Now, this is expressive writing! Other People’s Love Letters: 150 Letters You Were Never Meant to See (edited by Bill Shapiro), which I commented on recently, has many examples of writing that touches the heart. Here are some that appealed to me:
“I love that you sent me an actual letter. I can feel your hand on the pen, pressing firmly on the paper. Did you moisten the envelope with your lips?”
“If you were here now, I would kiss you. I would hold your hand and look at you with wonder. And then, if you would let me, I would kiss you again. And again. And again.”
“The man of your dreams, perhaps not — maybe just one of the many that have fallen, but for now I am ridiculously happy to be the one who curls himself around you.”
“The first thing I want is a park bench. Wooden, weathered, solid, comfortable. And with a view. Doesn’t have to be of the ocean. Could be a simple garden. Or a squirrel in a tree. Would you sit next to me, on my park bench? Would you take my hand and help me watch that squirrel?”
Besides the romantic interlude, what’s fun about the book is that you see the letters as they were written, on napkins, crumpled paper, e-mail printouts, postcards and scraps of paper. They are scrawled, carefully printed, typed. And at the end, there are comments from some of the people who contributed the love letters, describing how they felt digging them out (“I cried my eyes out,” “I was completely surprised by how painful it was,” “I saw progress in how I dealt with rejection…”).
The book also includes a section with an update on how some of the lovers met and what happened to them. Some have since married; some dated briefly and then split up. One of the most touching, “Reasons Why I Love Kay” (100 things like “I can be myself when I am with you” and “You’re the one that holds the key to my heart”) was composed as a gift from Don to his wife of 24 years. Not long after, she was killed in a car accident.
When I looked up the love letter book, Amazon helpfully told me that people who bought it also bought PostSecret: Extraordinary Confessions From Ordinary Lives by Frank Warren, which I also talked about. I’m not sure what that says about our voyeuristic tendencies!
Again, the book contains heartfelt messages from ordinary people. In this case, they are all writing a postcard to share a secret they have never told another soul, in response to what began as an art project in 2004. Warren started by handing out 3,000 postcards, but he has now received more than 150,000. The secrets are shared in this book and three others, the most recent being PostSecret: Confessions on Life, Death, and God, and on www.postsecret.com. The site gets six or seven million visitors every month, and in five years, the PostSecret community raised $500,000 for suicide prevention.
There are happy or funny secrets:
“I bought a bunch of postcard stamps to use for PostSecret but I used them to write to my friends instead.”
“I stole your duck and took him to San Francisco.” (with a photo of a stuffed duck in hat and overalls)
“Loving you saved my life…”
but more often they are painful, touching, wistful:
“I hope there is a heaven (and I hope you’re there)”
“I wish my parents could see me for what I am…instead of what I didn’t become.”
“I’m 25, and I’ve never been kissed. It’s not that I don’t want to…it’s just that no one else does.”
Warren says, “After seeing thousands of secrets, I understand that sometimes when we believe we are keeping a secret, that secret is actually keeping us.” He relates his own experience, being reminded of a childhood humiliation he had long buried, then writing it on a postcard and walking away from the post office feeling lighter.
“Some of the most beautiful postcards in this collection came from very painful feelings and memories,” he says in the introduction. “I believe that each one of us has the ability to discover, share, and grow our own dark secrets into something meaningful and beautiful.”