I was nose deep in a book yesterday when Mom entered the room and dropped a envelope in front of me.
“Look what I found. Your thank you letter to us for your Graduation Party.”
I looked at the envelope, there was the unmistakable and easily recognized bad handwriting. Jesus, I wrote that in 1992.
I immediately read all 3 pages. It was as if I was opening a time capsule. With the exception of some very genuine and sincere acknowledgements of my parents (of all the negative stuff I talk about one positive about my life is that I have great parents), the rest of it was classic me. Regrets, apologies, some introspection and a lot of remorse about mistakes made, opportunities wasted, time lost, and promises to do better. It could have been written last week.
After reading all of that I concluded that in 30 years I haven’t changed a bit. I’m still a fucked-up mess that is barely comfortable in his own skin. I just have a different set of things to be neurotic about now. I guess some things will never change. Not until I change the way I think.
I’m making progress on that front. I recently published a post about my troubling propensity to be really hard on myself and a couple of readers made comments that really helped me drill down on it. I opened myself to the option of just letting shit go and just do better. One blogger said that I am only trying to put the best version of me out there, that I am just dedicated to self-improvement. I think that is accurate. I may hold myself to a very high standard, but if my goal is just to be the best version of me that I can be, what is so bad about that?
I just need to find a healthy way to do it.
You see, the usual standards for everyone do not apply to me. I am in my late 50’s and I still try to look like I did as a 31 year old gym rat. Biology doesn’t cooperate with such notions but I consistently deny that. The good thing is that it drives me to work out, which is never a bad thing at my age. But I still don’t like what I see in the mirror so that is decidedly unhealthy. Part of me should be asking what exactly a 56 year old man who battled renal disease for most of his lofe, has had a nearly fatal motorcycle accident, cancer, 3 staph infections, sepsis, dialysis and two kidney transplants should even look like. In that light, I should give myself a break. Right? Nope.
I guess what matters, and I wish I knew this when I wrote that letter 30 (wow) years ago, is that the answer is to just do better. To stop the toxic behavior and stop sabotaging myself. To use the windshield more than the rear view because one is big and the other small for a reason. If I don’t learn to think like that I’ll never grow. It amazes me that I know what to do and yet fail to do it. What has changed is my determination to keep the positive at the forefront of my thinking, not have the typical epiphany after beating the shit out of myself for days about some verbal misstep or behavioral gaffe.
So after a long streak of no change and cycles that seem incapable of being broken I think I have the tools now to get my entire being on the same page. It took a 30 year old letter to see this clearly but it really makes sense now.