You’ve got mail…

I thought it was too easy.

A week of long, fraught hours, early starts and late finishes, coupled with some bug or other to sap my remaining energy, ended with technical glitches… and, just for good measure, the internet went down too. By the time I got all that sorted, I was about ready to call it a day, grab a hot water bottle and retire, but I still had all the catching up to do…

Except, somehow, it didn’t seem to take long.  An hour later and I was left only with the photo -prompt entries to read.  That was a result!

It was also weird. My inboxes do not get away lightly as a rule, but they have been very quiet the past few days. Suspiciously so. Then I noticed the number of unread emails in my spam folder and groaned… for some reason, hundreds of the things had been automatically routed there, and I was going to have to go through the lot.

Cursing and grumbling, I went through the sender and subject of every darned email, returning each one to the appropriate folder. It took a while. I have not had much energy left at the end of the day, so for the past few days, I have not emptied my spam and delete folders before bed as I usually do. And apparently, this problem has been going on for several days.

I double-checked what was left, making sure that any personal, important or school-related stuff had been safely sequestered, and hit delete on the rest, trying not to feel guilty.

I thought, as I did so, how instant communication has changed our lives. We can speak to people across the world in real time… even face to face with free video calling if we choose… and couldn’t help thinking about how our emotional response to communication has changed too.

I used to love getting letters, because… unless they were bills… they were always full of news and details about friends, family and loved ones. Some I would read and re-read… savouring them… and some have been kept for decades as tangible pieces of personal history, love and friendship. I actually got a letter today… with a proper, handwritten envelope and an intriguing postmark… and felt the once-familiar quiver of excitement. It was such an unusual occurrence that I left it on the desk for a while unopened to prolong the sensation. I could not imagine who it might be from, and when I did open it, was thrilled with the unexpected contents.

You seldom get that feeling from an email. In fact, the two most prevalent sensations, for me at least, seem to be a feeling of obligation to respond immediately and guilt if I don’t.  And then I feel guilty that I am feeling guilty, because I know that any pressure is coming from me rather than from the sender’s expectations… and I should know better.

On the other hand, I love being able to stay in touch so easily, with no waiting on tenterhooks for replies that took weeks by snail mail. I would hate to lose the ease of communication we have today… even a few hours with an enforced lack of access feels strange and frustrating. Yet, most email communication is pretty terse and to the point, including mine. Most of us use a different ‘voice’ with electronic communication than we would use in writing a letter. There is less of ourselves on the screen than there is on the page. Perhaps it is a hangover from many of us having first used email for business purposes.

I always found a personal letter to be a very different thing from an email, and emotions are often easier to express in writing than they are in person. Face to face, many of us find our words constrained, out tongues tied, and our feelings difficult to express… even with those to whom we would say the most if we could only find the words.

And yet, (apart from the dratted bills, which I am convinced are sent by demons with a warped sense of humour and execrable timing) behind every communication, in no matter what form it arrives, is another human being. ‘To communicate’… it is a verb, a ‘doing’ word, and comes from the Latin for ‘sharing’ and that should say it all really. Communication is always a sharing… there may be as much being shared in the space between the words as in the words themselves, and even a delayed response may tell its own story.

We may not pour our hearts onto the screen in the same way as we might once have poured them into our letters, but there is always a heart behind the fingers that type. Each heart has its own story, and while some may be closed or hardened, others stand wide open, waiting to share all they hold. Whether we communicate with laughter or with silence, in clipped phrases or in flowery periods, we are always speaking heart to heart, even if we do not realise it at the time.

33 thoughts on “You’ve got mail…

  1. My sentiments, exactly. I do like to write letters and therefore STILL include a real letter with each Christmas card. There’s something exciting about getting an envelope with a real, handwritten (or in my case typed because my handwriting is illegible) inside!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I so miss the fine art of letter writing too. I saved every letter I got as if it were a true treasure, and in fact, it was. I can’t understand this new LOL, etc. language or texting at all, and I have made not much attempt to try. And I guess I still write as if I am writing personal letters. Enjoy your remaining time before taking off on your wonderful adventure!

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  3. I am sure blogging makes up for letter writing. In fact, when I started blogging, I felt I’d finally gotten back to what I do best; write letters! When I was in Israel I wrote a lot. To everyone. When I wasn’t working, I had a typewriter and plenty of time, so I wrote. I always thought my letters were my best form of communicating … and blogging is so much like it, but shorter.

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    1. I think when we have something we are thrilled about, it is definitely fun to have a blog. I have had blogs in different times in my life, and there was a time when I blogged every time. I have a blog now, http://www.artfulalchemy.blogspot.com. But I have lost my enthusiasm for doing that particular one, and I realize I can start a new one any time. I am not ready to do that right now as I have my significant other, my study of The Silent Eye, the posts and e-mail I respond to and read daily and the other class I am taking in becoming a court-appointed mentor/advocate for foster children. I guess right now it is about all I can manage. I still want to finish some art pieces I have, and to finish re-formatting a book I am working on that is already published as an Ebook – one of my books, and it is a pumpkin cookbook. I want to have it available in paperback as well as Ebook as it currently is. Wow, is it time to go to bed yet???

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        1. That is true, Sue. I guess it is something that most of us deal with these days. Time seems to be moving ever faster as we grow older. I remember how as a child, summer felt like forever. Now it feels like a quick breath and already rounding the corner into July. Isn’t it strange how children don’t seem to have the concept of time passing by that we do?

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  4. I agree and getting a letter in the mail is still so exciting! My daughter, bless her, sends me handwritten cards and letters. We also email and skype for things that need immediate attention. As you say, keeping in touch is what matters. For instance, my brothers would never send a written letter but do email me from time to time. I am so curious as to who sent you the letter.

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  5. Maybe we don’t pour our hearts out to the screen in the form of email, Sue, but I think we do it in other forms that we share with other people. I think that blogs are an outpouring of emotions, thoughts and ideas by bloggers and that is a form of communication with many others, including often our family and friends.

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  6. Some of my regular readers’ comments have gone into spam recently. The other day I had 24 in my spam queue, all were one word ‘What?’ to a variety of posts and comments. I deleted the lot.
    I still write letters and send them by snail mail. Mainly because the recipients are elderly family members and don’t have email, computer or smartphone. I rarely get one back, but of I do, it’s exciting because I don’t recognise handwriting and there’s no telltale post mark visible. I hope the letters I send generate similar feelings!

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    1. The ‘What’ spammer is everywhere at the moment. I had over a hundred in the blog’s spam yesterday.

      I do enjoy getting the occasional letter, but it no longer happens very often.

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  7. I know the feeling of guilt – the double guilt! I have only recently learned to shorten my emails as they tended to be every bit as verbose as my letters and the ones to friends still are with details of all that’s going on in my life and family news. I love receiving emails from Afghan friends but they tend to be exasperatingly short on detail but at least let me know they are okay.

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    1. I love chatty emails from friends, though I find them far easier to write on paper myself. For years all my emails were work-related and official… I find it hard to get out of that mode online.

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  8. Also agree completely about the beauty of letters I also have to admit I have always and still do love getting emails or any electronic communication I hate to be be without the internet.. does that make me odd? 💜💜😀

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      1. My sister is coping with her husband’s dementia, she has had no internet for 4 days now and she feels so isolated. I really feel for her. I would be climbing the walls.💜💜

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  9. Very true words, Sue. I tend to still pour my heart out then once I press send worry that the receiver will go “omg, so not replying to her again.” lol But, that’s who I am, so the people who do reply are the ones worth my time and my heart. xxx

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