love letters, from me
By Kathryn Baxter
I usually start writing these columns with a general sense of doubt. Is anyone reading? Are they laughing at me? I extol points of questionable interest from my life, not knowing if they will hit home with anyone. I’ve lost sleep wondering if I am just navel-gazing, using this space for an exercise in reflection and writing that is only for me. This is my experience in writing, and this is also sometimes my experience in life, in work, in relationships, in the world: Is anyone listening? Are they laughing? Am I of interest?
I started journaling on January 1, 2015. I started dozens of times before that, too. How many diary’s have I been given in my life? At least that many times I have felt like a failure for not following through.
Then, for the holidays last year, I received a gift: a five-year journal (imagine my panic!). In this new diary, each page has a thought-provoking prompt and only a limited amount of space to respond with this year’s answer (remember, four more year’s worth of answers will go on the same page as I cycle through the book each year). I wasn’t going to write much. I assumed I didn’t have anything interesting to say – certainly not every night.
What I found from doing this every night, all year, is that given the opportunity, I celebrate love in its many incarnations. A lot. And it will be interesting each year to review what I wrote in response to the same prompt from one year earlier. But that is not the point. This isn’t necessarily to record as many memories as I can, but to slow down and be with myself every day and experience what is often overlooked – particularly in the busy, busy world.
Writing is newly useful for me, much as I’ve found meditation, reading, breathing exercises to be, so much so that I started another kind of journaling. I'm going to write out everything; all the projects I’m involved in and embarking upon. All the changes happening around me. All the work I do to take care of myself, enabling me to better nurture the love I have in my life. I want to be conscience of my life as I live it.
If I think about it too long, I'll inevitably question the importance of writing this column. But this column, along with my journal writings, are my opportunity to rejoice in being alive. Each detail I include is part of everything else that is happening right now. And this happening, this universal "us" thing that includes every human and every feeling and every thought – it matters. Stop acting so small. That's just huge.
I started writing this column one and a half years ago. That’s a lot of consistency for me. It’s an exercise in discipline, in thinking about readers and in considering my own life, but it is also a regular love letter I send out. So, that's why I keep writing. In my heart, my intention is to create a connection. And I'm okay with the idea that it isn't returned, reciprocated or even read. I'm writing love into the universe.
If starting a campfire is a metaphor for my life, I’ve spent years leaning low to the ground, furiously blowing on the embers. The lightheadedness that resulted from all that huffing and puffing deterred me (like so many of us) from keeping the ember glowing. As anyone who has had to work diligently on a campfire can tell you: too much blowing extinguishes the flame. The trick is not to huff and puff, but to pace yourself. Slow and steady.