Note to Self

selfportrait

Dear Serra,

Remember when you used to do that thing where you would say “Hi Serra” out loud sometimes when you found yourself alone in a room? It always spooked you, to acknowledge verbally your own undeniable existence. To confront yourself as you would another.

You have always loved yourself. You have always been your own best friend. You have always needed long stretches of time alone to reconnect, to establish a self independent of others, to remember and review and recollect. To renew. As a child you would spend time alone in your room listening to music, drawing, looking through your microscope, carefully going through the treasures in your special cupboard- keys, stones, coins, toys, shells. You had friends at school but would sometimes tuck yourself away- in a tree, in the gazebo, behind a book- to be alone.

You have always felt strong, solid, stable. Even in your wildest years, your hardest hurts, your deepest longings, at the core of yourself you are unbreakable. This is what you’ve always known. As a teenager you would experiment, break rules, get drunk, make out with strangers at music shows, get lost, explore. But always come home to your journal, your guitar, your family. You knew there was always a safe place to return to.

All your life you’ve loved naps, time away from the world, time where you can be silent and invisible. Time where you’re not seeing yourself through anyone else’s eyes. Time to be internal. So many solo walks, solo bike rides, solo hours collaging, painting, writing. So many solo trips to the movies, to the beach, down the trail. Hours spent with only the feel of your body moving through the world, the sound of your own breath. You were often lonely. Solitude at times felt like a crushing weight, like a cage.

At 23 you fell in love; at 26 you married. And at 32 you had a baby, a child who looks like you and your husband, who loves drawing and music and jokes and climbing trees, dinosaurs and dragons and unicorns. Having a child changed you, transformed you, almost broke you. She almost broke you because, for the first time, you were taken away from yourself. You no longer were able to sit down daily with your journal, with your art. You were held back from following your instincts and desires. You had to learn how to want something and not get it. After a while you all but forgot how to want. You lost almost all your independence, something so necessary for you that to lose it was a total loss of self. Although your daughter is five years old now, you still struggle with this every day, how to carve away some time for yourself, how to keep the core of yourself strong and real, alive.

Today you turn 37. In three months your daughter will start kindergarten, essentially giving you your life back. I admire the work you’ve done so far as a mother, raising your child and doing as much as you can to care for yourself and husband as well. You have given more of yourself than I would have thought possible. I know it’s been hard, and has taken you to the extent of your capabilities. Your self is still there, although you haven’t spent much one on one time with her in a while. I know you’re tired, I know sometimes you feel sad and hopeless, and miss parts of yourself and wish for certain times of your past. I know life pulls on too many parts of you. I know that much of the time your jaw is clenched and your shoulders tight, your mind spinning. I know sometimes you feel guilty when you want things, because so many people have so little. I know all this and I wish for you to breathe, loosen, sing. Please know that you’ll have your time, you’ll get yourself back. For most of your life, what you wanted came to you easily. Now you know what it’s like to fight for it. Keep fighting. Keep wanting. Keep being thrilled by color, shape, sounds, smells. Be tender. Be alive every day, whatever that means to you. Embrace it all, even the hard stuff. And remember to say stop by and say hello- don’t be a stranger.

2 thoughts on “Note to Self”

  1. Such a beautiful letter filled with wisdom and love. All that time building relationship with yourself certainly holds you now. Many parts of this letter touched me, including the paradox of needing all that time alone, and then the inherent loneliness.

  2. Reading an old journal, from when I was 34, and you were 9. “It is a deeply distressing problem lately, mostly just on weekends- how to be a family together. I am absolutely overwhelmed with what I need to do while they have absolutely nothing to do. Recently, when we were going through this, we ended up going to K-Mart & buying the game of Life! Such desperation! I have never felt the split between school & family so acutely as I did last night. I felt split down the middle like Rumplestiltskin when the Queen guesses his name. But I think it’s the opposite for me; if the Queen (or whoever- myself ) guessed my name, I would suddenly merge. It’s comforting to know that May Sarton struggled with this too. Many, many women have struggled with this, are struggling, and will… but to read it articulated is indeed a help. ‘The fierce tension in me, when it is properly channelled, creates the good tension for work. But when it becomes unbalanced, I am destructive… how to turn the heat down fast enough so the soup won’t boil over!'”

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