As we’re all coming to realize, this is an increasingly difficult time for us all. So many unknowns, fears, and worries about our loved ones, about ourselves, about our children, feeling isolated and alone, feeling stressed and overwhelmed about home schooling or job loss or dying or any number of things.
I’ve heard this pandemic is likened to a war, just with doctors on the front lines, fighting none other than Mother Nature herself, something we don’t even understand, let alone fully respect. When was the last time we had a physical war on our soil? Not attacks like 9/11. Not overseas wars. I mean, a full-blown war on our home turf. ‘Twas the Civil War, people, from 1861 to 1865. And that was ONE. HUNDRED. AND. SIXTY. EFFING. YEARS. AGO.
None of us knows how to endure a tragedy on a mass global scale such as this. The sense of isolation and despair could easily overtake us. I’ll be the first one to admit that I was completely overwhelmed last week. I was convinced my parents were going to die if they caught “the COVID.” Both are compromised and over 65 and yet they repeatedly visited the hardware store as if they were invincible. Then I heard that Spain is literally sedating anyone over the age of 65 coming into the ER so they can die in palliative comfort without much of a fuss. And so I went down the rabbit hole. It got dark and heart-breakingly painful. And my biggest fear — the concern for my own children if I died — was like this distant shadowy thunderstorm in the back of my mind…looming, ominous, and rapidly approaching.
But something cleared this week. The storm seemed to break, and gave way to a clear turquoised sky, speckled with those cotton ball clouds of imagined animal shapes, where rain-slicked leaves and the bright green growth of spring beneath the torrent shook droplets of hope and newness into my mind. I was cleansed anew. And all that was left was love.
And so I started writing again. I haven’t written publicly in, what, 5 years? I’ve gone through Hell and back and I promise I’ll explain that later when the times calls for it, but for now, something lifted the heavy curtain of shame and fear and I could finally write out loud again…and not just write anything, but write something so profound, so filled with love and compassion that it sends the the recipient a message of warmth and hope and peace.
I’ve decided to send out handwritten love letters to my family and friends. As if we were in the Civil War. Swooping cursive that no one teaches anymore, stamps, wax seals, and all (okay, I don’t have a wax sealing kit, but that kinda seems awesome, right? And something I could find on Etsy…hmmm stay tuned).
Think about it. How often do we have this opportunity where we as a human collective are looking at our own mortality square in the face in a mirror of uncertainty, staring straight into the eyes of our own fear? Our damaged souls peering back at the lifeless shells we’ve seemed to become, and our true and naked selves held hostage by a pandemic with nowhere else to run. It’s as brutal as it is beautiful. And as scary it all seems I am realizing an exquisite and unparalleled opportunity here. Let’s shout it out from our quarantined rooftops what this experience truly is: A GIFT.
This time is a gift, to reconnect, to truly enjoy what matters, and reevaluate what doesn’t. This is the time to comprehend how precious life is and relearn the value of the simple joys and sorrows, of sadness and love swirling all around it.
I have always cherished reading old love letters. There’s something terribly romantic, nostalgic, and fleeting about it, the rushed penmanship when they couldn’t get their feelings out onto the page fast enough, or that droplet of a tear blurring words of tender longing. It’s like stepping into the sweet-scented clothing of someone’s soul, pulling on the cozy sweater of how they felt and thought. The permanent gift of a fleeting moment in time, no longer belonging to the author once sent, but forever held in the recipient’s heart once received.
And so I’m going to write love letters to my family and friends, using scraps of drawing paper I’ll have to wrestle my home-schooled kids for because I’m not allowed to go to Target for stationary and my old letterheads are inscribed with a pair of names that no longer have meaning to me. These love letters won’t be romantic in nature of course, but they will come from the heart, telling my loved ones just how much they mean to me, what makes them unique, why they’re so important in my life, and that their life has meaning. Perhaps this could be a good exercise for the kiddos too, adding hand-drawn dinosaurs, toddler scribbles, and a spritz of hand sanitizer instead of perfume as we go.
An email or text just doesn’t suffice in this context. It doesn’t seem to honor the gravity of the situation. FaceTime is fully necessary, but it is also ephemeral, whereas a letter can allow the reader tangible and enduring evidence of love, a perennial note of truth. So perhaps you’ll join me in doing something that came so natural to our recent ancestors, something that forces us out of our own media-trapped minds and house-bound bodies, and focuses our attention onto sending out love and light to others where it belongs. Get us out of our heads and onto making someone else happy in these desperate times.
As my favorite poet Oliver Wendell Holmes said, “love is the master key that opens the gates of happiness.” Will you help me pry this gate open?