The Life of P

Ever bought a set of sheets – unpacked them, washed them, and taken them fresh from the clothesline and tried to fold them back into the package in the exact same way they were when you bought them?

This morning I was presented with an interesting challenge…How do I fold myself back into the box?

Have you ever thought about what you would tell your younger self about life if you got the chance?  Or to go back in time and meet the younger you and try to steer her (or him) away from life’s crazies and collisions?

There would be a very long line of folks with a very long list of what not to do, methinks!

Well, I am not going to consider it from a Back to The Future prospective, because that would mean knowing what I know now as a young me and that’s been done and done and done again.

This required some mental gymnastics…projecting back in time to me then, wiping the slate in my imagination, and then projecting ahead to me now…attempting to fold myself outside in and imagine myself inside out.

I think of it like seeing a documentary entitled The Life of P.

Here are the parameters:

  • I am 16.
  • I am in a movie theatre watching a documentary that chronicles the life of the woman who I know as P. It is set up to unfold in chronological order.

This is the girl I envision.  She is getting ready to graduate high school within a few months.  Man, did she hate school!  She just managed to squeak by academically.  She can hardly wait to get away and get her life underway.

Don’t let her baby face fool you.  She is one intense little chiquita…

What would she think of me, as she watched the documentary with P as the star?  Who does she see when she sees me?

I asked and my 16 yr old self answered…

I know she is me but she doesn’t feel like me. We look alike but my skin isn’t like hers. I am struggling with the idea that this older, more weathered version will be me. P is being interviewed as the documentary begins and says she has just turned 59. She seems pleased to tell everyone.

At least I made it to 59. Yay.

The words coming out of my mouth sound like my voice, though. P is upbeat and energetic! She smiles a lot. She seems genuinely nice. Nicer than I feel most of the time. And when she talks about me her eyes look really soft and gentle.

And I think, How did you get to be that kind?

I watch as P struggles with making sense of her life, of our life, as a young adult.

It makes me bawl my eyes out. I wish I didn’t have to wait so long and fight so hard to feel accepted and loved, but I am relieved to know that it finally happens.

I think, Why, why, why, did all that crap have to happen me??? but as the movie continues I see how I brought some of that stuff on myself.  And I like how P uses those experiences.  She calls them tattoo moments – moments that are tattooed on your brain.  They show you where you’ve been and how far you’ve come.

We live, crap happens. We choose. We make mistakes.  If we learn, we win.  Every time.

I don’t know what to do with that crap.  Thank you, P, for figuring it out.

I will have two babies! WOW! I cannot imagine actually having a baby. I can see her pain on my face during, but also our joy on my face afterward.  Mom P makes it almost seem doable. And they are the cutest kids ever!! I can’t wait to meet them!!!


And the changes that happen when I’m a mom…so much P does because she is a parent that isn’t pretty and is really freakin’ hard…

Thanks, P, for taking the time to grow up.

But really, though…that 80’s perm?  And could you lose those 90’s Mom jeans, please????

You know, at 16, I KNOW that I can do anything in the world! I WILL do it! As I watch The Life of P, I see the places where I will have the chance to zig instead of zag, and I see where I will kind of get lost in a zig-zag maze like the one I read about that had a Minotaur in it…you know, that half-man half-bull thing that would kill ya if it cornered ya…

But you found our superpowers in there. We can haul ass like The 6 Million Dollar Woman!  Thanks, P, for following the White Rabbit like Alice did in Wonderland, and for not turning me into a scared rabbit.

YES!!! P still knows how to have fun! I am happy that we still get to play sports. I really hate the sports we do in high school, but I will earn a black belt in Taekwondo when I’m 42, and hike Mt. Katahdin many times and Mt. Washington and run in races and cycle in France and hike to Machu Picchu after I turn 50!

This makes me really excited, P!  And now I know why I waited so long to begin. It’s all good.

I cringe, though, because what happens when a person lives long enough happens in the later parts of our documentary.

Mom and dad die. My sweet Grammie and Poppie die. A LOT of folks I know die. Every one of my good ole dogs and cats die.  One will actually die in my arms.

OMG, I’m only 16…I don’t want to see any of this!!!  But I know you didn’t want to either, and you still did it with as much elegance as you had in you. I am proud of those parts of our story, P.

Thank you for caring enough about me and my dreams to pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and begin all over again. I know now that even when I feel like nobody really cares about me, that you do.

Thank you for not only surviving but for learning to thrive.  Thank you for not forgetting about me during those hard times.  You didn’t leave me alone for thaaat long…but I did miss you when you were gone.

I appreciate how you worked so hard to get back to the girl who would become the woman inside me, and how you learned to love me better than anyone else in the whole wide world! 

You know, I have been thinking about something…I like where I am just fine, P, with my life stretched out before me like a softly winding Carrera marble staircase that is waiting to be brushed by the hem of my long, sweeping silk dress...a red gown, of course…

But I don’t want to be you yet.  It is enough to know that when the time comes I will be happy to step into your shoes.

And I am relieved!  Even though I find her super funny, I didn’t wanna end up being Granny Clampett.

And I’m just as happy to know you don’t want to be me again, either.

I see it now!  It’s all connected at the nexus of now.  The paradox of the future me envisioning the past me envisioning the future me will change everyone I have been and ever will be.  What if what I see now, at 16, changes the timeline in all directions, from this moment on?

I have all the time in the world to chew on that idea.

What is my favorite part of the documentary? That’s easy! The part where I finally say, I am an artist!

Where P tells the whole world that the artist within never, ever, dies…that we always carry it in our hearts, like a lighthouse beacon on a cold, stormy North Atlantic night.  To see it revealed in the stories we spin and the songs we write together ignites a fire that transcends time and space!

Annndddd, I LOVED the part where I connect with the 59 yr old P that I know I will be…when time stands still so I can step through the mirror and P is waiting for me on a mountaintop where we feel the wind and the sun and join together in that friggin’ cool little Happy Dance!

Wait for it!!! I can hardly….

It’s the scene where, in the end, she hugs me. For the rest of our life.


Published by Paula D. Tozer

I am a writer, poet and singer/songwriter. I am a Toastmaster, motivational speaker, personal creativity coach, and workshop leader. My most sincere wish is to share my words with others, and that we both benefit from the exchange.

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