Mari Andrews said something like, “I carry it all with me.” She and Kate Bowler were talking about one of her drawings depicting the growth lines of a tree. Every age of that tree is contained within those lines; every tree contains every part of itself in that moment.
Thinking about herself, Mari suggested that she carries her younger selves and maybe even her 65 year old self (a future Mari) all within the Mari of today.
Versions of me
Since last August when I started working with my new therapist, I think a lot about all those versions of me. The child Anne, the teenage Anne, the 20-something Anne, the Anne of yesterday and the Anne of tomorrow. I think about all these versions and how I carry them all with me.
The other day I was learning more about the chakras as part of a weekly gathering with my Light House community. I still don’t quite understand it, but I probably understand it as much as I understand God or Spirit or any of the other unknowable things we act like we know… I digress! At one point someone said, “It all matters.” I don’t recall the reference, I just know that phrase meant something to me. I wrote it down. I shared it outloud during the close of the call.
It all matters. Everything I carry with me matters. All the versions of Anne matter. The ones I cringe at recalling, the ones I wish would return, the ones I didn’t understand. I carry them all with me and it all matters. They all matter.
Recently a friend shared a picture of herself as a child. She planned to hang the photo up where she’d see it regularly as a reminder to be kind to herself. Perhaps she could say mean or unhelpful things to herself right now, but surely she can’t say that to her child self. After sending the picture to a group of us, I replied, “You can’t say one mean thing to her!!!”
They listen in
Every time I’m hard on myself about one thing or another, it’s not just my self of today that hears and absorbs it, all the other Annes I carry with me hear it and absorb it too. I know my adult self can sort of handle it (though not well), but there’s no way little Anne has the capacity for understanding such criticisms and critiques.
I don’t think this means I can’t have adult thoughts or conversations. Those younger versions of me aren’t always attuned to the boring stuff. I mean, I remember sitting at the table hearing my parents talk about work or whatever. I didn’t really pay that much attention, but when I heard a name I recognized or when the tone of the conversation changed, I noticed. As I got a little older I may have even jumped in and asked, “Who did that?!” and I’m sure my parents changed the subject or moved the conversation to another room.
My younger selves don’t have the luxury of moving to another room when hurtful words come flying their way. They are present when I talk negatively about my body or say I’m sorry when there’s nothing to be sorry for or when I wish I could care just a little less. It’s like they pop up during those adult-only conversations and want to know what I’m talking about and I have no way of explaining it to them.
I carry them all with me
I carry them all with me. Which means I need to be a little more aware of the ways I talk to myself. I need to make sure I’m in a safe place when I dig a bit deeper to see how younger Anne feels about something I said recently. I want to talk more gently to myself in case teenage Anne is listening in.
The Anne of today, right this very minute, is the caretaker for all the versions of me — past and future. I carry each one of them with me, though I’m not always aware of them. The gift I can give myself each and every day is true compassion and deep love for past, present and future Anne.
We’ve just passed another Mother’s Day — I got through this year mostly unscathed! It dawned on me that over the last year I’ve mothered myself in some deep and powerful ways. I’ve paid more attention to my younger selves than I have in many years (or ever?). I’ve tended to them in real and concrete ways. In seeking healing today, I have healed pains from many decades before.
Perhaps mothering myself is the most important work I can do. It doesn’t align with what society says is important, and that’s okay. I carry them all with me and we are all deeply loved.