Last week, I participated in a beautiful yoga class that involved reflecting on the cycle of life, from birth to aging to death. From imagining our very first breath, to our very last. Soon after the yoga class, I had a moment of wanting to write a letter to myself, from an older, wiser version of me. Below is the letter that emerged.
This is a strange exercise, writing a letter to myself, from myself, imagining what the 49 year old version of me would say to the 39 year old version of me. Although you are, aren’t you, often living your life in the future tense? Imagining that the life that you dream of is somewhere “out there,” just beyond your grasp?
No my love. All of life is contained in the very moment unfolding. As you sit there now, typing those words, you are writing. You are a writer. Being a writer is not some imagined, far off, distant thing that other people do, while you stand outside and look in through the windows. No, even at this very moment, you are a writer. And you can trust your creativity, trust that you won’t run out of words, trust that your words are good and important because they don’t come from you, they simply come through you, when you allow them the space and time to do so.
Just as you are a mother, and you are a wife, and a sister, and a daughter, and a friend. Identities that last forever, and yet who you are to those people, and who they are to you, constantly changes. Each moment with your children, and with your parents, is the only moment like that that you will receive. Don’t take it for granted, not for one second. Treasure it, as if you won’t see it again, because guess what, you won’t.
I know you long to be a better everything to your children, but your choices lie in the present moment, in this very exact moment in front of you. Like right now. What does love look like in this moment? What does grace look like in this moment? What does truth look like in this moment? Being loving, graceful, honest, is not something that happens one day when life is magically stress free and you can finally be patient.
No. It is about the smallest of choices, the choice that you make when the milk glass is accidentally knocked over, or he has a really sore throat and fever on the day of that important meeting, or she really just loves reading while eating and walking, or can we go get ice cream after school?
And this career of yours, the one you spend so much time trying to define. I know you ask yourself, what is is that you are truly here to do? What is your deepest calling? How can you get all of the seemingly separate parts, all of these passions–psychiatry, writing, mindfulness, meditation, service–to align in a way where you feel connected to a greater purpose, one where there is a lack of self consciousness and fragmentation?
And to that, I would say this. It is all one and the same. Whether you are in your office treating a patient, or guiding a meditation, or writing a blog post, are you doing it with your whole heart? Are you doing it with a full and complete sense of gratitude? Everything you do is an extension of you. You can’t separate your spirit from your action. Bring your whole self to it, whatever “it” is, and it all becomes love in action, and that is what matters most to you anyway.
But perhaps what is most important is this seed that is beginning to take hold, the part of you that knows. The part of you that knows that perhaps you won’t even make it here, ten years later. Maybe, as you shut your laptop down and close your eyes for the night, not knowing it was for the last time, you would feel fulfilled. Because everyday, in the in between moments, you are noticing what feels important. You are paying attention.
You hold those children just a little longer than necessary. Yes, you cry with your patients when the tears come. You pause and bend down and pet the dogs. You notice the couple on the beach, holding hands as they run. You notice the attentive way the waiter brought you a cappuccino before you ordered because somewhere along the way you became a regular.
And finally, finally, after all of these years, you are slowly starting to find the voice that feels most personal, most authentic, and you are attracting the people who want to hear that voice. You are laughing more and letting it be easy and setting the small stuff to the side when you can, while discovering that almost all of it is small stuff (yes, including the number on the scale and the late bills).
I am proud of you. You are growing, you are playing, you are committing to the process of what you do, while realizing the outcome is none of your business. And because of that, even if this night was indeed your last, you could sleep a happy woman. So rest easy girl. You got this.