Thursday, November 4, 2010


Who knew that letters to 194 people could teach me so much about just one:


I just finished a letter to P, a woman I met in college. About 13 years ago, I set P up with J, another friend of mine. P and J married one week after I wed my first husband.

While our union lasted five years, and theirs just five months, I still see in P a kindred spirit -- she and I both acted in good faith when we chose to wed, believing we were in love and had found someone with whom to fulfill our dreams.

Turns out we were wrong. Certainly about the dream fulfillment part; perhaps as far as love was concerned, we simply overestimated its power to make everything else right.

As I wrote to P, and thought about our weddings a decade ago, I felt as if I was retracing my steps. I found myself looking for -- and finding -- clues, little bits of answers to questions I wasn't even consciously aware I had: Why hadn't I given more thought to getting married the first time? What made me leap, with nary the most cursory look around?

Oh, that a six-page letter to a friend could fully answer those questions. But writing still put me in touch, however briefly, with the girl I was back then -- through a new lens I examined my youth and naivete, my eagerness to please, my need for security and the approval of others.

Learning more about myself certainly wasn't a primary goal of The Letter Jar project, but is perhaps an outcome I should have anticipated. After all, I haven't lived my life in a vacuum; the events of my life are populated with a widely varied, and in some cases highly influential, cast of characters. And, in that way,  writing to them becomes an opportunity to recognize not only who they were and are, but also, interestingly, a way to explore who I was and am.

NEXT READ: I can't wait to get my hands on Script & Scribble: The Rise and Fall of Handwriting by Kitty Burns Florey, a fascinating history of handwriting and its effect on our creativity, understanding of language and daily lives. Listen to Burns Florey discuss her book on the public radio show "Here and Now."

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