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...over-educated and under-experienced, or so they say...

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The Mail

So I'm sitting at work today and my office phone rings (what a shock). When I pick it up the guy informs me that he's calling from the auto loan company because the mail has been returned to them and they need a valid address.

Now, most of you just read that sentence and automatically assumed this is going to be some kind of scam, but it's not.

I listened to him and said, "No. You have the right address. I haven't moved. I just don't pick up my mail sometimes and then the post-office returns it all." He sat there in silence for a moment. I'm sure he didn't believe me. He sounded confused as he repeated his request as though I had said nothing beyond, "Land Department, this is Pandora. Can I help you?" So I listened to him again and again I said, "You have the correct address on file. I just don't pick up my mail sometimes and then the post-office returns it all." Again he sat there not knowing what to do. It isn't as though I don't make my car payments, so he had no reason to think I'm avoiding them. But at the same time he sat there with an unopened returned envelope and, well... can you blame the guy for being stumped? I'm sure he was sitting there, much like most of you, thinking, "Who doesn't pick up their mail?"

Anyway, after I assured him that all of my contact information was correct, I hung up the phone thinking, "I hate the mail." And no, it isn't because it's just one more chore or one more mundane detail of life that irks me. It's because I have a bit of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder when it comes to the bad juju that possibly lurks in my mail box. And I know exactly when it began.

There was a time, before my divorce, when I happily walked to the mail box, when I dutifully sat down and paid all the bills right then and there just to get them out of the way, when I knew that today might be the day I got a nice letter or card from some friend that I hadn't heard from in a while, when I took advantage of the carpet cleaning coupons in the Value Pack, when I skimmed through the pages of the sale prints and such. But anyone who has ever gone through a bitter divorce, followed up by a three year custody battle from Hell knows that at some point the mail box becomes your enemy. The once happy jaunt to the mail box slowly turns into a dreadful trek because you know that there's going to be one more affidavit, one more grossly negative statement about why you should be considered an unfit parent, one more bill from the lame attorney who already sucked up the retainer, one more negative response you need to write in return for the low blow you just took. And it isn't too much longer before the bad debt starts to pile up in the background and debt collectors and their attorneys start hounding you to take care of the financial mish mash that remained attached to your once married name.

So, perhaps now you may understand me when I say, I finally reached a point where I just stopped going to the mailbox all together. Once the custody fight was halfway through its second year in court, I had pretty much lost interest in fighting anymore. I just wanted it to be over. And I believe that was the first time I had ever let the mail sit there so long that the post-office returned it. I remember it because the paralegal had left a message on my phone asking if I had moved because the latest affidavit was returned to them. I remember that because I didn't return her phone call. And I remember that because my attorney called the next day and left a message saying, "Pandora, I know you're depressed and I know you hate checking your mail, but you need to read this. Please call or come to the office and pick it up."

It was nearly three years before that fight was finally over. And though I feel no pain over that horrible time period anymore, I still have an aversion to the mail. The days of hoping for something good to come from it are long gone. Friends don't write letters or send cards anymore because that has all been replaced by emails, by text messages, by things like Face Book. Every so often, around birthdays and Christmas, Hope will get something from her paternal grandparents, but other than that... the mail is still nothing but bills and junk. I've given up on skimming through the sale pages because most of the time every penny has its place and I have learned to live by need way before want. And though I'm looking at my carpet right now and thinking I should find the cleaning coupon from the Value Pack, that thing usually lands straight in the garbage without being opened.

And as I write all of this, as I think about the lost hope of something good, I am reminded of the one friend I do have that recently decided to send a little light my way. We communicate "electronically" and write fairly often, but a few weeks back she sent me a message, giving me a heads up that something would be coming via snail mail. I made a joke about my poor postal processes, but I also made a promise to keep my eyes open for it. A couple weeks after that she sent me a message saying, "By the way, the mail I sent to you was returned to me. I will send it again in a few days. I'll let you know when I do."

Now, I could care less about the auto loan guy (they get their money from me with or without that stupid paper) but my heart sank just a little at the thought of missing something good that was sent to me by someone good. I apologized to her for my neglect and she was kind enough to make a joke or two about it, even made an attempt to relate to me and my lackadaisical methods, but I passed the mailbox that day feeling like a child that realized the only reason Santa quit showing up on Christmas is because I stopped thinking he would. There is no sleigh, no flying reindeer, and nothing good coming to me in the mail. But, as a believer in redemption, I not only checked the mail daily after that message, I checked it with a happy little step and bit of anticipation knowing that someday soon something good was coming. And it did.

On a Friday, upon my return home from work, I found a small package from a friend who had logged away in her memory my love for a show called Mad Men. She had included a little article about the authentic approach they give to every detail "from milk to makeup, letter holders to lowballs, no period detail on the 1960s set of AMC's Mad Men is too small." And she had made a little card with pictures of my favorite characters and wrote a note saying, "Have a Mad Men kind of day!! Though a kinder less destructive kind of Mad Men day. Have a Martini or a Pink Lady or something retro. Or think about Jon Hamm. Or the occasional cigarette while brooding." And as I studied what she had sent to me, I smiled. I smiled because this was the first good thing I had gotten in the mail in quite some time. It was so simple but so thoughtful and fun. And I realized today, as I talked to the auto loan guy, that I had already forgotten that happy mail moment and I had forgotten to tell her thank you. And I suppose this is a reminder that I should let go... because, the truth is, you never know for certain when something good is going to come your way, nor should you keep yourself from looking for it -- you just might miss it and it isn't often you get a second chance.

(and yes... I will go say thank you to her now)

1 comment:

  1. You are welcome. And I do understand. My relationship with the mail has changed recently too. I still have letters from college that I haven't read in years. But still keep.

    When it's not cool letters from your friends or family, and it's stupid bills from corporations, it's way less fun. Or wanting to bundle from cox. Yes, I keep ranting about the cox bungling, but it so annoys me.

    Do you detect my baggage in there?