What I Would Tell Me
I scrolled through my Facebook feed, like you do. A photo popped up, a throwback photo of one of my friends that I’ve known since first grade. I recognized that small, young version probably more readily than I do the older, now version. It drove home the notion, the reality, that we keep changing and growing and shifting, yet it all happens inside the same shell.
My daughter keeps a list of what she calls “Brain Thoughts,” mind-boggling kinds of thoughts that occur to her at random and that can freak her out if she ponders them for too long. For example, she sometimes stares at me and says, “You birthed me, from your body, and now I’m a grownup.” Or she gets tripped up by how the human body works, and she will say, “You have a neck. I have a neck.” These concepts start swirling in her mind, and the human experience becomes a kind of out-of-body experience, all without mind-altering substances.
Like Audrey’s brain thoughts, the fact that my body houses the same me that it housed in third grade baffles me from time to time. For a long while, it posed a mental block that I could not separate old shame or damaging memories from who I was and was becoming. Outside of grace and counseling and transformation of the mind, it is kind of impossible to try and reckon the thing. It is, after all, a fact that we are born into this world as flesh wrapped around bones and guts and systems, with a brain inside the same skull bones from birth to death.
I’ve been thinking this past week about my younger self, things my younger and growing self needed to know. Perhaps it is another brain thought that I can reach back in time and tell that girl, then that young and maturing woman a few things. Further, that telling my past self those truths may free me in the present. Big brain thoughts.
“Trust your voice,” I would say, “because the One who formed you gave it to you. Don’t be afraid to speak. But remember to be kind. Don’t let your fears and insecurities be the boss of how you talk to other people.”
“Do you see how beauty catches your eye and makes you want to draw it or photograph it or imagine a story around it? Pay attention, because God teaches you in that way,” I go on to say. “And God does love you; God doesn’t just tolerate you because of Jesus. If God didn’t really love you, he wouldn’t have drawn you to his love through the beauty that cracks your heart open.”
“Don’t be afraid,” I would tell myself, over and over and over again, “And don’t be anxious.”
“Remember how little Maggie prayed over littler Audrey, ‘Jesus, help her to really relax’? Receive that prayer for yourself, now and across your history. Stop fretting. Stop trying so hard. Grace holds you. The Spirit of truth lives in you.” This one bears repeating, every year in school, each season, each transition.
Oh, and this, a critical bit--“It appears God wove you together with sensitivities that spill out. That need not be a heavy burden. Learn how to listen to God through your feelings, let Holy Spirit teach you what they mean. Don’t be embarrassed by how you see the world, that you cry, that you feel deeply.”
Third grade me surfaced in a pile of photos as we cleaned out a storage closet. I looked at the image, and I recalled Mrs. Barnett's classroom where the dark blue lockers lined the wall by the door. A throwback photo I hadn't seen in some years, and it accompanied seventh grade me, eighth grade me, and perhaps tenth grade me, and married me and mom me and just plain me in the stack of pictures showing growing and changing me. I'm held together inside of the same flesh, and yet I am not the same.