I’m want to share a letter with you that I wrote to my dear friend, Elizabeth, when I was 31. I was working as an actress performing Shakespeare with the educational branch of The Oregon Shakespeare Festival. I was in love and planning our wedding. My parents were on their way to getting a divorce and I was wrestling with my true calling.
Elizabeth called the other day to say she’d found the letter in a box in her mother’s basement and she wanted to read it to me. As she read, I cracked open. I softened hearing my younger self. As I listened, I was in awe of the cycles of our lives, how things change and how the seeds we plant in years past really CAN come to full fruition. Also, I marveled about how we get inklings of things to come and though we can’t quite name them, we circle around them and make the attempt. I laughed at how I’m still wrestling with much that I wrote about. But I also felt so WHOLE realizing I’m doing and LIVING what I began to articulate in this letter.
I’m also sharing it with you because I can’t believe I wrote such a long soul-searching letter. I haven’t written such a letter in 10 years. Are we losing that art? It makes me sad. Letters are gorgeous little envelopes of light. I want to cry out “Write letters! Save your letters!”
I’ve decided to include the WHOLE letter even though some of it is just newsy and funny. But the heart of it is what I most want to share. To me, it’s a testament that when we dream, render ourselves vulnerable and begin to articulate our longings, we can manifest our heart’s desire.
Enjoy, my friends. Big love. September 28, 1998
Oh my sweet friend! I am writing to you from my little basement apartment in Ashland. I have been here since Friday. We have today, Monday, off. I don’t think I’ve spoken to anyone except to order a Greek salad and an iced tea at The Greenleaf Restaurant. I have been reading Writing For Your Life by Deena Metzler for the 3rd time and The Divine Secret of the Ya Ya Sisterhood. I’ve been walking and thinking — trying to get myself to work on lines. Generally, it’s a bit lonely and a bit quiet.
I went out last night with Joe Hilsee and Harrison. We had a great time. We talked much about Graduate School and told many old stories. We all got a little sentimental. Harrison talked about how much he cares about you and how much he learned from you while you were dating. I told Harrison to call you…and socked him in the arm.
Elizabeth, I cannot thank-you enough for all your help and LOVE during your visit. It was so important to me to see you — and to have your insight in this whole wedding process. You are my sweet, best, sister-pal and I am so grateful I have YOU in my life. I’m glad that I will have the chance to see you in February again. We must make sure we spend time with one another frequently. It is so nourishing to me.
Oh Elizabeth - I am FULL of words. I have been wanting TO WRITE — to write ANYTHING — to put pen to paper because I am so FULL of WRESTLINGS. My heart is breaking for my mother. I am searching for my own path. I want to find expression for this search, this pain, this uncertainty on the page. Here I am with empty hours here. Andrew and I are apart. The days stretch before me - and I want to fill them with SIGNIFICANCE. I’m reading about all these fabulous writing exercises, but not doing them. Somehow there is fear - lots of it — great fear of imperfection - of nonsense, garbage, drivel. I so cling to FORM — and sometimes if I do not know the FORM of what will emerge, I cannot write. So I write a litter to YOU - my dearest friend - pouring out the contents of my heart.
In so many ways, I have no reason to be LOST. I am in love. I have a good, creative job for this time. I have dear, dear friends and family I love. But in this alone time, I feel so empty. I feel there is so much to say, but I am BLOCKED. There is something about fear of telling my truth. This is my problem in my acting too. I do not dare to explore the ugly, the taboo, the ridiculous. Everything is held together and careful. It’s like living in this basement apartment. I can only let so much light in. And my parents — how can this be neat and orderly? It cannot…and all I feel — if expressed — is messy and ugly and could hurt people. I want my mother to know that I am beginning to understand and love her more than ever and I want (but know that I cannot) protect her from pain. I want my mother to know she is loved.
And I want to find a way to do my work in the world. This is not my work. I do not know what is — but it is something about rekindling, reconnecting people with the FIRE OF LOVE— reminding them, restoring them — It is something about writing. It is something about INFUSING others with the courage to love themselves and others….I want to follow a line of passion that streams from my heart into my work in the world.
There is something about acting — and I will not say this well - that involves the ability to lose the SELF — and I think what doesn’t make me a very strong actress is that I am in search of the SELF — and I don’t want to let go of the SELF I understand thus far. Maybe this is all justification. Maybe all fear. But I think that the reason people think I act well is that I have a presence and life on stage — but not VARIETY — not the ability to let go of my own self-definitions. Anyway, I know it’s about fear too - because it’s about not wanting to go to the darker places.
You, Elizabeth, are an actress RICH and FINE— an extraordinary actress — able to breathe LIFE! LIFE! LIFE! into any words. I believe in your ability with all my BEING.
I want to break OUT of my careful life. I think I need to let things get a little messy. People are used to me holding it all together — but maybe I need to let go of their expectations.
I want to WRITE— and I want to SPEAK. I want to give lectures. Strange. I want to DISCIPLINE my artistic self and demand that I begin to produce. I feel like I’m only breathing in a very shallow way— protecting myself from what might emerge if I actually took a deep deep deep breath.
It’s lonely here but I sense the opportunity to go a bit deeper….to listen to the inner voices that are quieter when I’m with Andrew — to listen to the voices of solitude. I fear the breaking down and stripping away — but I know it’s happening — the process has begun. I have to speak, to write, to express in a new way. I must dare to use BOLD words.
And I want to write — to you, Elizabeth. Let’s see if we can use letters to let go, to inspire, to replenish. I know your letters ALWAYS do that for me. They are filled with your abundant spirit - your life breath - your attention to the riches of detail. You send your sweet self in an envelope and you leap out at me as I read…and you dance about me and hug my little self.
I love you, my dear friend. Thank you for visiting. You left me with such sweetness. Your best pal and forever soul-sister.