Dear Munroe and Grace, I saw that President-elect Obama has written a letter to his daughters, expressing his hopes for their lives, and for the lives of all American children.
So, I thought I’d take a minute to write you and tell you what I hope for your lives, too.
First, I wish you a long and healthy life. Fortunately, you’ve got great genes going for you — but there are things you need to do to help yourself along. Pay attention to your nutrition, because what you put into your body fuels what you’re able to do in your life. Consciously taking in things that are good for you is a huge step toward taking loving care of yourself. When you take in good food, you set the tone for other good things in your life. And always move your body. Feel your muscles move under your skin. Dance, walk, hike, run, swim. It feels good, sure, but it also intimately reminds you of your own inherent strength and power.
Which brings me to my second wish for you — I wish you happy and healthy partnerships and friendships. I once read this piece of advice: “If you wouldn’t say it to your daughter, don’t say it to your son.” So, let me tell both of you the same thing: becoming intimately involved with anyone — allowing them access to your mind and your body — is the greatest gift you can give. Make sure the people you choose deserve your gift. And pay attention, too, to the friends you bring closest to you — find people whose honor and integrity match yours. Finally, remember that neediness often masquerades as love, but it’s not love — it’s just a false mask of love. Serving someone else’s chronic neediness is not what’s best for your life. Plus, it’s downright exhausting.
What’s best for you is love. As you know, I like Henri Nouwen’s definition of love. “Making a safe place for another person to be fully themselves.” And my third wish for you is that you have a life full of love. To get that, though, you first have to make a safe place for you to be yourself. That means not beating yourself up every minute of every day. It means loving yourself when you make a mistake, or say something incredibly stupid, or act really thoughtlessly. It means making space for an apology, and making up for your shortcomings.
When you love yourself first, you are able to fully love others.
And let me clarify — I’m not suggesting overweening, narcissistic self love. Narcissists see people as objects, not individuals, and lack the ability to empathize with others. That’s the opposite of my wish for you! To love yourself, it’s vital to see people clearly for who they are, with all their human frailties and strengths, and to appreciate their human struggles — and share their burdens and joys where you can.
You’ve already faced challenges in your young lives and I hope you look back on those experiences with a sense of pride and accomplishment in your own resilience. You will face hard times in your life — it’s a fact of life. But you can make the hard times easier by looking back at past challenges and realizing you made it through before… and you will again. Every single time.
When you’re forty years old, I hope you’re a good partner, and a good parent. I hope you’re a good friend, and a good neighbor. I hope you have a job you like and that helps you pay your bills, and that you put some money away for a rainy day. I hope you vote in every election, and that you work to make your community a better place. When you’re forty, I hope you make time to read books that excite you and to have conversations that inspire you.
But most of all, I hope you’re happy. And my best advice on how to be happy is this: Live fully in the knowledge that, in each moment, you are going to make the best possible decisions you can possibly make — so you can live with few regrets.
Your lives are infinitely precious to me, but your futures are yours to craft. Create them with care, and with love.
Just as you were created. Just as you were raised. Just as you are loved. Now, and always.
— Love, Mom