Rear-View-Mirror-Sky

“…there’s a reason why the windshield of a car is so big and the rear view mirror is so small. What’s in front of you is much more important than what’s behind you.” ~ Tara Martin’s take on Joel Osteen

In 2011, at the urging of my maternal grandmother’s attorney, I agreed to become her legal guardian. I am my grandmother’s oldest grandchild and of all her relatives, I live the closest to her (here in Connecticut). My mother is about seven hours away by car, my uncle is in Italy, and at the time, my aunt was in Colorado.

She was 94 and while she was managing, she was barely managing. She was frail, anxious (self-medicating with Xanax and booze), and starting to lose her mental faculties, although she was clever enough to hide it (especially from those who knew her well).

As for me, I was mostly scared – I didn’t have much (successful) experience managing my own personal business, not to mention anyone else’s. Plus, I saw her as difficult and not very pleasant to be around. Our relationship had never been close, even when I was a child. My memories of her were either neutral or negative: she was critical, judgmental, and at times downright mean.

I found this letter – which I had written from college just six days after my 20th birthday –  in 2012 when I was going through my grandmother’s belongings. She kept every bit of correspondence she ever received. And while I didn’t read all of it, it was been both amusing and enlightening to read some of the letters I sent to her, as well as the letters both she and my mother wrote to each other over the years (in some cases I found letters that my grandmother herself had written). I have gained invaluable insight.

11/16/82

Dear Grandma:

Thanks for your concern. First of all, you can’t run my life and what I want for myself isn’t necessarily what you want for me. It would be nice if all the people you loved were exactly as you wanted them to be. Or would it? But, I’ll never be exactly what you or my mother or anyone else wants me to be. Even if I were to weigh 120 pounds!

I’m not saying that I don’t want to lose weight. I’m just saying that you can’t push me to lose it. It won’t work. I sometimes get the feeling that even if I did lose weight, there would always be something else that you or Mom wouldn’t like about my physical appearance, or even my way of life.

I’m me and right now I’m happy, for the most part. As far as my weight, it is not ideal. It is something I can change and I will when the time is right. DON’T PUSH ME!!! Don’t force me, don’t coerce me, don’t seduce me, don’t bribe me. It just makes losing weight something I’m doing for someone else, not myself. OK?

I am going to follow the exercises that you gave me. I don’t have a program of exercise and I should. I don’t want any money for it. Nothing will please me more than my own personal satisfaction that I feel better and that *I* think I look better. I’ll do it for myself.

Love, Karen

~~~~~

I used to accuse myself of looking too long or too often in the rearview mirror (but then again, we have rearview mirrors for a reason).

I used to be sad that this had been an issue for so damned long (and it was an issue well before this letter was written).

I used to be angry that my family focused so much on weight – and talked about it not-so-nicely behind my back – to the point that my grandmother wanted to pay me to lose it! (You don’t know my Grandmother; she didn’t like to spend money on ANYthing).

I used to be hurt for the girl I used to be.

I used to be regretful that I wasn’t able to stand up for myself in a more productive way.

I used to be angry with myself for choosing to turn into such a resistant person as a result.

Now I am grateful.

 

~~~~~

10/9/15

Dear Grandma:

It’s been over 30 years since I wrote that letter asking you to get off my case about my weight. It’s funny, because when I found it at your house, I saw your notation on the envelope that you had responded a few days later. I have NO recollection of your response.

But that’s not the point of this letter.

It’s been four years since you named me your Power of Attorney, Healthcare Agent/Conservator, and Trustee, and it’s been three years since you fell at home and had to be placed in a nursing home. I know you think it’s only been a couple of weeks, and that you’ll be going home soon…it’s a blessing that your mind doesn’t work as well as it used to, for your sake as well as for mine.

When I stepped in to take care of you and your personal business I knew it would be a transformative experience for me. For so long I have had a (false) view of myself as someone who is irresponsible and weak-willed…someone who couldn’t take care of herself, never mind someone else.

Since 2005 I have been learning the truth about myself and I’ve discovered that I am actually quite capable. Of course, I often have to remind myself of the fact. It’s easy for me to fall back into old, insecure patterns…to look back instead of forward, to hide instead of shine.

Looking through the windshield of my life now, at nearly 53 years old, is certainly different than it was 30 years ago…or even just 10 years ago.

I see a healthy, vibrant woman who doesn’t hide and who chooses to stand on her story, rather than having it stand on her.

I see a woman who doesn’t try and fix others…who doesn’t rely on others to reflect well upon her.

I see a woman who isn’t afraid to practice self-discipline…to take a good, long (compassionate AND objective) look at herself and make changes as needed or desired.

I see a woman who assumes the basic goodness in herself and others, and who assumes that others see it too. 

I see a woman who has learned the difference between being herself, and “being herself, dammit!”

Just 10 short years ago I couldn’t imagine this woman existing inside of me.

So I have to thank you, Grandma, for giving me this opportunity. If you had died as a result of your fall, I would have missed out on some lessons I didn’t know I needed to learn. See you soon.

Love, Karen