Sometimes the only thing that keeps me sane is the soft whispered messages I receive from my fifty year old self. Natalie at age fifty knows a lot more than Natalie at age 33. She has learned from her mistakes and has decided, quite graciously, to whisper little reminders to me. I'm not sure exactly how it works. Something about the space time continuum. She says that in 15 or more years there's an app for it.
So fifty year old Natalie and I have a deal. I promise her that I will wear SPF everyday and never step foot in a tanning bed. I will keep my teeth in good shape. I will keep the romance going so that 50 year old Shane is still around. I will watch my salt intake and keep the cholesterol low. She has no opinion on my drinking Diet Coke.
In exchange, fifty year old Natalie sends me little messages. Like yesterday, when Collin had been kept up from his nap a little too long. He screamed and cried in my arms, yelling "Mommy!" over and over again. He was hot from the day and couldn't calm himself. After 15 minutes I was getting a little frustrated, but I knew if I put him in his crib this riled up, he would get far worse. Fifty year old Natalie has a 19 year old Collin. He is away on a mission for our church far away and she misses him more than she ever thought possible. She sends me a glimpse of her longing, and I hold my baby closer. I blow softly on his cheek and feel his soft skin and chubby hands touching my face. I try to memorize the feeling so that fifty year old Natalie can pull the memory from the deep recesses of her mind. She and I cry together in joy and sadness.
Sometimes I think that I will go crazy if I have to be in the same house with Lydia for one more moment. Sometimes she is the sweetest, most fun girl I could imagine. But some days it seems her goal in life to disagree with everything I ask and be as rude as humanly possible. I think to myself, if only I could have a day where I don't have to discipline anyone. Where I didn't have to try to deal with snarky remarks calmly. If I could have license to scream my head off to release some of this frustration. If only this raising children thing wasn't so incredibly hard. Fifty year old Natalie has a 22 year old Lydia. They have had their share of struggles. Now Lydia is away at school and calls back to check in every week or so.
Natalie whispers about the day when she realized Lydia didn't want her as a playmate anymore. The day when she stopped asking her to play games and dress up. When she stopped coming in to her bed at night after a scary dream. Natalie whispers ardently that there are only a few years left. That each day is a gift and a chance to develop a relationship with Lydia. She tells me I will weep when I discover my child is a young woman and my chances at play and cuddle and mommy are over. Her whispers become an almost constance humming "Just play with her. Just hold her close. Just love her".
Fifty year old Natalie has three children. She won't tell me if the last is a boy or girl. She knows I'm scared to have another. She knows my pregnancies are hard and painful and that I'm already exhausted with the two I have. What she reminds me is this last baby is a gift to my other two children. That instead of just each other, they have this one more sibling for support. This baby is still at home with her. He (?) is in the kitchen doing homework at the table. He just got his drivers license. She says she cannot imagine her life without him. When he looks up at her and smiles, she sends me a glimpse and my hand touches my belly, wondering when it will be time to bring him into the world.
I'm grateful to my fifty year old self. She reminds me why it's my goal to have A Passionate Joy in the Present.