Friday, April 29, 2016

writing a letter of hope, encouragement and love to my past self

I've been thinking a lot about life journeys lately. Looking back at mine and seeing how far I've come, remembering how difficult things were at times and how persistent I remained throughout. I've also been thinking about how each of us is on our own journey, weathering challenges and heartbreaks and celebrating accomplishments, each of us making our way, step by step, to follow our hearts. Everyone's journey is unique. Where we're headed. Our goals. Our detours. Life is this beautiful, magical, scary thing. Unpredictable, uncontrollable, but there are always recurring truths. Our own truths. Leading us onward.

As each of us makes our way on our journey, we often have no idea where our paths will lead. Sometimes there's a specific, clear goal, but the road is never straight. I know mine certainly hasn't been.

This week Bonnie Christine, surface pattern designer and writer of the blog Going Home to Roost wrote a beautiful and moving post What I Wish I Had Known When I Was Starting Out in which she writes a letter to her younger self, encouraging, reassuring and cheering her on. Bonnie invited her readers to write their own letters to their younger selves in the hope that we can learn from and inspire each other.

In light of all the thinking I've been doing, the idea of writing a letter to myself really resonated with me. Looking back at the person that I was -- hopeful, naive, nervous, with no plan or road map or even idea of where, exactly, I wanted to go -- I feel so much affection.

Anne Butera, My Giant Strawberry, selfie, self portrait, creative journeys, reflection

I took this photo the summer that I first leapt for my creative dreams. It was 2010 and had just I quit my job with no exact plan for the future and an amorphous idea of "living a creative life". I was just about to move to Wisconsin with my Mom to get things started on my parents' new piece of land in the country with plans for my dad and Matthias to follow from our homes in Chicago and Cleveland, all of us converging in the beauty of the Driftless area countryside.

Things didn't work out quite as we'd expected. And I know that in my out of focus dreams back then never imagined I'd be where I am today.

I could boil down my letter into one simple sentence:

never give up, letter to myself, watercolor, Anne Butera, Nasturtiums, Butterfly, My Giant Strawberry


I think that's the biggest lesson I've learned over the years. Keep going. Through the darkness. Through the learning. Through challenges and ease. Keep going.

For anyone's creative journey that is good advice. Don't give up.

There's more that I learned and looking back I see that although I felt uncertain and lost at times, I traveled my path with a strong faith in its rightness. I like to imagine that writing a letter to the person that I was could give comfort and strength to her. So here goes:

Dear Anne,

I'm writing to you from the future, almost six years in on our journey. We have traveled far in those years. Our path has twisted and turned, curved in unexpected directions.

These next years will be difficult for you. You will stumble. You will fall. There will be heartbreak and failure. You'll pick yourself back up and start again. I love that about you. You are brave. You are strong (stronger than either of us could have imagined). More love will follow heartbreak. Success will follow failure. There is always beauty and joy if you look for them.

I know your dreams right now are a bit vague. They will get clearer. Give them time to coalesce. You will know which fork to take in the road when the path divides. Things will be slow going at times. It takes time to hone your skills. Be patient. You are starting at the beginning. Don't compare your tentative first steps with other people's confident, experienced strides.

No matter how hard things become, keep the faith in yourself. You have beauty and joy in your soul, always.

In our studio I hung these words as a reminder: "Never doubt your own true heart." I hope you will keep those words in mind when you falter. You will surmount the challenges. You will develop and grow. You are an artist through and through. Never forget that. And never give up. You are capable of wonderful things. Art you never dreamed you'd be capable of creating. Your art will be in exhibitions. In magazines. Sold to hang in other people's homes. 

I don't want to say too much, I know we never like to skip ahead in a story to see what will happen down the road. Let me just leave you with this: we are capable of so much. Listen to the whispers of your soul and keep on going.

Sending love; sending light; sending strength,

Anne


I hope that my words will give you comfort and encouragement on your journey, too.

And I hope that you will be inspired to write a letter to yourself. You don't have to publish it on a blog or share it on social media (but if you want to that's great, too -- please be sure to let me know with a link in the comments or an email -- anne at mygiantstrawberry dot com). Write it on pretty stationery or in your journal. Write it on a card and send it in the mail to yourself. Be tender with yourself. Send yourself love and encouragement; you deserve both.

Be sure to stop by Bonnie's blog and read her letter to herself and follow the links on her site to read some of the other letters people are writing. They are so inspiring and moving. The world needs more love, more tenderness. Maybe we need to start with love and tenderness for ourselves.

14 comments:

  1. Such lovely thoughts Anne! We all need encouragement at times and it is helpful to have some sense of where we've been and what we've overcome to draw upon. In stressful times the sure quiet voice within is often drowned out in a cacophony of worrying questions. A letter to ourselves reminds us that we've come far and will go far again, even if the way forward seems to be nothing but dense fog or darkness. Silver linings cannot be seen in bright sunlight, only clouds make that silver shine. Wishing you a sliver lining or two to guide your way.

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    1. Thanks so much, Sharon, for your thoughtful comment. So many truths there.

      I love this: "silver linings cannot be seen in bright sunlight".

      Wishing you plenty of silver linings, too! :)

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  2. I love that photo of you Anne - so young and fresh faced! You have written a lovely letter to your young self. I don't know if I have the will to write to my younger self at the moment. As I grow older I feel as though I am going backwards instead of moving forward. Maybe I would tell my younger self not to worry so much and not let opportunity slip through the fingers for fear of failure and once in a while - take a risk.

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    1. Thank you, Simone! (That photo almost makes me want to cut my hair again... I've been growing it out and it's finally getting a little longer. Always seems to happen that way).

      I don't know about your going backwards, and if you are, maybe you need to be at the moment. I think the most important thing is always to be gentle with ourselves. Be forgiving. Be understanding. And know that we can always make changes and improvements. We always have the chance for growth and learning. Every step of our journey helps with that!

      Also, one thing that I realized while writing my letter to myself is that I don't want to change the past, even with my mistakes and failures. They have made me who I am. And, in truth, we can't change the past. But we can shape our futures.

      Grab onto those opportunities now, Simone, and don't worry about those you may have missed out on.

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  3. Such a lovely photo of you!
    And I really like this idea. Might give it a try! :)

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  4. Beautiful letter to Anne. :-) You are brave to share it with us.
    Being able to share our fear of trying to take that leap ... it helps.

    As you know I am working on something right now. It is small, but something that I hope will grow. I have already had so many say "You are too small" ~ "People already do what you plan to do" ~ "That is so much work, your crazy"

    I will be honest Anne, your courage as helped me so much, to continue on.
    Thank You,
    Carla

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    1. Thank you, Carla.

      And I can't tell you how much it means to me to know that sharing my story has helped you in your journey. We're all in this together. It makes me sad to think that people have discouraged you as you've been following your heart. You are not too small. And there is room for what you are doing. Even if other people are doing it, they're not doing it how YOU are doing it. We must follow our hearts and live our dreams, otherwise, what is the point. Oh, and maybe it is a lot of work, but if it's work you love, it's more than worth it.

      Sending you lots of positive thoughts, gratitude and big virtual hugs! :) Keep on going!!

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  5. I just loved this Anne. It certainly makes me think of what I would say to my younger self as well. I often think if I could change anything in my life, what would it be. Very, very little.

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    1. Thank you, Jaime! I'm so glad you feel that way about your life. That's something I keep thinking about. Yes, I could have made different choices in my life and ended up on a different path (possibly avoided some of the bad times and the struggles, possibly had more money), but all of my experiences, good and bad have helped to make me who I am and I wouldn't change them.

      I'd love to read your letter if you write one!

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  6. Wow ! Very nice,,,i really like it..

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