A Letter to My 8-Year-Old Self: The TSP Book Club

At 6.5 years old, they’re not quite 8 yet. 
But they are amazing creatures, full of curiosity, eagerness, spunk and just enough vinegar to be really interesting. 
They are cousins, born one month apart at a time when our family needed reminders that life is constantly being renewed as well as ending. Writing a letter to myself reminded me of just how precious this time is – and how formative. 
 

I am beginning to fall behind on our readings for TweetSpeakPoetry. We’re wrestling through Julia Cameron’s wildly successful artistic-recovery-handbook, “The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity,” doing two chapters each week. 
That is a whole lot of chapters. 
Because each one is filled with projects/assignments/self-reflection. 
And all of that takes TIME. Time which I haven’t really had a lot of this week, what with graduations, traveling with my mom, and the demands of daily life. Which may well mean that I will not have a contribution for next week – I’ve still got one chapter to read from THIS week. 
So…for today’s response, I will post one of the assignments from the chapter entitled: “Recovering a Sense of Integrity.” (By the way, the main ‘ask’ of this chapter is something that is IMPOSSIBLE TO DO when you’re reading 2 chapters per week and this chapter is the first one – we were asked to undergo a week-long reading deprivation. Uh-huh. Like THAT’s going to happen. Clearly this book was written LONG before internet activity took over the living of life.)
This is a letter written to my childhood self. And I will grudgingly admit that this exercise – and much of what we were asked to do for this chapter – stirred a lot of stuff. And may, in fact, be at least partially responsible for two posts written earlier this week that I feel are among the strongest I’ve ever put here. (The first one can be found here, and the second one, here.) But…that’s just me. Being grudging. 
So…forthwith, a letter to me…many years ago.
Sweetheart,

You have no idea how remarkable you are or what kind of life is ahead for you. None at all. Enjoying 3rd grade, walking to school with pride and a growing sense of independence, embarrassed by how tall and ungainly you believe yourself to be. And the skin problems? Don’t even get me started about how constricting that is for you.

But here’s the thing, honey. NONE of that is going to matter at all. Not.at.all. 
I know, I know. It’s tough to believe that. Especially when you carry around all your mother’s anxiety about yourself. I know your heart, young one. I know that you believe you are both ‘too much’ and ‘not enough.’
Too tall
Too smart
Too bossy
Too duck-footed
Too strong-willed
Too different from what your mom believes you could/should be
AND, at the same time…
Not graceful
Not coordinated
Not picked for the playground sports endeavors
Not pretty like Sylvia
Not popular like_______(fill in the blank with any of about a dozen names from that era)
Not mold-able, at least on the inside 
Please hear me when I say this:
     You are exactly who you are supposed to be…
 …and that is a glorious thing. 
Glorious, do you hear that? 
Yes, indeed. Glorious. Full of curiosity, a daydreamer and  dawdler who takes the time to both look – really look – at the world around you, and to imagine all kinds of worlds in that head of yours.
You imagine that the milk bottles left in the rack on the back porch are a family, that they have names and they carry on quite the conversation after the household has gone to bed. 

You believe that if you just dig deep enough, you will end up in China one day.
You write a short story about peas in a pod – and the interesting family life they lead. 
You are affirmed by teacher after teacher for your creativity with words and ideas –  yet – you don’t believe them. You don’t treasure those words. Why is that? 
I think it’s because your parents, good people and loving and generous – I think it’s because your parents are so deeply afraid of your getting a ‘big head,’ of thinking yourself worthy of acclaim. 
They deliberately play it low-key when you get good grades and kind remarks. They are proud of you – yes, you know that they are. But they are cautious, circumspect, sincere in their belief that flattery is a tool of the devil and never to be trusted. 
And you are a very good learner, especially…especially when it comes to intuiting the feelings and moods of others. So you soaked that fear of theirs down deep into your pores. Even at your tender age, you don’t trust anyone who says something nice about you
So, if I can just say this to you right now, with all the love I can muster for how tender you are at this age, how malleable and open to wonder – if I can just say this:
        
You are totally unique – one of a kind – none other in this world is exactly like you. And YOU, dear girl, are God’s gift to this world in a way that no one else ever has been or ever will be.  
You are not your mother and  you do not need to be like her. You are not your father and you do not need to be like him. You can learn from them – and you will! – but YOU are the only Diana Ruth Gold on this planet. The only one that looks like you, thinks like you, dreams like  you. And that is pretty great, kiddo. 
That is pretty darn great.
With lots of love and gratitude for who you are right this instant,
Your older and more seasoned self.
And I can just imagine that YOU might make this very face at me about now.
Oh, how I hope you would. Because I LOVE this feistiness and I’d like to think it’s a generational gift.

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Comments

  1. And the 8-year-old would write to the today you, “you are exactly who you are supposed to be and where you are supposed to be right at this instant. One of a kind. A beautiful gift.” And I say, “Amen!.”
    “Clearly this book was written LONG before internet activity took over the living of life.” Cracking up at this.

  2. Oh, Diana. Not moldable (on the inside). I know that one well. This is such a beautiful, tender exchange with your younger self. I didn’t write the letter this time — I did when we did The Right to Write (or at least wrote the letter to my current self from my 80yo self — whichever it was, it took some input from Mr. Fusion and time travel contraptions). But I so love your kindness, even in the correction, to your little one here. 

    And the milk bottle family? Oh, my. I love every bit of that. 🙂

    (Btw, you may have accidentally unsubscribed from Headroom — I finally posted there yesterday, so if you didn’t get anything, you might check that out. No obligation — just following on your comment the other day. 🙂

  3. Oh, Diana. Your maiden name is Gold? YOU are gold, my friend.

    I teared up reading this. My family background is different, but I also distrust when people say nice things. Yet, I savor people’s kind words, storing those emails or comments forever.

    I think it takes a certain amount of age to understand and to love that little girl of our past. I heard J.I. Packer once at Laity, and he told a story about begging his parents for a bicycle. Instead, they gave him a typewriter. Wouldn’t the world have been a poorer place if J.I. Packer had not received a typewriter and learned he had a gift with words? I mean, if he had gotten a bike that would have been fine, but it would not have tapped into what would be his unique contribution to this world.

  4. Patricia Spreng says:

    You hold her so close to your heart and you shared her with us as a loving proud,  mother would.  I could see her, love her and laugh with her milk bottle family.  She may not have believed those kind words of teachers growing up, but she knew those words were true.   And she kept them and placed those words within her heart to hold as precious treasures… nuggets of Gold… Diana Gold.

  5. pastordt says:

    You know I carried on internal conversations with those milk bottles until I was way old enough to know better. Yeah, a bit of a weirdo. But the older I get, the more I appreciate some kinds of weirdness. And having grandchildren has helped enormously in learning to love that inner child. And of course, years of therapy, too, accompanied by lots of prayer and experimenting with a variety of spiritual disciplines. And I would say that having kind and loving spiritual directors in various settings over the last 10 years or so has been really, really helpful in treating the inside of me with a little more tenderness – at least once in a while. ALWAYS learning about that.

  6. pastordt says:

    Thank you, Megan, for these sweet words and for your sweet tears, too. I think most women find it difficult to believe it when folks say nice things about them. And that is such a pity. And you’re right – learning to recognize and then appreciate that inner girl takes time – and maturity, and as I noted in my response to Patricia, sometimes some professional help, too!

  7. pastordt says:

    I did get the newest notes from Headroom last night – thankfully. And they are lovely. Words in one, pictures in the other. Perfect.

    And thank you for these kind words. Sure would like to know about Mr. Fusion! And the 80yo old letter? a little to close to that one for comfort, so I opted to take the time machine backwards a l-o-n-g ways.

  8. Self-esteem doesn’t come easily during those early ‘growing up’ years, especially when parents aren’t able to help reinforce it. I love your letter, Diana, (and your granddaughter’s response to the attention). It could be a useful exercise for every adult, although I wouldn’t have much angst to share with myself. I had a remarkably happy childhood, despite being an only child. I did go through a difficult period as an adult trying to meet my own expectations of what I thought a pastor’s wife should be/do. But on the whole I’ve been content. I’ve always felt free to pursue interests, and been supported in my endeavours. I know I’m blessed in that… life isn’t often easy for many people, especially women, even in today’s ‘progressive’ society.

  9. pastordt says:

    You know, Carol, I sometimes think that one advantage of being an only child (and it’s certainly not true in every case – just read Madeleine L’Engle’s autobiographical pieces) is that all that adult love and attention is focused in one direction. Sounds like that happened for you – I’m so glad. And I am so familiar with that ‘pastor’s wife’ syndrome. It happens to pastors who are women, too – sorta like you’re expected (or you expect yourself) to fill BOTH roles-pastor and spouse. But maybe that’s just me. I’m weird like that. :>)

  10. Diana, I loved this post!  We could have each one written a similar letter to ourselves at that same age and it probably would have sounded very much the same.  Thanks for reminding us that God created each of us uniquely and individually!

  11. pastordt says:

    You’re very welcome, Sherrey. Thanks for leaving this nice note – though I don’t wish my childhood insecurities on anyone else!

  12. I can barely see the screen through bleary tear eyes…. from the first word…. “sweetheart”.  

  13. pastordt says:

    Ah, Donna – you softie, you! “Sweetheart” is one of my very favorite affectionate names for people I love, and it still gets me in the tear ducts, too. :>)

  14. Not just the word, Diana, got me… the fact that you addressed your little self as sweetheart is what floored me.  Really beautiful. And yes, I am a softie! 

  15. pastordt says:

    Being a softie, is a GOOD thing, Donna. Thanks for your kind words.

  16. Yes, it is! I wouldn’t have it any other way…. except when I wish I had a little bit of a thicker skin! LOL!  But, I yam what I yam, as popeye would say!  I avoided this exercise in an New York minute when I saw it!! I’m think that maybe I should give it a shot!  

  17. pastordt says:

    Go for it – it was actually interesting to do – and I did two different versions, only one of which I posted. The other is for me to mull over, I think.

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