I wish I knew just who you are, so I could begin this letter with:
Dear Holly, Blaire, Natalee, Phyllis, Ashley, Katharine, Leeza, Kristen, Sarah, Heather, Robyn, Jill, Andrea, Mandy, and Kristy...
I know a letter on a blog is not the same as a letter on paper to one person, but it is still my hope that you will take this letter personally, that you will read it as if I wrote it just for you.
You might remember that I stopped blogging two Decembers ago, a few months after Sailor was born and after I had just launched my new Kangaguru blog that TJ worked so hard to get started for me. We (He) put gobs of time into that blog and I felt proud of the look and the writing. Unfortunately, it soon proved to be too much for me to keep blogging during those days of Sailor being so tiny and us moving to Greenville and starting the kids at a new school and preschool and trying to settle into a new life in a new town. After nine years of blogging, I stopped abruptly that December, and sometimes felt glad about it and sometimes felt awful.
I think I felt more glad than bad because I had gotten tired of blogging. When blog, blog, blog became blah, blah, blah, I sensed in my soul that I needed to stop. I had already stopped reading all but one of the blogs I once read, and I would soon go dark on Facebook as well. I needed a break from the noise, both hearing it and making it. I felt hypocritical expecting you to read my blog when I wasn’t reading your blog (if you have one). I was also wrestling to find a way to write that would be sustainable during that first year of Sailor’s life. I started blogging ten years ago, during the first year of Bauer’s life, when he was our only child. There is a marked difference in what adding the fourth child meant for my work as a mom, as well as a different level of letting go that had to happen. The blog is what I let go. Plus Sailor’s baby book, and the yearly online photo albums I used to work on so diligently, and most of my personal reading time. It could have been worse.
I could not let go of writing, though. But if I wasn’t going to blog or be on Facebook, then what? Well, then what is that the neatest thing happened. I have a Buddhist saying copied in my Blank Book that reads, “When the student is ready, the teacher appears.” I guess I was ready because my friend Sarah showed up with a dinner invitation, and when we accepted, I had no idea that the dinner invitation would turn out to be a writing invitation.
Sarah and Ryan invited our family over for dinner on a Sunday evening last March. I remember it was sunny but chilly that afternoon when we arrived, and I wished I had brought my sweatshirt. Among other topics of conversation, Sarah and I talked about my desire to write, and how I had recently stopped blogging, for all the same reasons I just told you. I told Sarah I had started to wonder if the growing tension I felt about blogging was a sign that my call to writing might be changing. And were there any past and present parts of me that pointed to my future writing self?
It hit me, as we stood in Sarah's kitchen after dinner, that the one thing I know to be absolutely true about my writing self is my love for writing letters. I explained to Sarah about my letters to several penpals as a child, to a soldier in Iraq whose name I picked up at the county fair, and to friends and family through the years. I talked about writing letters for the past fifteen years to Ms. Bessie, a cafeteria lady I met when I was a student at Clemson, and about my five years of writing Ian, a friend of ours who is in prison. Ian has twenty more years behind bars, which means I get twenty more years of writing him, and the fact that this doesn’t make me feel closed in at all might mean something.
And then Sarah mentioned that she once wrote a letter a day during the forty days of Lent, and at that moment, it felt like I was coming around a curve and catching the first glimpse of the road sign of direction for my writing life. Sarah helped me see the sign that night by letting me find a voice for my heart, my heart that loves and has always loved to write letters. I went home full of hope and ready to make headway.
I slept on the idea, then began my year of writing letters the very next day.
And I’m still reeling from the implications of this epiphany:
What?! Can this really be true?
I can write my friends letters!
I can be a writer!
I don’t have to sit at a computer and type out an email or a blog post to tell people what is going on in my life.
I can make a daily contribution of the gift of words to one person in my world, while pushing back the darkness because my heart is coming alive.
I can honor the writer in me in a way I love and look forward to.
So that is what I did. I handwrote letter after letter after letter. I started on March 9, 2015, and wrote one letter every single day for a year. I finished the project on March 8, 2016, having written 366 letters (because it was Leap Year) to 95 different people. I loved taking all I could say to the masses and doling it out to one person at a time, one letter at a time. I didn’t want the year to end, and I could write a book about all the things letter writing meant to me and brought about in my life. So now, some days, even though my year is up, I still write a letter. And I know I will keep writing letters my whole life because this is what God has given me to love.
God has also given me a desire to come back to blogging. Through a couple conversations with friends and a few blog posts about blogging that my mom shared with me recently, I have a sense that God is once again revealing a road sign for my writing. A few months ago, I began work on a book about my year of writing letters, and I hope it can come to fruition one day. But right now, I need to stop and blog. I want my blog to be a blessing. I want to talk about writing letters and about quotes and about minutiae. I want to honor the writer in me by writing. I want to do it well and I want to get better. I want to write to you, and I will. I hope you will come back.