The Perfect Keepsake: A Letter

I often get asked by aspiring letterwriters what to write when introducing oneself in am initial letter.  This isn’t an easy thing to explain.

Letters are wonderful but require the writer to:

a) invest time 

b) invest energy 

c) gather their wayward thoughts 

d) be semi-coherent or engaged

e) establish a personal style

But even the above list doesn’t cover the numerous ways one can communicate with another human being.  You may discover that one penpals enjoys skiing while another wants to share tea from around the world.  The lists of possibilities are endless and are only limited by your imagination and USPS regulations.

One thing I will say is that if you think you’re boring, you’re not. There are a bunch of ways to bolster creativity, offer aage wisdom and encourage to the recipient on the other end. The magic is what you using–your own unique and amazing brain–decide to express.   

What I will say is based on my own personal life experience. To me, there is nothing worse than opening a beautifully decorated envelope complete with unique washi-tape written on gorgeous stationery all to tell me that you suck at writing letters or that you had the worst bout of anxiety and want to list all if your ailments and troubles in alphabetical order. At the end of such a letter, I just feel tired and a little bitter that you took out your awesome fountain pen with special colored ink just to tell me how much you suck and how terrible your life is going.  To me, this is as inappropriate as inviting me over for tea and scones only to vomit on me. It leaves me feeling negative and a little sick and now I wish I’d never read your letter. What. A. Let. Down.

The old adage saying,  “If you don’t have anything nice to say,  don’t say it” still holds true in all that you do. I’m not saying I’m going to dissect your words, but politeness and kindness really is valuable and will serve to be the way that we are remembered. Who would want to store a troubling letter about your suicidal thoughts as a keepsake?

So I’d encourage you to consider some things to help the newbie letterwriter:

  1. Take your time. You are in charge of the clock. 
  2. Set the rules. If your penpal expects a letter every single week but you cannot make that type of commitment, be honest and tell the person. Make arrangements that match your expectations or move on.
  3. Speak like you. No need to embellish or brag about yourself. 
  4. If this were the last letter you ever wrote, does it best represent who you are as a person?
  5. If someone were to accidentally read this, would it offend or inspire?
  6. Don’t write when you’re tired, angry or worried about something. Wait until you are in good spirits.
  7. Share a little bit of what you know: a cooking recipe to try, a suggestion of where to stay if your recipient ever comes to Iceland, or how to draw a bunny (R.I.P Ray Johnson).
  8. Make a list of things you are grateful for or share a bit of unconventional wisdom.
  9. Share quotes or what you loved about a recent book you read. 
  10. Send a small little thing: something you made (that’s small), a sticker,  a tea bag, a drawing,  a sticky note, small stationery, lip gloss, a dollar store item…

Considering these can help ignite your curiosity and soon you’ll be a letterwriting expert!

Please comment below if you have any letterwriting advice to share.

Enjoy!

     

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    As I See It…

    I walk the boardwalk and I mistook a tied-up white lunch bag as a little white bunny. This is just one example of the world as I see it.

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    The Broken Bowl

    This is how my recent stoneware pottery bowl arrived in the mail:

    I could’ve panicked. I could easily envision a perfect bowl filled with promise…oh the wonderful things that it could contain, the liquids it could carry! 

    I could’ve been filled with regret. Oh, what a waste of some unknown artist’s handiwork! What a terrible shame that the vibrant colors shall never again be seen or appreciated by anything but some scavenger bird atop a pile of refuse. Whoa be to the humble hands that created such a glorious bowl–such careful hands that delicately designed with detail and focused attention to create–only to find itself lying broken at the bottom of a recycling bin!

    I could’ve judged myself harshly or criticized myself for being wasteful.  How could I have these good intentions on putting a bowl to good use only to find myself throwing it out? 

    I could’ve been angry at the sodding shipper who carelessly prepared this item or the quality assurance manager or the delivery service! 

    I could’ve but, I didn’t. 

    Reacting is a common enough behavior. I used to blame everyone all the time. I used to find fault, someone to blame, or play victim to the tragedy that befalls all human beings.  I could attribute it to “my bad rotten luck” or tell myself that it was some cosmic karmic payback for something I did in my life or worse, in a past-life. I could justify these feelings as “Murphy’s Law” and dwell on the frustration behind such a disappointment as ordinary as a broken bowl.

    I did none of these things. Instead, I am making an attempt to repair it. 

    Now I want to be clear that I’m setting no expectations on the outcome.  I don’t know if this will turn out to be a disaster or whether I will succeed.  This may or may not go my way…and I am okay with that.

    But, I have the time to do it. It’s not getting in the way of my daily routine.  In fact, I wasn’t sure if I was going to work on it at all until I found myself reaching for the pieces this morning.  

    I also had the material I needed. I had made a superfluous purchase a long time ago with a sealant when I was testing out texture for a mail art project.  It flashed in my mind as soon as I picked the pieces up and I laid it aside for a whole day before deciding to try the repair.  

    The pieces seemed to fit. When I started to put the pieces together, it was sort of like a jigsaw puzzle. Although the larger pieces fit togethee, it wasnt seamless. There are some small chips I’ll have to sort through later to see how much I can salvage. The larger pieces resisted a little and took gobs of the sealant. My hope is that it’ll dry and I’ll be able to use some more coats to reinforce, but there are no guarantees. 

    It takes time and effort. Each piece has to be matched, sealed and pressed together as I goop my hand up with the sealant. I’ve taken some breaks to wash my hands of said goop and have to monitor the drying process because some of the pieces are heavy and are reopened following the very real Law of Gravity.  

    Again,  I’m not married to the result.  It is more about relinquishing control, making a mess and being okay with that,  and then trusting myself to know when the project is completed or whether or not I should abandon the endeavor. 

    I hope to have a positive result,  a bowl with a story that will be healed as I heal, mended as I mend. But that’s not up to me. I may discover that a bowl is not all about the patience it took to make but the prize in knowing that I had a hand in breathing new life into it. 

    Thank you for the accidents!

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    The Beat Goes On

    Recently, while riding the bus, a song came on the driver’s mini-radio. It was Bob Dylan’s “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall”. 

    Feeling particularly sad that down from a set of circumstances beyond my control, the song matched my mood.  I found myself nodding in assent and mouthed the lyrics to myself so as not to disturb my fellow travellers. 

    The next song began to play: a blue-collar Bible anthem called, “The Man Comes Around” by Johnny Cash. How could you mistake that evangelical voice under a canvas tent inviting you to his rock and roll revival? Again, I nodded and hummed with familiarity, relating to the lyrics.

    Then, the Beatles classic, “Across the Universe” began playing and I just couldn’t help myself. I began to sing, “Nothings gonna change my world…” Surprisingly, other passengers began to tap their toes and joined in. It was one of those spontaneous moments that are marvelous and all too infrequent for my taste. 

    When we were done, Dylan began again, “The Times Are A-Changin'” and this lyrical poet’s words once again inspired spontaneous musicality as people hummed and sang along. It was one of those mysteries of life that illustrates how music brings people together. 

    Reaching the final stop, I heard a man’s voice from behind me call out sheepishly, “Excuse me, Miss? Was that you singing?” I answered, “Yes.” He complimented me and then began to praise the music. “That music was so so uplifting…” There was an excited exchange. 

    Suddenly, the man says, “I should totally thank the driver. I mean, he lifted my spirits completely and I want to thank him for that. I was feeling mighty low.” With that, the man goes up to pay his fare when he begins to thank the driver going on and on about how refreshing his experience was and how he totally appreciated the songs and wondered where the driver got the playlist from?

    The driver looked up in bewilderment and replied, “¿Que?” It was obvious that he had no idea what he was playing.

    Moral: What is meaningful to you is already available and in abundance. But the personal messages that you interpret will only be for you. Either you notice it in the present moment, or you miss it. But there is no loss in this. There is only what you yourself can handle at the time. There will come a time where you will be open to all that life brings. And when it happens, don’t forget to tell the universe, THANK YOU.

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    Passion and Purpose 

    I suppose I should say that everyone should aspire to these goals and elevate to become aware of what drives them. 

    But I don’t think like regular people. 

    I prefer a less-travelled route, one with less declarations and more value. The generous infinity pool that my mind cannot at all conjure even in my wildest imaginings. It is the place where I don’t have any thoughts or input at all.  

    This is really hard for most people to understand. They want to believe that they can steer the ship or at least stand at the helm and tie a tautline hitch that they can adjust on a whim. But life has a way of making unexpected waves and when the wind picks up, you better hold on…I don’t care how secure you think the line is.

    The other day, I was so sure I was headed in the right direction. I was sure because I was making plans, scheduling appointments, executing on every item on my daily “To-Do” list and it resulted in a full scale panic attack. 

    At times like these, I did one of the things I know to do: I called my mother. She was soothing and helpful even as I bawled my eyes out reeling in a despair I couldn’t name, feeling as though I’d been shoved into the ocean without a life preserver. She talked me down and I am grateful but it revealed more to me about how predictable I still am and how I really need to get out of my own way.

    Hay Que Barrer (Translation: We Must Sweep):

    Post Grief, you may think that you have everything under control. You are no longer a ball of raw emotions fighting against the current.  You float. You drift. But then when you reach land, you have to get to all of the ordinary things that you’d been neglecting done. You have to get up and cook, wash clothes, iron…and sweep. 

    The very act of sweeping is not just therapeutic, but it is also a form of meditation because it doesn’t require any heavy thinking. Maybe you’ll look up from the floor and make a conscious decision to sweep in the left corner or underneath the sofa, but these are just momentary instructions to plan out where you’re going to sweep next. When you’re actually doing it, you really shouldn’t be thinking of anything at all. You’re just moving a broom back and forth (and no, you’re not cheating with a Roomba, okay?).

    This time, I didn’t have to literally sweep my home.  What I had to do was figuratively sweep my “inner” home. I needed to gently brush against the floor of my heart chamber to clear out the cobwebs. 

    Even though time has passed, I realize that I am still at the mercy of the universe and it’s plans.  Spiritually speaking, I realize that God has my back and graced me with Love but He is always giving me lessons in order to help me across the ocean and lead me to shore.  

    I recently watched the Disney movie, Moana which mirrored what I was feeling. Moana may ask the ocean for help, but it doesn’t interfere unless she had attempted to do something herself. Like God, the ocean only helps those that…well, help themselves!

    So why was I seemingly accomplishing SO MUCH, checking off every box and still feeling so lousy and weepy and disjointed and disillusioned and frustrated and all those dissonant feelings? 

    One guess…

    I was getting in my own way. All of this time spent on defining my passion and finding my purpose only served to leave me lost and cast adrift.

    What I Learned Watching Swans:

    Look at these Graceful creatures…Do you see them worried or freaking out about global warming? Are they exhaustively writing their congressmen and attending town hall meetings? Are they immersed in endless circular chatter with other more opinionated swans that goes nowhere? 


    Nope. They are just swans out in the sun gliding along minding their own business. 

    I may observe the reflection that they make on the water. Occasionally, they may honk. Yet, when I look at them, I admire their peace.

    Until then, I have to stop trying to be a swan when I’m clearly a duck. I have to accept things just as they are and not plow forward in the hopes that it’ll lead me to really big words like, Passion! And, Purpose!  Because knowing me, I’ll just be so focused on these that I’ll miss the GIANT ICEBERG in front of me. 

    And we all know even “unsinkable” ships sometimes succumb, but oh the treasures that rise to the surface…

    Enjoy!

     

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    How to Heal 

    I’ve been refraining from writing in my blog lest I present myself as enamored with personal Tales of Woe. This blog should be a happy place, my safety zone, a place of Joy and Peace and Healing.

    When I started this blog in 2005, I was unaware that it was a creative way of managing my stressful life.  It was an exciting, new method of recording my life experiences. I enjoyed the immediacy of communication and the right to freely publish  without restriction or fear of terminology I used or the political correctness of my words.

    However, I was also unaware of how purposeful my blog had become.  It was not only a digital memory of life experiences, but it had transitioned into a way of encouraging my creativity. I was going to design the blog in my fashion, post when I felt like it, and express myself through my life’s journey.  It’s an amazing source of pleasure to know that I did this by myself in a small room surrounded by clutter and disarray.  

    It also was the place where I could tap into my light to illuminate the world in which I lived.  Through reading my posts, I could witness my own shortcomings, failures, successes, events that helped to shape me. I could recognize my hand in manifesting the chaos that I surrounded myself in without judgment. 

    But smack dab in the middle of all of that positive reinforcement and motivation, I was also inadvertently reinforcing some queer beliefs that lingered underneath the posts. They hung out in the shady cracks and crevices of a story I was telling. 

    But that story no longer serves me.

    I’m not a victim nor a child any longer. Oh sure, I have childlike qualities which are a permanent part of who I am, but I am in charge of my own destiny. 

    May you come to discover the real true you. Remember, as long as your heart’s in the right place, you’ll never go wrong!

    I left breadcrumbs so that I could find my way back as I traveled through the wood.  At my lowest point, I’d almost forgotten where they lay but cast aside my doubts when I spotted a cottage.  Lit from the inside with an appealing, warm light, I observed it from a distance. I was afraid that someone or something would open the door and chase me, but nothing did.  I waited a long time and drew nearer so that I could walk around and test my resolve.  To my surprise, I discovered that it was empty inside.  Hesitantly, I pushed the front door ajar and walked past the threshold. The cottage was sparsely decorated: a pale green rocking chair, a tiny end-table, a trunk and a cot.  The floor was littered with leaves and dirt–which I had a hand in tracking in–and a circular, woven rug lay just the foot of the rocking chair I sat in to rock myself to sleep.  I awoke to the sound of rain and felt a few drops on my forehead. The ceiling above me began to leak from other spots too, so I turned my torso to the left while still seated and saw a set of narrow cupboards against the far wall.  I got up and opened each cupboard one by one, finding a pail and some chipped red clay pots to capture the rain in the ceiling that cried.

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    The Beast of 2016

    The hardest thing to do is to be still and observe, given our limited concept of time.  How does one go in the in-between places, stay there and be truly quiet?  How do you get comfortable with yourself in a way that is genuine, learning to accept yourself just as you are?  How do you realize what’s true to you?  While it seems hard to define, identify and locate, it really isn’t.  Just hang out long enough and stay put and you will find it.  But standing there will seem excruciating.

    If I can download an mp4, stream Netflix and get up-to-the-second live feed to events happening all around the world, why can’t I just be born enlightened?  Is there an app for this?  Well, no…at least not yet.

    I have come to realize that I am analog.  It isn’t what I would’ve wanted from my particular plan of my own existence, but then again, I can’t see the whole picture. And while this year has been wrought with change from the The Presidential election to transitions in the workplace, and loss of my personal creative heroes;  I cannot deny that I am still here because I have something to contribute.

    I didn’t always think this.  I wanted to believe that I am an some obsolete model destined to be taken under by the corrupted power structure.  It’s easier to go into the familiar patterns of the past and pretend that I am powerless and that the sky would fall and crush me in the process.  I was playing that familiar track from an old dream: the one where I’m taking a test and time seems to speed up and I never finish.  A dream that’s actually happened to me in my waking life but has now become a one-way ticket to Woe-Is-Me-ville.  This crutch-this excuse-is just a worn-out tool that I take out when I am feeling overwhelmed.

    I want to be clear that this is just a myth; this is not as simplistic as it sounds. It’s a deliberate reaction and choice that I am making (albeit unbeknownst to my true self) whereby I always come out the loser.  This kind of negative thinking has become intrusive, a detriment to my well-being, a major player in the play of my life.  Worse, by continuing to use this outdated model, I have been causing my own suffering and limiting the possibilities that lie within me.  It’s like I am believing the rhetoric of my own campaign against my opponent: my self.

    Ignorance isn’t bliss, it’s a incentive to change.

    I bought books and began The Quest to Discovery earnestly and with fervor.  I judged myself harshly when I slept or took a break or caved and had ice-cream.  I started to break out and refused to act on treating myself better.  Instead, I became stricter and harsher and buried myself in knowledge.   Then, feeling that this wasn’t enough as it was all about self-improvement, I started to dole out advice–no matter if you wanted it or not.  I was going to make you see the error of your ways.  I was going to be perfect and set the example for others. I was going to model myself after leaders and figure out how to respond. Do I join protests?  Do I fund initiatives for change?  Do I  give to charity?  Do I sign petitions?  What do I do?  I mean, I had to do something, didn’t I?

    Then, I crashed.  I started to feel weak and sick all the time.  I got sick from all of the bad food I stuffed into my face while trying to solve the world’s problems.  Hesitant and resistant, I had to take a step back and address this monster (which I call by many names).  I had to do something.  If not, it would overtake me and swallow up any opportunity I had to grow.  It would strip me of my joy, my purpose, my peace.  So I did what all beginners do: I made a mistake.

    Failure is part of the process because it allows you to experiment and explore.

    In layman’s terms, it’s me squeezing into that “trendy” dress to try and make it fit or trying on a new, wretched shade of lipstick that isn’t me because the girl at the counter said it went with my skin tone.  I had failed.  I had failed. Failed, failed, failed.

    F-A-I-L-E-D.

    Once I shed light on it and called it what it was, I had to remove the shaming and labeling that comes with that.  I actually hear myself say things like, “You suck, MeMa” or “Why do you have to be such a dummy?”  I say terrible things to myself only reinforcing a negative view of me even though the only person in the room saying these things was…well…me.

    No doubt this is a common struggle in a human being’s life.  No doubt there are countless others out there berating themselves and critiquing themselves in mirrors.  In my struggle to assess, understand, and become more aware, I was figuratively doing a tailspin toward a bumpy off-road in a golf cart. This method of managing change has been how I had always handled things: fight, act, and resist!  But to my surprise, none of these traditional game plans worked.

    So what happens now?  The truth is I don’t know.  I’ve been occupied with doing nothing, nothing at all.  Doing nothing is actually something.  It is the act of being.  I gotta hand it to the plants and the animal kingdom for making that look so easy, I find that humans are not adept.  Apparently, not every monkey can do it.

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