I often write in a journal – I wouldn’t call it ‘journalling’ as I don’t use it for reflecting on the day, really, but it does keep me sane at critical points to lay out my thoughts or to make lists. Quite often, I use it to give myself a little pep talk, and this week I took it a step further and I wrote myself a letter.
The ever-inspiring Emma of silverpebble has been encouraging all of us to take up pen and paper and rediscover the joys of the handwritten letter. She has fantastically matched up over 700 people for a global handwritten letter exchange. Search the hashtag #writealetterbyhand on Twitter to find the happy participants and share their inky excitement!
At another time and place, I would have loved to have joined in with this. Letters at one time were the joy of my life, as I had long distance relationships and friendships in the days before we all had mobile phones. E-mails just aren’t the same, as we all know. It’s something in the very delay of a physical letter that makes it more significant, weighty, considered.
However, at the moment, my life is rather on the grim and stressful side, and I don’t like to bother my correspondents with it all. I’d rather not communicate with friends and family, let alone lovely strangers, if I have nothing positive to say. Others may feel very differently about dealing with stress, but I’m as ‘I’ as it is possible to get on the Myers-Briggs scale, so that’s what I do.
I’ve noticed how looking back in my journal is helpful – words that reassured me when I wrote them, reassure me again on re-reading, days and weeks later. Add to this the well-remembered delight of the looked-for envelope dropping on the doormat, and it was only a small step to take to decide to sit down and write myself a letter.
The frivolous use of a stamp was already weighing on my mind, so for my letter I just used some of the printed-on-one-side paper I keep as jotter paper. And to be honest, whilst I love beautiful stationery, it can be a little intimidating. I think it depends what you have to say, but sometimes writing on scrap paper you’d have no qualms about screwing up and throwing away allows you to express yourself more freely.
When hunting for an envelope in my letter stationery box – it’s a big box, as I say, letter writing used to be big in my life – I came across some old postcards of some favourite places, and decided to include those in my letter. I tried not to look at them too hard, so I could see them with fresh eyes when they arrived!
And I can tell you, that it all weirdly worked. I enjoyed writing the letter, and I really enjoyed receiving it a few days later, tempered in the machines of the Royal Mail.
Now, I’m not a great believer in the whole ‘me time’ thing. I think most of our grandmothers would have considered the suggestion they ‘take time out for themselves’ as we are so often told to do these days rather self indulgent, if not selfish. But this was a little private pleasure that really helped me. Some words of support from someone who really knows what I’m going through and what I need to hear – the only person who really knows, after all – myself. Is this very strange?
At a corporate interpersonal skills workshop years ago, we looked at effectively thanking people. About how important it is not to just say ‘thanks’ but to state what you are thanking them for, and how exactly it has helped. One of the exercises involved us telling our workshop partners about something we wished we’d been thanked for, and then having them thank us for it properly. It seemed so artificial, since you’d just told them what to say, and they hadn’t benefitted personally from what you’d done. But the weird thing was, it still felt really nice to be thanked out loud for something that had been overlooked. I’ve always remembered this.
So I think I can highly recommend writing a letter to yourself, and you know what else? What about sending yourself a card or letter for Valentine’s Day?
I’ve never really ‘done’ Valentine’s Day (or maybe it’s that nobody has ever done it to me?). I look at cards with raggedy teddies on them and wonder what on earth that’s supposed to mean. But what about just saying it’s a day for thinking of our special people, and that you are a special person too? Why not send yourself a card or just a letter, reminding yourself what an awesome individual you are. You could buy yourself a special card with teddies and flowers, or a card with a stupid joke, and use your special fountain pen. Or you could just write what you need to hear out loud on the nearest piece of paper with one of the kids’ colouring pencils. Thank yourself for everything you’ve achieved. Post it. Open it on Valentine’s Day.