I took myself to therapy the other day. It was a kids’ appointment, but I made the choice to go instead. After all, I’m the one that really has to change for there to be any change in my home, right? My lovely, dear, and much-loved by me therapist gave me an assignment. She said to go back and read my diary and write a letter to the little girl. (The little girl being me, not the red-faced redhead on the cover.) She probably didn’t intend for me to do it publicly, but I figure  why not?

So, I dug out my very first  journal. I wrote in it from 6th-8th grade (1986-1988). Lots of stuff about how I love the Monkees and several boys. I won’t name any of them because one of them is still my friend on FB and I’d like to be saved the humiliation. There’s lots of crazy fun stuff in there like the one time my best friend, Peggy, and I made up a story about meeting a band. People believed us for years! It was awesome. Ahem, I mean, how horrible that we would deceive our closest friends. I also write in there that nothing ever happens to me to make my diaries worth reading. Oh my, I’ve burned journals since then just so that I won’t remember those times and so that nobody would ever be hurt by the contents. A few things did stick out to me. Mostly the things that I still feel at times today. Hello, it’s like….um…something like 25 or so years later. How can that be?

Shall we begin?

Dear Little Darlene,

Ok, well, maybe not THAT little.

First of all, sweetie, those Monkee episodes that you’re watching on your new cable channel, Nickelodeon, are reruns. They aren’t that young, you’ll never marry Davy Jones. He’s old enough to be your father. Someone should’ve pointed that out right away. It would’ve saved you lots of journalling space! I think you still would’ve recorded every episode and watched countless hours of it, though.

Second of all, on page 22 you wrote, “I don’t want to grow over 5’2″ tall.” Oh honey, you probably haven’t realized that isn’t going to be a problem since by this time you have stopped growing. Taller, that is.

Did you seriously just write, “I hate my life!” because you had to stay home with your dad so the guy could come fix the gas heater and you couldn’t go get your, “Slippery When Wet” videos? Oh my my my my my. Well, let me just warn you that you will pretty much always be self-centered but one day you’ll try not to be so much like that.

I had to laugh when I read, “Someday I want to write a book. I don’t know what kind of book. Maybe an autobiography. But my life isn’t exciting enough. Can you believe that Nikki Sixx of Motley Crue likes to read. Yeah, it’s true. Oh, on my report on Bon Jovi I got an A on content and an A- on grammar. That grammar part isn’t my fault, I just hang around too many rock groups.” Bwahahahaha. Um, hunkering down in your room pouring over heavy metal magazines and listening to music does NOT qualify as hanging around them. Oh you are one funny girl.

It makes me wonder if my daughter is as creative in her imagination as you are.

Let’s talk about boys before we get to the real serious stuff. You end up having a crush on Mike Soukup for 6 years. Then when you see him at a reunion with his pregnant wife decades later you start laughing hysterically and get that, “What’s up with the crazy girl?” look from both Mike and his brother Greg. You know that look from them well so that just makes you laugh even more. I would say to just drop the crush, focus on your writing. You love it. It makes you come alive. You once said you could do anything you wanted to and that’s true. The thing is, you actually have to DO something. Writing about it doesn’t make it happen. Planning for it doesn’t make it happen, either. You have to do it and it will be hard whatever “it” is.

The boy that said, “You started being mad at me so I started being mean to  you” was right. You even knew it then, but you didn’t think about how to change that. You thought a lot about how things were and how you wanted them different, but you don’t think about how to make it different.

“Hope is fear. Hope is  a dream for people who can’t face reality.” HELLO! THAT IS A LIE!!!!!!!!!!

Who told you that? It’s a lie. It’s one of the greatest lies…but I know why you said it.

You felt trapped. You don’t write much about the really hard stuff because you are afraid that people will see it, but I know. I know you call all those expensive crisis phone numbers and make up stories of being homeless or suicidal because it gives you a way to talk about your pain without having to own it. You felt forgotten.

But you weren’t forgotten. Your daddy loved you so very much. He was scared, just like you. He didn’t know what to do with an angry, hurt, motherless girl. More importantly, your daddy in Heaven loved you. Even in your unloveable state, you were loved.

As I read through the pages and see how many times you are mad at this or that friend I feel the urge to interview all the old friends. The thing is, that unless they kept a diary, they probably won’t remember much of that time. They had their own stuff to deal with anyway. You know why all those girls and boys came to you for advice? Because you always loved them, even when angry, and you gave the best advice a kid could give at that age. They loved you. I’d like to think they wanted to be there for you, but they just weren’t equipped to deal with a 12 year motherless kid who wanted to die.

Speaking of death:
It was not your fault that your mama died. Oh sure, you were a handful. You will always be a handful. She made choices in her life. She chose you. She didn’t have to, but she did.

Also, it would matter so very much if you had died back then. You say over and over that it wouldn’t matter to anyone if you die.

  1. Dad. It would matter to him. When I look at pictures of the two of us, he’s always looking at the little darling you are. He had already asked God why it was his wife that was taken, it would’ve been tragic had his daughter killed herself. He was proud of you. That’s why he wanted to put your 8th grade graduation certificate on the wall. That’s why you still have silly awards in the photo albums. Remember snooping around in his dresser and finding all the cards you had ever given him. He kept YOUR cards,  not everybody else’s.
  2. Peggy. She’s your very very best friend. Her family welcomed you and loved you like one of their own. Remember how her mom would play with your hair when you sat at her feet on the floor. The grown ups would be smoking and talking about very boring things and I’d sit there as long as I could. What would Peggy have done? She had just lost her big brother. Yeah, that tragedy left its scar on your heart, too. Goodnight Jim Bob. Thanks for letting us say that to you no less than 20 times before “falling asleep” which is code for “collapse in a fit of giggles again”.
  3. Tanya- She’s another bff. You’re kind of mean to her. You like it when she’s scared and makes you come see her. That’s kind of psychopathic. You only figure that out on the day you sit down to write a letter to your teenage self and recall all those crime show episodes. You go camping at A Thousand Trails with her and meet boys that like you. You treat them like they’re insane for liking you. You do stupid things with Tanya, like smoke her mom’s cigarettes at the very top of a HUGE stack of hay!
  4. Your sister. You’ll be friends one day.
  5. Your niece. You’ll grow up to raise her kids. Who will do that for her when she grows up in brokenness and can’t heal soon enough to be what she needs to be ?
  6. Your future friends who can’t imagine life without you. Oh, they’ll tell you they can live without you, but they certainly wouldn’t choose that option.

One more thing. That man. The one whom you always feared. He drove crazy. That’s you first memory of him. You wondered how to use a seatbelt. You felt unsafe. You were unsafe. He made you keep a secret. You didn’t keep it for long. Good girl. Grown men should never ask little girls to keep secrets of that nature. Later, when you’re getting breasts and he’s out of prison and back home with the family. When he starts touching you again please believe that it isn’t your fault. God created you to be beautiful. When you go to tell the elders of your congregation that it’s happening, don’t believe them for a minute when they tell you to not tell your dad and to make sure you’re being modest. Modest? It was 1986. Dresses came up above my collar bone and down to almost my ankles and they weren’t tight. It is NEVER your fault for being mistreated. Those adults were supposed to protect you. In fact, it’s the law. They failed.

You were created for beauty. Trying to make yourself unbeautiful doesn’t work. Not really. There is a beauty so deep inside of you that many may pass it by, but some won’t. Of those some, some may have good intentions, some may not. Don’t just give yourself away because you are already damaged goods. You were damaged, but you are also still good. Being fat and “ugly” won’t save you from being hurt. You will hurt in other ways. You will isolate yourself. You will be funny and strong and you’ll be falling apart inside.

Your beauty is there. It is a light. People are drawn to you. You’ll wonder why. There’s something deeper in there. They’ll sense it even if they can’t see it. A couple will be brave enough to call it out. They’ll ask you the hard questions. They’ll spend hours on the phone with you when you’re on the ledge of crazy. They will love you. They’ll make you angry. They’ll push you and sometimes they’ll push you over that ledge. They’ll  risk time and money on you because they’ve seen you. They’ve seen the future you. The YOU that God sees. They’ll tell you what they see and you’ll tremble, but one day you’ll come to believe it.

You’ll take risks. You’ll get stronger. There will be a day that you’ll no longer think of dying. Though, you may still think of running away. That’s ok. All moms probably do that, even if it’s just hiding out in the bathroom with their handheld cell phone playing a video game. (Yeah, the Atari will be obsolete. That’s right. Frogger in the palm of your hand baby!)

Please don’t ever do this again. Ever. Show your daughter this picture and tell her this is why it’s important to not do stupid things. Dad was right to be upset about this.  Look how cheeky you look there.

The lipstick was fine. The rest of you, not so much. Maybe the high wasted sears jeans were fine. I don’t know. Didn’t that shirt have long tuxedo like tails?

Oh, look at that smooth skin and small Marilyn Monroe mole. Who needs blush when you have rose colored glasses that take up your whole face? No really, those are awesome.

One day you’ll have someone make you a very shiny dress while you babysit her kids. You’ll buy her lunch and then babysit it off…wait, that’s not right. (She might still owe you money!)

Your date, Ted Christy (not pictured because he’s behind the camera making fun of me/you) will call it my saran wrap dress. Um, excuse me, but you can’t see through my dress. Ted loved you enough to leave you alone. When we were young grown ups, so not really grown ups at all, just not teenagers anymore, he tells you that he loves you but he’s messed up and doesn’t want to mess you up. You’re a rescuer sort of girl and you want to rescue him, but he was smart and didn’t tell you until after you were married. He knew you’d be loyal and faithful to the man you married.

You’ll join track several times. In highschool you remind your coach that you only joined the field part of track. He’ll make you run. He’ll even run with you. In fact, he’ll even tie you to a fast and strong runner and make you run. You hate it, but you do it. You don’t get the point.

Then one day you’ll find yourself crossing the finish line of a half marathon with a clearer complexion but about 100 more pounds than you had in highschool.

You’ll immediately blame your sister-in-law and she’ll laugh and say, “This was your idea.” Then on the day you sit down to write this you remember sending her a message saying something like, “Hey, let’s do that 1/2 marathon again.”

Your life is full of adventure and you will write a book. It’ll even be an autobiography. You’ll have tons of journals and you’ll write this thing on the computer that everyone can read. It’s called a blog. You’ll be more public with your life than you ever thought possible because you believe in healing; not only for you and your kids, but for the other hurting women out there who may need someone to blaze the trail ahead.

So, you keep running. You keep putting one foot in front of the other. You’re in it for the long haul.

Oh, but your dream of becoming a country singer and singing on the Grand Ol’ Opry never come true, but you are the best square dancer in the whole third grade class. You sure are a cutie, though.


Your future self.