She knelt by her old wooden trunk upstairs in the attic of her Mother’s 1940’s house on Willow Lane. The snow gently fell outside as she shuffled through the papers of her past written works. As she sorted through the journals and typed pages, she couldn’t help but reflect on the last year of her life, as we all tend to do in January. Holding a tattered leather journal, she took a deep breath, closed her eyes, and let her memories play in front of her like a slide show. The kind of slide show her Uncle Bo talked about his mother making him sit through when he was eight after her most recent adventure. He didn’t want to admit it, but as boring as it was, he enjoyed the old black and white photos of the Grand Canyon on the screen, projected by the old clicking photo machine.
As she watched her own slideshow weave a wandering story through her mind, she couldn’t help but feel like a shell of her former self. A self that she worked three raw, solid, and extensive years to reinvent after she lost herself to him. As his face found itself at the forefront of the slide show, she shook her head violently to make her mind click over to the next memory.
Kneeling over the trunk, holding tight to her peppermint tea in her favorite chipped sage green mug, she pulled out a piece she wrote her junior year of college entitled “The Wizard.” A story about a road trip with the mysterious accordion playing, straw hat wearing Wizard, a metaphor for surviving her failed engagement and abusive relationship.
“I found such great healing in writing that story. I feel like I knew the Wizard and goodness, I do miss him something fierce,” she muttered out loud to her calico cat. Clementine meowed in approval, as if she too remembered when her human wrote that story.
Over the past few years, she became the girl who drove the 1982 baby blue Jeep. She had a cat and most recently, a geriatric terrier she found on the side of the road, who much to Clementine’s dismay, was now an intricate part of their lives. The three of them lived a life full of adventures. They paddle boarded in February between the ice chunks in the inlet. She turned her jeep into an RV for her and her fuzzy comrades, perfect for summer outings. She majored in Writing and wrote story after story for writing class after writing class. She fell in love with words. She fell in love with yoga and running and everyone around her. She fell in love with herself. She lived in a dome shaped house on the ocean and took more sunrise photos than she knew what to do with. And she shared them. She shared them all. She wrote stories about her adventures and discoveries and shared them with anyone who might take the time to read. She loved her life. And this life she loved became her identity.
She didn’t share to brag or get attention. She didn’t share to make anyone think her life was stunningly superior. She shared because there was entirely too much beauty all around her to keep it to herself. It actually felt selfish not to share. After all, if she was finding so much joy in Clementine’s mitten shaped paws and the fact that she had thumbs to hold things, it felt like she was doing her loved ones a disservice not to share this joy with them. The sunsets were far too striking to keep to herself. She felt like everyone deserved to see that exquisite beauty too. She had been through a lot, but found a way to bring a luminous light to the darkness in a way that qualified her experiences. When asked why she shared such personal events with strangers, she always replied, “Because it’s the only way that what happened to me makes sense. I went through it all to help someone else feel less alone. I survived it all to show someone else that they can too.”
But, two years later, she graduated from college. Her housesitting job ended at the dome house on the ocean. Her jeep started having problems. She lost the energy for her adventures and yoga. She stopped writing. She stopped taking photos. She stopped sharing. She just started going through the motions, waiting for something else to validate her existence.
Fastening her red and white flannel robe tighter around herself for warmth and security, she started reading another poem she pulled out of the chest that she wrote for her favorite creative writing class.
The broken windows bay as the sunlight finds a way through the broken glass and dirty pains. Let us burn all this fear and run like children through the ashes who have fallen, fought the fear and flown on…
Lost in thought at the depth of the words written by a woman she didn’t even recognize anymore, the thump outside brought her back to the present. Checking outside the single paned window, she realized it was just snow falling off of the roof. Noticing the moonlight shining in through the glass and glimmering off the green paint-chipped windowsill, she couldn’t help but smile and remember how this very window inspired the poem she just found.
She dusted off her laptop, opened a blank word document and started typing. It felt scary. All of that blank space in front of her. All of these emotions she would have to face. She began to write a letter to the stranger who wrote the poem about the window and the story about The Wizard.
Dearest Woman Who I Used to Be:
I ask of you to remember what it is that causes you to write. I ask this of you because as hard as this may be to believe now, there will come a day when you stop writing. You will become someone in the future so far removed from who you are now. But why? And how? Maybe it is because sharing your thoughts has caused a few conflicts. Maybe it was that with the ending of this particular chapter that you find yourself in now, you lost your identity and with it, the confidence that your words had any meaning at all.
You’ll find yourself in your Mother’s attic years from now reading pieces you wrote, but you won’t recognize the author. How is it that you feel so much confidence in your words? Because currently, this giant piece of me is petrified to share. Scared that my words might hurt someone or cause someone some sort of disservice. And the idea that something I share might indeed damage someone else is enough to make me never want to write another word again.
If you wouldn’t mind, could you tuck a little reminder somewhere that might help to spark a wee bit of passion a few years into the future?
Your Future Self.
And with that, she emailed it to herself. She felt a little silly and foolish doing such a thing, but she couldn’t help but feel slightly better about the fact that she actually wrote something. Still shuffling through the trunk, about ready to call it a night, as her tea was cold and so was she; she found an envelope she didn’t recognize. “Where did this come from?” She asked Clementine.
Clementine placed her paw on the envelope and meowed as if to say, “Go ahead, read it. You’ll see.” And then got this glimmering look of excitement in her yellow feline eyes that said, THIS is the good part. This even made the geriatric terrier lift his head from his sleeping place on the wingback chair.
With her fuzzy support system beside her for courage, she reluctantly opened it and found a letter addressed to her. Her heart started pounding as she read:
Dear Future Self:
Something you must remember is that terrible things happen to people every day. Someone might find himself or herself in an abusive relationship without a way out. Someone else might be the victim of abuse as a child. People have eating disorders. People have affairs. And suffer from depression. But then people survive these events. They fight their way through it, only to come out on the other side fierce and passionate. They then use their experiences to help others through the very same things. Everyone has a voice. YOU have your very own voice, and an eloquent one at that. There are people out there that need to hear what you have to say. Please don’t be afraid to share beautiful things with those you love. Please don’t be afraid to use your words to bring light to the darkness.
I understand that we loose ourself somewhere along the way. But the way I see it, life is a series of reinventing ourselves in the revolving doors of loving others. We never loose ourselves because I do not think we are ever one person forever. And don’t forget what our favorite Professor told us, writing has a way of making sense of the present through the fictional story lines.
We are not defined by what we drive. Or the adventures we take. Or the houses that we live in. We are defined by how we love. And by how we take what we have been through, good or bad, and use it to help someone else. Because isn’t that the point to all of this? To make broken things shine like brilliant diamonds in the end.
You’ll write again, my dear. Your voice never left you; it just needed to listen for a while.
With all of my love-
And with that, she knew she had no choice. She poured herself another cup of peppermint tea and got cozy in the wingback chair next to her snoring dog. Clementine took up residency on top of the chair and watched the words pour from her fingers as gentle and purposeful as the snow that fell outside the attic window.