Dear Forty-Six Year Old Kim,
I was reminiscing today about our beautiful life and thought I’d share some thoughts with you in a letter from your eighty year old self. Lessons if you will. Don’t mind the tone. I’m not shaking my finger, I’m offering you some perspective. And we both know how much we value perspective.
I’m thirty-four years ahead of you, pretty invested in us, and I know how you think, so listen closely.
Every morning, I want you to wake up, look in the mirror, and tell yourself you’re lovely. Redefine beauty to fit the woman in your reflection. Culture has lied and attempted to steal from you since before you were a teenager. Enough. It will never change its tune, and even if you could conform to its ideal, the ideal will change next season. You aren’t meant to conform to some concrete abstract of beauty. Beauty is not static. Your unique beauty conforms to you. It changes with every grey hair, wrinkle, and age spot. And it’s always revealed in your eyes when you smile.
Take care of yourself. You’re experiencing a little bit of the reality of age. You’re tired. Don’t try to push through it. You are and always have been limited. Learn to find contentment within the reality of your limits. And within those limits . . . sleep because you’re sleepy. Exercise because you love to feel your muscles flex and your limbs stretch. Work hard because you can. Play and laugh and lounge with abandon and NO guilt. Pay attention to your desires. They’re arrows back to your soul and your deepest life.
You are worth more today than you were yesterday. Contrary to a culture that diminishes your worth as you age, your true contribution is increasing daily. Wisdom and experience can’t be bought. Age avails them both. So be a good student.
Embrace the change. I know it makes your head spin. I hate to tell you, but it’s your new normal. Remember how when Josh, your first babe was born and you kept waiting for life to “get back” to normal? You finally realized that this was the new normal, and you had to learn to grow into it. Well, it’s the same lesson. Your family is increasing exponentially now. Settle in, buckle up, and throw your hands up on the downhills.
That guy you’ve shared life with these last 28 years . . he’s your best investment. You already know your kids will leave and take some of your heart when they do. The heartache is part of the loving. But Jeff will stay. God willing, you’ll end like you began. Make it a good ending. Look into his eyes. Love well through the struggles. Stay pretty for him. Stay interested in him. Make time for adventuring with him. Do like you heard the preacher say in that wedding a couple weeks ago. “Always treat each other with the highest respect.” It’s a million little things that build and sustain a firm foundation of love. Don’t neglect your foundation.
Quit trying to be enough for every person, every day, every situation. You’re not enough for all that! You never were. You’re just realizing it, and that’s one of the most valuable lessons of your crazy, unmanageable life. But know this, you’re more than enough for right now.
Live in the reality of God’s grace and love for you everyday. Work hard to become more like a child. Trust.
You’re beginning to know what I know even better. There’s an end to this journey. Don’t let that scare you. The alternative would be terrifying. Just like in all the other crises you’ve faced, when the end of those dearest to you comes, God will be there with the strength you need to face it. And when your end comes and your loved ones mourn (I know you fear their pain even more than yours), He will give the ones you love the strength they need too.
Until then, dare to live into the vastness of your life.
It’s so big. Too big! It can’t be managed, controlled, ordered . . . before it is fully lived.
It’s a gift.
It’s meant to be received. Moment by moment, hour by hour, day by day, season by season, year by year.
Stop trying to tame the wild out of life. It won’t be caged, leashed, or wrangled. Life wasn’t ever meant for you to tame.
It’s meant to be enjoyed. To ride like a wave at the shore. Surrender to its inescapable, glorious unpredictability.
Cry. Laugh. Get angry. Forgive. Breathe deep. Kiss and hug. Encourage. Smile.
Life will only be lived. Live well.
Your Eighty Year Old Self
P.S. You’re doing fine.
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