In his book The Mind of God, neurologist Dr. Jay Lombard posits that it is our capacity to create language that sets human beings apart from other species. Words, he states, represent our mind’s unique ability to “create garments in which to dress our inner states … and to share them with others.”
A Lot of Writing
At the beginning of 2017, I committed to doing more writing. Wait a minute, you may be saying. You certainly didn’t meet that goal. We haven’t seen much writing from you this past year.
Actually, I’ve been doing a lot of writing. As some of you are aware, last spring we enrolled our daughter in a program to help her cope better with her depression. Because it was a residential program, we were baffled about how to best support her during this time of separation. We visited her every time the doors were open to us – three or four times a week. But we wanted her to know that we loved her even on those days when we could not be physically present. I hit upon the idea to write her a letter for each day of the week.
How could I have known that this simple act would have such an impact? Lily began to write me letters back. Both of us, it seems, are often better able to express our feelings in written word than in verbal conversation. What did Lily like best about my letters? “They make me think, mom.” She loved it when I would ask her questions that she would then ponder. She wrote me back with the responses to those questions and then posed questions for me to answer.
When the time came for Lily to graduate from the program, I shared with a friend that I would miss Lily’s and my correspondence back and forth. “Why stop?” challenged the friend. “This sounds like a practice that you can continue when she returns home.” And so I have continued to write my daughter a letter every day. She has kept every one.
Can I confess that I really don’t think my letters are written that well? I continue to be stymied by how to enter into the experience and mindset of a 13-year-old, especially one that has been through so much trauma. I keep thinking that I should be able to do better – find some wisdom to impart or express some idea that would help her break through her depression. But even though my writing this year has been mediocre, my daughter doesn’t seem to notice. It is the faithfulness of giving a letter to her every day that seems to speak most eloquently.
Think back on a time when you received a special letter. What was it that made the experience so impactful?
What are some ways you seek to put your "inner states" into language? What makes this rewarding? What makes it challenging?