Yesterday, my sister sent me a picture of myself at somewhere around age 2, alongside a shot of her 2-year-old daughter wearing the same dress.
Earlier that day I was thinking about mistakes. About my terrible credit rating and how our car may not make it through the winter. I looked at that little girl in her smocked dress and I thought, oh, the things you’ll do. My heart stretched as it always does in seeing my niece’s rosy face, but something else… seeing my own small clasped hands, my own soft 42-years-ago face, I lit up with remembering and loving the gentle, little-knowing thing I once was.
Then I thought about 24, and 31, and last month, the years that yawn between, the who I was, this life, its series of switchbacks and gravel paths and those stretches of horizonless highways with no gas station in sight and the gauge on empty.
It’s so easy to love that little girl. All that promise.
Today, New Year’s Eve, my task is to look at and love my other younger selves as well. The less easily adored, the pained or damaging or unpretty. Without the benefit of a photograph, I breathe into one of my worst minutes. I feel the hotel bed beneath me, the jittery dark alone of the room, the hundred lies scaffolding my then-life, and for-so-long-after-life, and I just love her. I just do. I let her live in this good, honest, now-body, and we cry together for a while.
My god, memory is a tricky beast. I have moments of such nostalgia, and such regret. And between them, stretched like some weird putty, everything, everyone I’ve been.
I think now the job is not just to love all those mes with their brilliant and horrible choices, essential as that is, and not just to love this moment’s me as the synthesis of all that, but to come to understand these selves like mirrors reflecting mirrors reflecting mirrors, this long series of beings stretching in both directions. Forwards and back. Retreating and advancing. Was and to come.
And if it is dizzying, as it always is to look at anything deeply, then to love the dizziness. To let the dizziness remind us of love. To be off-balance and in that remember how many times we’ve fallen, and what that’s taught us.
On Christmas, I asked my niece if she remembered learning to walk. She said, Yes. It was slippery.
Memory is slippery. The future is dizzying. But if I can love backward, inward, I can love forward, outward, into the big dark distance of who I’m becoming every minute of every day. And if I can love, then I can trust. I can reach my hand toward the mirror and through, and move. A little dizzy, and so very living.
Happy New Year’s. Blessed be.