Notes from a Visit with my Future Self, in 2007

The idea for this post came from my seester, who got it from ETK. I remembered the first time I did the exercise of having a conversation with your future self while training as a coach, and the powerful effect it had on me.

The Jennifer that did this exercise was stressed, burnt out, angry, sad and confused. This driven workaholic lived in a tiny house on a small lot surrounded by concrete and other houses, just five minutes from one of the busiest airports in the world; wore black and navy and high heels and very plain jewelry; she had several watches and no jeans. She had mostly recovered from the latest in a series of miscarriages, and had just quit a profoundly toxic job to take the first wobbly steps into life as an entrepreneur.

She lay on the floor for the exercise, both skeptical and hopeful, and closed her eyes. She went up into space on a pink light, and rode back down to the year 2050 on a white one. This is what she saw:

Future self lives in the woods with a brook – it is hilly with lots of ferns and moss. A large cottage with a thatched roof and smoke from the chimney. Beautiful front door.

I knock…she answers door in comfy pants and shoes, a pink t-shirt, an interesting necklace and an apron and no watch. She has been baking cookies today. Short fluffy gray hair. Twinkly eyes, pretty lashes, pink cheeks, wiping hands on apron.

Living room is lovely with rough-hewn beams, dark red, rough stuccoed walls, dark wood furniture, light stone fireplace. Hundreds of soft pillows, mullioned windows with dappled light, stained glass.

I ask her what stands out the most from the last 25-50 years. She says her book tour and her vegetable garden and reading her fan mail, knowing that she has helped change lives.

I ask her what I should pay attention to in my life. She says my husband. She tells me to walk, to celebrate my life. To believe in myself and how beautiful I am. To tell my story because people have been waiting for it. To eat better. To be as kind to myself as I am to others. To not worry so much. To let others be themselves and not to worry that they’re OK.

Her name is Grace.

I visit her once more, in the same house.

This time, I notice more stuff. There is lots of art. A back porch heads into the woods and a front porch is finished with rocking chairs. The yard is a wild jungle of color and vines.

She is hardly changed. She wears a soft blue jacket and her hair is more white than gray. She is happy and content from working in her garden. There is a young man outside in a deck chair (son?).

Her greatest accomplishments are taking care of her home, being human, and making a life, she says. Her advice for me today is to pick something and stick to it. She calls her husband (my husband) “Golden Boy.” Can’t see his face.

Peacefulness. Accomplishment. Growth. Family. Connectedness. Groundedness. Roots. Creativity. Going with the flow keeps you in control. Use creativity instead of force when problem-solving.

Never live the same day twice.

Grace has been more of a guide than I thought, as I look at my now-comfy clothes and shoes and my new baby blue fleece. I don’t wear a watch anymore.

I sit on my pillow-filled couch under a wall of art, my feet on a rustic, heavy wood coffee table. My husband sleeps upstairs in our cherrywood and crimson and sage bedroom, with its steep pitched farmhouse ceiling under the tin roof that sings when it rains.

I look at our carved front door with its leaded window, and out the many-paned living room windows at a messy yard full of vines and exuberant wildflowers, and at the steep hill across our dirt road that is home to deer and crickets and everything in between, judging by the sounds at night. Our wooded yard has a brook and our front porch has rocking chairs. I have gotten lots of compliments on the jewelry I’ve started making, and my Christmas presents to the neighbors this year will be freshly baked cookies. My hair is on the verge of being more salt than pepper.

It’s clear what I am supposed to do next.

Plant a vegetable garden. Duh.

And then I’m visiting Grace and asking her what her book was about…and how she snagged a publisher.

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On Life, from the Spanish-Language Blog of a Venezuelan Woman in Italy

these papers represent time.
as you may have realized
it is passing. behave accordingly.

I JUST WANTED
TO REMIND YOU THAT
LIFE IS SHORT (very).
DO IT NOW!

are you in love? (go and tell)
wanna travel? (travel)
don’t like your job (quit)
wanna do belly dancing? (shake it)
immediately.

This
is
kind of
serious.

~ author unknown

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“You Know You’re Bleeding, Right?”

(originally posted September 2007)
“Uh…no. No, I didn’t.”

The baby-faced man in yellow plastic trousers stands in the rain and nods, watching my eyes. “EMS are on their way,” he enunciates.

“Thank you.” He has long eyelashes, I comment to myself, as if from a great distance. I am sitting very still.

Last night, DH was driving us to a wedding – ironically enough, my chiropractor’s. We were all dolled up in our best approximation of “dressy/casual – boots and hats OK” and ready for a fun evening celebrating with friends and enjoying barbeque.

And now we were stuck in a car with doors that would not open, coughing from airbag dust and smoke, blinking rapidly and watching our hands shake. Our wedding bands seemed to glow a little. But of course, that could just have been a trick of the light, combined with the airbag’s smacking my glasses into the back 40.

A stray shower had unexpectedly opened up over us as we came up to an intersection. Like almost everyone else, we had slowed considerably to navigate the sudden darkness and sheets of rain. Like almost everyone else.

The truck and trailer in front of us pulled rapidly to the right. That’s odd, I thought absently, watching it turn far too fast for the conditions. I wonder what that’s about.

As I turned to face forward, I saw that DH already knew what it was about and was trying to avoid it. A sedan was coming straight for us, headlights bright, and not slowing one bit. DH managed to turn us slightly to the right as I watched the sedan came to meet us at full speed. I watched as the car did not slow, seemingly aimed at DH’s door. I watched, thinking quite clearly, Oh dear. This is not going to end well.

And then time jumped.

The next instant, we were coughing and gasping and our faces burned and itched as though they were on fire. There was dust and smoke and a soft, slow beeping sound. The smell of matches. The electric thrum in your hands from your heart going too fast. The complete absence of active thought that we aspire to in meditation, but that is, in real life, a muffled sort of terrifying. The feeling of being very, very small and helpless, unanchored and without any sort of line to hold. Floating, unsupported – and not in a good way.

As we tried to catch our breath, now shallow from the brutal earnestness of the seatbelts that saved our hides and forced all air from our lungs, we managed to ask each other if we were OK: We were both fine, we decided, just scared. DH turned off the engine. And then all we could hear was the rain pounding on the roof, the slow ticking of the engine, the soft beeping of some kind of alarm.

Time had slowed to the speed of mud.

After what seemed like several minutes, but was probably only a few seconds, DH rolled down the windows, since the car doors wouldn’t open, and turned to me. “Cell phone?,” he asked calmly.

I nodded and reached down through the smoke to get my purse, wincing as the seatbelt carved itself into me again. I dialed 911. The driver of the other car got out and walked over to talk to DH.

She was 85 years old, we found out later. She and her Pomeranian were disoriented by the rain and had crossed the median into our lane and just kept on truckin.’ Thankfully, her Camry had hit the corner of our hood rather than DH’s door, and though the impact had spun both cars around on the slick pavement, neither of us hit anyone else.

At this moment, she was not making much sense at all. DH could not understand a bit of what she was saying, as I spoke to the 911 operator. Concerned, ordered her to get back in her car where it was safe and out of the rain – and of the path of oncoming traffic.

The operator kept asking me if anyone was injured. “Ma’am,” I said, “it was damn near a head-on collision. I don’t even know how many people were in the other car. The driver’s walking, but she could still be hurt. We can’t get out of the car and walk so I am not sure but I think we are OK, but I don’t know if anyone is injured.” My feelings were hurt. I thought I had done a very good job speaking clearly and carefully giving her our location, and here she was asking me trick questions like “Is anyone injured?”

A stranger in a baseball hat pulled his truck over to check on us and let us know that he’d called 911, too. He bundled the lady up in a blanket, got her dog, and walked them both to the side of the road. In less than five minutes, it seemed, we had firetrucks and sheriff’s cars and tow trucks and ambulances on the scene. Everyone was very calm and professional as they figured out how to get us out of the car. “You will hear a loud pop,” they said.

We watched a man sweep up debris and put it in a little trash can. We passed on going to the hospital. I stared at a yellow reflector that was improbably in the middle of the road. It had writing on it. It was cracked almost exactly in half, even the metal part. It stopped raining. DH took pictures of the car for the insurance company.

The wife of the tow truck driver brought us home, as it seemed that everyone we knew was either at Matt and Penny’s wedding, at Jimmie Ann’s 65th birthday party, or in Rockne at the final chili cookoff to earn points to go to Terlingua. Luckily, I caught Jen, and she and Bill brought dinner and fussed over us before they headed to Rockne themselves. DH and I took six Ibuprofen each, used frozen green beans as ice packs, watched some TV and went to bed.

This morning, we compared scrapes and bruises. I’ve got some pretty purple ones, the kind that will turn yellow and green in a few days. DH’s wrist is pretty messed up and he’s going to get some X-rays today. We called the insurance company to get the ball rolling. I think we are still a little shocky – at least I am, judging my my typing skills today. Or it could just be that my regular glasses flew off into the back seat and got a little mangled, so I’m wearing my back-up pair of specs, black cat’s-eyes-with-rhinestones.

Today will be a mellow day of laundry and staring vacantly out the window. It’s supposed to storm later. We will have a nice dinner and practice gratitude, and say a little prayer that the 85 year old lady was not too banged up by her airbags, and discuss what kind of vehicle should replace DH’s now late lamented Ford Exploder.

And tomorrow…we’ll probably move “write wills” and “get life insurance” from the bottom of our to-do list a bit closer to the top.

Note from 2012: We didn’t.

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Resolutions: 2007

After much thought, hemming and hawing, and scratching things out only to add them again, here they are, my to-do’s for the new year.

Whatever your revolutions, may you become healthier, wealthier, wiser and happier in 2007!

Bonne annee, my tiny cupcakes!

Be kinder to myself.

Memorize a poem.

Learn the names of the birds in our yard.

Hug more.

Use sunscreen every day.

Visit a country I have not visited before.

Start sending my e-zine out again.

Move more…starting with hiking each trail in Bastrop State Park at least once.

Throw a big party in our new house.

Find a corsetiere to make me a proper brassiere (36C + age 42 + gravity = disheartening combination)

Make a bracelet.

Be as nice (or nicer) to the people I love as I am to strangers.

Ride a motorcycle – preferably alone.

Get paid for my writing.

Be particular about my commitments.

And of course:

Continue toward my personal long-term goal of my own Wikipedia entry.

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On Brush Fires

It does not require a majority to prevail, but rather an irate tireless minority keen to set brush fires in people’s minds.

~ Samuel Adams

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Growing Up

Back in the day, my tan was real and my hair color came from a bottle.

Now, my hair color is real and my tan comes from a bottle.

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On Happiness

I’m not happy. I’m cheerful. There’s a difference. A happy woman has no cares at all. A cheerful woman has cares but has learned how to deal with them.

~ Beverly Sills

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On Balance

With our pitchers, we attempt sometimes to water a field, not a garden.

We throw ourselves indiscriminately into committees and causes. Not knowing how to feed the spirit, we try to muffle its demands in distractions.

Instead of stilling the center, the axis of the wheel, we add more centrifugal activities to our lives — which tend to throw us off balance.

~ Anne Morrow Lindbergh

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The Midwest

I just had dinner out here on the road, in the heartland of America. Nice bowl of soup, entree, diet soda. It all was delish, but a girl can only eat so much. The manager came by, and asked if he could box anything up; I said no thanks.

When the server came with my check, she told me they had taken the entree off my bill. I had not eaten enough, she said, so they figured I didn’t like it. I explained I had liked it fine, but it was a huge portion and I couldn’t possibly finish it.

She shook her head – sadly, as if I were somehow lacking a basic human skill; or as if she were dating the chef and he had taken my lack of appetite to heart and was weeping silently in the walk-in freezer, so no one would know his shame – and said they would not put it back on the bill so it was no use asking.

I gave her a really big tip.

PS In Los Angeles, they shake their heads sadly when you actually eat your whole meal. And they never take anything off the check.

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Authority

I’m good at questioning authority.

That’s why I went pro.

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