Dear 40-Year-Old Megan,
Hello, dear. I hope you’re having a great year, feeling sexy and energetic and are super patient with your kids, and I hope there are high speed trains wherever you live so you don’t have to drive anywhere anymore. Actually, screw that. I hope that in 2023 you can microwave yourself to other countries and back in under 30 seconds, and that you’re reading this from a French café on a rainy afternoon.
You most likely won’t remember this day, the day that you’re writing this letter to yourself in November 2014. It’s sunny and brisk outside, and you’re sitting at your dining room table while Violet naps and Noah watches Curious George from the living room. (A few weeks ago he was terrified of Curious George, so this is progress.) You haven’t gotten out of your pj’s today, because Violet has a fever so you weren’t able to go anywhere anyway, but it’s been quite a productive day because you reorganized the pantry and started digging the site for the sandbox you’re building.
You went a little nuts with the homemakership today, hanging prints that have just been sitting around, vacuuming, doing lots of laundry, scrubbing the kitchen sink. You’ve actually been really freaking spastic, if you want to know the truth. There are half finished projects lying all around right now that you started this morning, and the vacuum is still plugged in here in the dining room.
There’s a reason for all this sudden sporadic behavior. It all started one night a few weeks ago, when you couldn’t sleep. You lay awake staring into the darkness, nudging, then shoving, then forcibly rolling Lance right over because his snores sound like a damn circular saw, of which I’m sure 40-year-old-you is even more painfully aware than I. Your thoughts, as you know, tend to turn all dark and sad when you spend too much time inside your own head, and you can go quickly from content to maniacally depressed in a matter of minutes. The weather is turning colder, and you’re steadily entering that weird place of happy sadness you get when stores put out their twinkly-lit Christmas trees and you realize there are only four weeks left until Thanksgiving. The cold air fills you with hope and nostalgia, but as you breathe it in it squeezes your lungs with the awareness that what you want it to be it can never be. It will never be. You are bombarded with reminders that this is a season for family. Thus begins the holiday season for you: a sickening spiral into a sadness that threatens to drown you, culminating in a bizarrely severe instinct to change everything about yourself come New Year’s.
Another year has come and gone, another year’s worth of time to try and reconcile with your family. Yet here you are, wide-eyed at midnight, panic about your lack of an easy, festive familial holiday rising up in your throat like bile. On the night in question, you couldn’t tear your thoughts away from the brokenness between you and your family. You wondered, not for the first time, if it maybe really is your fault after all. If everyone around you seems crazy, aren’t you maybe the actual crazy person? And why has your family rejected you yet seems to get along with each other just fine? It’s bullshit, and you are fucking sick of it here in 2014. You made up your mind that night that you’re 31 FOR FUCK’S SAKE. You have kids of your own! Enough is enough. You fell asleep with the promise to yourself that you’d reach out to certain members of your family the very next day and make peace, and you did, by God. Not that it did any good, Megs. You sorta knew it wouldn’t, but at least you tried. If you’re still feeling shitty about all this (which, how could you feel shitty right now? Look around, Dummy. YOU’RE IN FRANCE.), just remember that you tried. And that’s all you can do, and I hope 40-Year-Old-You has learned to let go that death-grip on control better than Present-You. Ask the waiter to bring you a glass of wine already.
Despite the dead air you heard when you reached out that day, something jolted in you. Laying awake that night and promising yourself you’d try, then taking charge of your situation felt oddly… good! I mean you didn’t feel good, but you felt right. You felt a kind of weight off your shoulders. It jumpstarted a kind of all-encompassing New Year’s Resolution, only instead of happening at New Year’s, it happened at the end of October.
NOVEMBER NEW LIFE RESOLUTION: Get your shit together. One resolution, a myriad of applicable occasions! Here’s a list of things you are going to start doing.
1. Buy some real clothes. You love Goodwill in 2014, and that’s fine, but your current wardrobe consists of the following: 70% thrift store finds, 10% freebies from friends, 8% clothes you’ve had since college that are threadbare, 2% clothes you bought at Banana Republic before Violet was born and therefore do not fit your oddly shaped body in the slightest. I hope you’re laughing and not cringing as you read this. I hope you’re wondering why it took you so long to put your ass in a pair of jeans that actually fit. (You know what else would thank you? Your waist. Imagine either a) not having to pull your pants up every fourth step or b) not wanting to unbutton them every time you eat lunch. It’d be a beautiful thing.) I hope you’re rolling your eyes at how dumb I am, and not glancing down at your by now 20-year-old St. Jude Pirates sweatshirt.
2. Consider under-eye brightener and concealer. You’re getting old. Accept it and stop groaning at those dark pouchy bags every time you look in the mirror. It’s time to shop for age-related makeup. Quit crying. Related: consider dying your hair.
3. Just put some lotion beside the kitchen sink. You would seriously rather your hands crack and bleed than just walk ten steps into the bathroom for some lotion. Take the hell care of your hands! They hurt! Only you can make the pain stop and it’s SO EASY. It’s ridiculous!
4. Buy a good bra. Quit complaining about your boobs sagging down to your thighs and invest in a decent bra. No, not from Target. Get sized for crying out loud. It may seem like there’s no such thing as an adult training bra that also puts your boobs back on your chest, but you’ll never know till you get out there to a bra store and ask for help. Swallow the pride. Shell out the dough. Shhh, your heart is palpitating as you think about it, but this is part of the process of getting your shit together. Start slowly… you only need one bra right away. If you get that, you never know what’ll happen! Maybe you’ll have up to… I dunno… like three by the time you read this letter. (But I don’t want to get ahead of myself.)
5. Answer your emails. Seriously, Megs. People are waiting for you to do stuff. Why do you let things pile up the way you do? Unanswered emails don’t go away. Neither does dirty laundry.
6. Do some laundry!
7. Save money. You’re lucky, 40-Year-Old-You. You’ve saved money by now and your kids may actually get to go to college. But 31-year-old-you is like, “I could go to Marché for brunch?” NO. QUIT IT. Invest in a bra. Invest in some jeans that fit. Maybe a sweater. Then put the rest in savings. Your priorities are SHIT.
8. Help people. Your friend just returned from a trip selflessly administering medicine to people in the Dominican Republic. What the heck are you doing to make the world a better place? You aren’t using your talents for other people at all, and you’re really pretty self-centered, as evidenced by, oh, I dunno, this very letter that you’re writing to yourself this very minute. You know how you are. You’re worried you’re not good at anything that could actually benefit society, but maybe you just have to think smaller. Cook a meal for a friend. Call a friend just to ask about her day. Donate to good causes. Achieve these small goals first, then you can work on writing that play that you’ve surely written by now, Future Self. Maybe you’ve written a bunch of plays. Maybe you’ve raised awareness about systematic racism and the dangers of ultra-conservatism and the tragedy of homeless people in a country where there are so many abandoned houses and the hypocrisy of those who boast advocacy for the rights of the unborn yet adamantly oppose social programming that could actually help those children once they ARE born, and the government has altered its stance on gun control thanks to you and your Nobel Peace Prize-winning plays. Give yourself a high-five!
9. Be patient with your kids. Quit yelling. You’re working on not yelling, on being patient in 2014, and most of the time you’re proud of your efforts, but still. Every day you put the kids to bed and you look at them for one second and your heart is instantly in a vice. You think, “God. I’m sorry. I’m so sorry for not being a better mother to you today. Tomorrow I will be better. I will be less frustrated, I will be more understanding, I will stop nagging, I will foster your imagination, I will make time to play.” And every day you think that, you realize you failed again today to be the mother that they need. And that keeps you awake at night, too. 40-Year-Old-You is me, so I know you’re crying out of your Google contacts right now (or whatever Google invented to make you phase out and look insane in 2023), because you’re not remembering how tough things are in 2014. You’re remembering all the sweet times, and how Violet can’t say her “s”s or her “r”s and how Noah still wakes you up every morning with a big kiss on the lips, and how they both curl up in your lap to read stories, and how they both want your attention every second of every day. Now that you’re 40 and Noah is 13 and Violet is 11 and that precious time is already over, I know you’re wondering how you ever could have yelled or been impatient with them. You’re wondering how you ever could have thought they were so hard at 4 and 2, because you’ve seen them as pre-teens and now they’re entering teenager-hood and you’re wanting to reach back in time through my computer to slap me as hard as you can. You have these moments now. Hold on to your babies. Don’t lose your patience with them. They’re learning. And so are you.
I know you so well. I just pictured you paying for your
glass glasses bottle of wine (with your fingerprint or something) and heading home because now the only thing you want to do is hug your kids and tell them you love them. I know you’re anxious to do that, so I’ll wrap up here. Suffice it to say, for your 40-year-old sake, I’ma get my shit together. Smile at yourself in the mirror, because when you were 31, you were trying your hardest.
How does one end a letter to oneself? “Love” seems a bit egotistical. “Sincerely” seems a bit formal. After all, you’re writing this to yourself. “With regards”? That doesn’t even SOUND like you. Oh well.