What I know now that I’m older and wiser.
There’s an old saying out there (courtesy of Dr. Phil) that we do what we know, and then when we know better we do better. There were quite a few years I didn’t know better. I made terrible decisions and tragic mistakes, and there’s nothing I can do to change that. Partly because of my bipolar disorder and my broken heart, I acted dangerous and impulsive and selfish. Those are probably the nicest words that describe it.
I didn’t like myself very much back then. I actually hated myself longer than I wanted to admit. I felt lost and alone even with people around me. I couldn’t have imagined anybody out there had the answers to my many questions about life and love. Not until later did I realize I knew the answers all along.
I was tagged by Sarah Nderi to write a blog post from my older self to my younger self. The following is what I would want to say:
Dear Younger Glenna,
I see you, the girl who is so lonely and depressed. Your eyes look jaded from seeing too much of the world, but you pretend everything is fine. Your skin is pale from not enough sun, and you lie in bed crying over your bad lot in life. You play the victim and feel sorry for yourself. Worst of all, you don’t know who you are.
Your biggest problem is that you are what people say you are. If your abusive husband calls you a disgusting drug addict and a loser, you wear it like a cheap suit for everyone to see. You hang on his every word trying to figure out more about yourself, and you shape yourself into the image he chooses for you.
People ask what happened to the “old” Glenna, but you haven’t been that girl since you were fourteen. Remember when you dated the popular football player in tenth grade? He told you to stop smoking because he hated it, and you immediately threw your pack of cigarettes away. You were what he said you were.
I see you self-medicating because you can’t stand to feel physical or emotional pain. I see you addicted to anything you can get your hands on, trying to numb yourself day after day. You can’t stand the fact that you lost your house, lost your family, lost your self-respect, lost your mind. Any reminder of that sends you directly to the first bottle, joint, pill or needle you come across. None of it will help you find your way out.
I realize I could just drag you out of your bad situation, but you would turn around and go right back into the fire. You don’t know any other way to survive. There are so many things you think you can’t do. You can’t hold down a job because of anxiety. You can’t be a good mother because of depression. You can’t get out of bed without getting high or stoned. Your life is a series of what you think you are too weak to accomplish. What if I told you that you’re stronger than you think? Would you believe me when I say you will not only survive but thrive?
I’m living in your future, and it is wonderful. You married the man of your dreams. You have three beautiful children who love their mom fiercely. You don’t have to worry where your next meal is coming from, and you have a clean bed to sleep in every night.
You can’t see any of this from where you’re standing, but every word is true. There is hope and lots of love in your future, but it’s up to you to make it there in one piece. You just have to remember the Glenna you used to be, who you still are underneath the self-pity and blame. She’s waiting for you to find her.
I can tell you with all certainty that you’ll never find happiness solely in men or drugs or money. You can’t lose yourself in another person until you disappear. Drugs are only a temporary salve, and money is much the same.
You’ll find true happiness when you are grateful to live in the world and appreciate the little things God has given you along the way. If dysfunction is your sinking ship, then gratitude will be your anchor and guide you to safety. Never forget for one minute to be as grateful as possible and watch your world transform.
Of course, if I had the chance I wouldn’t tell you any of these things. It’s imperative that you learn them for yourself. You know the seed of grace still exists within you. All you have to do is water it and watch it grow.
You remind me of Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, the girl who had the power to go home all along. Like Dorothy, you have to learn it for yourself. You are stronger than you ever imagined, and you will help yourself and even other people down the road. God has given you certain gifts, and it’s important not to let them go to waste.
I love you. You are more than enough. One day you’ll love yourself enough to click your heels and find yourself home again. Until then, hold on to what you know is true. Never stop searching for happiness and truth. They will set you free in a hundred different ways, and someday you’ll teach others how to do the same.
Remember that everything you need is within you on this day in your life and every day thereafter. You are strong, compassionate and powerful. You just needed a little reminder.