Blast(s) from my past(s)
You mean everybody doesn’t save every single letter and card they’ve ever received?
To say I’m physically impaired is putting it mildly. I’m three weeks into what will probably be a six or seven week recovery from ligament repair surgery, possibly longer, with my left wrist immobilized at first in a splint, and now a brace extending above my elbow. I also doubled my incision count on that wrist.
The unfortunate misstep that caused all of this feels like a very long time ago. When I wrote my first post about it I had no idea I’d still be feeling all the feelings 5+ months later, and to be continued. Way back when feels like the good old days when there was a promise of speedy recovery. I gotta laugh because what else can I do?
I’m still in a fair amount of pain, in addition to the numbness and tingling from the nerves that got fired up during the surgery when my doctor had to “retract” them to reach the ligament to be repaired. I can’t type, which I miss to the depths of my soul, because I never before realized how much typing allows my thoughts and ideas to flow into a coherent collection of paragraphs in my writing, not to mention conducting business and life. There really isn’t much that I can do in general, and everything takes twice as long or more to do with my other hand (recently fortified by a cortisone shot to alleviate ongoing tendonitis and arthritis from when I broke that wrist.) Laugh. Cry. Laugh! Cry! Sigh.
If you can avoid ever experiencing one distal radius wrist fracture, let alone two, I vehemently recommend it!
Previously I wrote about not complaining about chopping veggies ever again. Now I’m thinking if I just get back to anywhere close to pain-free normalcy and function, I’ll never complain about anything ever again! For real!
So of course this is a perfect time to get into my giant box of letters which I have never before tackled. Over the course of my life, I have saved almost every letter and card that I’ve ever received. Some may say this is hoarding. Perhaps it is, perhaps it isn’t?
The question is, why would I save all of my letters?
I started by sorting it all by address. I am astounded at how many places I have lived, and how in the days before email and texting, I managed to keep everyone apprised of my various locations. San Diego, India, Maui, Kauai, Oahu, New Mexico, Russia, Southern California, Northern California, England, Seattle, Texas. I lived or stayed long enough at all these places to receive mail.
When I look at these various periods of my life, differentiated by location, I don’t see a timeline as much as I see different lives lived. I see multiple pasts, separate parts of my life, almost where I decided I needed to pivot to a completely different existence to find that thing that was missing from my previous existence. Many times this manifested in changing my physical location.
Sorting through and reading bits and pieces of this mail brings back parts of my life that time had long moved me past. I have letters from people that I’m thinking, “who on earth is this?” No recollection. I have letters from people I have lost touch with for no apparent reason. I have letters from people I have chosen to lose touch with, for various reasons. I have letters from relatives long dead, and I poignantly feel how much I’d love to connect with them from where I sit now in my life. Finally, I have a giant stack of cards, with no address or date, just my name. I am quite amazed at how many cards I’ve gotten in my life. I don’t know if I’ve ever collectively given out a fraction of this quantity!
I don’t feel a need to go back and rehash my past or reconnect with anyone—in fact, I prefer not to—but I have been pondering why I held onto all of these pieces of correspondence. Why did I think this box was important enough to carry around with me over the course of my life, accumulating more along the way? (I must say, I’m relieved that we started using email and other ways to communicate, or the collection would no doubt be twice as big. You don’t think I ever get rid of an email, do you?)
Here’s what I think it is, these moments in time preserved via words on paper.
It’s the care I felt.
Every time someone sat down to write a letter or a card, at that time, they loved/liked/valued/appreciated me and wanted to let me know. I don’t think I’ve ever in my life taken it for granted when people have cared for me.
Which brings me to this pile of cards.
Of course I would save the most obvious tangible reminders of the most positive and affirming words and feelings that people went out of their way to share with me. Because that’s what we do when we send a card, isn’t it? We make an extra effort to pick out a card appropriate to the occasion and usually write a little something special that lets the recipient know that we are thinking of them. Cards are special. To receive one is special.
If there’s a question about what motivated me to save a lifetime of correspondence, my answer is that it may not even matter.
So many blasts from my many pasts. So much caring and sharing and connecting and effort and kindness that’s all about me, no matter in which phase of my life, carefully gathered in one giant box.
I guess I’m just a sentimental softy.
If that’s hoarding, count me in.
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I just had this conversation with myself last week as I finally pulled out some old bins I've meant to go through--bins of stuff from my childhood. And oh my! So many notes and cards and random stuff. I read some of the notes (the kind we would fold up in special ways and pass to each other between classes) and immediately felt silly for keeping them all these years. But there were some things I knew I would hang onto for a few more.