May 22, 2012
Your letter was my first from Letters In The Mail. And I do understand the not-knowingness of life, of embracing the path of uncertainty. Certainty can be comforting. Our culture likes certainty. But it’s a myth. It’s actually a death. Certainty can’t change, grow or thrive.
I chose a path that I considered “certain” because I’d made a mess out of my life early on. I ignored my heart. I locked it away because I believed I didn’t know how to live. I chose to be defined by everything but myself. All I reaped was a mess of a life later on. Now I’m picking up the shattered pieces worth keeping. Now I’m listening to my heart. Everything is uncertain because I’m writing my story now.
What I’m trying to say is, just being where you and I are takes bravery. You are brave. Our pursuit of certainty, of control, is folly. Only a coward seeks certainty. Only a fool believes in guarantees.
Our culture has written a story to enact that bears little resemblance to reality. This creates all kinds of distortions about what it means to be alive and how to live. No matter how many times we fail or ugly consequences we face, we continue to believe that we are living as we were always destined to. We believe that all we need to do is the same thing we have always done except MORE of it and with more determination.
So I ask you, is what you need only more determination?
Your father led a wondrous life. But how much of his life, the beautiful wondrous parts, were due solely to his determination? I think the wondrous parts of our lives are the surprises, the things we do, and happen, without intention.
But maybe that’s all bullshit. I don’t think so, but life continuously debunks my assumptions. Let’s talk of lighter things.
I’m almost certain this is only the second time I’ve written a letter and mailed it. I thought it was the first, but as I wrote these words, I remembered. Around the age of eight or nine, I pretended to mail a letter to a close friend who was on vacation visiting family. I missed her, and a bit jealous of her journey to Southern California too. Lainie was a true-blue tomboy and I was more on the sensitive side for a boy. We were both “just enough” of what the other mostly was to make for a close childhood friendship. I think Lainie might have been a year or two older, but time has faded my memories much like the color of a 70’s Polaroid picture.
It was another scorching summer in Sacramento and I was bored. A day stretched to almost infinity at that age. Remember? I missed Lainie and wished I was traveling somewhere. Anywhere would be better than trailer park we both lived in. In that moment of jealousy-coated despair, I wrote a letter to her about my “travels.” I was in Hawaii having a splendid time and then off to a couple of other exciting destinations with details which I can’t remember. I put a totally bogus Hawaiian return address on the envelope, peeled an already postmarked stamp off another piece of mom’s mail, glued it to the envelope and then promptly marched down to her house and plopped it in her mailbox. I felt a little better after that.
I think it was the very next day when I spotted Lainie’s mom driving down the street towards me. I was fucked. I waived and prayed that she wouldn’t stop as she passed. She stopped. “Hey, I thought you were in Hawaii,” she said. There was just a dash of sarcasm in her words, enough to know that my humiliation had just begun. Have you ever experienced panic so severe that it’s like you are outside your body? I can’t remember what bullshit left my lips in reply because it wasn’t me talking. It was some stupid kid who just realized how poorly thought out his idea was. I slunk home afterwards, content to never leave the house again and awaited Lainie’s return and certain doom.
I don’t remember what the final outcome was. It was probably so traumatic, so embarrassing, that I blocked it out. I think Lainie’s mom talked to my mom at some point but I don’t remember being confronted by my mother or Lainie.
In my teens, I wrote two other letters, one to my best friend who joined the air force and was stationed in Japan and one to a girl I met while at an out-of-town church presentation on satanic cults (yeah, that could probably be a story in itself). I never mailed either letter. My best friend was discharged for drunk driving and sleeping with a commanding officer’s daughter before I could mail it. I gave it to him at my house and he asked me questions as he read it. So maybe my letter to you IS the first official personal, and mailed, letter I’ve written. :^)
I hope this letter finds you well.
P.S. I’m 42 and decided that I’m a writer. I’ll let you know how that works out. So far it’s just a blog where I mainly gaze at my navel. It’s dark, but authentic.
P.S. 2 I intended to type this and then handwrite it. I felt it would be more personal. Then I wrote you 900+ words. Crap. I think I judged your computer printed letter too harshly. My handwriting skills consist of printing while holding the pen too tightly and pushing down way too hard. My cursive was abandoned in the 6th grade. Thank Jebus for computers.