Last weekend we unpacked the Christmas boxes and began to decorate the house. My favorite things about the holiday season are our family traditions, and one of those traditions is to write a letter to your future self and hide it in your Christmas stocking. We did it for a few years when I was a kid, and I remember reading over highlights from the previous year, my current faves (which were somehow no longer cool a short twelve months later), and the list of things I hoped to accomplish. My boys love this part, writing things like, "Ride the Viper" and "Play video games for 100 hours". When boxes appear from the back corner of the basement, I excitedly search for the one containing our four stockings, and pull the letters out like buried treasure.
The letters are meant to be a snapshot of the year and an encouraging way to look at all we've accomplished as a family and individually. But sometimes they make me sad. When I was substitute teaching year after year, the letters would ask if I'd found a permanent position yet. Now that I've been querying, the letters ask if I've found an agent. And every single year I vow to be more organized, vow to really, truly purge the house and live with less.
Spoiler alert: I left the teaching world, am still searching for an agent, and the house isn't any cleaner.
But every year I give my future self a little pep talk.
From 2009: "Take care of everyone. And remember to take care of yourself."
From 2010: "Remember that you are a great mom, a devoted wife, a dedicated teacher, and fabulous woman!"
From 2013: "C'mon girl, you CAN finish things! Really and truly!"
From 2014: "Love yourself every day - despite the wrinkles and sagging bits, despite the incessant need to procrastinate. Despite the cynicism."
Last year I even acknowledged that my goal setting often falls short. "Every year you make goals for yourself. Some you reach while others fall by the wayside. That's okay. You need to forgive yourself and move on. Change what you can - change what you can CONTROL. In other words, let others be who they are going to be and focus on being the best you in that moment."
How's that going you ask? Eh. I was sad for several hours after reading the letters because not much has changed in the past year. The truth is, we can't escape our weaknesses - no matter how hard we try to cheerlead them away. There is an underlying current of jealousy in these letters, of wanting what others have and I don't, and it feels dirty.
Last night I attended a book launch for a new writing friend. Her book is beautiful (I read an Advanced Review Copy - one of the perks of being immersed in the writing world), the room was packed full of people who love and support her, and I was happy to be able to share in her moment. But right before I left I said to hubs, "I understand that saying now - the one about always being a bridesmaid and never a bride." It's impossible not to feel the "when will it be my turn?" feelings at book launches, impossible not to sit there and imagine my own book launch, imagine where it will be and if my mother will still be alive to make trays of Italian cookies. Maybe the green-eyed monster is a good thing. Maybe he'll keep me motivated. Maybe I need to look at the positives in my letters to self instead of worrying about what I didn't accomplish.
From 2015: "I'm making a promise to have DEVELOPING OUR WINGS finished in the next six months. To be a better blogger and continue to encourage others."
I finished my rough draft in early April and just completed the first full round of revisions.
My blog entries were at an all time low this year, and I'm pretty sure no one even reads this little life chronicle - but I've been at it for EIGHT YEARS. And in my world of not following through, that's a pretty huge accomplishment.
Do I encourage others? I hope so. Maybe not all the time, maybe not with shouts from the rooftop.
But I keep trying. Because lifting others up makes everyone feel good. So here's some advice from past Sandis:
To all you other writers out there - "Keep writing, hon - there are so many great stories inside you."
To the parents - "You are a good mom [dad]. Have faith in your children."
To everyone who worries all the time, who thinks they are doing too much, or not enough - "Relax. Let things be - you can do it and the world will still revolve."
To the world, especially now: "Love more."