It’s September 2009. You’ve just moved to a new state with a new baby. I cannot tell you how long you will live here, or how many children you’ll end up with. I’m writing to you from September 2019, so I know the answer to both of those burning questions. I know you won’t believe me, but I’ll say it anyway: you shouldn’t know the answers yet. It truly is better this way.
You won’t believe me because you’re hurting right now. It feels like you have a giant hole in your stomach, all the time. You keep wondering when your well of tears will dry up, but it seems there is a limitless supply. You have been ripped open in so many ways. You are pulsing with pain.
You’re begging me to tell you how long it will feel like this. When—or even if—you’ll get relief. If you only knew, you tell yourself, then you could manage.
The trouble with that is that then you would not grow.
So I cannot tell you how long, how hard, how much, how soon, how painful, how low. You have to discover that.
What I can tell you is that you will live through it. And you will become a far more beautiful person for having done so.
You want to challenge me on that too? I understand. Because ugliness is coming out of that gaping wound of yours. And you’re confused and frightened by it.
It’s supposed to be this way.
I know, because it’s how you get to where you’re going.
The “how” is what everyone thinks they need to know in order to get “there.” But the “how” can only be revealed one step at a time in the present, and only understood by looking back on it afterward. So the wisest thing you can do is to stop asking how, and start saying yes.
Yes to pain.
Yes to doubt.
Yes to fear.
Yes to loneliness.
Yes to the callousness and betrayal and abandonment you feel from what you thought you could count on.
Yes to what has been stolen from you.
Yes to the pain you cause yourself and the pain you cause the people you love.
Yes to the fighting and the denial and all the screaming, so much screaming, in your head.
Until you learn to love this mess, you can never clean it up.
But how? you ask again. How can you love what has gone so terribly wrong?
By believing that God can make something even more beautiful from all these ashes.
By believing that you’re strong enough even when you feel more weak and tired and defeated than you’ve ever been.
By trusting that it’s supposed to go wrong. Which, in reality, means it’s not wrong at all.
That feels like a cosmic practical joke, I know. Like God couldn’t possibly exist, or even worse, that He doesn’t care.
But nothing couldn’t be further from the truth.
I will give you just one glimpse into the future to show you what I mean. I don’t think He’ll mind.
In a few months, you will be sitting at your computer while your baby is napping. You will write a beautiful piece, born from pain, about your pain. You will feel desolate. And writing will be the only place you will know where to put it.
Ten years later, you will be sitting at your computer while a baby is napping. You will write a beautiful piece, born from pain, about your pain. You will feel whole. And writing will be the only place you will know where to put it.
The piece will be this letter. And you will know that while you wish so badly you could ease the pain your past self is feeling, you wish even more that she will experience it. Deeply, fully, as painfully as possible. And you will feel so so sorry. And also so completely sure that it is the right course.
Because you will have learned by then that the right course is the one that is.
The “how” is not your business to know now.
It’s yours to know then.
When you are feeling joy every bit as exquisite as your pain.
You will not believe now, or then, how lucky you are.
How incredibly blessed your life is.
How much love you have.
You will not believe it.
But it will be so.
And writing will be the only place you will know where to put it.
So weep now, and write your words, and nurse your baby, and feel your pain. Feel it intensely. Completely.
All is well, both now, and to come.
It’s on purpose.
Even—and especially—the not knowing.