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Ritualizing the Letter

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I have the kindest customer, Jacob, who set a goal a couple of years ago to write 100 letters. Roughly two a week, dropped in the mail to unsuspecting friends and family and acquaintances. It's an admirable goal, and one that has settled into a quiet corner of my brain since talking to him.
I appreciate goals and resolutions and the structure that they provide because even with the best of intentions -- and I'm telling you, even in a setting where I have everything I could want or need to send meaningful mail RIGHT HERE AT MY FINGERTIPS and a post office a block away -- I don't do it enough. I have a running list of people in my head that I want to write to for reasons major and minor or nonexistent, and I can't tell you how many times that list gets transferred from one week’s tasks to the next, as the list grows ever longer. As a small business owner and mother of three little people, I understand the obstacles and try to give myself grace, but the reality is that connecting in meaningful ways with people I love or want to get to know better is truly some of the most important work there is to do in this life. It’s essential to make time for it.
But! My days at the shop are unpredictable. I sometimes describe myself as a ping pong ball because I bounce from placing orders, entering inventory, marketing, writing e-mails, and paying bills in the back office to pulling espresso shots and helping customers out front to working in the studio. It’s a lively work day—and fun!—but not an environment particularly conducive to sitting quietly with my thoughts and composing a letter.
With one clear exception: the one hour before the shop opens. A golden hour, after the kids have been dropped off, and before I unlock my door for the day. A window for thought and silence and sifting through the noise to listen to what’s trying to make itself heard. A chance to reach across time and space to say to someone: you matter to me.
So here’s my new goal, which I share both to hold myself accountable and to encourage others to join me, in whatever capacity makes sense in your days: the moment I land at work, I plan to begin each morning from Tuesday to Friday not with my e-mail open, not with NPR on, not looking at the long list of things to do and assessing which takes top priority but with this—a silent office, coffee, blank paper, a good pen, and a person in mind. If I can faithfully begin my days with this ritual, I will write approximately 200 letters a year. That’s a remarkable number! It feels impossible when I put it in those terms, and yet, if it truly can become a daily ritual, no different than showering and brushing my teeth, it will happen. And much more important than the number, the consequence of this practice, I hope, will be to anchor my days and my relationships with substance rather than with unrealized intentions.
I'm curious -- is letter writing a practice in your life? If so, why do you feel compelled to make time for it, and how has it affected your relationships? I'd love to hear!