When I first moved down South, I had lofty and honey-glazed goals of keeping in touch with friends and family via cards, presents (when money and/or creativity allowed), and hand-written letters. It’s been just over a year since I came down here and as I sit and catch up on cards and such (all of which are late), I’m reminded a) it’s a pain in the ass to write all this stuff by hand, b) I still love doing it, especially with my custom made fountain pen and it’s fantastic green ink c) Robert Fulghum had a fairly unique way of dealing with sending people things and the whole lateness issue.
[note: I just tried looking up which Robert Fulghum book this essay was in so I could hopefully link it up or at least give it’s proper name. While searching, I found his website, on which I see that he has two new books out that I didn’t know about! The latest, called Third Wish, looks epic and wonderful. Take, for instance, this part of the description from Amazon.com:
Woven into the fabric of the novel are cultural history, art, philosophy, archeology, poetry, theater and music. The mode of the novel is contained in the words Slowly, Surprise, and Witness. More than anything else, Third Wish is a long love story–not in the usual sense–but the story of people who love life and will go to great lengths to find a flourishing Way onward.
Also on Amazon, from the Third Wish page, the author writes a letter to the reader. Towards the end of it he says:
Four seminal notions define Third Wish: Slowly. Surprise. Witness. Passion.
Finally, when all is said and done, Third Wish is a wide-ranging love story of a specific kind: It’s about loving life and tying it up with a scarlet ribbon of memory as a keepsake. One of the characters says: “Love is not a noun, after all. Love is an active verb. Love is a chance we have taken – No wins, no losses – lots of ties.” The nature of those ties binds the actors, the novel, the writer and, if all goes well, the reader together.
Clearly, I must read it. It’s not at my public library (like the second to newest is, which of course I just placed it on hold) so I have to decide if I want to use the rest of my Amazon Christmas giftcard on it. Quandry.]
I wasn’t planning on writing so much about Robert Fulghum, just a quick explanation about the essay I mentioned (which I will get to), but finding these two books has igniting something in me. Excitement. Passion. This is the type of book I want to read because this is the type of life I try to lead. I want to slow down. I adore surprises (it sucks when they’re bad, and I’ve had my fair share of those lately, but still, that doesn’t mean surprises themselves are bad). I’ve been trying to be a witness to life, instead of letting it fly by me in a haze, or running myself ragged, trying to soak up everything but also push aside the problems I was having right in front of me. And passion. Dear gods, back in April and May, when I lost the ability to feel passionately…it was horrific. The gulf inside me that no cake could fill, no words would relieve. I felt hopeless. Thankfully, there was something somewhere inside me that knew to keep going, even if I didn’t know why or where. Just forward. As best as I could.
And here I am, having taken some time to myself, still pondering the nature of love and forgiveness, the future, what I want, and reading a fuckton (Check out my review of “Calling Me Home”. The rest of the Phaedre cycle of the Kushiel series, “Nowhere But Home,” and some other odds and ends reviews coming soon. I hope. I finished reading them, I just have to write about them.), and trying to push myself to get the words inside my brain and heart out in the open. That last part is proving to be more difficult than I thought. I don’t have any further insight about any of those right now, so let’s totally seamlessly segue back to the Robert Fulghum essay!
If you don’t know, Robert Fulghum is the author of “All I Really Need to Know, I Learned in Kindergarten.” He has been a teacher, UU minister, author, musician, painter, philosopher, sculptor, “ditch-digger, newspaper carrier, ranch hand, salesman for IBM, and singing cowboy.” <- from his Wiki. You can understand why I’m fascinated by him and his writing. So, anyhoo…he and his wife, at some point in their lives, decided to sell their house and buy a mobile home. They’d travel, visit family and friends, see the world, etc.
During this time, it was hard for them to adhere to a schedule of where holidays and birthdays fell and coincide that with when they’d be near a post office and, if I remember correctly, trying to juggle being at so and so’s house for Christmas or Aunt Whomever’s for Passover just got to be too much, so they chose to ignore the calendar dates and send something special to someone when they came across said something special. It’s an idea that’s intrigued me for many years and I wondered if I could ever do it. Since I’m perpetually sending things out late, it’s almost like I’m doing that. However, I’d rather do it as a matter of course and not just procrastination. The problem is, I also feel slightly beholden to the traditions of my family (blood and chosen) whom I’ve lived with or around.
My mother and I have had massive fights about which holiday I’m visiting her on. She feels she has claim to seeing me on certain days, not taking into account what I want to do or other people who’re expecting to see me. Birthdays or certain holidays mean everything to some of my friends/family and to others, they couldn’t care less. In fact, I’ve had friends who actively DO NOT want to celebrate their birthdays. This year was the first year ever I didn’t want to celebrate mine, so I get it now. Some people detest and refuse to celebrate Valentine’s Day, whether they are in love or not, and some people pin the entire measure of their relationship on Valentine’s Day or a wedding day. I get that days have significant meaning, but really, I think we all should be more encouraged to find out those meanings ourselves instead of this crazy push to follow in other people’s footsteps. Says the bisexual, polyamorous, pagan, Unitarian Universalist, ex-burlesque dancer and director. Clearly I’ve worked hard to find myself (I’m usually in the last place I look.) but lately, it’s a much more difficult search.
There’s also the fact that I truly love certain traditions. For instance, Christmas presents. Though I wish they were fewer, especially for children. A friend of mine has a great idea. She didn’t want her son to become desensitized to a pile of presents and just blow through opening a pile of stuff on Christmas morning and lose perspective on what a blessing each and every one of those things are. Her solution: he opens one present every day, starting on Christmas Eve. He had so many presents that he was still opening them in the beginning of March! I think this is genius! Though I will say I marveled this past Christmas at the sheer volume of wrapping paper 10 people opening presents can generate. We literally lost the floor under it all.
Birthday celebrations are also a great idea. I know many people, myself included, who’ve struggled with self esteem, so to have a day that’s all about celebrating the unique joy and wonder you bring to this earth? Yeah, that’s pretty awesome.
And while I don’t measure love, desire, or commitment by Valentine’s Day presents or plans…it hurt that my then fiancee bluntly told me he “doesn’t do” Valentine’s Day because he apparently fails at it. He did wind up picking up our marriage license on Valentine’s Day, so that felt wonderful. But I wondered…what about next year? And then I wondered “why does it matter? Why can’t I be secure in the fact that he loves me no matter what day it is? Why can’t I lay aside expectations and just live it, day to day?” So I strive to do that.
I strive to remember that “presents aren’t promises” as the poem says. (Interesting story on that poem…I was first introduced to it as “Comes the Dawn” on this page, years ago. It starts with a good intro to the heart of the poem and the bloggers own journey to the poem. But then, scroll down for the mysterious attribution issue. It seems like it might be Jorges Luis Borges who wrote it, not Veronica Shofftall or Judith Evans, or that prolific “Unknown” guy. I’m not certain, but regardless, it resonates deeply within me. I need to keep reminding myself of it’s message.)
At the heart of all of this: letter-writing, cards, presents, holiday traditions, Valentine’s Day dinners, birthday cakes, and even blogging, is really just ways of keeping in touch with the people that matter to us. Different ways to demonstrate love. When I moved down here, away from almost everyone I know and love, I was scared. Before I moved down here, I thought cards were a useless waste of money. After getting down here, I understand the way a pretty picture, some heart felt words, and a laugh delivered amidst a mailbox full of stressful bills and generic circulars can help to keep ties alive and remind people how special they are to you. It takes effort. It shows deliberate thought and action taken towards continuing and honoring the relationship. That’s why I sit here and send out cards, even though they’re late. And a lot of the reason why I write hand-written letters even though email is so much quicker and easier. I want simply want to keep in touch.
*Yes, I know there’d be an extra T on the end if it were actually a blog about Knight Rider and not just my own rambling jumble of thoughts. Thank you for checking. 🙂