I have a list a mile long of things my Memaw made me do as a child that she swore I would thank her for someday. And while some of the items on those list are now things I’d rather pay someone else to do than actually do myself, writing a proper letter is one skill I actually would thank her for if she were around for me to thank. I am passing along this skill or what Drue refers to as a mechanism of torture to her - and no Drue, writing a thank you EMAIL or thank you post on Facebook is not the same – and feeling as if I am passing along a dying art that she will thank me for someday. Few people bother sending handwritten notes these days. I mean, why bother, when a quick, grammatically incorrect email will do in a pinch, right? Or better yet, just pick up the phone and then you won’t have to do anything but hit a few letters on your phone’s contact list. Viola! Communication given, received and done in just a few minutes and now you and the other party can move on with each of your separate lives. I get it. In this fast paced world, who has time to write a letter? Writing a letter takes time, a lot of time. You have to take the time to find a card. Then you have to take the time to carefully construct your message in your mind and then there is the time to fill in all that imposing blank space. You cannot erase or start from scratch with a letter like you can an email. And then there is the task of finding a stamp, someone’s physical address and posting the letter. Who seriously has the time, energy or motivation for all of that?
I absolutely, totally and completely understand this sentiment. I’m a prime example of the best intentions gone horribly awry when life gets busy. Here I am in April, 101 days into my 1001 days and how many letters have I written (not including thank you notes)? NONE. As of this week, I am fifteen letters behind where I said I would be 100 days ago. I’m not sure I even have fifteen people to write to at the moment. And I could probably make up for lost time by taking a day or two and just plunging into the task – I have 31 years of letter writing experience behind me to get the job done and done relatively quickly. But that would only meet the letter of the task and not the intent. The entire reason I decided to add this to my list of 1001 things was to reconnect with people. The whole point of this exercise was to let certain people in my life know that I am thinking of them and care enough to find a card (or better yet, create a card) that reflects a particular sentiment or character trait I admire about them, write them a heartfelt message and then take the time to send it to them.
When I read the letters sent to me from various pen pals and friends from my youth or the love letters sent from my respective grandparents to each other during World War II, I realize that by relying on the spoken or emailed word as a primary means of communication, we’re all missing out on something profound. Something tangible. Something memorable. Sure, I kept all of Drue’s dad’s emails to me when we were dating but I doubt she’d be interested in reading an email thread debating whether it made sense for me to drive to Raleigh to eat at Lily’s Pizza before heading back to Chapel Hill for a show at the Cradle or just having Jason meet me at UNC and grabbing a bite at Ham’s. Luckily, as Jays and I have matured, he has caught on to the importance of letter writing and the significance and longevity of saved cards and Drue can see our relationship mature from angry spouses to overwhelmed divorcees to committed co-parents through a variety of notes, cards and post-it notes. At some point, maybe when she’s about to have a child of her own, I will happily share those momentos with her to give her a better perspective on parenting and commitment to ones child.
I don’t believe Drue will get a good, much less complete, perspective on who I am as a person reading what I’ve posted online as opposed to what she’ll read locked away in the privacy of my paper journals. I do think, when the day comes for her to go through my memory box and divulge of my secrets, she’ll decide I dated a bunch of mindless idiots since the majority of my letters and cards from men in my past life are some rendition of “I’m sorry, I screwed up, please forgive me and don’t dump me!” I do have some fantastic cards from girl friends though and I think she’ll see that I have some amazing women in my life who think of me and think enough of me to put pen to paper and say hello! From H2′s gorgeous handmade cards – some of which are framed and hang on the walls of my home – to Erin’s hysterical birthday card from a few years ago (complete with fortune telling bendy fish!), to gorgeous cards depicting homemade Japanese brush paintings in tiny scale complete with haikus on the back from one of my dear childhood friends that appear at random over the years. Each one is treasured. Each one is kept and brought out from time to time. Each card has a person and their story behind it, a story of shared experiences and friendship over the years, and each card and note is a work of art. Each letter is precious to me and helps define me as a person, and as someone’s friend and they allow my child to relate to me through my friendships and shared experiences with these people. Yes, even the “I’m sorry” cards from ex-boyfriends past.
So until I get caught up and back on track, I’ll be sending two cards a week for the next fifteen weeks. And yes, some of these cards might be post cards as Drue and I travel around. And if you’re curious as to what my inspiration was for this project, feel free to read about The Thank You Note Project – Cultivating an Attitude of Gratitude. And check back here or in the 1001 items list for more information on this task!