Our bookclub recently read the book, What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty. It is about a thirty-nine year old woman who suffers memory loss, after a fall, and has forgotten the last decade of her life. During our discussion, amongst the ten of us, we pondered how our lives were ten years ago and how we’ve changed to whom we are now. Have we changed for better or for worse? What will we be like ten years into the future and what would you write to your future self?
Ten years ago I’d hear this phrase repeated often. Enjoy it now because it goes by in a blink. At the time I lacked sleep and chased three sons under the age of five. But you know what? It is so true. Time is flying.
As I had looked around the circle, at bookclub, I realized that I had known this month’s host for over ten years. Our eldest children were in kindergarten and I had a three month old son (hers was still in utero) when we met in September 2005. From 2004-2007 the hubs had lived on an aircraft carrier and so our three sons and I lived one hundred miles away where both sides of our family lived.
When his three year sea duty ended and he transferred to shore duty; our young family relocated from our “forever home” to live together for the next three years. This girlfriend and her family came to visit us when we moved away and three years later, in 2009, we returned. Soon after she and I formed our current bookclub, which officially began in January 2010. We’ve both gone through many transitions in these ten years and I found my eyes refocusing on her, to arrive back into the present.
We should do it. Write letters to ourselves ten years from now. We had all looked at one another expectantly. One of the girls had written letters to her daughters when she had been diagnosed with thyroid cancer and revised it, recently, when undergoing another health scare. But what would you write to your future self? It was an intriguing thought.
Throughout the nine hours it took to obliterate Christmas from our household, I contemplated this. I wrapped my photo ornaments with care, my prized possessions. Each year I buy three of them; placing each of my sons’ current school portraits until each one graduates from high school. I told the hubs that one day I would give each of our sons their ornaments (from birth to age 17) for their own Christmas trees. He had scoffed. Who was I kidding? I probably will keep them for myself. I found the Christmas card photos from the past ten years. I remember each and every photo as if it was taken yesterday.
Here it goes, my note to self.
Dear Ten Years Older Self,
I’d like to imagine that you’ve become wiser, aged gracefully and currently live an active and fulfilling life.
I pray that you are still happily married to the man you met, at age eighteen, in calculus lab and have weathered through any “itches” and mid-life crises “storms” successfully. My hope is that the hubs and I better communicate our needs with each other; that we’ve mastered the art of compromise. My ego has, hopefully, lessened with the desire to always be right and I’ve learned grace and forgiveness. Time is the greatest equalizer and after almost thirty years of marriage I trust that we’d have figured all of that out. The date nights without kids, over the last ten years, were supposed to prepare us for when we became empty-nesters. Did they work? If they did, then we have other things to share instead of always talking about work or the kids.
I hope that we’ve grown the business where we’re financially secure, that our home is almost paid off and upgraded with our wish list we had ten years ago. I expect that we have hobbies and travel with our newfound freedom. That we’ve dropped any excess weight from our fourth decade, and continue to aspire for better health and fitness goals. We are supposed to hike the great outdoors and continue on our quest to hit as many National Parks and “ancient world wonders” as we possibly can. The hubs better still be alive to do all these things with me! I dream of growing old together in matching rocking chairs; the hubs with the DVR remote; myself with a book and blanket rocking alongside.
Please tell me that you enjoyed the time with the boys while they still lived under the same roof! That you stopped and made time to hear them and found your balance, instead of busily doing acts of service for others. Did they become what you imagined them to be? Now the boys are in their twenties and, hopefully, the youngest is almost out of college. I’m optimistic that the older boys have found careers where they do what they love and love what they do. My wish is that they’ve met true friends, maybe found true love. I’m not sure if I’d want the boys to have kids just yet; they have their whole lives ahead of them.
I also hope they’ve made healthy choices and continued in their faith journey. I desire a strong, close relationship with each of our boys and if, upon reading this, I do not; then it is time to make things right. Unlike my mother, I won’t require my sons to come at my beck and call. I want them to explore new opportunities, travel and discover who they are. I want them to visit or talk to me, not because they have to but because they want to.
I’m hoping the bookclub girls are still reading alongside and that at this point in our lives; we’re attending one another’s children’s weddings and, quite possibly, becoming grandparents. Maybe we now have found the time to take our “field trips” to various places we kept talking about visiting and are doing our own version of the book, Annie’s Freeman’s Fabulous Traveling Funeral by Kris Radish. I hope that we navigated through life’s milestones, the good, the bad and the ugly, together and built each other up versus tore one another down.
Am I still volunteering time to the organizations that have impacted my life and family? The Alzheimer’s Association? The music programs my kids were involved with? I’ve been blessed to have worked with phenomenal individuals and expect to continue to advocate for these programs so that others may have this same experience. If I’ve given this up, then now is the time to start; to pay it forward.
I know that the friends who’ve remained with me, this long, are keepers; our relationships deepening and aging like a fine wine with an aromatic bouquet. We have so many memories together and I hope for many more to come. But I will always leave room to meet new people and to continue to diversify. May I have remained open-minded and hospitable.
I’m realizing my letter to myself is getting a bit long; that I have many expectations of what I want to have accomplished. So ten years from now I wish to have the love and friendship of those who can grow with me and accept the changes and transitions that life is always going to bring.
Love from your former self
Surprisingly, it took me over two days to actually type the above letter. The hubs and I walked down grocery aisles as I asked him what he wanted for us in ten years’ time. We began to think back over the last ten years. Was it what we had expected?
For the hubs, he has reaped the rewards of being home with his family. When he exited the military he had already spent nine years away from our eldest, seven from the middle and three years from our youngest. He had been gone more than he had been home. It has been a privilege to see our progeny grow into the men they will become and the financial hit we took was worth the opportunity. But he had not expected the finances to be so lean, for the recession in the economy to impact the small family business that has existed in his family for over twenty five years.
Life is always give and take. Already in this new year the tidings have not been good. The girlfriend who had returned home from the hospital is, once again, back in it. The dear family friend, whom we just visited over the holidays and diagnosed with lupus, is now on a kidney transplant list. And the news arrived that the great grandfather to our sons passed away yesterday and, though it was expected, still brings sadness to our entire family. Life is so precarious and we never know where it will take us. As we walked to our car, discussing these things, we decided that this is the year we will go for broke.
We must always give our best in everything because why live life if we don’t?
What we give to our life is what our life gives us in return. Go for broke.