Hey, Lu. It’s me, YOU.
34 year old you, to be exact.
I woke up early this morning, on the day of our birth, bursting with gratitude that we’ve been blessed to complete another year of life. I laid, still in bed, listing off the year’s accomplishments and gifts. I set intentions for the twelve months ahead. I marveled at the beauty around us and acknowledged the abilities within us. I breathed slow, steady breaths of air into our lungs and appreciated every part of the incredible body that we feel so at home in. I whispered thanks for our family, our friends, our house, our business, our joy, our health and our hope.
I closed my eyes. Made a wish. And remembered you.
I remember how much fear surrounded this season for you. How, for years, distress and careful planning went into the weeks surrounding our birthday. I recalled how you would run extra miles and force supplemental sweat sessions all the while eating a low calorie, low pleasure diet in attempts to pay preemptive penance for the cake, wine and every other “bad” food you would consume. I remember the fights with the bathroom scale and the nightly plans to do better, eat less, move more – the aftermath of an agonizing series of celebrations for the life you’d forgotten how to live. I know how out of touch and discouraged you were behind the dimpled smile and belly laughs. I know the desperation that screamed and beat its tired fists from inside you, pleading to be as free, passionate and confident as your practiced façade implied.
And what I also know, dearest Younger Self, is that you’ll make it through.
Peace will find you.
Chin up birthday girl, it gets better.
You’ll hit rock bottom, the kind where you have to scrape your sick and suffering body off of the floor to take the kids to school, all the while experiencing stomach cramps, joint pain, breathlessness and shame. You will cancel plans and isolate. Your period will disappear. You’ll develop binge eating disorder. Doctors will call you an anomaly because you’re “so normal,” and not sickly-skinny enough to have what all of the exams and test results indicate. You’ll be diagnosed with hypothalamic amenorrhea, treated for Lyme disease and evaluated for thyroid and pituitary conditions. You’ll stop fighting for the things that matter to you. Passions will fade. Your mind will be so full of calorie counts and macro ratios that you’ll forget what it’s like to create. You’ll experience writers’ block. You’ll stop dancing and listening to music. You’ll become a raging bitch to the people that love you. You’ll be silent and secretive with your story.
And you will fall apart.
But, hang in there.
Because that’s when things get good.
The benefit of brokenness is that it cracks us open. Light gets in. Truth gets out. So yes, Lu, you will be ruined. But, you will also be restored.
There will be a small and knowing voice inside of you.
Listen to her.
She is wise and reliable. She’ll encourage you to be honest. She’ll lead you to help. And she will be the one to tell you who you really are, beyond the expectations of culture and close-minded community. She’ll reintroduce you to the carefree kid in us. The one who is bold and fearless, a lover of nature, adventure and people. She’ll acquaint you also with your dreams and desires and give you permission to chase them down. She will help you to relinquish control and simply be present. She’ll teach you to trust the spirit inside of you. She’ll reawaken your creativity.
She will make herself comfortable.
And she will stay.
Dear sweet birthday girl…
If you knew the miraculous changes that were headed your way, you’d never believe them. I know, I know. From your vantage point things look bleak. There seems to be no way out from the cycle of disordered eating, self-neglect and shame that you’re in. But, I promise – you’ll find it.
One day soon you will wake before sunrise on yet another birthday, so full of appreciation and amazement that you won’t be able to fall back asleep. Instead you’ll give an air high-five and a smiling wink to the Universe. You’ll stay in bed savoring every breath and offering gratitude for each inch of yourself from the tips of your toes to the top of your head. You will tell that small and knowing voice inside of you that she’s a queen and give her lots of love for being brave enough to show up, work hard, and take soulful risks. And then you will remember how, just a few years earlier, you were a woman who was far from thankful. You’ll remember your younger self and all of her brokenness. And you will wish, more than anything, that you could comfort her. You’ll want to put her aching heart at ease and assure her that she’ll find the healing she’s been hoping for, that one day soon she’ll be free.
You’ll want to offer her compassion and tell her that, in time, everything will be OK.
And so, you will write her this letter.