Thoughtless Words

7:37 AM
Thank you note words -- much, very, really, really, so, soo, so and thanks. Oh, and love. Mix it up with some wases, ises and nouns and you get my typical thank you note: "Thanks so much for the purple hairbow! I love it. It's super cute." (Forgot about "super." Add that to the list.)

I get into a thank you note groove, churning out masses of thanks-for-the-purple-hairbow-like clones, paper cutting my tongue on envelopes, scrawling an address and popping it all in the mailbox. The white mailbox, with the arthritic metal flag. Sometimes it's a matter of necessity -- notes to people I know only in passing times thirty-two. Sometimes it's because the only emotion of gratitude I'm feeling is to get the guilt off my chest. It's horrible of me, but I save sentiment for the post-birthday, post-graduation, post-whatever hugs after the thank you notes flood the mail. Sometimes I get bored or my hand gets cramped, and I'm tempted to write about the chipmunk that got caught on the trampoline safety net -- not because purple hairbows have anything to do with chipmunks, but because I'm pretty sure the recipient would rather read about that than a collection of muches, verys, really, reallys, sos, soos and so's. I know I'd rather write it.

Does anybody save thank you notes? Thank you notes are glorified junk mail if done the proper way. I don't like the proper way. The proper way is bland and reminds me of forcing smiles until my cheeks hurt. I like the real way -- the unconventional way -- when I write words that actually mean something and that are worth writing and worth reading -- words about them and not their gifts of purple hairbows.

When I'm unconventional (which isn't always the case, especially when my hand cramps), I don't start out with "Thanks so much for the purple hairbow!" (Sometimes I almost forget to thank them for it at all; I'm too caught up thanking them for who they are and what they mean to me. Thank goodness for the p.s.) I'll describe the first time I met them or a series of events we went through together. I'll throw in an inside joke or reference to Captain America (if you're Lizzy or Bethany, you get it -- everybody else, stop staring). I don't just gush at them how much they mean to me -- the ol' conglomeration of muches and soooos with triple dozen exclamation points: I try to reconstruct what's forming in my mind when I think of them and their sweetness and their penchant for purple hairbows.

On my desk, by my bed, there's a picture of us. We don't look anything alike: you're beautiful and dark-haired and dark-eyed, and I look like a chubby white toad with a severe side part. We're not alike, really, because I'm a geek and you're athletic, and I write life and you live life, but somehow we learned to love each other. (Shout-out to my bestie, Stacy, who I don't want to grow up on me.)

I start out like that. It's much easier to write what I'm really thinking. It's the difference between true friendship and plastic thanks. It's describing something real (the thought-feeling in my brain) instead of something abstract (the never-defined, looming SOCIAL EXPECTATION). These are the kind of thank you notes that people hang on their refrigerator, the kind that moves them to come over to your pew on Sunday and give you a hug, the kind they want to mention next time you bump into them at Walmart. These are words that matter. That do something.

Funny how the words we ache over, the words we cramp our hands on, the words we force ourselves to write so nicely and properly to be "thoughtful" -- those are the thoughtless words. It's when we cut away formality and just gut ourselves to the reader -- our friend, our benefactor of purple hairbows and deep love -- that's when we connect.

This isn't a thank you note, but it's how I mean to write in all my letters, thankful or not. It's from a best friend who wanted to unselfishly wish me well on my graduation while secretly hoping to keep me home forever:

To my dear friend, Bailey ~

Can you believe it?
I'm at a loss for words.

I love you.
Me :)

If she would have said one word more, I might have doubted her sincerity. As it is, I will never forget her letter, and I will never forget her.

I want to write the same way -- no conventionality. Just all heart.

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6 impressions

  1. Bailey, I try to be careful when I star blog posts, to only do the ones that are either Very practically helpful and/or Really inspiring. But it seems like every time you post, I HAVE to star it! This stuff is just so true!
    My mom says I have mastered the art of the polite, or conventional thank you note. (it can be especially fun when I'm thanking them for cash or amazon money, because I try to match up one of the items I am buying with their interests. For instance, I will tell the aunt who is a talented, homey kind of person about the cake dec tools I wanna get, and tell the adventurous aunt about the tank for my new beetles) However, reading this makes me want to try to write what's real. The problem is, for me anyway, gutting yourself, by definition kind of, hurts! And most of the people I write thank you notes to, I see 0.5-2 times a year, and either don't know them well anymore, or never did know them. Do you have any suggestions for making some kind of personal connection there?
    Thanks for another lovely post!

  2. Ha...I love this. So true! I hate writing thank you notes because I write what I feel like I "have to" and don't write what I really feel at the risk of sounding too mushy or something. :)


  3. Do you have any suggestions for making some kind of personal connection there?

    Besides lying? Just kidding...I'm still working on it myself. But I figure if someone took the time to buy me a gift for my birthday or pay me millions for graduating, then they already care about me extravagantly, whether or not I actually speak to them on a daily basis. They extended half the connection by giving to me: I plug into that by responding as wholly myself. Sometimes I feel like a dork or a mushy-goosher or something, but I just go with what I truly mean -- they'll probably think I'm wonderful, anyway.

    And you can infer things from people you don't know who give generously: they care about you, they're sweet and kind, they liked you so much that they gifted you. So you could focus on that. But if I can't gush on and on about them (because, um, I don't really know how they found out about ME, much less anything else about them), I talk about how much I appreciate the gift and the thought and what I'm going to do with that purple hairbow in the coming years.

  4. It's definitely easier to be more thankful for the *person* than the *gift* when you know the person better. I try to be honest in my thank-you letters, but with certain relatives it's easy to fall into purple hairbow syndrome. Sigh.

  5. "The white mailbox, with the arthritic metal flag."

    Love this. Enjoyed your thoughts, in toto, as well, especially since I've got some thank-you card writing to do! Very good post. Thanks.

  6. Amen; thank you notes can be boring and impersonal. I think we should master form and make certain our words are gracious and centered around the person we're thanking, but we should be ourselves! =) That letter was too sweet, and I know that's the sort of thing you treasure forever.


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