Who doesn’t enjoy receiving a handwritten note or card in the mail? Amidst all the junk mail, bills, and ‘free’ offers – which require you to buy something to get something ‘free’ – landing in our mailbox each day, my heart always quickens a bit when I see something hand addressed to anyone in our family. It means that just beyond two thin pieces of paper held together by a light strip of glue is something personal, something specifically written to me or one of my precious loved ones. I fear letter writing is becoming a thing of the past; something I will tell my grandchildren about some day. Can’t you hear it now? “When I was younger we didn’t have text messaging, email, and e-vites. We had to actually pick up a pen or pencil, write something on a card or piece of paper, address an envelope, put a stamp on it, place it in the mailbox, then wait for the other person to receive it. And then wait again for the response to come back by the same process.” It sounds laborious to me even as I write.
Not so fast. There is much to be said for the art of expressing ourselves through real words – taking the time to actually think about what we want to say and expending the energy to physically write it. Not LOL or BRB or TTYL. (For those of you who are not 21st century savvy, the above internet slang means Laughing Out Loud, Be Right Back, and Talk To You Later.) Some of the greatest books ever written are simply collections of letters written down through the ages…expressions of love, heartbreak, struggle, death, joy, childbirth, marriage, and war.
I made a lot of mistakes and bad choices as a young adult. Some were the stupid kind: not finishing college, spending more money than I earned, and staying out too late on work nights. Others were the serious kind: and before I divulge too many secrets let me just say they were serious. Enough said. For many years I struggled with the memories of those bad decisions. So one morning a few years ago, I sat down at our kitchen table and wrote letters – with a real pen on real paper – to some of the people who bore the consequences of my bad choices. I didn’t really think much of it other than a way to finally get out of my heart and head what I had been feeling and thinking for years. I didn’t even mail these letters; I simply wrote them. The results were astounding. Literally, within 24 hours there was a sense of relief and calm. I actually felt forgiveness. And release from some of those painful memories.
I was pleasantly surprised by how therapeutic it was for me to simply pour out my heart to those who would never read the words I wrote. Wanna’ try some cheap – and I mean really cheap – therapy? Pick up a pen and paper, find a quiet place to sit, and write a letter. What you gain in return might just surprise you.