The only picture I purchased from my boudoir shoot was a photo of me propped on my side on a sofa, trailing bare legs and ankle boots.
My lips are crimson, and I am holding a sign bearing words I scrawled in black Sharpie before dashing out the door: I am worthy.
It was a gift to myself after I turned 35. I knew somehow that I would need to return to these words as geese need to return home, year after year. That when the dark prison of depression felt like it was holding me captive once more, and I believed myself trapped in a life without love, I could look at this photo and see myself as I really am: strong, brave, loved (by me), free, adventurous, and even a little bit sexy.
These words were the theme of my photoshoot, the reason I harnessed the courage to do something so wildly outside my comfort zone then, for no one but myself. Of course, I had no idea what acts of courage would call upon me a few years down the road.
That photo got tucked away in a box somewhere, and I searched for it, for several years, before finally finding it when I packed up all my things and left my marriage. The reminder was timely then, but even more so now, over three months and a lifetime later.
Rewriting and telling a story in real-time is messy, exhilarating, disorienting, humbling, chaotic, and exhausting. One of my best friends likened this process of a major life rewrite to Tolstoy’s multiple revisions of War and Peace. My own rewrite began in a state of ecstatic joy and liberation. It has since dropped me down into the depths of grief. It has been an exercise to let go of my fears of “what other people will think of me if ___ ,” as well as my own judgment stories.
I have run the gamut of emotion since that first declaration of “I’m done” to “I’m leaving” to “I’m moving across the country.” Most of it, however publicly I may share, has remained behind the curtain of my brain’s live “fear feed.” Some days, I feel that feed would like to eat me alive. I am tossed, out of the seeming blue, by churning waves of grief and fragments of old storylines that are still stubbornly lodged in my psyche.
I begin to misinterpret feelings as truths. Discomfort and pain are twisted into evidence of wrong choices, which is rooted in fear. I am an idiot. What was I thinking? I was stupid to believe this was a good idea. On and on and on the spiral goes.
Until eventually, the waves subside, and I wash up on the shore. I lift my head from the sand, and this image from four years ago resurfaces. It reminds me I am worthy now, just as I was back then on the sofa at a photo shoot.
I am worthy of listening to the cries of my heart. I am worthy of loving myself enough to walk away from a less-than existence. I am worthy of taking a huge, flying leap into a new life, regardless of the outcome. I am worthy of receiving the love I freely give. I am worthy of living a shameless, wild, flawed, abundant life.
I am worthy—period.
For me, that photo was like a time capsule; it’s a love letter to my future self to be opened and reread as many times as needed throughout my lifetime.
Maybe we all need these letters to our future selves, in whatever form they may take: a picture, a painting or drawing, a handwritten letter, a journal entry, a song, a poem, notes written in the margin of a dog-eared book, art inked onto the skin, a trinket tucked into a box for safekeeping.
Something that says, “This is who you are. Don’t ever forget. Love, Me.”
I don’t even have to look at this photo anymore; it’s imprinted in my memory. My close-lipped, off-kilter smile. The crinkles around the ponds of my eyes, concealing all that lay below the surface, sad and triumphant. I am forcing myself to relax into discomfort here, half-naked, to revel in the essence of my worthiness. This image penetrates me, disrupting that live feed with something every bit as real, but far more truthful.
I close my eyes and let the weight of this message from my past self sink in. The weight of its hopefulness. The weight of its knowing foresight. The weight of its kindness.
I am worthy. I am worthy. I am worthy.
I am, and so are you. However you need to communicate this with your future self, I hope you will consider setting aside a moment, or several hours, to create your own version of a time capsule message.
You may thank yourself for this simple act of love during your own life rewrite.