A return

Photo by Tim Easley on Unsplash

It has been 467 days since I sent a letter into the weird ether that is the internet. Much of those days I have regretted not sending one. I have said next week for many weeks (nearly 67). I have occasionally sat with an open laptop and stared at the ubiquitous blank page until I was too nauseated with my condition to stare any longer, predictably sneaking off to YouTube to clear my head only to, of course, never return.

I have missed writing it, and missed the lovely letters some of you sent in exchange. Mostly, I have missed how I felt about myself when I did it, regularly and on schedule. Writing every week for myself—not on assignment or for a side hustle, not to help shape someone else’s words—and sharing my sometimes-meandering thoughts with anyone who cared to read them revealed something bigger than I had expected. That simple yet purposeful act unearthed a new terrain in my life, one that made me feel like I wasn’t wasting that life, or wasting myself.

Funny/strange/sad/unfortunate how you can reach such sacred land and still allow yourself to drift. Each day you succumb to neglect acts as a passing wave, carrying you a little further out to sea. Every ripple against you makes rowing back to shore not only more difficult, but also less likely. It’s better to put in the effort before your little enigmatic island is swallowed by the horizon and all direction lost.

What makes you feel like the truest version of yourself?

I’m reminded of that scene in The Office when Kevin brings his “Famous Chili” to work—“a recipe passed down from Malones for generations.” He toasts his own ancho chiles, stays up the night before to press garlic and dice tomatoes. The secret, he shares with viewers, is to undercook the onions, because “everybody is going to get to know each other in the pot.”

That simple yet purposeful act unearthed a new terrain in my life, one that made me feel like I wasn’t wasting that life, or wasting myself.

Kevin’s voiceover details all of this while we watch, in horror, as he trundles into the office with a vat of his labor-of-love between his arms and then immediately loses his grip. The chili topples, spluttering onto the floor. He tries to salvage some, but he’s just sliding around in the mess, scraping up bits of carpet with each attempt to stuff some chili back into the pot. “It’s probably the thing I do best,” his voice echoes as the scene fades away.

Nourishing whatever you consider to be the best of yourself can sometimes feel like that. You put in the work, you know you’ve done it right, you’re proud, and for whatever reason, you lose your grip. It’s a mess. You’ve got to start over. The good news, at least, is that you can.

So here I am. Starting again—rowing back to shore or cooking another batch, pick your metaphor. I’m really going to try to make it stick. I hope some of you are still around and still interested.

Next week I’ll send a more substantial letter I’ve been working on, about some of the strange events that have disrupted my past six months. Until then, I hope we’re all able to find some time to row a bit closer—or, if you’re already there, to stow your boat and stake your claim.


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