Letter to My 20-Year-Old Self on Our Birthday

I finally know the difference between pleasing and loving, obeying and respecting.

It has taken me so many years to be okay with being different,

and with being this alive, this intense. – Eve Ensler


My beloved Lis,

I barely know where to begin, as the next three decades of your life are going to hold infinite joy, wonder, laughter, growth, healing, and love! Philosopher Soren Kierkegaard reminds us, “Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.” If only you could have known then what we do now . . . the difficulties of aging are compensated for with new gifts of wisdom, grace, and fortitude.

I know you’re experiencing extreme inner turmoil, but it won’t last much longer. It’s not going to stop you from doing and seeing amazing things, and most importantly, it’s going to inform, rather than define the woman we become. You’re going to be so proud of us, so thrilled to see the world through our eyes, and so happy that you didn’t succumb to all the negativity that could have stopped you from taking leaps of faith. In fact, as time progresses, leaps of faith are going to absolutely renew and thrill us, so don’t hesitate!

Your pain, physical and emotional, is immense. The crushing physical burden of disordered eating and the worthlessness you feel isn’t permanent. Greet all life experiences as lessons and most importantly, seek meaning in the painful ones especially, as they open our heart to the suffering of all beings.

Right now, the loathing you feel for our body is a reflection of your emotional pain. This will dissipate with time. You will establish a new relationship with our body and start to treat it as a temple. I’m not going to lie, this will be the lesson that takes the longest to learn: love everything about your body now, as it’s beautiful, strong, and capable. There will be many times when you will be in top shape and still belittle it. If I could tell you anything with absolute conviction it’s this: our body was made exactly as it needed to be to manifest our highest Self and we work hard to care for it, so don’t let outside forces dictate your perception. Time and gravity will force changes, embrace them all, find peace with the impermanence, and love your body through each phase.

Don’t be derailed by surprises. The best thing that will ever happen to us will be a surprise, and he is amazing! And I promise you as you grapple with finishing your doctoral dissertation or getting a PhD in motherhood, you will make a choice we will never regret. We’re are going to serve humanity more by virtue of everything Benj and you teach each other, than an academic paper that languishes in a college library. Sometimes the smartest thing you can do, is walk away from something unfinished that no longer serves you.

Learn to surrender. Control served our past, as it kept us safe, but it will now hinder your growth. We’re living through one of the most extraordinary times in human history, with an accelerated rate of change: nothing is predictable and everything that’s coming is going to require constant adaptation and surrender. Learn to feel grounded within yourself: this is the only source of stability and safety that we can depend on, so trust yourself deeply. And when challenges arise, remember they’re happening for you, rather than to you; our higher Self is always working to strengthen its loving embrace.

You will love many different men . . . treat them all as a gift. They will teach us how to communicate better, contribute to our emotional maturity, help determine what we want in a life partner, and share music, books, art, and other passions that will enrich our life. Love them for a time, but don’t grasp, as our future is committed to spirit; not many will be able to walk the same path. Remember this when you feel lonely and long for a companion to share the journey. As you settle into solitude and claim your introversion, you will discover that we’re always deeply connected to spirit, and therefore never really alone.

Speak your truth. As part of our commitment to our awakening, you will make a pledge to truth that will make you uncomfortable more times than you will be able to count, but you will never regret upholding our integrity. Many will misunderstand, that’s only because they aren’t ready to face the truth of themselves. Your ability to bear the truth is going to be one of our greatest strengths, as it will launch you into heightened self-awareness, from which you can heal old wounds, practice strengthening the areas that need loving attention, and find our gifts. Never compromise your truth, as it’s the source of real power.

Be tender with yourself. Many will hurt you unapologetically because of their own unconsciousness. You too will make mistakes for the same reason. We’re all here to consciously evolve, so be forgiving both of others and yourself. Choose the people in your life wisely: trust and respect are earned.

Thank you for your strength and courage! It takes a huge commitment to show up for yourself when there are so many wounds that need attending and the path of awakening demands presence. Our life could have gone in vastly more destructive directions and it didn’t because of your effort. You showed up for us when that was the hardest and loneliest choice . . . you are a bad ass!

Finally, our life will always be a complex web of passions, creative pursuits, travel, learning experiences, and relationships, all of which are endlessly enriching. This will make us equally complex, especially as our ego dissolution makes it possible for us to hold paradox without attachment. You will be called, “Too much”, “A handful”, and “Complicated” too many times to count. Anyone who says this to you, does not belong in your sphere. If they can’t handle how extraordinary you are, that’s on them, not you . . . walk away and find the ones who will love you for everything you are.

Poet Mary Oliver wrote, “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” The answer is exactly the same on our 48th birthday, as it was on our 20th: LOVE. Love is always the answer; how we learn to be the embodiment of love is what the magical journey of life is all about. Enjoy the ride my darling, as it’s a daring adventure! So live now fully, love wholeheartedly, and don’t waste precious time and energy on rumination or regrets.

I love you,