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A Letter to My 16-year-old Self

rage against the dying of the light

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As Seen On

I had a revelation at a retreat I attended earlier this year… I was more stressed out and overwhelmed than I was willing to admit.  I had my nose to the grindstone, and there was no end in sight.  Busyness had crept slowly into my life, insidious and sneaky.  And more surprising to me at the time (though not now), perfectionism and self-punishment were right there along with it.  When I got home, I wrote about it in a letter to my 16-year-old self.  A cathartic, vulnerable thing it was, but also healing…

9/26/16

“Rage, rage against the dying of the light.” – Dylan Thomas

Dear 16-year-old self,

If you could see me now… laying spread eagle on the grass at the most beautiful ranch you’ve ever seen, eyes open to the sky, arms spread wide.  

I’m here, and I’ve admitted to myself (and some friends, both old and new) that I’ve spent the last couple years slowly dying inside.  It was a tough admission.  And you know the feeling, because you’re feeling it now as you stop playing soccer, quit dancing, and give up singing.  A beer and a joint are starting to sound like more fun, huh?  The world can seem like too much sometimes.  

I know.  

My adult version of this dying has been working.  Too hard.  Hiding behind the veil of “busy”, I quit moving my body; I welcomed one too many glasses of wine; I stopped noticing the light in my kids’ eyes and resented their innocent need of their mother.  Facebook (you have no idea what that is yet), what a great distraction.  Almost as good as the cocaine you’ll try in a few years.  

Side note: it’s going to suck so bad, but you’re going to make it.

And the punishment… the self-punishment that has come along with the lack of perfection I perceived in myself has made me feel crazy.  All of the things I should be doing better stacked up against me.  The pressure to do it all, all the time.  The feeling that I might explode at any minute… you will come to know this feeling, too.    

I know you’ve been through so much already, but as your friend, I feel like I need to let you know that life will get even harder than it is now.  Then it will get easier.  Then harder still.  Maybe that’s the way of things… just have your big girl panties ready.

But know that eventually you’ll have this moment on the grass in the mountains of North Carolina.  A little voice inside will say, “Rage against the dying of the light.”  And you’ll hear it, because you’ve been on retreat for three days with shitty cell service and spotty wi-fi and the support of the other women around you.

It’s like the Earth beneath you will take all of the anger and frustration and anxiety and swallow it whole.  In one big gulp.  The tension in your shoulders gone.  The possibility of reclaiming parts of yourself you’ve long forgotten just there on the horizon.  The golden swirling in your belly is old and true.  

A gift to you.  Grace.  A new beginning.  New eyes to see the beauty that’s been hiding right under your nose.  Tears will slide down your face, tiny little gratitudes at both the simplicity and the magnitude of this letting go.

Sigh.      

dottieKnow that Dottie, the little pony with the spots on her rear, will notice the opening in you, too.  She’ll follow you around the round pen like a gigantic puppy while you try to take in these new feelings.  Raw, connected, happy, free.

I imagine Dottie saying, “See?  Do you see what’s been waiting for you here on the other side?”  

On the other side of busyness, perfection, and self-punishment.  

And after you’ve had a taste of this new way of being, a visceral remembrance in your body, you’ll go back home to your own mountains.  The Ozarks.  That’s where I am now.  And I am ready to rage, rage against the dying of the light.  The voices that say we need to be any more than what we are.

And you, my 16-year-old self, I hold you here with me, so you can see the life we’ve created.  Can you believe it?  Turns out we’re just as capable, smart and soulful as you ever hoped we’d be.

I hold you here so you can see, but also so you can rage with me.  Our light is big, and our tenderness is mighty, and I am laying down the whip we’ve used to punish ourselves.  We don’t need it anymore.          

At the end of this retreat that you will go to when you’re on the cusp of your 35th birthday, your dear friend will remind you during the closing ceremony:

“Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field.  I will meet you there.” – Rumi

And you will ask the group to close their eyes, so you can gather the courage to sing them farewell.  With a pounding heart and a shaky voice, you will sing!  

“…may the pure light within you guide your way on.”

And so begins the fight against the dying of the light.  

I love you to the moon and back,

HannahSignature

 

PS – never underestimate the power of a group of women.  xo

JOIN THE HERD. GET YOUR FREE E-BOOK.

Three Things You Can Do Right Now to Spend More Time Doing What You Love. Horse-inspired wisdom to help you tame the chaos of your frenzied life.

YES, PLEASE!