The first time this happened, it was intentional. I was 13, thinking about who I would be when I was 17. Would I recognize myself? Would I like who I had been at 13? If I met myself would I love me? At 17 I remembered that day, and thought back to it, willed myself back to that day, back to myself, spoke to myself at 13 so I'd know, in that past self, that the answer was yes. I do love you, I told that shy, lonely, younger me. I understand. There is nothing wrong with you and everything turned out fine so far.
Now I look back at earlier selves and realize that I have been doing this more than I knew. When I was pregnant with Jesse and his father tried to get me to have an abortion, I gave myself faith. When Jesse was little, I cherished every minute, because it was all beautiful, even the colic and the 3 am feedings. And because something told me it would be gone too soon.
Then there were the dreams. In one I was in my old bedroom from childhood, but instead of my sister on the other bed, there was a man I knew was going to kill me. He was telling me about how he had killed someone by driving a pen into her ear with a hammer until it punctured her brain. I could see it in my mind's eye as he talked (I can still see it vividly, almost feel it happening to me, too). I tried to casually say I had to go to the bathroom, but I'd be right back, and he said, "I know you will," and I turned to see my baby in a blanket on the bed next to him.
I had nightmares like this all the time. Each scenario got worse until one night I dreamed I couldn't save Jesse. I knew.
Now I take time to go back and let myself know what I need to know. I don't think I can change anything but my own attitude, my way of being. I can only give my past self encouragements, warnings, hints. But then, if anything else changed, how would I know? It would already be the past before I ever went back to change it. It comforts me to feel some responsibility to my earlier selves.
Maybe it's just an eccentricity, a self-indulgence. I don't care. It's not any crazier than a hundred things you believe and never question. It keeps me from being too hasty now, too sad. Maybe it's my future self, come calling, letting me know that better things will come.