Monday, March 1, 2010

Constant Contact

Remember what it was like to wait for something? Or someone? To savor the anticipation of seeing that special person? Talking to him? Hearing from her? Receiving a letter from them? Ah yes, those long ago days when we actually used to write each other letters, real letters. Remember?

Do you remember what it was like to wait and want very much to hear from someone? It could be a family member serving in the military overseas, or friends who’d move away, or that special someone you’d met and thought you couldn’t live without ... but found you could. Still the letters you wrote helped you feel connected despite the distance.

And then the day was here—that long-cherished missive from your special person arrived! You pulled it from the mailbox and looked at the return address, at your own name as the addressee, or the family name perhaps, written in long-hand on the envelope. Did you bring the paper near your nose and breathe in the scent of faraway places? Or perhaps touch it briefly to your lips? The touch and smell of someone dear sending shivers of joy and sadness through you, your eyes warm and full of moisture, close to tears...

You felt the thickness of the packet trying to judge the worthiness of the writings; the heavier it was the better. A fat letter meant many pages and more words to feast on. Maybe you wondered what he was doing now? Or if she was eagerly awaiting a reply. Now the question became, where to read the cherished epistle? In a private room? Around the kitchen table with the family? Under or up in a tree? Or for the very impatient among us, before we even got back in the house!

But what am I writing about? Does anyone even know? For more than three fourths of the population in America today, what I’m describing probably sounds like an ancient Japanese tea ceremony or a medieval courting ritual, if young people even know what those things are.

No one today knows how to wait for anything. We expect—we demand—instant communication, constant contact. Everywhere you go, everyone is on his or her cell phone, as the saying goes, 24/7. Wait to hear from someone?! Send a “letter”?! What’s a letter”? My daughters had to teach their boyfriends—and most of their friends for that matter—how to even address an envelope.

My response to all this: I refuse. I answer my phone when I feel like it. When I don’t, I don’t. When I’m with someone, I turn off my cell phone. I don't consider this anymore than common courtesy. If my husband was dying of cancer or my mother was having heart surgery that morning, I would make an exception. Otherwise, I think it’s rude to keep interrupting a lunch you’re having with someone to answer your phone. There aren’t as many emergencies as we like to think there are.

The people who love and truly need me know where I am and how to find me within a fairly short period of time. But truthfully we don’t need to talk to each other all the time. As for the rest, they don’t matter. If I could, I’d get rid of my cell phone altogether, but I can’t ... yet. I'm still working on it...

However, if I don’t blog as much as I used to ... you know why. Constant contact isn’t necessary, nor is it even enjoyable.

Savor the spaces and the opportunities to be quiet. Life is the real luxury. Letters and taking things more slowly are among the best ways to cherish it.

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