In Praise of the Letter-Writers

In Praise of the Letter-Writers

"I'm not good at keeping in touch." We all have friends/acquaintances/co-workers/bosses/people who use this excuse often. I've used it. We have friends that we email or call once every six months and that works quite fine, thanks. We catch up, pick a quirky short story or two to tell, and say goodbye until next time. We meet those few rare friends in "real-life" to go hiking, eat frosted cupcakes, or more likely to drink a glass of red wine. But then come those people that you really care about...and try over and over…continue reading →

In Praise of the Letter-Writers

“I’m not good at keeping in touch.” We all have friends/acquaintances/co-workers/bosses/people who use this excuse often. I’ve used it.

We have friends that we email or call once every six months and that works quite fine, thanks. We catch up, pick a quirky short story or two to tell, and say goodbye until next time. We meet those few rare friends in “real-life” to go hiking, eat frosted cupcakes, or more likely to drink a glass of red wine.

But then come those people that you really care about…and try over and over to connect with. You email, you leave voicemails, send one-line social media messages and even use the most impersonal and speedy: text messaging. And then…nothing.

Or, “I am so bad at keeping in touch! I’m just so busy.”

I get that.

To an extent.

You are so busy for an entire year? Busyness is not a badge of honor.

And then you have that one friend with three kids under the age of four. She is breastfeeding and has health issues and some little voice is always screaming in the background of a phone conversation. The three year old is probably trying to flood her bathroom right.now. She has shit going on.

She writes me letters. The put-a-stamp-on-it and put-in-a-mailbox kind.

Sometimes the letters are hilarious, some serious–most include a little of both.

Sometimes we don’t write each other letters for months, and sometimes the letter exchange is more frequent. It doesn’t matter.

When we meet in real life, we do not answer our phones. We do not text message other people in the middle of our conversation. We value the communication between each other here and now.

People tell me they are lonely. I get lonely too. Everyone does. With all these endless devices and methods of communication…why are we seemingly getting more lonely? Note: This isn’t meant to “technology shame” people who do connect on-line and have difficulty for whatever reason connecting in real person. I’m not saying devices are the downfall of humankind or anything that dramatic. What I really mean: when I am with you sitting down looking at you in the eye, please do not pull out your phone and start browsing Facebook.

A mass text message that says “Merry X-Mas!” is flimsy communication. Doesn’t mean it is “wrong” or even unnecessary…it just isn’t personal. A manager who sends an email communication to employees in the next room isn’t really communicating either. Is she/he incapable of having a face-to-face conversation? Does communication that is so impersonal seem safer? (To me, yes…which is why I prefer email for conflict resolution over phone calls or face-to-face…even though face-to-face would be more professional).

A letter is valuable.

Or maybe I am old-fashioned.

Any time I received a gift when I was young, my mother would sit me down at the kitchen table with a pile of thank-you cards and a list of addresses. I would not only say thank-you, but I would also name the gift for which I was thanking them. Then I would briefly describe what is going on in my life before thanking them again and signing off. I started writing thank-you notes the moment I could write a complete sentence (maybe before).

I still do this. It is deeply ingrained. Not sending a thank-you would be disrespectful, even downright rude.

A letter is valuable.

Are your friendships flimsy? Good friendships are not based on poor grammar text-messages with smiley faces. Is your communication in general flimsy? Can you speak directly to your co-workers or boss or employees? If your friendship communication is flimsy, chances are your communication in other areas is suffering as well. Not meaning for this to read like a bad-advice column in a magazine that sells $300 blenders…

But, “I’m not good at keeping in touch” is a choice you make after a certain point in time. Do you really want to continue the friendship, or not? Maybe not. But make that clear.

There are times when communicating and salvaging friendships are not your priority. There are times when you just need to shut people out for whatever reason. Tell your friends and family you need a break. Tell your friends you aren’t taking phone calls this week. Self-care is okay. It is necessary.

But let’s scale down on telling each other “how busy” we all are…and quit implying that our friendships are not valuable.

Write a letter instead.

 

(Featured image is stock image of “mail letters”).

This article has 9 comments

  1. Megan Larson Reply

    I love this! On that note…you should give me your address 😀 I have your old Great Falls address, but I’m not sure if you’ve relocated since coming back from Nepal.

  2. H-Bomb! Reply

    Sweet and sad at the same time. I love your friend who has so little time and yet still finds time to show you she cares. I am sad for the loss of your other friends who probably still love you, and yet don’t feel compelled to continue showing that they do. It is not easy to let go of people we used to care about when life takes us far away from each other. Over time the distance tends to erase the commonalities we used to share. A past love can fade but hopefully never burns out. Even if it comes to the point where you mourn the loss of a past best friend you can still love the memories and be proud of the person they are today. Love lives on even after letting go.

    1. theSkyisPolkaDotted Reply

      Thanks for the comment, H-Bomb! I do not think I am unique in frustrations with communication (or lack thereof). I do think people in general (not just friends) have gotten incredibly lazy about basic communication (even companies who are providing a service do not respond for weeks). I so value the friendships and other relationships that stay strong regardless of distance and time. But, that does take a certain commitment of both parties involved. That is a choice.

      Conversely, in a professional setting–good communication is absolutely necessary. And yet, with increased technology, somehow some companies are actually worse at communication than in the past.

  3. jenthom Reply

    Sarah – I have really valued your thanks yous! I suspected they came from your past training in Gratitude! I respect and admire how you can write and say something so straight forward! Good to read. Heartening that you are thinking deeply. Thank you for this – Jennifer

    1. theSkyisPolkaDotted Reply

      Thanks for reading, Jen! I also love your letters, and colorful photos, and hand-drawn postcards. One is hanging up in my room. All of those mean so much.

  4. Linda Reply

    Still have thank you notes that you have written to me; one thank you written on your ‘anatomy study sketch of the ear’, and my favorite thank you included with a colored pencil envelope addressed to “Mom” and our address. Jennifer Thompson’s last letter to me written with every line in a different colored pencil. Your grandmother Sentz spent many hours writing to friends as her hearing and health declined, and know you treasure all the notes you received with her love…….Thanks for the reminder and the memories………..

  5. Sharon Stewart Reply

    I liked your thoughts on this…very important in relating to others. Are we so busy, we can’t manage to ” be with” or ” write to.”? Thanks for your well thought out comments. Your notes make me want to be more ” thoughtful.”. Sharon Stewart

    1. theSkyisPolkaDotted Reply

      Thank you for the response, Sharon. Yes, I also need to be more thoughtful in interactions. It is so easy to be “busy.” -S.

Thoughts?