Postcards to Myself
Postcards to Myself
“You rarely know, at the moment, when it’s the last time you’ll do something. Most of the time, the whole thing just sneaks away in the night, never to be seen or heard from again, not even sending back so much as a postcard to say hello.”
― Michelle Cuevas, Beyond the Laughing Sky
I send myself postcards. I love to receive a card in the mail. Something that is not a bill that is awaiting payment or attention – something that is from me to me. It feels like receiving encouragement from a part of me connected to the sacred, the divine – a voice that is both mine and Goddess’s.
I started the tradition of sending myself postcards in December 1999. I wish I could take credit for it. I cannot. It was Alan Cohen who first introduced me to the idea. This, you see, was one of the last activities we did as part of the Mastery Training, a week-long retreat that Alan has been leading for decades now. Alan had two requests: one, that we wrote a love letter as a reminder of the connections that we had made with our inner/higher selves; and, two, that we returned the postcards to Alan to be sent out later. We just needed to trust that we would receive them when we needed them the most.
In introducing me to this healing tool, Alan gave me my start. It has been my responsibility to keep the tradition alive.
A tradition that I have shared with friends and clients alike. From time to time, especially if I have been working with a group of clients for a while, I ask them to write themselves a note and to hand it back in a sealed and self-addressed envelope. I provide all the materials, including postage. And, off the postcards go, to different people, at different times, in different ways.
For my healing, I have collected postcards from a variety of places. There are some very memorable ones. One of them, a love letter that welcomed me into the world. An idea that my therapist had as part of a process group that I attended years ago.
What is so important about these cards? I do not know. I can only guess that they access a part of my psyche that is hidden from me as I go through the hustle and bustle of daily living and the stress imposed on me by the life’s work that has seemingly chosen me. I have tried to walk away from it several times to no avail.
As much as I have enjoyed crafting, sending, and then receiving the cards that I write for myself, it is the expression on clients’ faces and their reactions to this idea that has brought the most awe and joy to me.
I have worked in pretty grueling settings throughout the years. I have been a grief counselor, rape trauma services intern, domestic and child abuse interventionist, and most recently, a director in residential facilities serving the needs of men and women recovering from substance use conditions.
I have done this postcard-writing activity with groups of clients several times. It never ceases to amaze me how the person that I believed was the most resistant to the idea of completing this task has usually been the one who wanted to make sure to give me an address that would work no matter where he or she ended up living in the end. Many clients are homeless and will continue to be after they leave treatment.
One client comes to mind: a female resident of one of the facilities where I have worked. I will call her B. The many years of drug use had taken a toll on her body, and she was now disabled. Unable to use her hands, B asked if I could help her. I, of course, did.
B proceeded to dictate the most moving reminder to herself of what a great mother she had been despite her absence in her children’s lives due to her substance use. In a few words, B was able to convey a depth of conviction and trust that rendered me speechless. She was determined to work toward reunification.
B was thoughtful, honest, and emotionally invested in completing her task. I was honored to be of service to her and was moved to tears as I wrote down her words.
As I usually do, I turned the sealed envelopes over to staff to be sent out at whatever interval they deemed appropriate. The admissions coordinator offered to take over the task.
On one of my follow-up visits to the site, I asked if there were any cards pending distribution. There were a few still pending, and I requested that they were all mailed out at the same time. B’s card was among them.
Another few weeks went by, and I returned to the site to support staff. Upon arrival, I was asked to stop by the admissions coordinator’s office. Once there, I learned that B had died a week or so before. I immediately thought of the card. My only thought was, “I hope that she got her postcard before dying. She deserved to be reminded of her beauty before she left the body.”
I will never know if B received her postcard. I am comforted in the hope that she did.
The ritual of postcard writing would be meaningless if I did not share it with others. We could all use a reminder of where we have been on this journey called living. We could all benefit from a reminder of our courage and our ability (or inability) to trust the Spirit. And, whether we get to read our last postcard or not, it will find its way to the person who needs it the most.
I guess that when I die, my love letters will find their way to my children’s hands, and, true to form, they will see it as the ultimate proof that their mom was genuinely insane.
I invite the reader to give this exercise a chance and to share with me how it went.