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A letter to my young, sad (skinny) self

March 10, 2016

Dear Young and Very Sad Me,

First, I know you won’t believe me, but I gotta say it: You’re not fat.

Honest.

Don’t be crazy. You do crunches obsessively and eat nothing but salad and ice, so do me a favor: ditch the baggy sweatshirts and saggy jeans, and find out what it’s like to wear fitted clothes in small sizes, before it’s too late! OK, thanks.

Now I want to tell you the things you will need to know in order to become happy, a good wife and mother, closer to God, and a more productive member of society.

I really want to, I say. But even now, I’m not sure what to say. I could warn you against some horrible mistakes you’re going to make: wasting time, getting into debt, treating other people badly, looking for love in all the wrong places, and so on.

But the fact is, you’ll know when you’re doing them that they’re bad ideas, and you’re going to go ahead and do them anyway. What can I say? There are plenty of people looking out for your happiness, eager to help, and you don’t want to be helped. You don’t want to be happy.

I know why. It’s because you don’t think you deserve to be happy. You think that everyone hates you. You hate yourself and you can’t imagine a future where you don’t hate yourself, because you think that who you are now is who you will always be. And at the same time, you’re furious at everybody for not being your friend, even though you are not exactly pleasant to be around.

I know you won’t hear me when I tell you to be patient with yourself. But maybe you will be able to hear this: Be patient with God. He has His reasons for letting you go through these dark and ugly times. He is softening your heart, making it tender. Ever seen a meat tenderizer?

MeatPounder2

Yeah. But it won’t go on like this forever.

I want to tell you that every misery and humiliation that you’re going through now is for something, if you will sit still and let God work on you. Some of it will make you more compassionate; some of it will make you more resilient. Some of it will make you appreciate the joys and pleasures of life a thousand times more, when they come, because you won’t take them for granted. And some of it is going to make you a genuine pain in the pants, and you are just going to have to get over yourself and realize that everybody had a crummy childhood or a crummy teenager-hood or a crummy something.

All right?

But nothing has to be wasted.

The boyfriends you think you deserve? Let them go – you and they deserve better. The guy who makes you want to change into a better person? Hold on tight. And when he says he loves you, believe him! You both have to learn what love really means, but wanting to be good is a great place to start.

Some day you will wake up every morning in a small, sunny house crammed with people you love: a strong and tender husband and a whole bunch of strange and wonderful kids (more than you expected – see paragraph one: enjoy being skinny) who know you very, very well and who love you because they know you, not in spite of it. They need your specific talents, your specific strengths and enthusiasms, your specific capacity for work and creativity. They will need your help to get through struggles of their own. They need you – the you that is being formed right now. It’s not for nothing. I want you to have hope.

So go to confession, make a morning offering every day – even a little one, even a half-hearted one. Pray before you go to sleep. These things will help. They will, in fact, save you.

God wants to save you. Let Him!

Love,

Older, Fatter, Happy Me

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(This essay originally ran in Catholic Match in 2012.)