Let me take a second to congratulate myself on a clever title for a post about writing notes to friends. See what I did there? Go, Melisa!
When all of the self-isolating (or social distancing, physical distancing, quarantining, or whatever we’re calling it these days) started a couple of months ago, the vast majority of us resorted to doing whatever made us feel better. That is to say, in a time when we’ve had (and continue to have) to do something that is for the most part extremely uncomfortable—staying home most or all of the time—it seems only natural that we would choose to spend our time doing the things that are under our control and provide comfort. For some, it’s baking bread. For others, it’s crawling under the covers and binge-watching Netflix. The specifics are different for everyone.
Something I knew before all of this began was that I always feel really good when I’m thinking of others. Acts of kindness towards other people make me insanely happy.
Side note: Don’t worry; I do things for myself, too! I bought myself a Quarantine Ring™ recently, to treat myself. It cost twelve dollars and gave me an incredible amount of happiness. TWELVE DOLLARS. It’s the little things.
Anyway, where was I? Oh right: thinking of others.
I have found that the more I have done for others during this very strange time in the world, the more I get out of my own head. I simply feel better, and happier. I have porch-dropped baked goods for local friends. I have sent goodies to far-away friends. I have sent gift cards to friends. I have sent alcohol to friends! (Well, one friend.) I have texted friends a lot of random things, just to make them smile. You may have seen the list of things to do, watch, and learn from home that I still update for my readers every single day after what seems like 500 years of doing so. And I write cards and letters.
When I was a kid, having pen pals was a thing. We didn’t have texting or free long distance calling or email or any of the joys that today’s internet provides when it comes to communicating with people. We had to write letters to our non-local friends and put an actual FIFTEEN CENT First Class stamp (Hashtag I Am Apparently Old) on the envelope and leave the rest to the United States Postal Service.
I wanted to be a writer from a very young age and I also had a fascination with faraway places, so I made it my mission to acquire a bunch of non-local pen pal friends. At one point I had more than twenty of them. I wrote to my grandparents sometimes too, even though they only lived about 45 minutes away. Naturally I also wrote to friends who moved away from my town. I wrote fan letters to my favorite bands (as well as to the Editor of People magazine) when I was a teenager. I wrote to the girlfriend of Jim’s best friend (they met in Navy boot camp) before she and I met and became very close in-person friends. I wrote countless letters to Jim when he was out to sea. Letter writing was my jam.
Of course, technology made that go away for the most part, along with my halfway-decent handwriting. Fast forward to “these days” as I gesture helplessly around me. THESE DAYS, I’m sending lots of cards and letters weekly as a way to reach out to others while we’re feeling lonely. I’m sending them to friends with whom I regularly chat as well as friends with whom I rarely do. Just the act of trying to make others feel better has made ME feel better.
But wait, there’s more. Something that I never expected started happening: I started receiving replies! Because I don’t do anything (outside of my job) for the purpose of getting something in return, the pleasant surprise of occasional actual piece of snail mail has made me giddy each time. I sit and read what my friends have written, feeling loved and just being so grateful for the time they took out of their day just to put a smile on my face. This is what the world needs: more caring about each other, more love, and more smiling, not just right now but truly, even when this virus is just a memory. Why wouldn’t we want to share love and feel love?
It doesn’t have to be letter- and card-writing if that’s not your jam. Pick something that is fun for you to do, and do it for others; I guarantee you that feelings of happiness will follow. (And if you’re like me, slightly-improved handwriting will also follow!)