loving yourself from the future

I Love Myself.

Well, let me be more specific: I love the me I used to be.

I look back on old pictures of myself, with my kids, in the military, in high school and college. I see, with the benefit of perspective unsullied by emotion and sharpened by distance, the things that made that young man make the choices he made. I know how the struggles panned out, how the efforts sometimes succeeded and often failed.

I understand why he dated that person, or broke up with them, or married them. I can see better where things could have been more clearly communicated, and also where he did things, all unknowing, that were amazing. I know for a fact that he did the best he could whenever he could and the rest of the time he simply tried to do good. It’s hard to be the best all the time, after all, and a man gets tired.

There is, when I look back on that man, an overwhelming sense of compassion. I wish I could squeeze his shoulder and say “It’s going to be ok.” Or “The heartbreak will fade.” Or “She didn’t really mean that. You’re still her father, she’s still your daughter, and the two of you will just get closer.” I wish I could just give him a hug.

“Yeah? Well, F*** You!”

1988: So proud of my ELECTRONIC TYPEWRITER!
1988: So proud of my ELECTRONIC TYPEWRITER!

The thing is, even if I could, I don’t think he’d be too responsive. In fact, I know he wouldn’t, because I have journals where I literally have yelled at my future self for the fact that I am over whatever crisis I was writing about. “You’ve had time to get over the pain. I’m in it NOW, and I don’t give a **** about it going away!” and words to that effect.

How could I blame him? He was in the thick of it. Frankly, to have some serene and healthy and non-stressed version of yourself come and pat you on the back? You’d want to punch him! I mean, I’d want to punch him! I mean, he’d want to punch me!

Before the metaphor gets too tangled (this is why I don’t write time-travel sci-fi) the point is that I’m pretty sure that self-love goes one way, from your present to your past. Past-me would never have understood why I gave up on some goals and created others. We would probably get along in some areas, but so much of what I do and have now is so far beyond that man that I can’t help but think it would be infuriating.

Just as I imagine myself with no particular fondness thirty years from now. For one thing, I’m looking at at least that much time still as a part of the work force – and frankly, that’s pretty tiring. I’m really worried about the state of the world right now, whereas Future-Me will have had three decades to acclimate. By then he’s probably going to have great-great grandkids to enjoy. I expect he will have divided his kingdom evenly among his daughters, planning to travel and stay with each of them in turn during the year, in order based on how much they love him/me.*

Whatever he does, I’m certain I will blame him for not keeping up with some things that are very important to me now, and also for going into things that I really don’t see the point of doing. But there is one thing that Past-Me didn’t do that Now-Me is going to do in regards to Future-Me:

I’m going to enjoy his love.

I’m going to remember, when my career path is confusing and my workout is unmotivating and my attention is wavering, that there is a version of me who understands exactly why I am making these decisions. He will either be thankful that I worked out, or understand that it didn’t make that big a difference that I sat at home and watched Big Love instead. He will look back on me, just as I am now, warts and all, and smile fondly.

That’s a nice thing. Whether you have all the love you need in your life or if you feel utterly alone, there is a version of yourself that will look back with compassion, with fondness, perhaps even with nostalgia, and love who you are, right now.

Enjoy it. And keep sending it back to Past-You, too. Whether they appreciate it or not, they need it. Trust me.

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