Shortly before the baby shower for my pregnant daughter, a friend sent me a YouTube video of a young girl on her 16th birthday, opening letters that had been written to her by family and friends—some now passed on—at her birth.
I loved that idea, and shared it with my daughter; she was enthusiastic. And so it was that at her own baby shower we passed out paper and pens and asked that those present write a Letter to the Future to be saved for Morrigan Lynn and opened on her 16th birthday. Laughing, I told the participants, “You can’t tell her that boys suck; she’ll figure that one out on her own! But give her your best advice, or a blessing–not Maleficent-style, please!–or tell her the most important thing you’ve ever learned in your own lifetime.”
We gathered together the finished letters, carefully sealed into their envelopes, and placed them into two special wooden boxes, painted gold and decorated with dragons and mermaids.
But when it came time for me to write my own letter to this as-yet-unborn granddaughter, I found myself at a loss. For two months, I struggled with what I should say to her. And then, finally, I simply sat down and started writing, and I found that the words flowed easily.
My dearest granddaughter,
As I write those words above, I wonder…will you be my dearest granddaughter? Will you be someone whom I love, of whom I am proud—an amazing young woman on the brink of life, right at the starting line, preparing to run the good race?
Even more, though, I wonder what you will think of me. Will I be a woman you admire? Will you dislike me? Be totally bored by me? Think I’m a fool?
Will I even still be on this side of the Veil when you read this letter?
There are no guarantees in life. Any or all of the above may be true 16 years from now. But none of that really matters, because the purpose of this letter is so that I may share with you whatever I’ve learned in my 64 weary years of walking this planet. So here are the bits of wisdom I have assembled in my life. And though they all seem to be very different, they all essentially amount to the same thing: living your life with courage and kindness.
The truest thing I’ve learned is that my entire attitude is up to me. No one can “make” me feel anything—anything at all. No one else can “make” me angry; I allow myself to get angry. No one can “make” me feel small or insignificant; only I can take ownership of the belittling behavior some people express, and decide within myself that they are right. I, and I alone, can make myself happy, sad, depressed, exalted, fearful, resentful, joyous. I decide every minute of every day what my response will be to every event and every person I encounter.
There are truly only two emotions: Love and Fear. All other emotions are merely subsets of those two. Make your own decision about which one you want to act from.
Read poetry. Remember it. Poetry is wonderful material to think with. Read Kahlil Gibran. Read “The Desiderata”. More than read it: try to live it.
Be thoughtful. Remember people’s special days. Run an errand for someone who is busy. Go to see someone who is sick. Hold the door open for the person whose hands are laden with packages.
Always says to yourself, “How would I feel if…” Then behave in the way you would want to be treated.
Do nice things for people for no reason at all—yes, even for the people you don’t like very well. Especially for the people you don’t like very well.
Dance with the ugly or geeky guy who has no partner. And then smile at him and thank him for dancing with you.
Stand up for the person who is being bullied or mocked.
Remember that, if you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem.
Say please and thank you. Especially, say thank you.
Give to charity—not just your money, but your time.
Stand up for what you believe in.
No matter how angry you are, calm down before you speak. And remember that it matters less what you say, then how you say it. There are a thousand ways to say even hurtful things in a kindly manner.
Be slow to anger. Learn to keep your temper.
Remember that there is no failure. There are only lessons to be learned.
Be grateful even for the bad times. You cannot appreciate the light if you’ve never seen the darkness.
Keep an open mind, but keep it like a window: put up a screen for the bugs!
Remember that resentment is like taking poison while hoping the other person will die.
Go ahead and cry; it truly does help, and there is no shame in weeping.
There is never enough kindness in the world. Be sure that, at the end of your own life, you will be remembered as the person who was kind.
And, finally, always forgive. You don’t have to forgive the wrong done to you, but always forgive the person.
All my love to you, my dearest granddaughter,
Welcome to the World
“Great Queen of the Water”
Mermaid Queen with the Heart of a Dragon
August 23, 2018