I lament the lost art of the personal letter. With royal stamps plastered by careful spit to their top right corners, they were often harbingers of news, conveyors of connection, a hug in an envelope.
Perhaps you knew someone who carefully slid the paperknife into the tiny gaps in the corners, slicing open the top to reveal the promised contents.
Our hearts would flutter in recognition; the hand of a person who held a piece of our hearts in their faraway homes had sent us their precious words, their souls on a page filled with nuance. In the ink on the page their stories of doing life, the triumphs, the losses, was captured forever.
Our senses felt alive to their hands on the paper, the page debossed by their ink as the words had formed from their hearts to their hands and onto the paper. Their souls touched ours as they shared their lives for us to read. We were absorbed, blessed, our minds present to the moment of paper in our hands. The moment between us and the writer private and blessed.
Now we have emails, social platforms, instant messaging, group talk. We are connected always, all over the world and we celebrate the shrinking globe, our connections to loved ones ever present through cyber space.
We read in soundbites; on the bus, on the toilet, on the phone doing deals, we scan messages on the street waiting to cross, their words to us part of something else bigger and more important. We read with a restlessness, an anxiety and fear of missing out.
We’re possessed with a guilt, a nagging sense of not enough, never enough, must do more, our warm, loving, private space jostles demands and directives from companies, from others in companies, themselves anxious and fretful for their own achievements and their own fear of not enough.
Our words with our loves are brief and select. We fire sentiment in rounds of gunfire, there is rarely full discourse. We are always busy. We do not stop for mere messages.
Is it really any surprise we are reportedly more stressed and anxious than ever? We have little presence.
In an instant world, we are more connected yet less connected. There is a superficial air to our touchpoints. Where life used to be a leisurely passegiatta for social connection, we are not on the streets pressing hands and hugging “Ciao,” we are up high in shiny carriages, their windows polished to reflect the lives we wish we had, or hope others believe we have.
We each wave to the passing crowds from our Facebook and Instagram carriages, ‘my life is so perfect, if only you were like me, your life would be perfect too.’ There is little self-effacement, little humility, we are too fearful of judgement.
We are awash with celebrity, folks famous for being famous, famous for their versions of fake reality. We return to goggle at them again and again, until we slink away, our flags tucked under our arms, our heads bowed, knowing our lives can never be like theirs. We fear we are not enough. Not enough money, not enough gloss, not enough talent, not enough kale, not enough quinoa, house too small, clothes not designer enough, thighs not slim enough, bellies too flabby.
We are social animals, programmed to compare our own selves to each other. It is survival of the fittest, be popular and win; an Instagram dystopia is emerging in our own suburban lives.
“Comparison is the death of joy” said Mark Twain. We do well to remember it next time we feel ourselves to be “not enough.”
You are enough. We are enough. Enough.