(Originally posted here March 17, 2014)
Ann posted something today, and I read it (duh), and her basic point was, “I don’t know how long I have left.” Tears ran down my cheeks because, do any of us? It’s the age-old question-that-we-can-never-answer: “When will I take my last breath?”“When will my lungs fill full and expand with air for the very last time?” And of course, “Will anyone remember me?”
So we drove back from Colorado yesterday, my favourite friends and I, and there were a million things to be done. The list was something like:
laundry, clean room, unload dishwasher, read for Philosophy and Moderns and do Mastering; sort through pictures, catch up on journalling, empty my memory card, make a to-do list, feed the dogs, get groceries for my empty fridge, shower.
All day long, I did. I did and I did and I did. Check, check, and check. But in my head was an absolutely painstaking, un-ignorable nag: “WRITE THOSE LETTERS.”
As I scrubbed my scalp with shampoo and clipped my disgustingly unkempt fingernails and plucked my eyebrows for the first time in a couple weeks, I wrote paragraphs in my head. My mind reeled as my heart tried to tell it how thankful she was—how much she loves her friends. It was obvious that I had two options: go crazy and have an aneurism or sit my butt down on the couch with a cup of tea and write the damn letters. So I grabbed coloured pens, a different colour for each guy, and I spilled ink. One letter for the whole apartment, and then one special letter for each of them, 2-4 pages in length. Two hours of nonstop writing and heart-spilling can wreck a girl’s wrist as much as her heart, and finally it was an hour til’ bed and the letters were done. I didn’t write drafts or make edits--I didn’t even read over what I had written. I scribble-scratched whatever came to mind, threw in a couple P.S.’s, folded them up, and licked and sealed envelopes. And then in my Carhart, massive sweats, and zero makeup, looking like death warmed over but loving those boys enough to let them see me in such a state, I dropped a large manilla envelope off at the 412. Kevin and Brian were there, and Kevin made me stay long enough to hear the group letter read aloud, and then I ditched so I could make it to the store and home in time for bed.
This morning, a friend tagged me in a status and asked for some comments to help her write an article she’s working on. She asked questions like:
“Why do you blog? What inspired you to blog? What do you gain from blogging and what do you want your audience to gain?”
And my basic answer was this: I write because my life depends on it.
I write letters and create Instagram captions before I even have pictures with which to pair them and send novel-length texts and type 2,000-word blog posts instead of doing homework because if I don’t, I think I’ll go insane. My heart is too deep and my mind to expansive to house all these words. I keep three different journals and a quote book; I fill the margins of every school-book with thoughts and reflection—writing is as much a part of my being as playing guitar or running marathons is to yours. This world needs all kinds.
Because when I think about my life and about the fact that, in all reality, it may not exist tomorrow, I ask myself the question we all do:
“What will I have left behind?”
If my friends ever have to plan my funeral or I die before my kids graduate high school, will anyone care about my straight A’s or bank account or how fashionable my clothes were? No, no, and no. What people will go digging through old keepsake boxes for is WRITTEN WORDS. Email words and Instagram words and Facebook status words are good great and fine, but at the end of the day, people want to read their friends’ handwriting. Emails get check-marked and stuck in some “keepsake” folder online, but letters and cards and picture albums? Those are living words. Life-giving words. Those are the words that make the world go round.
So I want to encourage you all: leave marks of your love and gratitude. No one cares if your letters are sap on tap, and no one cares if they can hardly read your handwriting. What they will care about, at the end of the, day is that you took the time to WRITE. Buy yourself a $0.99 notebook and a good pen and a stack of stamps. Take the time to give up homework-time to write your heart on paper. THE PEOPLE IN YOUR WORLD NEED TO BE ADORED. We all need to know that someone, somewhere, liked the flannel we wore today or noticed how long we hugged our mama. And how is anyone ever going to know if you don’t TELL THEM?
We are all so afraid of sounding too sappy, of being “too much:” too emotional, too deep, too loving, too kind, too over-the top. It’s all nonsense. It’s all Satan’s forces want—for us to live in fear of bearing our truest souls; in fear of anyone knowing how we really feel.
So yeah, my letters are messy and probably sound ridiculous. I don’t really care, and I wouldn’t know anyway, because I never re-read or edit them--what is written the first time is always the most honest and truest-to-self, so why go back and try to re-word anything? To make it neater? More pre-packaged? More boxed-up? What we need are people who trust themselves enough to let their first words be good. enough. Pray before you write. Pray that the Lord will guide your words and that you’ll say exactly what needs to be said. And then be absolutely okay with whatever comes out. Because when people tell me, “Man, thank you for writing…that was EXACTLY what I needed to hear,” my response is often, “Oh, really? What did I say?” And I’m met with looks of utter confusion. No, I probably don’t remember what I wrote you. I prayed and wrote exactly what came to mind and then I pulled out an envelope. And if it was messy and way too deep and way too personal, that is wonderful and beautiful and 100% exactly what our society needs. We need more people who are more willing to be messy, and personal, and ask soul-stirring questions and make intentional comments.
I do remember one thing I wrote last night. I said this:
“Even the most confident girls in the world need to know they are adored,”
and the one who read it called me past my bedtime, in tears, and simply said thank you. He said my gratitude was so deep and real that it almost seemed fake—said I was so blatantly honest that it was almost difficult to read and digest. Said he never knew “some of those things” about me—like, that I’m not as put-together and confident as everyone seems to think. And I thought to myself, “wow.” How sad that we live in a world where deep, personal honesty is so rare that it has become “strange.” How sad that we are so concerned with how we are viewed, with how “put-together” our lives SEEM that we are completely terrified to ever let anyone know that we don’t have it all figured out.
Well, here’s your Monday afternoon news flash:
I don’t have it all figured out.
And neither do you. I’m not always okay. And neither are you. And neither is the guy sitting next to you in the library.
Let’s work on getting real, on being raw, on actually and intentionally telling people how we actually and literally feel. If you like his grey beanie, tell him. Or better yet, write him a note. If you love the way he sings or that they included you in their 3-on-3 game even though you sucked and were wearing hiking boots, tell them how adored they made you feel.
We have got to start being unafraid of utter honesty. Fear breeds fakers. Courage breeds the best kinds of friends.
Have courage. Go write. And quit with the editing.
hey, i'm jordan.
i write here because i think our words are worth sharing.