Conversations: Younger Self, Older Self

Conversations: Younger Self, Older Self

Breathe in the perfume of the peony flowers parading down the front walk

What would it be like if my Younger self and my Older self had some conversations with each other. I decided to try it, to see what memories I could recapture and how they would touch me. To see how reflecting back and forward might illuminate some things. To see where I might still be going on life’s journey.

So Younger says to Older:  Walk with me, okay? Let’s go outside–come and take my hand. We’re going out the front door of the house where you were raised. The door is heavy, give it a push; the floor boards of the porch shift downwards toward the street and the steps creak. Breathe in the perfume of the peony flowers parading down the front walk–better yet, let’s run and pick up some of those petals, toss them up toward the blue sky and watch them fall onto the grass. It’s spring–the bushes are full around the front yard–so no one can see us. We can climb the mulberry tree, but don’t eat those berries and remember you don’t like it when you step on the fallen ones and they stick to your shoes. Messy. But hurry now, and let’s run into the backyard, ’cause the mock orange bushes are in bloom. Another great smell.

Jeanie might come over later and we can play in our fort behind the garage. But right now let’s swing. You take the swing nearest the garage, pump hard now and up you’ll go, up and up so that your toes feel like they’re touching the top of the apple tree. But your toes can’t touch the house–because the flowering apple tree hides it–but you know it’s there, that grey house in the sunshine. That’s where mother sits typing in the dining room. She’s always there when you need her. And your body shivers a bit with contentment–the swing, the grass, the clouds, the birds–and the very best, the sun on your face.

So Older responds back to Younger: I knew about love living in that house. I felt love every day of my life, and even though my father died when I was very young–my mother made up for that loss. And my brothers. Then I found a true friend, right in the neighborhood. A boy-friend at that. I found that “other” who loved me–my mistakes as well as my brilliant flashes of insight. Together we found our differences to be the best glue for our bond. And we helped each other through the ups and downs of becoming adults. And then we married and had three children. But Younger, you didn’t always understand that your life and its trajectory was NOT like the lives of many people. You didn’t get that. Then, as a teacher at a high school you truly woke up–met children who had no food in their houses, few changes of clothing, few chances in life. And then even later in your life, you found more wisdom when you decided to become a nurse and worked at a hospital where often your patient was a thirteen-year-old girl.

That was hard, Younger. Because you were still very much running the show and you wanted to be judgmental–to ask: Why had this girl not stopped the passion or experimentation or alcoholic stupor that was NOW bringing a new life into the world? Didn’t she have the voice in her head that we had, the voice to guide her? Well, it didn’t take long to realize she did not. She didn’t have the grey house and the mother typing in the dining room.

But Younger, my Older self decided that in birth there had to be hope. That somewhere in her world this new mother, though so young, knew what love was, knew because of someone. And she could parent, model, could repeat in her actions that love she once knew. Or her child would bring her into that light.

But it was a struggle–to crack open my older heart so that my belief in a sustaining relationship between this girl-mother and her child would overcome my initial negative judgment. So Younger, you know what happened? Conversation. I talked to these young mothers about love, about gentle care–I did that despite risking that they might turn away, think me a fool. I even mentioned caution with the male person in their life, the father of the baby. I encouraged that they focus on their child and not another sexual encounter. Later, I even became part of a social project called RISING STAR, teaching pregnant teens how to care for their unborn child through good health practices and how to set goals so that a high school diploma would be what they would seek instead of immediately having another child. (Read more about this period in my life here.)

Younger, you were so fortunate to have what you had growing up.The love and understanding of our family helped you achieve, helped you to become empathetic so that you could reach out to others and help them–something that continually brings peace and happiness back to me now.

The world says that wisdom increases with age. Younger, I believe that as we age, we learn how to examine life events with more care and with more empathy. When good things happen in our own lives, it helps us reach out to others–to want good things for others. It’s about spreading joy and love. Younger, I attempted that as a maternity nurse. I did that as a mother. But I was blessed because I was modeling back what I had already learned from my own beginnings, the love that filled my home–being you, Younger.

This conversation between us, Younger/Older has clarified some things. And I want to thank you, Younger, for one thing especially–your memory. That was a guide for me, a pathway, a map. When an Older me got scared or lost or wanted to give up–I remembered my Younger self, my positive beginnings and I held on to those. I know others can succeed, Younger, even if they don’t have what we had. But it’s a much harder journey. Let’s remember that. Let’s reach out and help when we can.

Photo Credits: daily mail. co. uk

Conversations: Younger Self, Older Self

But my Older self decided that in birth there had to be hope.

23 thoughts on “Conversations: Younger Self, Older Self

  1. Beautiful, nostalgic, and reflective, as always, Beth, your writing gives me pause to think, look back and see forward. Thank you for being there for people even if you don’t realize how much they needed your words tonight especially.

    • You always support my work, Natalie. And it means a lot. I hope your life is going well. Take care of yourself, Beth

  2. I admire your capacity to hold onto hope. As a young lawyer, I was assigned to work in Dependent Child Court representing parents accused of child abuse or neglect in civil court where the judge had to decide what was to be done with the family. I found the work excruciating and never found a solution that made me feel like there was much hope for the next generation. I applaud your determination to make a difference in breaking the cycle of poverty and despair.

    • Thanks, Suzanne, though now I am reduced to addressing this issue through writing and my general advocacy. You were down-the-line, so to speak, from what I encountered and wanted to fix. But again, these are very complicated issues that would take hours to discuss, just to get to the heart of how we all can help. I so appreciate your reading, Beth

  3. Lovely, lovely, lovely Elizabeth. This was a powerful and probably very cathartic post for you to write. I love how authentic you are. That is your gift and one I greatly admire.

    • Oh Cathy, thanks. I’m just me. But your words made my day. I’m not sure authentic sells, LOL, but I love it when it touches someone. Take care, Beth

  4. Okay, wiping the tears away now. I really related to the wake-up call Younger had when confronting others who didn’t have the grey house and the mom typing in the dining room. It’s stunning the first time our safe little worlds are cracked open and we see the darker, colder ones that lie beyond our own. Even as an adult, I had much to learn when I taught in a Title 1 school in a pretty rough place. Much to lament, but also some to celebrate when even one or two of “my kids” succeeded. Beautiful refection, Beth.

    • Thanks, Lee. Your words took me back, to that camaraderie one feels with fellow teachers and the excitement when you do have your students succeed. It is stunning when our world is cracked open, but in many ways a blessing. We have to know what is beyond the grey house, because like it or not, we will be exposed to the world. Beth

  5. Thanks for sharing this very beautiful conversation with your younger self. I love your reflections and honesty and especially this quote, “I believe that as we age, we learn how to examine life events with more care and with more empathy.”

    • Ellen, so good to hear from you. A big thank you. I admire all the work that you do to help us become our older selves. Thanks, Beth

  6. Hi Beth! You know I believe in hope too–despite any circumstance. And I love the idea of conversing on a regular basis with your younger self. It is probably an excellent way to understand some of our ideas and beliefs by really getting to the motivations behind much of our thinking. Plus, it is bound to bring more peace and understanding as well. Thanks for showing how it worked for you and for the idea! ~Kathy

  7. Hi Kathy, when I first wrote this post I thought no one would read it, but it has touched many people. Thanks for your comment — it is so appreciated. Beth

  8. Dear Beth, you did it again, touched my heart, made me feel like I was there stepping down the porch steps, feeling the sun on my face, smelling and tossing the peony petals in the air….such beautiful nostalgic memories of my own younger days….Similarly, remembering the big little girls swing my Dad made for me on the oak tree in our front yard, where I could swish up higher, away dreaming, and then dragging my feet to a stop…asking for another push. There is magic in those memories, remembering you were safe. My older days as a school psychologist saw many children who didn’t have those wonderful childhoods, and spending many hours giving them hope that life could be better and talking to parents, to give them some advice hopefully…..

    I love this post Beth, you capture emotions so well, its beautiful and full of wisdom of the years.

    • Hi Carol,
      Wow, how nice to wake up to this this morning. Thank you. So glad that I touched you and thanks for what you have done in your life to help children get on the right road when they did not have a great start.
      So glad that we are virtual friends, Beth

  9. Dear Bethie, Forgive me for missing this awesome post. I am so glad you called my attention to it.
    I find your writing of our home on Wood Street so passionate and descriptive of the days we spent there. With Mom laboring over the type writer, never complaining, with a cup of coffee usually close at hand. But the love and security of her figure in the dining room comforted the three of us. Home. And all of us very lucky to have her.
    But your growth from your YOUNGER to OLDER is truly the art of this piece as in analyzing your growth you find so many things about past and present. Finding your husband amongst the boys at grammar school, and always knowing he is the one, despite declarations that you should “see other boys”. But when you know, you know. And you stuck by him as he stuck by you, not just then, but now, and forever. So your YOUNGER was wise, as you OLDER is happy, and once again you have touched many with your ideas, words, and thoughts. Wonderful. Bill

    • Dear Bill,

      You have touched me with your response and thank you–I just didn’t want you to miss this. I sent it to John too and he remembered a few things. I will share both with you in an email. Much love, Beth

  10. How truly lovely, Beth! Thank you for this–really! My older self looks back on my younger self and says “why didn’t I know that then?”

    It’s amazing how much wisdom we are blessed to have as we age!

    The old saying, “if I knew then what I know, I’d have figured it all out.”

    Bless You!


    • Kathy, my dear friend, so nice to see you here. Thanks for reading. There are so many things I could have done better or I should have worked harder or my path should have been different. But here I am and grateful –well– to STILL BE HERE. Beth

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