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Old Letters

I can’t believe that it’s 10:30pm and I accomplished only a fraction of what I had hoped to get done today.  Rats.  I was being very productive this past week, but the last couple of days my productivity took quite a nosedive.  Well, at least in terms of my academic work.  Tomorrow is going to have to be a long day if I’m going to catch up.

I did get one project done, however, that I have been wanting to do for some time now.  I sorted through my boxes of old cards and letters.  I started doing this in the summer and made it through one box.  Most of it went straight into the woodstove, as the contents were mostly cards and notes, often from people I hardly remember.  This weekend’s collection was different.  The remaining three boxes contained mostly letters, and deciding what to do with them was a bit more challenging.  Fortunately at some point in my life I apparently had the time to sort them all by who they were from, put elastic bands around each person’s correspondence, and label them.  See, I used to be on top things!  Still, why did I keep all those letters?  I was organized, but a pack rat.

This weekend I went through all of those letters and was able to put most of them in a box to be burned.  There remains a small pile, however, that I want to read before letting go of.  Correspondence from friends I still keep in touch with, and a pile of old love letters.  It’s interesting that I can now read these letters without feeling embarrassed, sad or angry – emotions I used to feel when even thinking about them.  I’m glad I kept them this long because now I can part with them on good terms.  A few I might keep permanently, for posterity.  One of my more serious boyfriends is an artist and wrote me poetry on watercolour paper, and then painted around it.  A few could be framed, they are so beautiful.  And looking at them reminds me that once upon a time, I inspired someone to create art.  I was someone’s muse.  I find it almost impossible to believe now, so perhaps I should put a frame around one and hang it up!  Everyone needs to be reminded that they can inspire others.

It is strange to read these letters and be reminded of someone I used to be.  I feel so distant, so completely separate from her, my former self.  My teenage self, or my undergrad self.  She was me, yet so different.  It’s nice to read these notes and not feel the angst I know I had at the time.  I used to feel things so intensely, and much of that emotion was negative.  Anxiety, pain, anger.  Indeed, I found a few letters that I wrote and never sent.  One to a man who broke my heart.  I didn’t read that letter.  It just went straight into the fire.  I have long since come to terms with that breakup and don’t need to be reminded of the stupid things I most likely said out of rage and heartache.  But there was another letter, written to a friend still dear to me today, when I was in my late teens.  I am railing against men, and against one boy in particular.  Someone I dated for a couple of weeks and who then stopped calling.  I was furious and distraught.  Yet I cannot for the life of me remember who this guy was!  How strange is that?  His name was Tim.  Tim?  Tim who?  I have no idea. I don’t even remember the events, let alone dating anyone named Tim.

How important it all seemed at the time.  How important so much of the contents of those boxes were to me at one point.  That must by why I put it in there in the first place, and dragged those boxes around for decades, cringing at the thought of opening them, yet dreading to just throw them out.  Now, it’s easy to let go.  It’s almost like I’m reading the contents of someone else’s life, someone who has moved away and left things behind in the attic.

The other letters I kept are from friends I am still close to, or might consider trying to track down again.  I spoke with one such friend this morning, and told her that I had a stack of letters that she wrote me dating back to our teenage years.  She was astounded that I still had them, and was very curious to read them herself.  I suspect others may feel the same way, and will offer them back to their authors, perhaps with a bottle of wine and we can read them together.

After that, I will burn most of them.  Those that my friends do not want to keep for themselves.  I’ll keep a few that I might want to read again, or perhaps keep for family history.  Or for their aesthetic value, like those painted love poems.  But I’ll keep no more than a small handful, enough to fit in a shoebox, along with the various sundry items of memorabilia I decided not to toss out.  I am discovering through this process that there are a few things from my past that I want to keep.  The things that make me feel good, that make my heart smile.  The rest I can lay to rest in peace, and not think about again.  How much lighter I now feel.  It’s wonderful.

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2 Responses

  1. Sounds so positive, H. Makes me wonder what’s in all those boxes under my bed…and just wait til you can go through the same process with all your PhD materials. 🙂

    • Yes, it has been a great experience. And by the way, some of the letters I have put aside are from you! I’ll bring them home at Easter…

      As for burning the PhD material, now I am indeed motivated to finish. I can’t wait!!

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