I wrote this poem-like letter in my journal in 2011, after deciding I wanted my own chid someday. I had never been pregnant and was starting to feel unsure of whether I could ever be. In 2012, I got pregnant and began a journal to the life in my womb. Writing a journal of letters to your child can be deeply rewarding. Your journal can one day share things with the child that they might not otherwise know.
Dear Baby Boy Soul,
Are you calling to me?
I dreamt of you last night.
Someone in India had asked me to care for you while traveling.
For two weeks, you'd be mine to watch and care for.
And in that dreamscape where all lines cross
and one reality becomes another
you felt like
my little boy.
Then one day our group of travelers
went to the mall. I had dressed in a full silk sari
fuchsia, magenta, pumpkin colored
wide skirt flowing at my ankles.
A tall American girl I had befriended
walked beside me and somehow
she was holding you now. She said,
"I'm going to hold him for the next few hours."
My heart fell deep into pain.
I had loved holding you.
It was heaven and I'd waited all day
to be with you again
your soft brown hair and chubby thighs
felt like my hands were designed to hold them
as you sat on my hip.
"No you're not," I said to the tall girl.
"I've been wanting to hold him all day and he's
my responsibility. I'm watching him."
She said, "Well, too bad because I'm holding him"
I stood there shocked, jaw dropped down toward
layers of pink and orange
floral print silk.
Fighting energy does not belong
I would not grab you from her arms
she would give you back later
but the grief...
Baby boy soul
are you real?
Like in Velveteen Rabbit...
are you real because I love you?
Will you pass through my body someday
bewildering my being
with the sheer miracle of yours?
I would die with love for you every day.
Am I going to have you?
And if not, why do you keep
showing up in my dreams?
What if you wrote 52 letters this year? One a week, with your pen, stamp on the envelope, gone. Would that be crazy? As in, no way? Or would that be easy, and you'd simply need to write it in your calendar to remind yourself to follow through?
Whoever you are, if you want to do it, here is your nudge to begin.
Think of how good it feels to find a card or letter in your mailbox, with your name and address hand written by someone important to you. Holding their letter in your hands, knowing they took time to put their thoughts into words for you in this seemingly old-fashioned way.
It can be two sentences inside a small note card. It can be seven pages long. What seems to matter most when you send a letter is that you put your heart, your words, on paper for someone who is dear to you, using your hands to write it, your body to pop it in the mailbox. It wasn't all done by machines, it is real, raw, touchable.
To begin, find paper for the first week. Whatever paper, envelopes, cards you've already got. Put them on your desk or near the bowl of citrus on your table, set a pen down next to them, and if you're super-prepared you might even have postage stamps ready to go.
Who, right now, can you show love?
Who did something generous for you last week or last year?
Who is up to something professionally or athletically, artistically or as a human citizen, that you admire and want to support with your words?
Who could use a boost of confidence, a sense of companionship, someone you can encourage and offer softness?
Consider an elder, someone who might be lonely in a culture that doesn't value elders. Consider a child who might not have ever gotten a letter in the mailbox. Consider your mom -- when was the last time you thanked her for carrying you in her womb?
Choose someone and write their name on the envelope. You know these basics, the rest of the envelope part is easy. Sometimes I simply scan my address book and find names that pop out at me.
Now, sitting ready to write, ask yourself... How much love is my heart willing to express? Think of one strong note of positivity that you feel for this person. "I see how much you give," or "Your work is such a contribution to the world," or "Last year I was lifted out of many dark moments because of your friendship."
It is totally fine to simply write their name, "Thank you for being you," and sign your name. Done. Truly, a simple acknowledgment is a perfectly wonderful use of paper, a stamp and your time.
Make this easy on yourself. Just write something.
Pick someone, find what your heart wants to say to them, and send it off. Perhaps you know a child who doesn't like school. Let them know they're seen! You could write something like... "One day at a time, find something you like about school and enjoy it! Then write down the stuff you don't like in your journal. Then you'll know what you don't want in college, or... ever again! Heck, you could even design your own school without all the things you don't like about yours!" A little humor goes a long way to soften tough situations. Just being with someone, on paper, letting them be seen by your heart's eyes, can make a big difference.
Next week, same thing. Calendar it. Sunday morning with tea? Tuesday at bedtime?
My bet is that if you stick to it, and weeks pass, as you create your practice you will begin to feel a delightful sort of astonishment at how much love this can light-up in your life. If your letter writing practice is anything like mine, people will be touched you wrote to them, you'll feel therapeutically uplifted after writing, and all this for about 50 cents (for a US postage stamp) and some paper.
Tempted to complain about the US Postal Service? Take it from someone who's written 10s of 1,000s of letters and cards in my life --> we've got a good one. The US Postal Service has lost very few of my letters over the years, and its prices are reasonable. Living in Sweden for a year, letter writing was a hefty hobby at 21 Swedish Krona (the equivalent of $2.52) per international letter. Our postal prices and delivery were one reason I was glad to be home.
Try to write without thinking. Let your heart write for you. You've got this.
Dear Matt and Peter,
Thirteen days ago, the town where we met back in the late 90’s changed drastically overnight. Up the hill, Paradise roasted in flames from the Camp Fire as Chico sat close-up watching, in shock. Thousands of jaw-dropping stories rolled down social media streams. Friends lost their homes as parking lots turned into donation centers and wind blew toxic smoke to Sonoma County where I live.
After eight days of unhealthy air, I’d had enough. I needed to get my child out. We drove up into the Sierra Nevada mountain range on Friday to find you waiting.
For two nights we stayed with you Matt, and your daughter and son. For the next two nights we stayed with you Peter, and your two daughters.
I could breathe. My child could breathe.
In Tahoe’s fresh air, 7,000 feet above the smoky valley, my heart and lungs felt relieved of the physical and emotional intensity they had been holding for a week. My child and I were gifted “tribe time,” four unexpected days and nights with you and your precious, fast-growing babies, who I adore deep in my Tia Jess bones. I watched my child run, giddy, with your children. My own dull-aired living room more than 200 miles away, I exhaled deeply, gazing out the window at redwood trees as I listened as your child read books to mine, chased her around like a wild tiger, helped her feel like family.
And we are. We are Soul Family. We chose each other. And we still choose each other.
All three of us know we are fortunate to have had those days together. We all know we are fortunate to be alive, with homes intact.
What I mostly want to tell you isn’t “Thanks, Again.”
What I want to tell you is that I’m floored by your fathering.
I’ve been watching you parent for a decade. As your children were born and grew into toddlerhood, I watched you. You have always been good fathers. Yet this time it was different. Somehow, the beauty of fatherhood has seeped into your skin in a way that’s left me feeling really, really fortunate to know you.
You know I revere children. Watching you with yours was like seeing the future treated with the dignity it needs to become bright.
You weren’t like a magazine of picture perfect fatherhood. You did your own thing as they did theirs. But all through those high alpine moments, your voice for them was one of Love. Both of you, in your own ways. How could I not notice that, as a result of a devastating fire, I got to witness two spectacular fathers, one after the other, each for two precious days and nights? This isn’t the norn. Great fathers aren’t everywhere. How could I not be head-shakingly grateful that you are two of my dearest friends? In so many ways, you shone the light of powerfully loving fatherhood upon those days.
When your children needed boundaries, you set them. You named them, you clarified them, you checked in with your children, you listened with your heart engaged.
You didn’t make demands; you made requests. Do you realize you might have prevented a future mean-spirited boyfriend or girlfriend from violating your child, because you’ve shown them that somebody who cares for them will not try to control them?
You didn’t use fear to make them comply; you used a strong, loving voice to show them the limits.
We’ve had some wild times together, having known each other since college. The men I see now aren’t the same men I met 20 years ago. Your children have offered you a chance to expand into a fuller, more step-up-to-Love’s-plate place within yourselves and you accepted. You stepped right up to that plate. Far fewer fathers do that, than children deserve. Watching you father your children makes me love you even more — did I just say that? Was that even possible?
Deep bow to you both.
Thank you for all the stretching you have done over the years to evolve into such beautiful fathers. This is not easy work. Parenting well is great service to humanity — nothing less. What you are doing for your children is the greatest work there is, and I admire you with all my Tia heart for it.
It's good in an almost unbelievable sort of way.
Our former postal delivery person, Ruben, is the kind of person who wins all those good-stuff awards. Well actually I don't know if he does, but something tells me he is universally friendly. Like the universe. Goodness beaming from his smile and through the classic, shiny yellow smiley button on his gray-blue U.S. Postal Service baseball cap. He lifted up our neighborhood with his gorgeous glow within. Our daughter got to cherish him. He's got that "presence power" sort of way, never seeming to be in a hurry, always wanting to say hello.
Living in Sweden for 13 months, we didn't know any of our postal deliverers. It doesn't work that way in the city. Plus the Swedish postal service has significantly declined in quality, having gone to a different ownership model.
Back in Petaluma, California, a new deliverer would await. Within the first few days of living in our cozy den home, we were sending love notes to friends big and small. Enter, Sean the Postman. Strong, sturdy smile and legs, with a kind swish-rustled breeze in his smile.
Our postal karma is delivering the goods.
Who would have thought -- one of the best things about the USA is its postal service? Beyond fair prices and an excellent delivery record, somehow wherever I live we always get highly charmed postal delivery people.
Letters. They feel so good and they make life feel good too.
Thanks, Ruben and Sean and all the postal delivery workers in the world. Letters are powerful and you deliver ours. We trust you appreciate the way we beautify envelopes, to sing a little on their way over. We sing to you, in thanks. Your work is valued and honored!
It was September, just starting to get cold here in southern Sweden, and I remember the looks on their faces. When locals would ask me if I had ever been through a whole winter here, I would say "No, this will be my first."
No matter who it was, their whole face went sour. "Ohhhh..."
October came. Layers started piling on. An underlayer of wool pants, long sleeve shirt, a scarf you actually needed so the breeze didn't chill your neck. In November, beanies became the norm, plus long wool or down coats and mittens. My husband schooled me on how mittens are warmer than gloves because your fingers share heat inside them. Every day my daughter Helena wore snow pants with suspenders to preschool, along with all the other clothing necessary to stay warm and dry here and one day as she flopped to the floor in frustration over all the stuff she had to put on and take off several times a day, I counted 12 items. Twelve tops and mittens and socks and layer upon layer upon, oh sweet darling spring will come, layer.
On Christmas Day out walking with family, the icy wind chill of the drizzling gray day left me realizing I was really in for it. We were really in for it. This winter would be long, dreary, dark and cold in a way we'd never known before.
Oh what this winter strained out of me. How I've gushed silent spills of praise for my California home climate. Deep longing for sun. My skin more pale than it's been since I was in my mother's womb.
Winter in Scandinavia is a big adventure all to itself. Letters lifted my daughter and me out of many dark days this winter.
Once among the best postal systems in the world -- surprise surprise, we are talking Sweden here -- these days it's dropped down several notches. In recent years it became semi-privatized, and now natives comment on how disappointing service is these days.
On many days my frustration about postal cost and delivery here led to praise, once again, for our U.S. postal service. It is one thing we do well in the States. Complain about long lines and underfunded offices all you want; it is cheap to send a letter in the US, and our postal system does it pretty darn well most of the time. In 38 years of sending lots of mail, I've had almost unnoticeably low mail loss, delay or damage. An international stamp in the US costs $1.15. In Sweden, it's 21 SEK, which converts to $2.53.
Yowch, that's an expensive habit.
Yet it's a happy, healthy habit. For every 10 letters or cards I write and send, about one person writes and sends one back. Decades ago I decided this is just fine. My soul spins in joy to write to people. It is as much a gift for me as for the receiver. And because I write a lot -- and Helena now has a card-making practice -- we've gotten mail every week for the past 9.5 months, all the way across the world. Sometimes it's one letter. Sometimes it's a stack of ten, and wow how good that feels.
I see the hand writing on an envelope from someone who loves me...
She touches the orange and purple crayon drawing of a pal back home...
I notice people seem more willing to vulnerably share feelings from across the ocean...
I strategize on how to "make the most" of each piece of mail we send...
And I reach for courage to ask friends to write to us, because it really does make a difference...
Receiving mail from friends and family 5,200 miles away has made us feel like we were still being held in the love of friends and family back home.
It has eased winter's edge. And it has helped my daughter retain a memory of friends she treasures, so that she's rooted emotionally, so that she has continuity in her relations, and so that when we return home, she sees faces and hears voices that are familiar to her, where she feels safe, seen and loved. How wondrous is this for a child who has just lived for a year in a whole new land, learning its language and adapting to its climate and culture?
To all the friends who have written to us -- and to my mother, who has been outrageously thoughtful and generous in sending us packages -- WE THANK YOU. Letter writing is a powerful art. It is an art of Love. Your mail has been the sun on many dark days.
I want to make something clear today, with this short blog post written from a completely darling cafe in downtown Stockholm, Sweden.
The art of hand written correspondence is not dead.
Granted, maybe you haven't received a piece of personal mail in months. Or years. Or ever. (Oh that is so very sad! Let's do something about that.) Maybe you haven't sent a piece of hand written mail in a while. Or you only send birthday cards to a few people in your life.
This describes most people who I've spoken with. And it gives us a clue as to why many people think the art is dead! It most certainly is not.
Take me, for example: I send an average of 10 personal cards or letters every week. In one single day, my record is 80 letters. That's right. Still don't remember how that happened, but it did. One mug of steamy Earl Grey after another.
Heard of Mail More Love? They deliver a monthly assortment of cards and tools to create a world with more love in the mail. My kind o' people! And they've got lots of subscribers who know this art is alive and well.
Then there's my daughter. She's 4 years old and has already sent more than 100 hand-drawn pieces of mail in her life. She knows where the postage stamp goes, she knows not to draw all over the "address" side of the envelope. This girl costs me some real money on postage, especially now that we are in Sweden and 99% of our mail is sent to California! (That's about $2.40 USD per stamp.)
It is money very well spent. Thank goodness, the next generation seems to grasp the beauty of mail you can touch more than my generation.
I had to "push back" on this one. I hear someone say the art is dead every week or so, and it simply isn't. Be part of the joy. Write a letter today!
Stay tuned for a free recorded workshop I'm offering for the month of September called Love in Letters: Reviving the Art of Hand Written Correspondence. Yes, reviving. Because, sigh... anytime there is more love being shared in the world, it is a wonderful thing!
Over the course of my lifetime, I'd guess I have written somewhere between 1,000-10,000 cards and letters. Starting at age five, the art of hand written cards and letters became a devoted practice. My mom role modeled the way with her gorgeous, kind hearted penmanship and patient hands.
With every piece of mail I send, someone smiles on the other end. The receiver feels loved and valued, and I enjoy every part of the process: choosing paper or a card and a pen, the feel of the pen on the paper, making the envelope beautiful, however simple. It's all so yummy.
A hand written letter is a ritual of therapy and self-awareness for the writer. What a gift for this to be my lifelong art!
Until recently it never crossed my mind that I could be a professional letter writer. But the ease with which I write letters, I mean, it comes so naturally...
Plenty of people want to convey things they may not feel equipped to convey, without a little help.
Letters of feeling, letters of heart, letters that value relationships. Those are the kind of letters I write.
Letters that heal the self and extend forgiveness, truth and gratitude with others.
Letters that invite connection and understanding, without placing blame or extending dissonance.
After all, this is humanity's invitation today: to step into being in relationship in a way that reveals both our interdependence and our freedom. To step into relationships not from a place of fear and disconnection but from a place of love -- the universal force of goodness that is the most powerful force in the universe and spans all relationship types.
"You put into words exactly how I feel," a recent client said, "There's no way I would have come up with that. Your letter really moved me."
It is an enormous pleasure for me to share my lifelong love of letter writing, with others.
Send me an email to be in touch about my letter writing services.
On a 1997 solo trip to Kauai, I sat in the passenger seat of my new friend Tom's little old blue Toyota truck. He was in his 60s then, and deeply devoted to spiritual awareness in a way that had many people, including me, stand in admiration. We were headed to the hardware store for a tool he needed.
Feeling like it was a privilege to be in his company, I turned to him and said, "It's an honor to be with you."
He paused, turned to me and said, "Darling?"
I answered, "Yes?"
"We're family, right?" he asked.
"OK, then let's not play that game."
He was talking about the "special game." An ego game. The game where we make some people more special, more valuable, than ourselves or other people. Holier than thou, guru-esque, or the reverse: inferior, subpar, not worthy of admiration or attention. This simply isn't true in spirit, and he knew I would appreciate being reminded of that.
My ego was crushed; I felt like a dummy. But after that initial ego-ouch, a massive sense of calm washed over me and I was exceptionally grateful for his willingness to be so bold and fierce in showing love.
It sure hit home. That was one of the last times I put someone on a pedestal.
Relapsing into ego's allure years later while dating a famous man, I made up that he was pretty darned hot-ticket-special until one day my coach's words finally hit home: "He doesn't have a corner on the market. The source is within you." An echo of Tom's message, profound wisdom, which I eventually took to heart.
Years before that, I remember going to conferences where an influential, buzzingly brilliant someone would talk and I'd be riveted with inspiration, noticing the flock of audience members lining up after the speech, some with starry eyes, beneath which I could sense an inner emptiness, an I'm-special-if-I-say-something-smart-and-they-like-me sort of daze.
And I'd notice how complete it felt to just be inspired without needing to approach the person at the podium.
Putting someone on a pedestal or being put on one by somebody --> same dance. A misperception of the innate equality of all beings, the fact that we are all completely loved and lovable, despite appearances or circumstances.
If we want to be at peace, we aren't meant to buy into the separateness of Better-Than-Land. We are meant to look beyond it for what is fuller, stronger, true.
I couldn't really relate to how Tom felt about me putting him on a pedestal until I felt somebody put me on one. A sense of being judged for the imperfection of my humanity had me feeling perplexed, and I could only make up that somehow I had unintentionally conveyed that I'm Miss Goody Two Shoes.
I so am not.
Just because Love is my "religion" and I have been vocal about this for many years doesn't mean I don't slip-up regularly, swear and dive into dips, falling into ego thoughts of criticism, ignorance, depression, shame and frustration.
Being put on a pedestal means you will fall from one.
While dramatic and exciting in a roller-coaster sort of way, it is far more peaceful to rest in the humility of accepting this human experience the best we can, accepting that we are all equals in Spirit, and committing to the memory of who we really are, which is so strikingly beautiful and beyond our current awareness that a pedestal couldn't begin to hold it up.
One of the most mind-altering things I've ever done is write a living will.
As I started writing without thinking, just writing from my heart about what I would want people to know if I were to die young and unexpectedly, was deeply ego-crushing, heart-opening and refreshing.
Writing my own living will brought the most important things in life to the surface of my attention and allowed the unimportant things to simmer out of sight.
If you're looking for a way to paint your weekend with a touch of beautiful depth, consider writing your own Living Will. You don't need to get it notarized unless you want to. For now, it can just be an act of truth telling and a powerful way to listen to your clearest inner wisdom.
Pull out a piece of paper and a pen. Imagine yourself suddenly passing on, so tomorrow when the sun rises, you are no longer physically embodied in the lives of those who love you most.
At the top of the paper, write, "To the people who love me most in life..." and then continue writing whatever comes up in your mind.
Here are some prompts:
What is most important that they know about you?
How would you like them to remember you?
What hasn't been said that you'd like them to be aware of?
How would you like them to handle any of the material things you possess?
What are you grateful for, that they showed you, gave you, wanted for you?
How would you want to be remembered? What kind of celebration or ceremony would you want them to hold in your honor?
What is your wish for them in life?
It can be two paragraphs, 5 pages, whatever your heart genuinely wants to spill. And I would love to hear anything you'd like to share after writing your own Living Will. (You can email me.)
Kudos for taking a deep dive to let your inner wisdom be seen and, more than before, lived.
There is one thing we are all entitled to, and it is love. Why? I don't want to get into that right now, but I do feel like taking a stance in writing about this being so.
Walking around with your nose in the air as if you are superior? No, that isn't a healthy sense of entitlement. But knowing you are completely lovable without needing to do anything to earn love, yes, this is a genuinely healthy sense of entitlement.
I wholeheartedly support my friends and clients to step into this. Is it easy? Heck no. But is it simple? Yes. And the simplicity is easier to see from someone else's shoes, not our own. That's one reason why it is so helpful to lean into the support of friends, or your art, or meditation, when we're in a struggle, finding life difficult, an uphill climb.
If this appeals to you, grab your journal, your bike or your favorite buddy and set out on a conversation to entertain the question not of why, but... What is available to me right now, where can I be or who can I be with, more often... that has me feeling completely loved? And rock on with your amazing self. Lean into that. Because you are way beyond worth it.
Jessica Rios is a mother, coach and lifelong letter writer. She puts feelings into words, letting the pen lay down the heart's words, questions, and wants. Jessica offers letter writing coaching and commissioning for her letter writing services.