Are you back on the wagon, readers? I’m curious about what you’ve committed to for these 30 beautiful, wintry days. Fess up — I’m dying to know.
The commitment I made for January was to write 30 letters (in 30 days.) Not 30 emails. Not 30 Facebook updates. Certainly not 30 Twits, or Tweets, or whatever you call those things. 30 bonified letters — you know, those pieces of paper that can cost several dollars to buy and another 44 cents to mail, and that, once the recipient receives them, bear old news. Yep, those.
I’ll be honest with you, it’s been quite a challenge. I’m enjoying it. I’m sensing some real appreciation from the fine folks I call friends and family. I’ve even received two letters in return! And, like many things in my world, the practice has brought up a host of metaphorically existential questions that have me considering the bigger picture of something as simple as scribbling off a small note to a loved one once a day.
Why walk when you can drive? Why cook when you can order in? Why knit a hat or a sew a skirt when you can buy either one for so much cheaper*? And, why bother writing something longhand when the contemporary counterparts to letter-writing are cheaper, faster, more convenient, and more efficient?
They’re good questions. They are big questions, actually, that give me pause. I’m certain we all know quite well the beauty of a slower way of life — that’s why we take vacations, right? So, we could ask, is more efficient always better? Or, what’s with our obsession with efficiency, anyway? Or, as my cousin Kristin queries, “what, exactly, are we in such a hurry to get to?”
In truth, I’ve never met anyone who doesn’t appreciate a slower, handmade, homemade life in some way. Even my most “modern” tech-obsessed friends will still linger for hours over a long-cooked meal or insist on doing their own home renovations, and conversely, the most soulful person I know in the world is absolutely entranced by race cars. We all know the convenience of speedy things, (they make our lives easier) and we all know the unmatchable feeling of being as close as possible to our own vitality, something I’d call slow living.
The reactions I hear when I tell people about my letter-a-day practice lead me to believe a lot of us are wanting to slow down, or at least, have some more slow living in our lives. Maybe the so-called tension is understood less by analyzing our obsession with speed and efficiency (or boycotting it) and more by exploring our values — those intrinsic and highly personal beliefs about what is important in life. Culturally, we value newness, speed, and productivity — that stuff is easy to come by these days. But individually, maybe we don’t, or don’t…as much. Perhaps individually we value spaciousness, self-expression, or connection — those things hard-won via text message or while moving a 100 miles an hour. Maybe we are simply letting our cultural values run our lives?
So, how do we connect with our personal values and then let them dictate who and how we are more of the time? Well, first we have to know what they are. (Awareness is everything, right?) What do you most value? What’s most important to you? Is it fully alive in your life?
Admittedly, I might have thrown in the towel on the 30-letter-in-30-days around Day 9 if I didn’t stop
to consider what was really important about it for me. When I saw that it was a practice that might build my reservoir of patience, and that it was a way to express (without my old favorite editing-tool, the delete button) my gratitude and love for people, it was easier to stick with it. This small expression of slow living became more accessible to me once I understood where it was rooted.
Thanks for being with me on the Treelife Blog this January! More on slow living coming soon.