Written words on paper feel special. A handwritten letter is a sequence of steps involving the two things that we crave most from those dear to us: time and thought. The writer has taken the time to fold into an armchair or rest their elbows upon a desk and to wrap fingers and thumb around a pen while their thoughts turn solely to you, the recipient. They decide how to frame words together in a way to deliver joy and news, words that may never be said aloud but still create closeness. ‘Special’ is not a special enough word to describe the intimacy that the first read of a letter creates, nor the emotional hand-hold that the rereading eternally offers.
I write letters to my granny in Limerick, Ireland. Upon receiving another airmail-kissed envelope on a day where the clouds clamoured to make it snow, several words in her letter seemed to glow brighter than their blue ink companions: ‘that is where the real world is; within ourselves’.
In short, it is the truth. Being reminded of this truth was a much-needed rush of comfort, like a blanket made especially for snow days.
In lockdown, everything is tinted with a sense of surrealism. Many of us have experienced a sense of going through the motions instead of being an active part of the world, maybe because many branches that built our little tree of life appear to have been cut down. Our idea of the world was built upon constant movement; getting from point A to point B as fast as possible; crowds; entertainment being repeatedly handed out on an extravagant plate – our world was one of constant distractions. Now, the curtains have been drawn back and the distractions are gone.
It turns out that the real world is not made of cars and fashion and money – it is simply made of us and ‘us’ is what comes from within ourselves, which to me sounds about as far from going through the motions as you could possibly get. The world within ourselves is real. And it matters. It matters not only when there are less distractions around but always, because it is where we simultaneously grow and heal.
Time and the real world coexist in the loveliest way. This year on the run up to Spring, we may have more time than ever before to have a conversation with the voices in our head, the ones we once drowned out. We have more time for rest and creativity, more time to be still and listen to our breathing. With less noise in the outside world, the noise in our inner worlds, our real worlds, is louder. It sounds more like home. You can tune into the things that make you happiest and become aware of who you want to share this happiness with more than anyone else, albeit from a distance temporarily – this is where a pen and paper, plus an envelope and a stamp come in handy.
I sometimes wish there were a magical button that you could press whenever you need an instant boost– a ‘please press here if you would like to receive some joy’ button would be wonderful on these grey February afternoons. If such a button does exist, I imagine it is buried deep within ourselves. It might be a challenge to find sometimes but writing a letter is a good way to bring it to the surface and in turn bringing you closer not only to others, but to yourself.
By Lucy O’Farrelly, February 2021