There’s something so magical about a letter,
especially a handwritten one.
Back in the day, rather, the days before e-mail, texting, or messaging of any sort, I used to send a lot of letters, and get a lot of letters in return. If I’d known how rare they’d become I’d have kept more of them. The ones I have are a chance assortment of cards I liked, notes that got “filed” in an odd place, only to show up years later, or a few, very few, that really meant something to me.
Friends used to send pictures, too, of their weddings, babies, families as they grew. Some still do. My friend Melanie sends wonderful cards every year of her, her husband Tim and their children, Alec & Amelie. This despite the fact she posts regularly on Facebook. I’ve kept them all.
In fact, while I may have lost the letters, I’ve kept most of the pictures. It doesn’t matter how many you post, because those are fluid and no one saves them, really. It’s the hard copies that end up in photo albums you’ll treasure for the rest of your life.
Or not. There are some pictures that mean nothing to me now. I’m not even sure who everyone is, let alone what they may doing today, and I’m not particularly interested in finding out. Oh well.
But the letters.
Most of those I have were written right after college, and they’re filled with hope and optimism, fear and anticipation, not the weariness that comes after illness and divorce, the death of a child or the loss of a spouse. Parents are gone now or needing care, jobs can be fleeting.
Of course there are grandchildren and a million other successes, unique to the individual, that we celebrate, but so rarely with letters anymore. I love that I have easy access to my long-time friends through the Internet, but I regret that all of that communication is so easily disposed of when we empty the trash in our e-mail. I don’t even think to save it, let alone the pictures that show up on Facebook or Instagram.
I bemoan the fact that so many schools are no longer teaching cursive writing. It seems foolish to lose that part of our culture, to tell our children it doesn’t matter.
I’ve moved a lot in my life; I’ve lived in at least five different states, and I expect I’ll move again at some point. I’m always fascinated by the places by friends choose to live, and wonder what drew them there. What have their lives become, day to day? Despite the easy access to quick messages today, or perhaps because of the very nature of those messages, they were more likely to tell me that sort of detail in letters.
And while I say more when I type and possibly say it more eloquently, there’s something to be said for a handwritten note or letter. I bemoan the fact that so many schools are no longer teaching cursive writing. It seems foolish to lose that part of our culture, to tell our children it doesn’t matter.
Handwriting works magic
with a special part of your brain. You remember things you write down far better than you remember things you type. Your handwritten thoughts tend to be different then your typewritten ideas.
I write like a left-handed person, but with my right hand, so I always end up with ink on the side of my hand if I write for any length of time. That used to bother me, now it’s a point of pride.
Obviously, I can’t dispute the value of typing. But must we completely give up handwritten letters, or even simple notes with birthday cards?
You used to express who you were in part through the stationary and cards you chose. If you wrote a lot of letters, you got the stationary that had a front sheet, matching sheets (because your letters were too long for one page) and of course, matching lined envelopes.
Perhaps it’s my love of writing that makes me sentimental. If you want to give me the perfect gift for Christmas, a nice pen will do, and maybe…a letter.
I’ve completed my Christmas shopping. In fact, I was done before Thanksgiving.
Now, before any of you say (sarcastically or otherwise), “Well, good for you!” or mutter under your breath, “I hate you” here’s the whole truth: I only had to buy Christmas gifts for one person.
That’s one of the few advantages of being truly broke, the burden of picking the perfect gift is lifted. Nobody expects gifts from you. In fact, they don’t want them. My family knows I struggle to pay my utility bills, especially this time of year, and they couldn’t really enjoy anything I spent money on. Their concern would go so far as the money spent to mail the gifts to them.
At the same time it makes me incredibly sad. These are the people who are doing everything they can to help me get back on my feet, financially, emotionally, whatever I may need. They’ve been there for me in what was truly my darkest hour, suffered silently imagining what I was going through, and believed in me no matter what the cost.
My relationship with my mom has been strong for years, but events of recent years have established and reinforced a healthier, closer bond with both my dad and my brother. While times have been terrible, results, at least some, have been overwhelmingly good.
I long for the day I’m able to pay them back, if only in the simplest of ways, a Christmas gift or two.
Of course I have no idea what I’d get them. My brother lives on one coast, my dad on the other, my mom in the Upper Midwest, me in the South. We couldn’t be more widely dispersed, that is, in this nation, and as such, we don’t really know what gifts would be most appreciated by the other. Not even what gift certificates would be preferred.
Not to say anyone fails in their gift-giving. We figure it out and do just fine. It’s just that those special gifts you know someone would value because you’ve spent time with them elude me.
So this year I’m looking for a way to say “thank you” and “I love you” that will cost me what I can afford and be valued by the recipients.
Knowing me, I’ll think of that perfect gift in January. Fortunately, my brother’s birthday is just a month later.
I’ve typically been a forgiving sort of person, especially if I feel I’ve been heard, that the offender has truly listened to my side.
When I haven’t been able to express my feelings or concerns, it’s a little harder, but still, usually I move on. It’s easier that way.
Admittedly, sometimes I may revisit a situation years later, typically when I’m experiencing something similar in nature. Thankfully that never lasts a notable period of time.
forgiving when the other person stubbornly remains the same is the challenge.
I don’t know how admirable it is to forgive & forget when someone has acknowledged your concerns. It’s forgiving when the other person stubbornly remains the same that’s the challenge. What happens when the person who has hurt me seemingly listens to me, then proceeds to cross me in the same way time and time again?
I have a friend who regularly oversteps boundaries with controlling behavior and gossip. It drives me batty, and I’ve tried repeatedly to talk through the problem with her. She seems to hear, then goes right back to doing what she did before.
Her attitude toward me is that of parent to child, and it’s to a point that at times I’m ready to walk away from the friendship because of my anger and frustration. It gets to be more than I can deal with effectively.
I don’t say as much because it would hurt her deeply, and I care too much about her to choose to do that. At the same time, she’s pushing her limits, and my measured responses aren’t getting through. So I remain angry and frustrated.
It hardly seems worth the forgiving, because even if I do, I’m just going to have to start the whole process again.
I know the response of my faith should be to forgive continuously, but I haven’t figured out how to do that. Overall my affection for her outweighs my anger, so in that way I do forgive and forget…until the next time.
And that’s the dilemma of all our relationships, I suppose. We are who we are and some things aren’t going to change, no matter how much we know they should. So we seethe until the boiling goes to a simmer, then cools off completely, knowing the fire will light again.
It’s either that or be alone. Some days that choice is tougher than others.
Certain details of this story have been changed to protect identity. I discussed what I wrote about in this blog piece with my friend before posting it, and seeing it in writing helped her understand my feelings. Our friendship remains strong.
Image Credit: © yurolaitsalbert – Fotolia
“It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop.”
It feels like I’ve been moving slowly for a very long time. But, I’ve been moving.
The clock dawdles, or so it seems, when you’re waiting for change. If you’re watching and waiting, it’s probably because times are hard and you’re looking for a better situation, something that makes you happy to wake up in the morning.
Sometimes you feel you’re not moving forward because the challenges have been so overwhelming you need time to recuperate. Recovering from an unfamiliar and frightening situation can be difficult, to say the least. We seek safety and comfort first, and change second.
That’s what happened to me a few years ago. I found myself overwhelmed by circumstances over which I truly had no control. I wasn’t sure who my friends were, and out of fear they’d all deserted me, I avoided everyone.
Eventually things began to right themselves. A close friend reached out to me and told me the truth about what others were thinking, and it was good. I found new friends, a new job, and just this last year, for the first time in 15 years, I got a new car.
I learned something through all of this. Before we can truly move forward, we need a level of security. Simply finding that solid strength within ourselves can be moving forward, despite how a lack of change in circumstances may appear to others.
There were those in my life frustrated by my slow recovery, but thankfully, others recognized how lost I was for a time, and how much healing I really needed.
If you’re struggling, whatever your situation, allow time to restore your energies, and forgive yourself for not bouncing back in record time. Some things aren’t meant to be rushed. The smallest step is enough.
When times are hard, our hope is in anticipation of a promising future. It’s there, waiting for us. Life works that way. Can I guarantee that for everyone? No, that’s not within my power, but it’s what I’ve seen in the lives of those closest to me, especially friends I’ve known for decades.
Every move forward, now matter how slow, is taking you where you want to go. And really, we don’t always know how far we’re going to have to go anyway. The next step may surprise us with unexpected joy.
Image Credit:(top) © hourglass © Alexey Klementiev; sky © Pakhnyushchyy; lights © mehmetcanturkei; background © averroe — All, fotolia.com (bottom) © GraphicStock.com
Mental illness is challenging.
Most people with mental illness, or their loved ones, want to have a well-rounded understanding of what’s happening. Unfortunately, it’s not always easy to come by accurate information, or at least to know where to look.
There’s a tremendous amount of misinformation and misunderstanding out there about mental illnesses, and many, even those diagnosed with one disorder or another, don’t know that what they believe may be wrong.
Knowing the individual is not knowing the disorder.
Our best resource sometimes becomes the individuals we know who’ve been diagnosed, and that can be a double-edged sword. While first-hand understanding of how a person with mental illness reacts and responds is invaluable, it’s important to be clear that knowing the individual is not knowing the disorder.
Mental illness will affect how you handle your emotions, but that doesn’t necessarily mean every emotional response is due to one’s diagnosis. It’s best not to conclude any action or reaction is a result of mental illness until you have the facts. That thinking is no more fair than assuming any time a woman is angry it’s hormonal.
That’s particularly true once someone has begun taking medication, since that will have a significant impact on one’s mental health. However, everyone’s response to treatment is different.
When it isn’t possible to have complete information, fill in the blanks with questions and educated material
It’s important, whenever possible, to know the actual diagnosis, and the symptoms and behaviors associated with that level of the mental illness. People with these illnesses often are happy, even eager, to share their own diagnosis. When it isn’t possible to have complete information, and at times it isn’t, fill in the blanks with questions and educated material instead of assumptions and anecdotal information from others.
In fact, that’s a good idea regardless of how much information you already have obtained. At the very least, verify what non-professionals tell you. It isn’t always easy to know.
There are resources on the Internet and in your library, to start, and your doctor may have some information as well. Avoid forums on the Internet, however, as these frequently have no expert oversight.
On behalf of those who must learn how to live with their illness,
just as anyone with any disease or disability must do, listen, learn, seek answers, and especially, ignore anything you see or hear on your favorite television drama or sitcom. TV writers are first and foremost concerned about the story line, not the truth, and they’ll mix & match the real with the perceived to suit their purposes.
Love requires an open mind and open heart, qualities treasured by those who deal with one or more often misunderstood disorders. Those qualities bring us close. A heartfelt thank you for all you do for your loved ones with mental illness.
For information about mental illnesses, explore these web sites:
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