Love Letters and Hate Mail

212Now letters go the speed of touch, on the e-things, i-things. I’ve been writing letters for fifty years, with plenty of postal experiences. At seventeen, I wrote to my boyfriend in the Air Force who became my young husband. Surely we wouldn’t have gone as far as marriage if not for the intimacy established in that year of endless letters. Though I found his letters kind of boring, I loved my own writing. Some things never change! I’m not sure we would have stayed married so long if not for the overseas thing, where he went first and we went back to our paper lovemaking. A slight digression, remembering- oh yes! we probably would have gone as far as marriage, even without the letter writing, because there was some non-postal touching happening too.

Hate mail: best not to give any energy to that, as the New Spirit folks say. But it comes, and you know it when you see it, even when it’s couched in the most peaceful of vocabularies. Therein, you find argumental letters, often obsessed with the finer subjective points about who has been hateful to whom. Rights and wrongs. I put into this category many work letters, group discussion papers, statements of theology and life philosophies. A true hate letter, worthy of burning, is a bit of a relief compared some of those polite labors.

Sometimes these blogs feel like letters, but there is the plural You, including strangers. I write private letters to about half a dozen people these days. The appeal of those letters is the shorthand language which can be built, the intimate voice, the gratification of being answered. All that can feel almost addictive. Write letters; people answer! The more letters you write, the more answers you get. Even short ones are sweet when they are nice. Lovey and lovely. Enthusiastic! Email letter writing coaches advise the !! Not my best style. Harking back a few lines, I must also sadly observe that the appeals of the private letter are equally compelling whether the topics and answers are just plain sweet, relaxed, and maybe even sexy, or whether they curse you somehow. My addiction experiences and mental health studies have served me well in managing (and enjoying) this particular obsession. I’m good at avoiding poison letters. Don’t answer! Also I’ve seen sweet exchanges go bitter; I stay alert. Anyone can say “stop.” It’s kind of a universal safe word.

Free of the love/hate labels, letter-writing gives me the joy of having something to say to someone and the fun of getting it down and “posted.”  Sometimes I even use the US mail. Often, I am answered. Thrilling! I went from being a teenager hounding a cul-de-sac mailbox to a midlife writer living in my bus two miles uphill from the mailbox, a healthy hike with the dog. That mailbox was often as empty as my email today. It’s still fun to check, and there’s no climb back up the hill these days.


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