26 Jan 2017

Write to Your Heart's Content

Who still puts pen to paper nowadays? To those of you nodding a 'Not me', glancing away, or rolling those eyes like I'm out of touch, let it be known: the technological panacea may not apply to our personal communications after all. Time to dust off your stationery pads and replace those dried-out pens. I'm going to show you why this should be done.

Best Wishes from my hometown, via Delcampe

Our handwritten prowesses and the availability of stationery of all styles and denominations (fancy, formal, sober, classical, feminine - you name it), have been seriously put to the test by technological advances that have made it easier and quicker to communicate in our personal affairs the messages, announcements, invitations, RSVPs, thank you notes, letters and the likes. You can even send electronic postcards. Choose a template, tweak it or customise it if you wish to express some form of individuality and creativity, type up a few words and click 'send'.

Here's the catch. Notice how I put 'some form' in italic in the paragraph above. You have no reason to feel smug because no matter the fanciness and advanced level of the graphics, typeface - and/ or interface - the communication will remain purely electronic and robotic. Carrying sentiments in a personnal communication of the sort is doomed to be diluted, lost in the proverbial translation.

Souvenir from my hometown (ibid.)

As much as you try to make it personal and personable, the very essence of the personal touch is missing because the personal finds its perfection in the time, effort and dedication that were put into the making of the letter. This might involve the quirks of the handwritten prose (or poetry for that matter) that makes it uniquely you, the movement of the sentence being carried out by the way you form your characters, and the pauses that make the sentences come alive, breathe. The handwritten carries a letter. The electronic does not. The handwritten makes a letter individual and unique. It is an act of creativity all to itself. The handwritten letter is a one-to-one communication that reflects the commitment of the writer to the recipient. However no matter how much you tweak and customise an electronic file, you will not be able to recreate that individuality, that uniqueness.

Now think about paper, card, envelope, stamp, stick-on embellishments. A letter is physical: it is not just about word content, it involves the type of material it is written on and this too summons feelings: the choice and quality of the paper, its finish, its size and colour, the way it was folded, how the pen glided upon it - or maybe scratched it. How the ink got absorbed into the paper, the blots, the smears, the marks, the fades, the imperfections... Now look at the paper, touch and feel it. What's its condition? Is it soft, delicate, flimsy, thin, thick, embossed, filigreed, crinkled, aged? Does it feel ordinary? Expensive? What is the handwriting like? Neat, perky, flourished, eccentric, messy, illegible, tired? How about the spelling? There is no doubt that a letter carries a lot of meaning. It has more to say than words themselves. It is clear that a letter comes alive when it is handwritten.


ibid.

I remember vividly to this day how during my very first job in a small translation office in England, I used to sneakily type up a letter to my grandma on my fancy Mac computer whenever I had some 'free time' at work. I would then mail the letter to her that very same evening. However what I was doing by means of efficiency, expediency and practicality while genuinely aiming for a letter to my grandma, she would sadly feel that efficiency, expediency and practicality of mine when she opened my letter, and that kind of killed the spirit and purpose of my letters to her. My good intentions were a mixed bag, maybe because as a keen and yet traditional letter-writer, she held the belief that unless handwritten, a letter shall never claim to be that personal and committed.

I agree that a personal letter takes time to write and you have to be in the mood to do it. Yet if you consider it a time-consuming piece of work (a chore even), and look at ways to devise it with efficiency, expediency and practicality in mind, maybe you should reconsider sending that letter at all - or opt for a less ambitious communication: a postcard.

ibid.

No matter what, I believe in rekindling the habit of letter/ card writing. I started the year by sending out a few pretty cards to some family members who I had lost touch with, and to Marie L., a 98-year-old lady friend of my grandma's who I have been visiting lately, wishing them a Happy New Year, enquiring about them and updating them on some personal news. That is a way to show you genuinely care and it will give them - and you - a boost!

17 Jan 2017

Five Mantras to Live Your Life By

Life is a bed of roses: beautiful and spiky, delightful and prickly. It throws fireballs at us and teaches us lessons along the way. Up to us to receive the teaching as a learning, or else, repeat mistakes and errors of judgement and go down the wrong path, sabotaging chances. However eventually most of us will mature and develop wisdom through the proverbial school of life (a.k.a. life experience) or school of hard knocks - when life rocks the boat senseless and tests you hard.


Wisdom makes life and lifestages easier to handle and puts things into perspective thanks to the tools we develop (thought process, repartee, extrapolation, problem solving etc.), and the methods we learn - by hook or by crook - on how to deal with new situations, setbacks and adversity under all their manifestations: stress, fear, loss, grief, pain, conflict, etc.

Along the years, I've got into a habit of collating quotes and other pearls of wisdom which resonate with me most, into a Word document. Whenever I feel a little low and in search of a boost or a little guidance - or just for the pleasure of words themselves - I open the file and reach out for them.

My Pinterest board, Unrequited ♥ Love, is an extension of that file, as a collection of quotes and metaphors from prominent artists, authors, thinkers, politicians, as well as from personalities away from the public eye. You may want to refer to my board for further inspo.

Right now, check out my five steadies for a little positive reinforcement


7 Jan 2017

Reasons to Heart January

There are indeed reasons to be cheerful in January! It shouldn't be dreaded or perceived as the anti-climactic month of the year - especially as it starts on a high note! Ringing in the New Year and its joyful countdown shouldn't turn into a hapless comedown. If you need a little convincing, then this post is for you.

Sitting on top of the world! Europe from space, photography by ESA astronaut Tim Peake, via Twitter

I heart January for many simple reasons. Here's ten of them, at the top of my head:
 
  • The year (habitually) starts on a high note as a festive celebration. Keep it up! Don't get yourself sucked into the bad vibes of the fatalist and the disenchanted.
  • Treat the new year as a blank canvas for your projects, ideas. A new start of sorts. Visualise that joy you felt at midnight and turn it into an impetus to get started on a project. It could be anything from rewriting your resume, to turning your balcony into an herb garden, to researching an author or a discipline.
  • In the northern hemisphere, days have been getting longer since the end of December, bonus! This makes Winter less drab! If you live in the southern hemisphere, fret not! The Summer there has only just started so there are still many days of good sunny weather to look forward to!
  •  Be kind to yourself and don't go overboard with resolutions: keep them few, simple and achievable.
  • If you need a little retail encouragement, you have Valentine's Day, Easter, Mother's Day and other landmark celebrations to look forward to, if only in terms of their window-dressing quality and the cutesy presents. Spending cash is optional when you do window-shopping!
  • Reconnect with family or friends who you are not in regular contact with. In France we have les Voeux (New Year wishes) tradition, whereby we send cards or give phonecalls to people within our circles especially to wish them a Happy New Year and catch up on the news at the same time.
  • Have a couple of appointments to look forward to in January, like a visit to the hairdresser (with a new hairstyle or hair colour to boot), or starting a new class or hobby.
  • Go out there and enjoy nature and witness it getting ready for Spring: buds and birds! Even if you live in town, you will still be able to catch glimpses of it in your daily endeavours or by nipping down to your local park.
  • Slip into a new healthy lifestyle regimen to shed those extra pounds and feel more energetic. And if you are in the cleansing mode, you may even consider a pre-Spring clean round the home or catch up with any overdue paperwork. Addressing procrastination may not sound like fun but the quicker you get round to it, the more time you will have to enjoy the rest of the year!
  • Yet most of all, you should just enjoy life because life goes at the speed of light and before you know it, youth will have morphed into middle age and middle age will have morphed into retirement age... You should simply be grateful for what you have and put things into perspective. Life could be better but life could also be worse. Life is a gift and the start of a New Year is an extra validation of life. It is so good to be alive and this is the number one reason for being cheerful, my friend!

Galapagos Islands, photography by ESA astronaut Thomas Pesquet, via Flickr

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