We regret to inform you that you did not end up living in the South of France nor were you accepted to Harvard Law School. We further apologize that you never became the smartest most beautiful girl in the world. We are sorry you never went to the Olympics in skiing and never became a pro tennis player. You never married your soul mate. You never got super rich.
You got a tattoo of phoenix. You aren’t much of a Mormon. You have a hard time with authority. You became a lawyer just like you wanted and then you became a writer which was a total surprise. You are good at both these things. You really tried hard to figure out who you are.
We know you started out believing that once you were in control of your life, everything would be fixed. It turned out that you made almost all of the same mistakes your parents made. Sometimes you made them even worse. Your choice to marry a substance abuser was a more or less predestined choice. At twenty-five, how could you have known what was guiding you into that. Being in control of your life and your destiny was harder than you thought it would be. Still, you got through it.
You made other epic mistakes. Not all of them were your fault. Not all of them could have been foreseen. You worked really hard to protect your kids from harm. You did. You weren’t perfect. You still feel a lot of pain and bitter-sweetness over things that happened. Things fell down that can never be righted again. These things will make you cry when you think about them and for the rest of your life. You have accepted them and it was one of your hardest lessons.
You saved all your kids photos, papers, art work and everything so you could keep the memory forever. Now you look at these little artifacts and regret not appreciating the moment in time it came from. The thing about regrets is whenever you felt like you did the wrong thing, you could not forgive yourself until you made it right again, or tried to. Perhaps this is why we are writing this letter.
You have always struggled with happiness – real authentic happiness. You have never been quite sure why. You think there were fleeting moments when happiness swooped down in front of you like a dove and you reached out to grasp the tips of her feathers. You have always said, “this feels like happiness.”
But we don’t know. You have seen great beauty. You have won your share of races and accolades. You have laughed really hard and for a long time. You have been moved by music and art and words. You have worked really hard to create something that has meaning to you. You have felt beautiful and desired. You have been in love. And you always said “this feels like happiness.”
It turns out your childhood lived on in your mind forever. It’s what you think about. It’s what you want to write about. It was full of terrible days and amazing days. One of your top 10 best days ever was when you won 6 blue ribbons on Field Day in fifth grade for the bike race, the chin-up, the distance race, the 50 yard dash and the relay race. It was a perfectly perfect day.
Once you had a string of summer days that seemed perfect. You were just out of high school. You worked part time at the drug store for $2.40 an hour and drove a ’78 blue Datsun pick-up truck. All you had to do was show up to work twenty hours a week and hang out at the swimming pool with your friends. You had a bottle of “Sun-in” in your pool bag and you spritzed your hair with it all day. You got very tan and blond. You felt comfortable in your own skin.
You also met DJ from Wyoming who was starting at BYU. DJ was your summer boyfriend. You went to dances at the top of Bridal Veil Falls on Friday nights and he taught you how to kiss – how to really and truly kiss for hours on the back porch of our house, in the heat of the night, to the creaking sound of the frogs. You did whatever you wanted those days, that summer, and it was glorious and perfect.
Surprisingly, your inner self has not changed very much. You still pick up pennies for good luck. You’re still a tomboy. You still dream big. You have even pursued some of your best dreams and they came true. Your happy times are not just fleeting thoughts and moments.
We have to say, that with a few grave exceptions, you would live your same life over again. You have finally begun reaching for something outside yourself. Writing this letter makes you feel happy. Being creative makes you feel happy. Quite often now, you can be in a particular moment and truthfully say “I am happy.” Nevertheless, we are convinced you have not had your best, most perfect day yet.
Lisa W. Nagel is a previously unpublished writer. Lisa lives in Salt Lake City, Utah where she writes and works as a family law attorney.