The Heart to Heart 7-Day Card Writing Challenge: February 11-17, 2024
I heard something on NPR a few weeks ago that has stayed on my heart. I was chopping mushrooms for dinner one late afternoon with my kids running through the house like kangaroos on ice in the background. As I tried to keep my onions from burning on our electric stove, my friend Ari Shapiro told me through my one working earbud that the longest running study of adult life ever conducted is the Harvard Study of Adult Development, and the conclusion by its director Dr. Robert Wallinger is simple but profound: the happiest people are the people with strong connections to others.
It seems obvious, yes. But somehow hearing about this basic truth illustrated through decades of scientific research brought home to me anew both its importance and also how easy it is to forget in our culture of striving. Why is it that the most important thing is the thing we always save for after everything else is done? Yes, dinner has to happen, baths probably should (but don't always) happen. Emails, reports, meetings, deadlines, errands all keep the wheels turning. And then everyone gets covid for the thirteenth time. But at the end of the week, it isn't those daily to do's that make me feel like I know who I am and where (and to whom) I belong.
The people we write to are sometimes the people we are closest to physically, but not usually. The souls whose mailing addresses we keep tucked away in notebooks and spreadsheets (or ancient text threads and the backs of old receipts) are the people who help us make sense of our lives beyond the day-to-day. Being a parent, a partner, an employee or employer are full-immersion experiences. It can be hard to see the forest for the trees, and we need other people in our spheres to periodically plot more points on the constellations of our lives and identities.
When I write to my friends from college it helps me remember what inspires me, what brought me joy before I ever had the satisfaction of seeing my kids' faces light up because of something I did for them. Writing to my mom's sister helps me remember that I'm not the first person to tread the uphill path of raising young children, and that I'm not alone in finding it hard. Sending a note of warmth to an acquaintance I know is struggling with a loss makes me feel like I'm helping to build a net to keep us all safer when the darkness inevitably creeps in.
Our work at Heartell is built on the idea that the best way to maintain these relationships is to create a pattern of connection: building habits, rituals, routines and traditions that make connecting the default without a lot of effort. I do this for a living; I have been making greeting cards for ten years and I STILL find it hard to maintain a regular habit of thoughtfully reaching out to my friends and family.
All of which is to say, these card writing challenges are a selfish endeavor designed to make setting aside time to write to my people part of my job! Ha! But also, to help me renew the routine so I can keep it going even after the challenge is over. To entice you to join me, I created this free illustrated tracker you can use to mark your progress, and if you submit your completed tracker through this form you can enter to win a free $100 gift card to spend on cards, prints and gifts to keep your correspondence going all year.