To the girl in this picture, the one who just said “yes” to the man of her dreams . . . 

I’ve been thinking about you a lot lately.

I can still feel the foreignness of that diamond on your finger.

I can still feel the absolute euphoria and bliss of being so newly engaged.

I see you with your young, tanned skin and pretty hair. I see your eyes so bright and blue and full of promise. I see you with all your dreams for the future and your best laid plans. I see your smile as big as the sky.

You are so happy.

You are so in love.

So full of hope.

And so rested.

I’m a bit jealous of you, to be honest.

Your body has not yet been ravaged by four babies.

Your face has not yet been aged by time and stress and worry and grief. No bags. No wrinkles.

Your hair hasn’t yet suffered the wrath of hormones, chemicals, and an unfortunate hair fiasco. It’s thick and luscious and smooth and breakage-free.

You have so much time for yourself. You have so much freedom. You have a future so wide open and unwritten.

You have a fiancé who is over the moon for you. And you are head over heels (flip flops) for him, too. Together you will take on the world. Nothing will stop you. Nothing will get in your way. Nothing is more important than the two of you and your love. Not money. Not jobs. Not differing opinions. Not opposite schedules. Not different priorities. Not annoying habits. Not growing children and aging parents. Not other relationships. Not anxiety and depression and grief.

I envy your innocence and naivety. I envy your confidence that’s bordering on arrogance.

As much as I envy you, I don’t want to be you.

My wrinkles and graying hair and dark circles hold the stories of our life. They hold years of sorrows and fears and worries and stress, but they also hold laughter and joy and dreams come true.

My eyes are tired. My body is tired and permanently altered. Some days I am weary to my bones. But these eyes have seen the beauty and goodness of new life. This body has nourished and given birth to four babies. I’ve loved them deeply and cared for them and given up my body for them.

Time for myself is limited. The choices I make affect not only me but my entire family. I’ve had to let go of some dreams and put some plans on the back burner but letting go of those dreams helped make room for new and just as amazing ones. Having to put others first has made me more selfless and less self-centered. Having to think of others before making a decision has made me more considerate and open-minded. Having children has ripped me wide open, broken me, transformed me, and made me anew.

You think you love the man who, just a few hours ago, slipped that gorgeous ring on your finger. Who carried you all those blocks from the beach back to your hotel because your flip flops gave you a blister. Who looks at you like you are the only person in the world.

Guess what, sister—you can’t possibly know how deep your love for him will grow. He’ll hold your hand and carry you through childbirth, through disappointments, through life changes. He’ll pick you up out of the fetal position more times than you can count as you grieve the death of your father. He’ll take your hand, the hand that still wears that diamond, and gently guide you back to the land of the living.

He’ll wake up with crying babies. Stay calm in emergencies while you panic. Work tirelessly to support the family you both are dreaming of right now. He’ll look at you with your hair a mess and your body so changed and your heart so weary and he’ll tell you you’re beautiful. And you’ll know he means it even though you won’t believe him.

He’ll fix lots of things. He’ll try to fix everything. The kids’ broken toys. The dishwasher. The car. The dryer. Your heart.

You’ll lose each other a little bit over time. To worry. To work. To opposite shifts and opposing views. To growing children and aging parents. To disappointments. To different dreams. To selfishness. To grief.

You’ll learn the hard way time and time again that love is more than a feeling. It’s more than the way you look at each other. It’s more than a ring on your finger.

It’s the endless push and pull. It’s the making each other a priority. It’s the forgiveness and the mercy and the extending one another grace. It’s fighting for each other every day.

It’s remembering the euphoria and the absolute bliss of your young love while finding enjoyment and satisfaction in a more seasoned (but perhaps less exciting) love.

My jeans may be smaller in that picture. My dreams may be bigger. My heart less broken. My face less weathered.

But the me today is tougher, braver, smarter, softer.

I’ll always carry a little bit of you with me. If I look past the wrinkles and black circles, I can still see you there. I’m not as arrogant or quite as confident, but I’m just as much full of hope. I’ve learned that happiness is fleeting, but it’s possible to be content no matter the circumstances. And I am content.

I look in the mirror and begin to make peace with who I am right now in this moment, who I’ve been and who I’ve become. I know that I am loved. And my capacity to love in return has grown and expanded far more than my hips.

I look to the future and it’s still so wide open and unwritten. So many dreams out there to chase and make come true. So much love to give. So much joy and laughter. So much promise. So much life.

And if I’m lucky, there’s at least a little bit of rest.

So here’s to you and here’s to us and here’s to our future. It’s just as amazing as we’d hoped. It’s harder, yes, but it’s absolutely everything and so much more.

You’ll see.

You may also like: 

A Letter to My Younger Self

Dear Newlywed Me, Your Life Only Gets Sweeter

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Leanne Willen

Leanne Willen is a wife, mother of four, writer, and teacher. She writes about motherhood, faith, finding joy, and grief. Her blog Life Happens When encourages and challenges others (and herself) to embrace the ordinary amid the everyday chaos of life. 

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