Below is an exercise I do at my retreats. I was so touched by Marika Delan’s letter to her younger self that I had to share here. Marika was the winner of my #5mostbeautifulthings contest & attended my Labor Day Manifestation Retreat as the prize!
Time isn’t waiting for you or me.
You make everything so complicated and you are wasting all these moments, all this time!
Yes, older, wiser you might seem to be a little bitchy, but you mistake my urgency and passion for harsh reality which you clearly aren’t ready for. I guess that’s why you skirt around it as if it were an ice rink. You could use a little tough love, in fact, you could use a whole lot of it and thank God you meet some people along the way that love you the hard way.
You don’t even love you yet, but I’m not telling you something you don’t already know. What you don’t understand is you can’t get by without it. You can’t fake this one. It seems indulgent and selfish to you. You think that if you love others it will be enough, but that is an illusion. You won’t know how to love completely until you learn how to love yourself. You’ll want to scream by the time you are my age, you will have heard this so many times, but heed my advice, the sooner you get working on this one, the better.
You are beautiful so stop wasting so much energy hating yourself.
And isn’t a physical thing, although you could stand to take the bangs down an inch or two. Then again it was the 80’s, so the obligatory tower of tease is the only way I found you in this age range as I sifted through yellowed and stuck together photos. It isn’t your first bad hair and it won’t be your last. (p.s.- never try to color your hair red in your dorm room. Just. Don’t.)
But true beauty isn’t superficial. It goes to the depths. You already know this, you just haven’t learned to dive that deep. You haven’t learned to internalize this message because you have a checklist of things you think you must become in order to be loved. It’s all bullshit. You haven’t learned yet that beauty is being what you already are and owning it like one day someone secretly let you watch the time-lapse security footage of God building you. One knit, one purl. One knit. Two purl. The evidence right before your eyes of your creation, of being stitched together with deliberation and care; all in careful preparation for your future as a torch bearer. So it isn’t about your hair and makeup. Next time you look in the mirror, open your still unlined eyes.
You will have to bear witness to both the beauty and the pain one day so take it all in and tuck it away for later. You’ll be sorry that you didn’t write more down (don’t lose those teenage angst-filled journals!) You will regret that you didn’t use words more often to capture the moments you are having right now so that we can remember them together one day when you are ready. There are a lot of lessons and gifts in those things that you think “ruined” you. Those are the things that made you, but only time will reveal these things to you, so just live while you can where you are.
Learn how to be wherever you are.
Don’t close your heart when it gets crushed—and it will.
Keep loving anyway.
You will be sad beyond words like you were when we were 10, and some days you will pray that you be left to die, but those days will pass and you will know and revel in your aliveness like you did when we were small.
Don’t lose hope while you wait for that day to come. Better yet, don’t wait for that day to come. Go find your happy and hold on to it. Don’t let anyone steal it from you. It’s already in you, buried beneath all the fear that holds you back. Beneath that pile of dirty laundry are the things that keep you from singing out loud. That keep you hiding in the back row hoping no one will call on you even though you know the answer to the question.
Keep trying to answer the ones you don’t have the answers to, just don’t get hung up when they don’t come easily or they aren’t the ones you had hoped for. The questions will lead you back to where you began and you’ll wonder why you wasted all that time being sad.
You’ll feel life rushing through your veins again when you hear that first heartbeat on the ultrasound, when you hold your flesh and blood in your arms.When you look in their eyes and see their smiles and hear their belly laughs echoing through the halls (yes, you will have children and not end up a cat lady, so dear Diary, you got that one wrong. You got a lot wrong, but that’s ok- that’s part of the gig.)
You’ll feel it when you meet your true love and follow the signs and know without a doubt that the Universe conspired to bring you love when you opened your heart again. He will breathe life and light back into you just when you had started to believe that there’s no such thing as true love.
He will show you there is.
You’ll feel it when all you are bursts forth after having hidden it away for so long.
So don’t hide your light.
It will light the paths of others when their light has grown dim, just as others will light yours when you are sure it’s gone out. When you finally make it out of darkness you won’t want to spend any more time there. If you keep love at the heart of everything you do, it will follow you wherever you go because time has shown me that it always comes back to us.
Stop being afraid to be who you are and that alone will not only keep you going, but it will allow others the freedom to do the same. Keep that at the core of everything you do and it will never steer you wrong.
The things you think are signs. They are. Don’t ignore them. It’s how you’ll find the love of your life. Look for them. Listen to them. They are words off the page penned by your inner voice. The one that knows why she is here and what she came to do.
Never stop seeking answers. Your never-ending curiosity will open the next door. Your quest for understanding will lead you to the threshold of your truest essence and therein you will finally see what you could never see before.
If you want others to see it, you will have to take the risk to be yourself. If you don’t take that leap of faith into who you already are, you’ll spend your life as an impostor. You will spend your life searching for me. You won’t know what you are searching for… but it will be me, the girl, now the woman you left behind.
You won’t be what you are meant to be until you fully embrace who you are right now (it’s what you will still be when you get to be my age, just you wait and see)
Now, go think on that one for 23 years.
And when you come across someone named Jennifer Pastiloff, a crazy wise yogi/writer/teacher/manifestation guru, follow her. She will help you begin the next chapter in our book of transformations. She will make you write this letter after losing touch all those years ago. She will help you find me when I thought we were lost forever.
Until we meet again.
39 year old you
I have walked through many lives,
some of them my own,
and I am not who I was,
though some principle of being
abides, from which I struggle
not to stray.
When I look behind,
as I am compelled to look
before I can gather strength
to proceed on my journey,
I see the milestones dwindling
toward the horizon
and the slow fires trailing
from the abandoned camp-sites,
over which scavenger angels
wheel on heavy wings.
Oh, I have made myself a tribe
out of my true affections,
and my tribe is scattered!
How shall the heart be reconciled
to its feast of losses?
In a rising wind
the manic dust of my friends,
those who fell along the way,
bitterly stings my face.
Yet I turn, I turn,
with my will intact to go
wherever I need to go,
and every stone on the road
precious to me.
In my darkest night,
when the moon was covered
and I roamed through wreckage,
a nimbus-clouded voice
“Live in the layers,
not on the litter.”
Though I lack the art
to decipher it,
no doubt the next chapter
in my book of transformations
is already written.
I am not done with my changes.Thank you Jennifer Pastiloff for sharing Stanley Kunitz and so much more with me. Thank G-d, I am not done with my changes….