We live in the age of instant gratification. We want something, search for something or write something and finding it, getting it and publishing it can happen as fast as we can power up our computers and click a few bottoms. Want a book? Pick up your Kindle or iPad and download the ebook. Want to send a birthday gift to a friend? Order it on line or, faster still, wish your friend happy birthday on Facebook and include a gift right along your post. You’ve skipped writing a card, mailing the card, shopping for a gift and shipping the gift.
You get the point. Life’s become instantaneous. So, we are naturally leaving behind some habits we may have cultivated for the majority of our lives. Why write something and drop it in the mail and then wait days, if not weeks, for it to arrive in the hands of its intended reader, when your words can reach the person immediately via an email, or text, or a Facebook post or message? I just had an exchange about this very thing with a friend who’s currently living far away. She reached out to me to offer words of friendship and support when I needed it and I was so appreciative to receive them immediately, as their weight and impact were timely and much needed at that instant.
Who could blame us? It’s natural to evolve and move forward with the times. Even though I’ve spent a lifetime in love with stationeries, papers, notebooks and letter writing in general, I am guilty of this as well. And yet, recently, I’ve experienced several instances of happiness through good ol’ fashion “snail mail”. And my faith is slowly being restored in the simpler more elegant ways of reaching people and sending them things.
A few months back, I listened to an audio self-help book about living an authentic life and tapping into one’s own true and authentic self. Toward the end of the book, the author discussed the practice of writing letters to oneself. It goes like this: you sit down, gather your thoughts and write a letter to yourself. I chose to use some pretty stationery I never get to receive, but enjoy sending to others. I wrote me about my strengths, my dreams, my wishes and my accomplishments. I encouraged and supported myself, as I would in a letter to a good friend. I wrote to myself from my heart. I then sealed the envelope and entrusted it to a close friend with the simple request that she’d send it back to me during the next 365 days. This way, the time of the arrival of the letter would be out of my hands and the contents of the letter would most likely fade away from my memory by the time the envelope would make its way back to me.
On a sunny afternoon, a little while ago, I received an brightly colored floral envelope addressed to me. I immediately recognized it as the letter I had written to myself some weeks earlier. If you’re curious to know how great it is to receive and read a letter filled with understanding, acceptance, love and support, you’ll have to give this exercise a try. It’s one of the most rewarding things I’ve done for myself in quite a while.
I also send myself postcards when I go on vacation to faraway lands. I sent myself a postcard every day I was in Paris. I described what I was doing and seeing and how I was feeling in these postcards. Because of the distance, some actually arrived after I had already returned to the U.S. Each arrival allowed me to live the day twice and savor it again, as if being there all over again. To this day, my postcards from Paris are some of my most cherished travel artifacts. I pull them out from time to time and re-read them, reliving the day over and over again and feeling the joy and excitement of Paris anew.
This week, a week of disappointing news about our latest round of infertility treatments, seemed impossible to bare. It really did. Despite being an old hand at receiving and living with disappointing news and emotional and physical losses, every setback and disappointment cuts into my soul deeply and saps me dry of all my energy and faculties for days, weeks and even months to come.
In the mist of this agony, bewilderment and raw emotional weakness, I received a box in the mail on Tuesday. It was the first delivery of Birchbox (http://www.birchbox.com/), a monthly gift from my husband. Birchbox is a service that delivers a box of “beauty and lifestyle” product samples on monthly basis. If you like something you get, you can go on line and buy the full size product on your own. But, what you get in the mail is a cute little box full of fun goodies.
So, here I am–barely functioning coherently and hardly “with it”. I have not left my apartment, but for walking my dog, since Monday. I’ve got messy hair and a scrubbed face, with no intention of getting up, going out or even looking presentable (which is something that’s normally quite important to me). I’m in no shape to sample any beauty products. I don’t even care about beauty at this point. And here’s this box filled with stuff. And I feel myself perk up (uncontrollably) at the sight of the hot pink cover with an exclamation mark, the hot pink tissue paper and the colorful little goodies inside my Birchbox! I’ve opened and reopened this box fifty times so far, examining its contents and making mental plans for when I’ll finally use them. I hear myself say things like: “ooh! This is perfect for my next trip!” Oh! This hair band will go perfectly with my new shirt from Target!” The hope, the enjoyment, the fun…I didn’t expect myself to feel these things for a long time. I certainly didn’t think I’d feel them at the sight of small bottle of pistachio-colored nail polish! This left me quite confused.
Then today, I found another small box in my mail. The label didn’t readily give away any information, but simply said that it had been shipped from a place called “Fulfillment Center”. What an ironically beautiful metaphor to someone who’s been through hell and back, simply trying to fulfill the dream of becoming a mom! Obviously, the box didn’t bring me magical baby seeds, a corrected positive pregnancy test result or the schedule for the next stork delivery. It, however, contained a bright red polka-dotted jewelry box with a flap that cheerfully greeted: “hello gorgeous”. In it, I found the necklace I recently bought at a Stella & Dot (http://www.stelladot.com/) jewelry party. Even though that was only a few days ago, it had all been but forgotten in the light of the harshness of this week. And yet, here it was: bright, cheerful, fun and happy. And, once again, my broken heart and frazzled nerves took a break from sadness to allow for a twinge of excitement and a bit of joie de vivre.
Snail mail brings me lots of bills I don’t want to look at and a lot more stuff I consider junk. But, snail mail still manages to bring me peace, encouragement, wisdom, happiness and a bit of myself from a better time when I need them the most. Snail mail has restored some of my spunk and sass that I thought might have permanently dulled away this week. And snail mail has managed to bring a smile or two at a time when it feels like there’s nothing left to smile about.
Life is more complicated than anything that brightly-colored boxes with fun graphics could mend. Life’s sadder than any bottle of nail polish could cure. But, the enjoyment of it, the process of finding small things to feel joyful or hopeful about can still be helped along with a letter written by a younger you or a box full of fun samples. Snail mail brought some color and glitter back into my life this week. And I am willingly allowing happiness to find a home somewhere in my heart once again, even if it’s just happiness over nail polish.
Hey, it’s a small step, but…
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