This exercise has gotten me through more tough times than I can count. I've learned from my 150-year-old self how to write a book, earn a living, survive the loss of friends and family members. She always has an answer and a little courage or comfort to give me, even when I have none (and she never gets tired—I'm telling you, the woman is spry). Your future self is waiting for an invitation to visit you with similar advice. Extend that invitation by letting your felt age zoom into the future, instead of trying to force it backward into youth.
There are infinite variations of these exercises. Armed with imagination and desire, you can jump to any phase of the life cycle. Each time you heal a childhood wound, feel a toddler's boundless hilarity, an adolescent's passion, or the wisdom of an elder self, you bring the best aspects of that experience into the present. You become a wizard, free to enjoy every stage of life but trapped by none, able to age backward, forward, and sideways at will. By gathering all ages together, you'll define yourself in a way the calendar never can.
Martha Beck is the author of Finding Your Own North Star (Three Rivers), and Expecting Adam (Berkley).
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