I play a lot of little games in my head. Like when I’m having a bad hair day or feeling particularly unattractive, I pretend I’m a supermodel who’s going incognito–you know, to avoid the masses who want to clamor around my beauty. It sounds silly, but it really does help me walk a little taller and have a better day.
Another game I play with myself is to imagine my self from a year ago (or sometimes five or ten years ago), stepping into my life today. What would be the same? What would be different? What aspect of my life or even my own actions would surprise me the most?
So, let’s see…one year ago today…I was pressing forward into my new church. I had been feeling unfulfilled for a while, and figured what I needed was to step up my level of service. I was already helping with the children’s ministry, and had recently taken over for the church bookkeeper, who had moved away. I made a point of committing to any church-related activity I could, in order to feel that connection people always say the church should provide. Would I be surprised that now, a year later, I have officially left that church? That I have, in fact, decided to take a break from church altogether, to keep my Sundays free for a while?* Yes, I would be surprised. I had always had a nagging feeling that this wasn’t my forever church, but the thought of not going somewhere would have seemed…well, it just never would have entered my mind.
*Which leads us to another mind game. I actually am attending a church right now, and in fact their theology is relatively conservative. But their presentation is modern, and they offer services on Saturday nights. So I can still have the safety and encouragement of going to church every week, while experiencing the freedom to sleep in on Sundays for the first time in my life. So on some level I still feel like a bit of a rebel. (My strict, “churchy” friends are gasping right now and my liberal friends are laughing at me. I’m learning to live in that spot.)
One year ago today…I was lonely. I had been on several dates since my divorce, but hadn’t found anyone I could really click with. Friends would tell me I needed to “find someone.” Yeah, right. I’ll just run right over to the boyfriend store and pick one out. Whatever. Who knew I was just a couple of weeks away from meeting Hercules? Yeah, that would be a surprise.
How about five years ago? That was less than a month before I left my husband. I was making my tenth or twelfth last-ditch effort at saving our marriage. I was working in a dead-end job. I wasn’t happy there, but it was familiar and steady, and I knew the rest of my life was too unstable to risk a change. I don’t think I would be surprised to know my marriage had legally ended by now–by that point I was admitting to myself that I hadn’t been married in any meaningful way for a long time. I wouldn’t be surprised at having a different job, either. But what I think would surprise me is how crazy, stupidly happy I am. The job I have is much better than anything I would have thought I could get back then, and single life has treated me very well. The steps I was so afraid of taking ended up being steps into a life of amazing possibilities, and even…crazy thought…confidence in myself! Wild.
Ten years ago…this is where it gets hard. I don’t like thinking about what my life was like ten years ago. But a part of me wants to think about it–I don’t care if it’s irrational, a part of me feels that if I think about it hard enough, I’ll be able to somehow speak to that version of myself, and maybe give her some hope. How would a day in the life of my 33-year-old self be different if she knew that ten years down the road, the pressures squeezing the life out of her would be gone? Just…gone? There would be new problems, of course, and big, fat, hairy ones at that. But there would be support and solid ground under her feet while she dealt with those problems. The influences that had pulled the rug out from under her for so long would be non-issues. Over. Gone. Poof.
I wonder, would that knowledge make the burden lighter, or would it only serve to strengthen her dissatisfaction with the way things were? Would that have been a good thing? Maybe a bit more dissatisfaction would have spurred me to action sooner. Or maybe it would have crushed me. I don’t know.
I guess there are reasons that God doesn’t actually allow us to speak to our younger selves. I pray for her, though. Again, irrational, I know. Sometimes I do that, though. When I read a particularly horrific story of someone who suffered during the holocaust, or during the days of slavery, I pray for them although they’re long dead. I figure that time means nothing to God, so maaayybe my prayer could make a difference for that person.
That’s probably a childish game. Maybe even more childish than pretending to be an incognito supermodel. But I do it anyway. Because you just never know.