In Letters From Our Future Selves I’m inviting authors and bloggers to share the advice they think their twenty years older self would give them, giving each writer an opportunity to reflect on what they hope to learn and achieve during the next two decades.
I’m delighted that my wonderful friend Mindy Pollack-Fusi has agreed to share a letter!
Live towards your authentic self
by Mindy Pollack-Fusi
Dear Younger Self
You know that we did this exercise together a few years ago in reverse, yes? Back then, you were about 40 and you told your 20-year-old self to stop trying to force everything into place with a desperate attempt to fit pieces together for a happy ever after life. You instructed your younger self to get to know yourself better, slow way down and stop racing to be the person everyone else wanted you to be. Our combined wisdom back then ended with the message to “Live towards your authentic self and trust that time will take you to a place that feels right for you.”
So, er, how you doing with that, 57-year old Min?
I watch you year after year, and I know you try to listen to your own good advice about slowing down and not trying to rush into everything all at once, but I am not sure you have quite fully learned the concept! You’re always tending to everyone else—dotting way too many i’s and crossing way too many t’s—not only while writing and editing, but in life. And aren’t you a might bit too glued to that little 3X4 device you click away at practically 24/7? Puhlease. Raise your eyes now and then and notice your shoulders slumped forward and your head lowered toward that thing. Your mother was right about the importance of good posture, believe me.
Another thing: this blog post you are rushing to write for Terri Long? I know you eagerly grasp every opportunity to create—you’ve done that your whole life ever since third grade when you stayed up late pulling hairs out of your German shepherd for an illustrated book report on wolves —but couldn’t you have just said “no” this once? Or not started it today, with your limited remaining time before your next commitment tonight? Maybe, instead, you could have taken your beloved elderly dog for a walk in his buggy? I watch you on sunny days, pushing him around the bend of your road and up the hill, your leg muscles working hard, your arms pushing with that wonderful physical strength you developed since committing to a healthy nutrition and fitness program since that last note to your younger self. Bravo! But seriously, this time management and rushing problem you can’t seem to shed—you really need to fix that before reaching my vantage point, living here, at 77, along the other, sunnier coast’s shores you’ve always loved to visit….
That little bit of chastising aside, my dear younger self, I want to say I have been noticing your recent progress at becoming more in tune with your soul. The six-word memoir you wretched over last spring at a SPARC fundraiser for impoverished women writers may have been an important piece of this journey. “Creativity/Nature/Connection Nurture My Soul,” you wrote. Not your best writing, but “Bingo” on the concept. Notice that “racing the clock” is not among those select words? You saved the little white square note, folding it twice and tucking it into the corner of your night stand as though you had just uncovered a secret about yourself you wanted to hide. But in truth, you have known this all along, yet you allowed yourself to tip too far toward the driven, goal-oriented, ego-driven genes you also carry within.
As you type this, my eye catches the glistening gold ring on your pinky finger. I admit I had not fully realized the significance of those mindfulness classes you’d been taking last year until the day you found the ring haphazardly in an old jewelry box and slid it on. The tiny 14-carat gold ring shines with its fine, ornate shapes on both sides of its center focal point: a heart containing your initials at birth—MLP. As you know, sometime shortly after your birth, your aunt presented your mother with two soft velvet boxes. Inside one held a ring for your older sister, and the other box contained an identical one for you. To be honest, I have no memory—do you?—whether you wore the ring in childhood, or adolescence. Perhaps a bit here and there. But I think you mostly moved it from one jewelry organizer to another as you became independent and moved from apartment to apartment, and then to your own home you shared first with husband and daughter number one, and then with husband two, his daughter, and yours. The ring, frankly, held no significance to you way back when, I suspect.
Until a few months ago. After your year of serious transformation, thrust on you by your nerve-racking reaction to your 26-year-old stepdaughter’s sudden exodus from her job, her childhood friends, and her bedroom in your home that she’d resided in way too long (I noticed! She needed launching for a long time!), you emerged reconnected with your more peaceful inner self from so long ago. I admit that I had not realized the significance of all those mindfulness classes you’d been taking until the day you found the ring haphazardly in an old jewelry box. I watched as you took time to contemplate its history a few seconds, then slipped it on your pinky finger, where it remains. I am guessing it serves as a daily reminder that although you are no longer “MLP,” but “MPF,” you are seeking to be MLP in your soul once again. Back to your original open spirit as it entered this life, free of the molding by others that hardened you along the way. I know this is something you lost for multiple decades while trying to carve out your identify and, for too long, labeling yourself by others’ expectations and opinions.
What does this have to do with looking back at your life twenty years from now? It is all part of the same process. I urge you to continue the journey you have finally begun. Live more consciously, although it will always be a struggle in our hectic world. Stop going after the brass ring—in whatever form that means at any point in time. And let others be themselves. Do you hear me? Stop meddling so much. Relax. Let them make their own mistakes and walk the path their journey has set them on. It cannot be your journey. Remember daily that you did not like it when others dictated their ideas about your journey to you!
Close some doors and open new ones that are more in keeping with the renewed you. Return to the adventures you began alone in Africa in 2005, and then shelved to fit in more with your husband’s travel-wary ways. (Bring him with you if he wishes, which he probably will if you ask kindly, but you know he won’t initiate, so you must.)
Perhaps emboldened by that gold “baby” ring on your finger, I watched you embark upon that water rollercoaster with your stepdaughter at SeaWorld in San Diego last April. Did you hear me cheering you on? “You go girl; take risks again,” I shouted. “Go for it!” I was glad you survived that crazy ride despite your terror, and by the way, it was smart of your stepdaughter to have suggested you try the roller coaster before lunch.
Where else does my advice from age 77 lead you, dear 57-year-old? Stay open-minded. Continue to seek greater compassion for others and for self. Drop the perfectionism and ego. I am glad you are reading Dr. Dan Gottlieb’s books about life lessons. And by all means, when you let go and start staring at the clouds and playing in the dirt in your grand gardens, do still stay driven enough to continue writing and mentoring other writers.
And most of all, continue to love your husband and those beautiful daughters—the love we give away is the only love we keep. Brilliant philosopher, Elbert Hubbard.
About Mindy Pollack Fusi
Mindy Pollack Fusi is a freelance and creative writer, book editor, writing teacher, and college application essay coach. She is also the editor of The Ice Cream Stand and other Stories & Poems by 21 Writers from The Place for Words & Workshops.
About The Ice Cream Stand
An unforgettable collection of short vignettes, stories, essays, poems/rants by 21 writers from The Place for Words & Workshops. Two are previously published writers; 19 are adult students ages 25-75 of The Place for Words. The collection will make readers laugh and cry as the writers imaginatively portray everyday events based on personal experience, including memories of family holidays, humor, suspense, romance, friendships, relationships of all kinds and much more. As the book unfolds, readers experience the individual voices that emerge in this collective tapestry.