Letter to a New Friend

Elizabeth, I received your email. Hello, new friend. I’m so glad you wrote.

I’ve thought of a million ways to start this post. That’s what happens when you wipe the dust off the keyboard after so many months, I suppose. You begin overthinking every keystroke. So I’ll begin with something I think you will appreciate. The serendipity of your email and my waking up feeling different and all of this happening on the same random day. Magic and timing.

***

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I woke up on the first day of October – my favorite month, the month that holds my birthday, the change of the seasons, full moons and too much candy – feeling somehow more hopeful than I had in the past 6 months.

Throughout the day, in bursts, almost, I would remember flashes of myself. Who I was before life stopped. Who I was when I had hobbies and activities and could go outside without hesitating and breathe deeply without checking if anyone was standing within 6 feet of me.

I don’t have much of an explanation as to why this happened the way that it did, but I am just going to thank the Gods of October for changing my mindset just slightly enough to remember who I used to be. 

I get ready for work and go about my day, feeling slightly different. Mid-morning, I notice a calendar notification on my phone. I chuckle at the timing. Back in the before times, I would celebrate the start of each new month by writing a quick email ‘newsletter’ to myself. What worked last month, what didn’t work, what is coming up for the next month and what do I *really* wish was coming up instead? It was meant to be a quick writing exercise and a check-in that was just for me. Something quick and simple and consistent. It quickly became the easiest writing task I was able to stick to, because I took the pressure off myself. I didn’t even make myself use punctuation if I didn’t want (but obviously I still did because I am not a monster). Despite the fact that I stopped doing this, I must have not taken the notification off my phone, and hadn’t even noticed it popping up, reminding me of myself, for the past 6 months.

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I think about writing all day long. I think about what I might be able to say now that we all live in this strange new world and then I think about how maybe the world isn’t all that different, maybe it’s us all, paying more attention to what has been there all along. Rampant disease, illness, unspeakable racism that needs to be spoken of every second, injustice and ignorance, politics that will make your stomach drop, realizing that you and your loved ones are falling on either side of a line that shouldn’t even exist.

I get home, eat dinner, my head spinning from the day, from the hope, from the fear. From a stroke of pure coincidence masterminded by a source bigger than us all, I check my blog emails. The ones I stopped checking when I stopped writing 6 months ago. I see a letter to me, from you.  

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***

You reach out to tell me that you stumbled down a rabbit hole and my blog was at the end of it. You mention your life in the US and your dreams of someday moving to the south shore of Nova Scotia. My neck of the woods, I realize. You tell me the words you typed into Google as you began your daydreamy hunt for proof that the life you wanted was out there. It still strikes me as hilarious how the internet works, how it twists and leads, brings people and words together.

You mention the pandemic and I am realizing even more how this monster has seemed to speed up all the dreams and wishes we have that we tell ourselves we might be able to live without. Until we realize we can’t. 

I read about your writing adventures, your stories and letters about a life that is yours but with a few different details. Don’t we all do that? Put the essence of ourselves into our words, change some things around to see if we like that better? Writing is such a balm to the soul. A way to practice ourselves almost.

You talk about writing a character who is living out life with a boyfriend, searching for simplicity and beauty and I realize there is a parallel between that character and my own life. Is that what I am doing? I think that’s how I started. The last few months have made things foggy, blurred the next steps, but I think that was the point. In love with a person, with what life holds, with all that I just might actually be able to do in the world. Thank you for that reminder. 

You notice that my blog posts stopped in March and you end your email by asking if I’m okay. I think about this a lot. Am I okay? Compared to the hardships so many people seem to be going through, yes, I suppose I am doing well. But compared to how good I know I’ve been able to feel in the past? No, I’m probably not doing so great. But it feels temporary somehow and that’s what I focus on. 

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Let me explain.

I suppose my posts ended in March because of course, that is when life changed for us, collectively. Each day quickly became the same, and the only thing changing was the rate of the bad news. It seemed silly to write about life inside my one room apartment when the world was falling apart. So I waited. I collected my thoughts, I watched a lot of reality tv, I quarantined with my boyfriend, I learned how to make an excellent pot of coffee. I valued every minute I got to spend outside going for walks in the evening. I started and then stopped and then started a yoga practice. I’m happy to report that it’s become a regular habit and that feels like a huge win to have come out of all this. 

I began watching my church’s Sunday services on YouTube. This became a joy to look forward to each week. I became a master at Scrabble. I watched Tiger King with the world on the day I was laid off from my job. It really helped me feel less glum about the state of my life, let me tell you. I ordered a LOT of books online. I read most of them. I started growing vegetables from scraps on my window sill. Debated getting a cat. 

If I sit still and reflect, it doesn’t take me long to remember that so many of the greatest chapters of my life have begun like this. Everything falling apart or together, some days not being able to tell which is which. A big heap of experiences and feelings and often shock, but lately with a glimmer of hope thrown in.

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***

So, new friend, that’s where you found me on that October day, stumbling across your email. Simply, trying to live my life, extending as much love as I can muster, to myself and to others. Searching for all the simplicity and beauty I can find. Day dreaming about other places and blurring out some details, re-writing my dreams in my head as I go.

And now I suppose I will leave this post as I started it. With a hello, a thank you, a talk to you soon.

**

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