Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Poet Enough - Week #16

Hello, friends! I am into Week #16 of my Excellent Experiment and have set up what feels like permanent camp on this darn plateau. I have not been able, for the life of me, to lose another pound since my birthday weekend. I am holding strong at negative 29. Can you believe it??!

Glass half full: I haven't gained an ounce! Wo-hoo! Glass half empty: Sheesh. (imagine head shakes) Major frustration. A dose of discouragement.

BUT!! The cool thing is this: despite the "situation", I have not lost hope. Well, I momentarily did yesterday, but my amazing husband talked me down from the proverbial ledge. I have reevaluated, reprayed, and recommitted to myself to win on this battlefield. I WILL NOT GIVE UP!!! Nope, not gonna.

Yesterday my mind kept running through this quote from Rainer Maria Rilke:
"If your every day life seems poor, don't blame it; blame yourself; admit to yourself that you are not a poet enough to call forth its riches; for to the creator, there is no poverty and no poor indifferent place."

I decided to ditch the grumpiness and access my inner poet, to create for myself a little slice of loveliness and gratitude right smack in the middle of a too-busy afternoon. You can see in the photo above what I did: opting to let the sunshine affect my mood, I took with me out to the patio a basket containing the following things:

1. Thank-you note cards and envelopes, cute stamps, and my favorite Pilot G2 .07 writing pen;
2. An old book that I had just pulled off the living room shelf called "Choosing Happiness" by my favorite author of all time, Alexandra Stoddard;
3. A cup of Fuji apple slices and a goblet of iced lemon water.

I was behind on thank-you notes and loved the idea of focusing outside myself, and on the kindnesses of my friends ... to set my mental stage, I read Alexandra and found some wonderful quotes from wonderful minds on how to be happy. I liked a few so much that I wrote one on the back of each colored envelope! An hour and a half later, notes were written, apple slices were eaten, disgusting tennis ball had been repeatedly thrown for my faithful Doodle, and evidence of the long-elusive sunshine now showed on my arms and legs. I felt great!

I have always loved to write and receive letters. I have bundles of ribbon-tied, special notes tucked away here and there. You know the feeling you get when you pull the mail out of the mailbox and you catch a glimpse of the corner of a colored envelope with someone's REAL HANDWRITING on it?? So exciting, especially amidst all of the junk mail and bills.

My first penpal was my father's mother, Grandmother Dorothy, who lived in Florida, 3,000 miles from my home in southern California. When I was eight, she and I began writing back and forth ... she was delightfully interested in my little-girl life, and would always follow-up with questions based on my last letter. Her lilac-scented letters in her quirky cursive writing were always written on floral stationary. Each was filled with sentences accentuated heavily with exclamation points, smiley faces, and little doodles in the margins. Every one was a gift, and despite our age difference, we became real pals.

Grandmother and I both loved to write about the "mysteries" (books) we were reading (me: Nancy Drew, her: Agatha Christie), and one time she surprised me by sending a box full of her favorite old, dusty paperbacks. This is especially tender to me now, as I never got to meet Grandmother Dorothy in this life. But I still have a little stack of her notes and a few of her mysteries. Both are precious to me.

One more personal experience with a letter received:

In fifth grade, I was chosen to be the narrator for our 5th/6th grade chorus' patriotic program. We performed right in the middle of our town's local mall, and I remember stepping down from the risers in my blue gingham long dress, my hair back in a bun, and nervously approaching the microphone. As the chorus behind me softly sang the first verse of "This is My Country", I delivered my first lines: "What difference if I hail from North or South, or from the East or West? My heart is filled with love for all of these..."

A week after the performance, I received a beautiful little light blue envelope (with a bird sticker on the back) in the mail. The mother of a girl I didn't really know had seen our show, and she took the time to write TO ME to tell me what a nice job I did on my part. AND she told me that I looked lovely in my dress and that she was sure that my parents must be very proud of me. I unfolded, re-read, and folded that letter over and over during my tenth year. Someone I didn't even know had taken a bit of their time to communicate kindness to me. I was in love with this idea of sharing through the handwritten word.

In today's world of fast-fast-fast emails, texts, IMing and the like, we are sacrificing the art of letter-writing. I want to hang on to this practice, to drop a note to someone when I feel impressed to. I want to be able to feel the little rush of excitement when I open MY mailbox and see something personal, just for me. Writing a note is on my list of "Dailies", and I try to send at least one per week. Dropping those stamped envelopes in the local mailbox almost guarantees a smile on the receiving end, as well as a happier heart for me, the sender.
"Let us be grateful to people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom." (Marcel Proust)

What are your earliest memories of letter-writing?? Do you make time to send notes through the mail?? If so, how do you keep this art alive in your life??


  1. Macy... first off, you are an AMAZING person! I love all of the insights you share. Secondly, I think that what you are doing to change your lifestyle is amazing as well. I have a hard time sticking with exercise (even though I love it!) so seeing your journey has been really neat and inspiring.

    Your thoughts on weight loss reminds me of something I my students brought up the other day. I never grew up with a scale at my house. To this day, I STILL do not have a scale at my house. When I do weigh myself (usually every few weeks at the Stout's house), I often find myself feeling depressed and that I haven't accomplished my own healthy living goals. That's why I don't buy a scale! If I'm trying to be healthy and I'm happy with the way I look, then the number on the scale doesn't and shouldn't matter!

    Sometimes I think we get so focused on a NUMBER in creating a healthy lifestyle for ourselves that it becomes debilitating and defeats the purpose of what we're trying to do.

    I know it can be hard in the throes of weight loss to stay focused on that number to feel a sense of accomplishment, but weight loss or living a healthy lifestyle doesn't always mean that the number on the scale goes down. Sometimes it simply means that you're building muscle, becoming healthier, and having more energy in your everyday life. I know PLENTY of people who are not healthy, but weigh very little. Numbers don't equal health. If I got frustrated every time I weighed myself and my weight didn't go down, I would be frustrated all of the time! All the exercise and healthy eating I do doesn't decrease my weight and, in fact, has only increased my weight.

    I guess my point (and the point that came up in the discussion with my students) is: Don't live your life by the scale! What if you look and feel good at a higher weight than you anticipated? Will you be then be unsatisfied with the healthy lifestyle that you're living just because of a number on a scale? Keep on being proud of the accomplishments and life changes you have made in your life and stick with the healthy lifestyle that you've created for yourself! :)

  2. Mother, this was beautiful! My favorite part was the story about your narrating part in the gingham dress. I was grinning through the whole thing! I've never heard that story before.
    I realized something recently: I love, love, LOVE receiving handwritten things in the mail, but I rarely ever send them out. So I made it one of my goals to be better at following those promptings to send little notes and letters more often. You're so good at that! I look up to your example very much.
    Thanks for the great post! (Love the picture!)

  3. The earliest letter I had from my cousin was when she was in second grade, so I must have been about 6 myself. Those early exchanges consisted of so few sentences that they probably scarcely justified a stamp (even though it was only 25cents!).
    When I was 7, her family visited ours, and I remember spending half the week creating a secret language together which we subsequently used in our letters.
    We wrote regularly--usually exchanging every month or so--until we both got to college. During high school our letters regularly reached 2-3 full pages (mine handwritten on college-ruled paper, hers typed). In college the letters slowed, and gradually transferred to sporadic emailing. But for over a decade we had written regularly.

    By middle school I had two other pen-pals as well, and while the letter exchanges with them were never as frequent as with my cousin, we still wrote for years.

    In high school I began corresponding with another cousin. He was my first male correspondent, and I don't know if it was a product of age or maturity or what, but we were both shy and writing to each other not only gave us a source for mutual encouragement in that matter (and a resource for trying to begin to understand the opposite sex!), but also gave us a chance to get to know each other. We had always lived several states apart, and had never really gotten to know each other. Those letters continued sporadically though his foreign mission (those 80 cent stamps got expensive, not to mention the slow transit time for international mail).

    While I was in college I wrote faithfully for over a year to a dear friend on his mission. He was serving within the United States, and we exchanged letters weekly. The letters were long, often several typewritten pages. I remember perfuming one so that he could brag to his companion about it. My roommate was also writing to a missionary, but he did not write nearly so often, and I often hid my letters from her to spare here feelings because she always got depressed that I got more (and better) letters than she did. This missionary and I had started as just friends, but over the months and letter by letter we became very close. The timing was such that I ended up getting engaged before he came home, but had I not, I am sure I'd have dated him when he got home, and I would likely have married him.

    I don't maintain very regular correspondence with anyone now. My family all emails each other fairly regularly. Each of my siblings has served foreign missions and been allowed the use of email, so there's a weekly email from whomever is on a mission, and both of my parents write most weeks. One of my sisters (or her husband) still sends a family email every week, just like when she was on the mission.

    A lot of my thoughts end up on my blog now, rather than in personal letters. But writing continues to be a regular part of my life. :)

  4. As I read your post I remembered a note that I received from you about ten years ago. Something about a Young Women Activity. I remember that it was just so pretty on a vellum card with nice, neat writing. It was so sweet to receive a personal note. What a neat practice, to write at least one note per week!

    The first notes I wrote and mailed were thank-you's to Grandmas, Grandpas, Aunts, and Uncles for birthday money or gifts. I didn't really start writing letters until my teens, and I think the first person I regularly corresponded with was a dance partner/friend on a mission.

    I prefer writing by hand, with a pen (I like Pilot's, too ;oD) because I feel like it conveys more feeling and is more personal.
    With so many options for sending eCards and using fancy stationary on an email, it still makes me feel special to know that someone took the time to use real paper stationary and spend money on a stamp to send a personal note.