April 13, 2022 · 2 comments · Categories: Musings · Tags:

I shelved a potential post in February about a future me acting as a guardian angel to my present-day self because my first attempt to imagine that scenario didn’t go as planned. Instead of a refreshing visit with my wise and kindly 119-year-old future self Fannie, I caught a glimpse of a smirking Kass in fake wings, obviously getting ready for a snarkfest. Although Kass, also an older and wiser me, generally has had good intentions, I wasn’t in a mood to deal with her satirical version of my future.

After letting the idea percolate for a while, I circled back around to it, this time holding an image of Fannie more clearly in mind. I pictured myself sitting across a glass table from Fannie on the sunny balcony of her townhouse. Birds chirped at a feeder, water burbled in a fountain, and pink climbing roses bloomed all along the balcony rail.

Photo of pink climbing roses and mostly blue sky.

(Creative Commons image via flickr)

The breakfast table was set for two, with coffee cups and small plates. Steam rose from the full cups, along with an enticing mocha caramel aroma, and a box of assorted donuts occupied the center of the table. They looked delicious: glazed twist, chocolate-topped custard…

“Hey, wait a minute, this isn’t right.” Instead of giving in to the temptation to load up my plate, I gave Fannie an accusing glare across the table. “How can you eat a box of donuts if you’re a future me? I gave up the bad habit of donuts for breakfast many years ago—they’re so unhealthy. If you are my guardian angel, then you ought to have the table set with something that’s good for me. What happened to the food I really eat, like fresh fruit and multigrain toast?”

Fannie calmly brushed back an unruly strand of hair, which was purple today, a soft lilac hue that suited the gentle spring breeze. In a mild tone, she answered my question with another.

“What have we always said about assumptions?”

“That it’s best to avoid them.” I picked up my coffee cup and took a sip, enjoying the flavor while I tried to make sense of where this scene was going.

“And leave space for improvement.” Fannie smiled as she reached for a donut. “Yum, cinnamon almond crunch. You know, nutritional science has improved a lot since your primitive times. Donuts nowadays are made with a healthy mix of grains, just like your toast, and baked with good oils. They have natural flavors and no added sugar. Recipes can be adjusted to suit each customer’s individual needs, as determined by genetic testing. Basically, these are prescription donuts, designed to enhance my longevity. Because you are a younger version of me, they’ll be very healthy for you too. Go ahead, take one.”

A small bird hopped down from the feeder and took a few steps across the smooth floor of the balcony, tilting its head to one side and gazing up at me. Hoping for crumbs, I supposed.

I picked up the glazed twist donut and looked at it dubiously. It appeared to be just an ordinary donut, as far as I could tell. But then again, this was a scenario in which my future self was still alive and healthy at a very advanced age. Fountain-of-youth donuts made about as much sense as any other explanation.

Fannie sipped her coffee quietly as I bit into the glazed twist. It tasted like a regular donut and had the soft texture of one.

“Avoid assumptions,” I said, speaking mostly to myself.

The bird, perhaps disappointed that there were no tasty crumbs to be found, took wing. After watching it fly out of sight, Fannie spoke again. “What do you imagine I have been doing as your guardian angel?”

“Rescuing me from danger, I suppose, and from bad or unlucky situations generally. Isn’t that what a guardian angel is supposed to do?”

“Well, sort of. Danger and bad luck often are a matter of perspective, however. From my perspective at more than twice your age, in many ways you are still a baby. I don’t mean that in an insulting way—you are navigating a very confusing, often-changing world as best you can.” Fannie gestured expansively toward the blue sky beyond the roses. “Now, let’s think for a moment about how a baby learns to walk. At first, standing up feels scary and dangerous. The baby wants to be rescued and kept safe. But the parents—and the baby’s guardian angel—know that learning to walk calls for practice and, occasionally, a few well-timed words of encouragement.”

“So, when we’ve had these conversations,” I clarified, “you have been acting as a guardian angel by encouraging me to stand tall, rather than swooping down to save me from my circumstances.”

“That’s part of it, yes. Of course, a baby first has to become aware that the possibility of walking exists. When we tell stories about our past and future selves, we are keeping space open for possibilities that we are only just starting to imagine—or, put another way, holding the future lightly.”

2 Comments

  1. I love this! A letter for our old self, I’ve never seen it before, I know the letters written for the young self. I hope the donuts and all the ‘sweets’ get healthier with the years, I’ve given up on many of them, but it would be a treat to have some in the future.

    • Thanks! When I’m trying to imagine what my older self would tell me, all kinds of odd things come to mind. Healthy donuts would indeed be a treat!

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