Make Something: Letter to Me

Write a letter to yourself at another time in your life.

This prompt makes me think of the Brad Paisley song, “Letter to Me.” I may not be as articulate in a blog post as Brad was in his touching poem. But here goes …

* * *

Dear 20-year-old me:

I’m writing to you 20-some years and 40-some pounds from where you are now. I don’t have a lot of time, because I need to put your daughters to bed. (I know. You plan to NEVER have children. You’ll come around. And it will be the best move you ever make. I promise.)

Anyway, I’m writing to share some observations about a few of your body parts.

First, your hair. Thank God, in a few years perms will go out of style, and they won’t come back for a good long time. Maybe never. So you won’t have to deal with that frizz much longer. You look decent as a natural dishwater blonde. But before long you’ll wise up and go red. Don’t hesitate. As soon as you get the urge, buy the dye. In fact, go three shades brighter than you think. And then keep it up. Blonde roots are bad; gray roots are worse. Never skimp on hair color.

Next, let’s be honest about your teeth. You should have worn that retainer. You may not notice it now, but your teeth are slipping back to their wayward positions. You totally blew your parents’ investment on braces. Way to go.

Now, your hands. You’re going to need them. As a writer, they will be your primary instruments, whether you’re wielding a pen or tapping a keyboard. So avoid smashing them in car doors, and try not to whittle them with a mandolin slicer when you’re making scalloped potatoes (that will be a fun trip to the ER).

Appreciate the other things your hands can do, too. Your dad taught you a good, firm handshake, which will give you credibility with male colleagues and clients, so use it. Learn to fold a decent paper airplane. Be the one in the household who can open the pickle jar. Masturbate. (It’s okay. Really.) And whether you fold your hands or stretch them open, use those hands to pray.

Learn to follow your heart. You’ve already done this by choosing to study journalism so you can make a career in writing. Words are your gift. Writing will be your comfort zone, your income, your refuge, your olive branch, your lifeboat, your sanity. Crazy changes are coming in society and business and everywhere—but words and stories will always matter. People will forever need to express ideas and communicate with one another. In terms of education and career path, you have chosen wisely. Well done.

Now, let’s talk about your gut. You’ve been in and out of doctor’s offices, experimenting with tests and treatments, for months. That’s going to turn into years. Your stomach hurts, and your digestive system is a disaster. You’re ridiculously thin. Frankly, you don’t look good. In a few months, your sister is going to alter your wedding dress to fit your skinny frame. And then the week of the wedding, she’s going to have to take it in again, hiding all those beautiful beads and sequins in the seams.

Medical doctors won’t find anything wrong with you. You’re going to resent the implication that you’re a head case. That’s going to piss you off, big-time. And the angrier you get, the sicker you will become.

Don’t get me wrong. Your symptoms are altogether physical. But your dysfunction has more to do with decisions than digestion.

When you’re headed in a direction opposite your true north, your intestines will rebel and force you to a place where you have no choice but to be still and focused and alone: the bathroom. The instant your ass hits that toilet seat, take advantage of the solitude to evaluate what’s going on. What decisions are you making? Who’s sharing your time? What is causing you this horrible, literal discomfort?

For you, “trust your gut” is not just a cliche. It needs to be your credo. (And in this strange way, diarrhea is your friend.)

The girls are in bed now, an hour later than they should be. I need to go sing them a lullaby. Even at ages eight and ten, they want mama’s voice to carry them to sleep. Brush up on the lyrics to “One Tin Soldier.” They love anti-war songs.

Actually, you’d better go hum yourself to sleep now, too. You need to rest up for what’s coming.

Love,

An Older, Heavier, Happier You

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