The first time I read this brief letter from Amy Silverman to herself, 13 years younger, I felt the sting of tears more than once. Writing a letter to yourself may seem like an author’s indulgence, but in many cases, it is nothing less than a subversive act, a declaration of independence you gift to yourself.
I say that because it is all too easy to get caught up in guilt, shame, and the recriminations you thrust upon yourself for each of your past failings and slip ups, especially as the parent of a child with special needs or disabilities. And you know what? It’s true even as a person with disabilities; we tend to recriminate ourselves for failings that really have nothing to do with us.
In this letter Amy Silverman talks to herself about what’s coming as the parent of a daughter with Down Syndrome. She prefaces the message like this:
“When my newborn daughter was diagnosed with Down syndrome, I had no idea what to expect. I was sure of just one thing: My life was over. Ditto for my husband and our older daughter. I was completely lost, and it took me years to find my way. Looking back, the cliché “if I’d only known then what I know now…” resonates more than I would have thought possible. That realization prompted me to write a letter to my 36-year-old self – that scared woman with a tiny baby and a lot to learn. Now standing on the brink of 50, I realize I really am older and wiser. And very, very lucky.”
Write yourself a letter. Tell yourself what you wish you’d known about living with your disability, or about parenting someone with disabilities. Do it today. You deserve to remind yourself how far you’ve come, how much you’ve learned, and how much credit you should be getting even though we live in a world that gives you little or none.
When you do, publish that letter somewhere. You know why? Because if only one person like me reads it, it is going to change that person’s life. They can’t read their own letter from a future self—but they can read yours.