Dear Jenny

photo credit: She Did. He Did. They Are. via photopin (license)
photo credit: She Did. He Did. They Are. via photopin (license)
This is a letter written to my 21 year old self, on her wedding day. A sampling of the knowledge I’ve accumulated over 22 years of marriage.

July 10, 2015

Dear Jenny,

I know this seems weird. You may not recognize me…22 years married is a long ways away. There’s a few things I want you to know, from this side of things. I’ll try not to freak you out, but give you some helpful hints.

I’m so proud of you, for sticking to your ideals. You are really a remarkable person with so much to share in the world. I know your expectations are very high, that the voices in your head ring with failure and trouble and fear. But you know what? You are embarking on a journey and adventure, far beyond your wildest dreams.

Eric is fantastic. He is a good one. You won’t find much better. When you were disappointed after watching Sleepless in Seattle the other day, because he wasn’t Tom Hanks, and mostly because you aren’t Meg Ryan? Pay it no stock. Movies are not real, TV is not real. Most people you are measuring yourself up against…aren’t what they seem. I know you’re at a Christian College, I know what they say, but believe me. Your discernment, your ability to see inconsistencies, will totally serve you.

Believe it or not, you will come to eventually love yourself. Hard to imagine, I know. You will actually weigh more, but be content. Impossibility! I recognize you don’t weigh what you want, you keep failing with food, some days you want to exercise and others you don’t. I know you feel as if everyone is better than you in every way. But you know what? You are going to eventually get to a place where your insides match your outsides. Is it possible? Yes. Keep moving toward health, balance.

By the time you’re 43, you will come to terms with your cellulite…mostly. You know, you’ve had it since you were ten. No amount of restriction or dieting or exercise is going to take it away. Rethink the notion of getting smaller. I know that seems the ideal, but consider taking up your space. Maybe being a woman is not what you think it is. Maybe being a woman means we claim our place…in our homes, our work, our relationships…and we own who we are, rather than striving to be less, smaller.

I’m not going to tell you how many kids you will have, that just spoils it, but I just need to say…don’t be too judgmental of those who have some “work” done. I know you have no idea what that means…it’s okay. You will.

Don’t waste your money on makeup. You’ll never wear it. And when you’ll cry. It’s not worth it.

Those times when you feel Eric is letting you down because your relationship doesn’t have quite the same shininess as someone else’s? Trust him. He knows what he’s doing. He loves you more than you can imagine and will sacrifice a lot for your happiness. Don’t let joy be stolen because what you have doesn’t measure up to someone else’s. Most of that is not even true, and you never know what’s going on behind closed doors. Maybe instead of thinking about yourself all the time, you could consider the difficulties others may be facing.

That time, when he tells you that’ll know it when it happens. Maybe don’t say anything, or give it some time. You have every right to be hurt. Find a therapist.

When you come to that other time when you succumb to your martyr tendencies, when Eric is off doing something fun and you determine it’s time to take charge and parent the children alone? Yeah, pay attention. This only leads to bad things. Clear away any tchotchkes that can be thrown. This never ends well. I repeat, never!  Put the child in the stroller, go for a walk. It’s just one day, one nap. It’s not the end of the world. You could make a mistake that will sear your heart for all time. And if you do, it’s okay, from this side of things the damage seems minimal. Take a deep breath. Hug him/her. Remember you are not unredeemable. You are loved.

Ask the questions, search for answers. Remember, asking the questions is the important part. The answers will come.

Put your marriage first, in small ways. Remember, you are a perfectionist by nature, so don’t make firm and fast rules. Try to carve out time each night to talk, revisit the day, process together. Beer is a great bonding agent. Commit to putting the kids to bed early on a regular basis, so you know you can count on that time together. When they nap, you nap. You need to be able to stay awake after they turn in for the night. Aside from your prayer time in the morning (which won’t really happen consistently until they’re a little older), this is the most important time of the day. This is not selfish, this is essential.

Be careful with busy-ness. Many people are doing far more than you, and will always do far more than you. How does your family function best? I can tell you, it’s not with being busy. Reserve your evenings, be careful with meetings – church or otherwise. Just because its church doesn’t mean you sacrifice your marriage and family on that altar.

When certain people ensure you register for china..stand up to them. You will not entertain formally. It is never going to be you. Say “No” to the china, crystal and silver. They are not your friends. In fact, they will clutter your cupboards and they will have to be moved five times before you sell them for a fraction of their value. Use the money at REI. A good tent, a bike rack, hiking boots…this is your marriage. Buy a barbecue, and order pizza. This is you. This is how you entertain and have fun at the same time.

Volunteer work. Do it if it is enjoyable, not out of obligation, especially with little kids. Take care of your marriage, yourself and them. You don’t have to earn God’s favor through working at the church. You already have that.

Avoid the scrapbooking trend. If you do succumb, make sure you create books for ALL of your children, not just a couple. It will haunt you. And chances are, the kid(s) you don’t make the book for, will be the ones who care.

Please keep writing, fill those notebooks. Run. Swim. Physically, you have to get it out. Eventually your handwriting will be illegible, so no one will be able to read your rantings anyways.

Check your friendships. Maintain the girlfriends who have Eric’s back, too. A friend with an unhappy marriage could infect yours. Be careful. Your girlfriends are a lifeline, so very important for all the processing you require, make sure they are secure and content in their families. Maintain friends with different life experiences and perspectives. Varying points-of-view come in handy.

After twenty-two years of marriage, I can say it was the best choice I made. We have many ups and downs, but Eric is a good man. Enjoy the simple things, seek to understand, know that certain seasons are not forever. A solid conversation goes a long way, and if you’re stuck, get help. Guard against resentment. Fight to be your own person. Trust in what you’re called to.

Enjoy this day! It will be over soon. I know you’re ready to get on with your life together. it’s a good one!

I love you!


One thought on “Dear Jenny

  1. Oh, Jen. I loved reading this. Learning kindness to ourselves is surely one of the best and most important aspects of adulthood if we didn’t learn it as children. I feel like I have so much in common with you. I wish we were still neighbors and could chat about it all over coffee.

    Happy Anniversary! Give Eric my best, too.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *