27 year old, people called me intense, which was true, and the opposite of calming.
If the “radiating calm” comment isn’t just a fiction, then I need to apply a new description to my personality, a new stereotype to the old me. I asked my secretary if she saw me as calm and she said I was. I asked a close friend and he laughed. I haven’t had the nerve to ask my kids or husband.
I am a bit of a chameleon. Growing up shared between two families (my parents divorced when I was 6) I learned to outwardly adapt, to be what the situation required me to be. I also learned to keep my feelings to myself and to be a good listener, useful skills in a future therapist. Conversely being a therapist has taught me to be more genuine, so if my patient says I’m calming, then I must be.
The other day a “real” artist called me an artist. People have called me a writer and a photographer. I never saw myself as any of these. So perhaps the letter to all my selves should say: embrace change, you have many past, present and future selves, all valid, all truthful. Your personality is not as linear as time, and perhaps time itself is not all that linear.