I’ve been thinking a lot about communication. Or lack thereof. ‘Tis the season when I often hear from friends and relatives who I may not have heard from the other eleven months of the year. Yet it’s good to hear from them in the twelfth month and catch a glimpse of what’s been happening in their lives the past year. Conversely, there are those I expect to hear from that I don’t and that always brings up a myriad of questions. Where are they? What’s going on? Are they okay? Is it me? In these cases, the silence is deafening.
I’ve always loved the written word and it makes me sad that letter and card writing has become a lost art. Certainly letter writing has fallen by the wayside with the advent of email. Why take the time to write a letter, put it in an envelope, buy a stamp and mail it then wait weeks or longer to find out if it arrived and wait for an answer when your recipient can get your email in seconds and respond just as quickly? Yet there’s nothing quite as lovely as getting a letter in the mail. The sender actually took the time to think about me, put pen to paper, organize their thoughts and send it. The anticipation for a response can be delicious.
And let’s not forget about cards. Getting a card in the mail is a most wonderful gift. My husband teases me for checking the mail everyday but I sometimes find a gem mixed with those bills and flyers and that makes the short walk worth it. (Plus…it’s a short walk :)The most special cards are the ones sent for no reason except that the sender was thinking of me but I do love birthday cards which are becoming increasingly rare each year as are Christmas cards although there are still a few kindred spirits who exchange them with me albeit fewer each year. I’ve always considered a card a little work of art and receiving one reflects a bit of the sender’s personality and the greetings they are conveying to me. I keep many of my favorites, pressed between the pages of my journal.
The irony of all of this is we live in the age of instantaneous communication such as text and email, and yet I hear less from people than before. This is baffling to me. It can take mere seconds to check in with a person. There is a relatively new expression called “ghosting”. It’s when a friend or acquaintance completely cuts off any communication without explanation. They stop returning texts, don’t answer calls, cut the person they are ghosting off from any social media and completely disappear for no reason given. It’s a hurtful thing, leaving a person to question everything they thought they knew about that relationship and themselves in it. It causes one to question themselves. I acknowledge we are all trying to get through life the best we can but personally I find ghosting cowardly. A Dear John letter was hurtful but at least the person was notified. And lack of communication is a message in itself.
Two years after my mom passed I found a letter she had sent me when I had first moved to Los Angeles as a young woman. It was a joy to read her words and finally from this life perspective I could sense her worry and fear hidden between the lines for her daughter trying to make a life so far away from home. As a mother and grandmother now, I read her words with new eyes. I could hear her voice in those words she wrote and felt a connection I thought was lost.
On Christmas Day, I made a point to contact those I love but with the hundred year weather event, some connections were spotty. We froze, we dropped calls, we said “can you hear me now?” multiple times. It made me realize how much we depend on wireless communication. Like, if this once in a century storm had knocked out all of the power grids we’d be isolated in a way we never had been before. I mean, hasn’t everyone gotten rid of their landline? It was a sobering thought.
Communication is connection. And honestly, isn’t that what we all thrive on? We are meant to connect with people, animals, nature. No man or woman is an island and yet communication can take effort and time. It has to be intentional. Personally I don’t want communication out of obligation. That lacks heart. Yet is seems like such a simple thing. When I get that occasional card or letter or even text or email, I know I am in the sender’s thoughts and I feel their love and care. And to me that is the greatest gift of all.