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Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Wisdom from the Ages- IWSG June, 2017



 It's IWSG Day.  The goal of this blog hop is to share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds. The brainchild of Alex Cavanaugh, our brilliant ninja leader.  To read posts from other members, click here.


A relative moved out of her home after 45 years and we spent this winter cleaning it out, which caused us to reevaluate. After spending weekends throwing out old bills, countless notebooks filed with clipped recipes and every birthday card ever received, my husband and I vowed we’d never leave a task so daunting to our daughter. 

To that end we’ve been purging our own house, one of us more successfully than the other. We grew up pre-social media and both had plastic bins holding years of correspondence stored in the basement.  Hauling them out, my husband upturned his container into the laundry basket we were using for trash.  “I can’t read them,” he said, “or, I’ll never get rid of them.” 

I don’t have his fortitude. Every night last week, I sat in front of my own box, opening and reading enough correspondence to transport myself back to a world I’d forgotten, before tossing each letter into a trash bag.
  
In the end though, I scored pay dirt. I knew for sure I’d have to save the letters from my lovely lost poet friend who died in a car accident just before our senior year in college. And, while I couldn’t bring myself to read them all, I unfolded a lined sheet of paper. Apparently, we were bored in class one day and writing notes back and forth. Sometime before that, I’d dashed off a couple of poems and submitted them to the college literary magazine she edited, knowing they weren’t my best work. I confessed in the note that I knew they weren’t good, and here’s what she wrote in response:

You must give writing the time it deserves or it will not reflect your real talent. You have the rest of your life you know – and you will always have that talent – the only thing with talent is though, you can’t just carry it around and take it out in a minute. It comes through much effort…If you don’t think your writing is good, don’t settle for things you don’t like…

The irony is, she didn't have the rest of her life. She was twenty-one when she wrote that, wise beyond her age, and gone three months later. I'm closing in on forty years without her now, but it's made me so happy to recognize she's alive again, through the inspiring reminder those long-ago words just delivered to me.

24 comments:

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

She was incredibly wise for her age. Sorry she's gone, but glad you saved those notes and letters so she can continue to inspire you.
Although yeah, I've be like your husband - just chuck it all...

Pat Garcia said...

Oh that is so beautiful and so true. Take the words and frame them. it is an eternal truth that doesn't disappear. Thank you so much for sharing.

Shalom aleichem,
Patricia
Everything Must Change

Nicola said...

Memories are precious. Hold on to them. Thank you for sharing.

Jan Morrison said...

Wonderful post, and as someone who treasures your writing l heartily agree!

Madeline Mora-Summonte said...

A lovely post, Liza. Thank you for sharing your friend's words with all of us. They are an excellent reminder to not squander our talents, our gifts, and to use them as fully as we are able.

Bish Denham said...

What a gift she gave you. And here it, all shiny and new again, inspiring other writers you and she never knew would be inspired.

Chrys Fey said...

She was wise. And how sad that she died shortly after writing that profound note.

Julie Flanders said...

Wow, what a beautiful post. I gave me chills just to read. I can only imagine how you felt reading those words after so many years.
I love messaging and email, etc, but there's something so magical about a hand-written letter. It's a shame this is something that has nearly been lost.

Rhonda Gilmour said...

Wow. What a gift to discover this wisdom again in the course of purging. I'm very interested in minimalism as well, and conduct regular purges--but still have a long way to go. Visiting my mother, who has a hard time letting go of things but is working on it, is a strong reminder of how much I don't want to burden my daughter with sorting through years' worth of accumulated stuff. This is especially important because she's so sentimental. Thank goodness for the modern scanner and digital storage, which allows me to hold on to memories without storing a physical item in my home.

emaginette said...

She left her mark and you've cherished it. It's all good--very good.

Anna from elements of emaginette

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Liza - what a fantastic note to find and to remember your friend by ... such important words too - as the others have said ... wise beyond her years - yet how do we know when we're going ... we don't - thank fully I've had a full life so far ... and now blogging opens up other doors ... cheers Hilary

Em-Musing said...

What a treasure to find.

Joanne said...

I love this post and the words from your friend will carry you on your journey. Quite profound. I'm not a keeper, and indeed dealing right now with some of my Dad's stuff makes me come back to TX and get rid of more. I do wish I still had letters from my grandmother. We corresponded when I was at college and then moved to TX, up until she passed at age 90. Those letters were simple little gems.
excellent post

Nick Wilford said...

What a precious thing to find. You definitely have to keep a hold of that. It's a shame the art of letter writing is pretty much gone - we won't treasure a tweet in the same way. And her advice is spot on for any writer. You have to work at talent for it to blossom.

Jessica Therrien said...

Oh my gosh, how incredibly inspiring and touching!! I'm so glad you sat and read and didn't just toss the letters out. Almost made me cry!! Great post :)

www.jessicatherrien.com

C.D. Gallant-King said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
C.D. Gallant-King said...

I dread the day I'm going to have to go through my own stuff, because I like you will have to stop and read everything before I get rid of it. I doubt I have anything so poetic and moving as what you found, but even a forgotten grocery list from 20 years ago may stir up curious memories.

Thank you for sharing your great find.


IWSG June

Diane Burton said...

After cleaning out 2 condos (my MIL's and her sister's) Hubs and I have been determined not to leave such a mess for our children. Just like you. I've kept cards and letters, too. And like you, when I started purging, I had to read them. I couldn't throw out my mother's letters or my FIL's poems and letters. I'm sorry we've lost that practice with texting and email. What a wonderful note your friend wrote. Very inspiring.

Lynda Dietz said...

Going through my parents' house to clean it out, I found almost no personal correspondence, other than a few letters to my dad from a friend of his who died while they were in the Army together. Those were far more interesting than the stacks upon stacks of greeting cards my mother kept, from people I didn't know. My hubby and I vowed to not do that to our own children. Probably the only things they may get a kick out of someday are the letters we exchanged prior to being married, and the "note notebook" we used to keep on our bed to communicate with each other when we worked different shifts, long before cell phones and texting were a thing.

I'm glad your friend still lives through her writing, and even more glad that you still had it after all these years.

Arlee Bird said...

I know that feeling of what you're going through. I've been trying to cull through my life accumulations for years with not much success. I don't add much new stuff, but I have added some of my mother's old stuff after she passed. It was quite a job going through her stuff. My own stuff seems like an intimidating mountain of memories that I have to dig down to a manageable little hill. Getting rid of ones life's accumulations can be a daunting, but an interesting task.


Arlee Bird
Tossing It Out

Connie said...

What a treasure to be able to relive her words and that memory. I know how hard it is to sort through and toss away old letters, even though it has to be done. We have to choose so carefully the "things" that occupy the space in our lives.

Joey Resciniti said...

Wow! What powerful advice. I empathize with your struggle to get rid of mementos. I tend to hang onto every word ever written by or to me. I still have notes I passed in middle school classes. My daughter is going to have fun throwing it all away someday.

Natalie Aguirre said...

Thanks for sharing your friend's wisdom with us. It's so true. I have letters my husband wrote me during our first year together when we lived in different places. He's been gone three years now, and I'm so glad that I have them.

mshatch said...

And so she lives on, by you remembering her to us. She was wise, far wiser than I was at that age!