I’m sifting through old emails–I have 7,792 emails in my inbox, and I found this letter to my dear friend, Kelly.
It is so painful, so heartbreaking to read the voice of my younger self, but what I see in all of these communications, whether with Caleb or anyone else, is that I was always kind.
I was kind to Caleb too.
I am not so kind now.
I have an edge now.
But I was raised to be kind.
There is so much I could write about this subject. Re-reading all of my emails has been like sifting through rubble, but I am newly in love with my friends. With the people who have been there for me through all of this.
I’m typing this because I have writer’s block, and I realize how impersonal it is to type letters, but I’m sitting in front of my computer willing myself to write, and this voice in my head is insistently telling me how inadequate I am, but I can’t bring myself to close my laptop and acknowledge defeat, so instead, I’m writing you a letter.
I’ve been working on this essay about mothering and the fear that accompanies it, and how the body transforms into something bigger—something immutable—that is not quite animal, not quite human, and in my head, I’ve had this metaphor of a house—somewhat like that ramshackle house we (Caleb and I) lived in—where the beauty was decaying, and the ivy had a stranglehold on the bricks, and the inside was haunted by the previous tenant who had lost his mind, but I was living in this house trying to coexist with these spirits while forging a new life, and it was just so damned hard.
So I wrote the first 3 pages, and they are really quite beautiful, but on rereading them, I realize that they read more like a prose poem, and although my intention was to continue in that vein and write the piece as “experimental,” I now understand that I don’t know how to finish it or connect the various threads.
Annie Dillard says that if you find that you can’t go back to a piece—that something in you is just resisting—then you need to admit to yourself that maybe that piece has a fatal flaw, and in that case, it needs to be scrapped, which of course is extremely painful, because no one wants to kill their darlings.
And maybe the fatal flaw is that the issues I’m bringing up in this essay are still present. They are still part of me. That previous tenant who lost his mind—he lives inside of me—except that it’s me—I’m the previous tenant.
How interesting is it that you and I have been having these talks of forgiving your previous self, and I’ve been thinking of the same things on my own? I don’t know if I’ve ever been able to fully accept my role of mother, because I haven’t forgiven myself for my youth, which, in no way, said “mother”.
And maybe it’s not even the issue of mothering that is at hand. Maybe it’s just an issue of maturity, of being an adult, and of realizing that I wasn’t spending my youth preparing for the self-awareness of adulthood. I squandered so much of myself. Sometimes it feels like I squandered the best of myself. I know it’s clichéd to say, but I had potential, and what did I do with it? I slept with men who didn’t love me, who didn’t even like me, who didn’t even know me. I befriended people who didn’t fulfill or understand me spiritually. I spent countless hours in bars, but very few hours nourishing any talent or artistic expression.
And, of course, after I write all of that, my rational voice says that I’m too hard on myself—that I did many wonderful things—forged many meaningful relationships. I met you, after all. And Caleb. And I had experiences that were uncommon and wonderful. They didn’t all revolve around the Neurolux. Otherwise, I would have nothing to write about.
But somehow, I need to forgive myself too. Maybe I need a ritual. I wish that you were here. We could get together, build a fire, write all of our regrets on a piece of paper, burn them, and forgive ourselves—have a rite of forgiveness.
But of course, we smudged that room once to rid it of your previous roommate’s bad energy (I forget her name), but that only helped temporarily. We really needed to smudge ME to rid me of all that pain and loss, but I didn’t know how, and if I did, I would have done that long ago.
Don’t misunderstand me. I know that I’m in a good place now. Perhaps that’s what makes my past all the more shameful. Getting into graduate school has been this culmination of all of this work, but it’s really just a new beginning, a stepping stone. It’s now that the work really begins. And I’m terrified that I’m not up to the task.
I don’t know what I would do without you to talk about these things. Maybe that palm reader at the fair was correct. Maybe we were sisters in a previous life (except that we’re both going to be rich and happy in this life, and we take care of each other).
Certainly, no one understands me like you—except maybe Caleb (but he understands a different side of me). I’m so lucky to have two people in my life to really know me. Some people have no one. I’m fairly sure that Caleb only has me, and that’s not enough, but Ab, at least, comes pretty close.
I feel calmer after writing this letter—still wracked with insecurity, but at least filled with a new sense of purpose.
I’m so glad to hear how well things are going for you. I hope you get that job, and love, and cute clothes. Yes, you really can have it all. You just have to trust yourself.
I miss you terribly, and I hope we see each other soon.