Letters Home: A Belated New Year’s Resolution

This is the first time I have touched the computer for over a week. Life seems a lot more spacious, and slower. I am making a new year’s resolution. I am going to write letters again…

This is the first time I have touched the computer for over a week. Life seems a lot more spacious and slower. I would say deeper but that sounds a bit pretentious. Nonetheless, it’s true. I am making a new year’s resolution. I am going to write letters again.

Here, at my mother’s house for Christmas, I’ve been reading a stash of old letters, shocked to see that some of them have started to fade and grow brown around the edges just like old letters are supposed to do. Although I am still young, and all the people I love are still alive, surely? But no, some of the letters create a comforting closeness with those who are now dead — making it seem as if they are only “crossed over” or on some “other side” in a way that photos don’t, with their brutal finality. The person is there in the picture, yet not there. Whereas as I read their letters, they speak again, in a different way every time.

It is as if the last few years of my life have dropped away, there’s no evidence for them but photos which sit on a computer screen, transient images and always far too many. I will write emails for immediacy, and letters for this blessed feeling of people coming alive whenever I want them to. Less of the impatient, scattered present moment, and more of the intimacy of being alone with pen and paper, inviting and invoking the presence of someone else, then waiting, then receiving something made with the unique signs of the person who writes back.

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Internet time is horizontal; everyone is there at once. Letter time has to be carved out of everyday life. It’s vertical. The old therapist’s technique of writing letters to people to put down “unfinished business” works pretty well, maybe just because of the act of concentrating, in solitude, moving the pen on the paper, and having the other person in mind. Maybe if we were more used to doing this, the important things would be said in the first place, our attention would be able to settle on what is important rather than becoming stretched wide and fascinated with the infinite possibilities of all that is happening at the present moment and needs to be responded to “right now”.

I have not checked my email for a week and my world has not ended. I have not been in contact with a lot of friends with whom I share my day to day life but haven’t met. I have, however, been in contact with myself at all different points of my life, through all the wonderful people I have met and connected with, who wrote to and with themselves, then sent it to me.

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