Over the past few years, I have written many hundreds of thank you cards. A wonderful thing about our society is the idea of reciprocity. A major life event occurs and the people who care about you lift you up. They carry you to this new place and then help you build up something where there was nothing before. In my case, those major events were a marriage and a birth. My family, my friends, my parents’ friends, all provided us with the outward makings of our new lives. They gave us the pots to cook with and the lamps to read by. They gave us quilts to keep us warm and art to make our home. They provided a glider to read stories in and bouncers to calm. Diapers to change and clothes to wear. Reciprocity means that when the people I love are on the verge of something new, I will help them build their new lives as well. I realize in these moments of giving and receiving how connected I am to other people and how much those connections matter.
Because the truth is that it isn’t about the pots and the quilts and the onesies. It is about the fact that other people showed up. They listened to stories and nervous chatter. They made dinner and rocked a crying newborn. People are, often, wonderful.
What I have come to realize is that I enjoy writing thank you notes. I get out stationary and my nice pen and surround myself with the necessary address book and stamps. And then I stop and consider why it is that I am thanking this person, and it is always for more than the obvious. The latest round of notes began as a way to thank people for my son’s birthday gifts, but in that pause before I start to write, I realized that what I really wanted to thank everyone for was for being there this past year. The people who came to my kid’s party are the ones who came to the hospital or made dinners. They are the ones who stopped by when I needed company. They are the ones who answered the phones. They were there, and I believe that is worth being thankful.
I think that thank you notes are about so much more than acknowledging a gift. They are an opportunity to tell the people who go out of their way for us that we notice what they have done and that it has mattered. That we see kindness and thoughtfulness in their actions and want them to know that those qualities made a difference to us. A well written note is the least I can do for the people who help me build.
I sit down to write, and it seems completely impossible. I am good with words. In fact, I love them. They string together in remarkable and brilliant ways. There is no need to write a boring sentence as long as adjectives like explosive and presumptive exist. There are no shortage of verbs and nouns to combine to say interesting things in impressive ways. And then there is punctuation. Like all good improvisation, you learn the rules so that they can be broken, and you can push grammar to encompass new forms of expression. You can write in fragments and be liberal with commas and end sentences with prepositions and create massive run-ons. Because sometimes it fits the flow and communicates your ideas better than all the eighth grade rules.
And then there are synonyms. There is never a need to use the same word more than once to describe your point. Even the most mundane sentence about the boringness of a task is elevated by words. I vehemently dislike taking care of malodorous garbage, but it beats saying that I hate to take out the trash. The words exist to be molded into something new, to be pieced together to express those inner thoughts that I cannot reach when I am speaking out loud. Writing allows the nouns and verbs and modifiers to be crafted and punctuated. Edited and reworked. Passed on for consumption or consigned to the trash.
Then I sit down to write and all the stories I can imagine while going about my day disappear. All the lessons I’ve learned from reading great and terrible books dissipate, and I am left staring at a page, wondering how to have the discipline to think of something new and translate it into something readable. I know that writers create themselves, but I am constantly boggled by the how. I always have something to say. Except for when I try to write. Then I write about writing and hope that next time, something new will come out of the words.
So here’s the deal:
My garden is more weeds than anything, which is inducing a lot of guilt-ridden hand wringing. One of my adjunct classes–the one that I spent a month and a half prepping–is cancelled. We just got back from our week at the lake with the Carricos. All the baby food is gone so I’ve spent the morning turning produce into paste.
I have all of these great blog posts that I keep drafting in my head while I’m driving or shelling peas or peeling vegetables. They are philosophical and witty. They are longer than 150 words. They are in pretty prose that makes sense. Then the baby wakes up or the pot boils over and the eloquent thought is erased by tiredness by the time I sit down to type.
I’m not sure what the point of this post is except to say that I have so many ideas that I want to get down.