I’ve been agonizing a little over finding the right words for this moment. And I really want to get it right. I hope I do.
Here is my love letter to you …
Despite the flash and exhilaration of beginnings, we are all hard-wired for closure. It’s why we finish the book, bake the cake, rip open the envelope.
We need to know how it ends.
I hit the send button this morning knowing that for many of us .. most of us .. today is really our goodbye. This might be my only chance to tell you what it has meant to me to share this orbit with you. My apologies in advance for the hundreds of photos.
I never imagined I’d be here this long. Five years max, I told myself. But here I am, thirty years later, trying to share how these years have made me a better person. And I really am a better person.
There is so much to be said about the USPS. I appreciate the opportunity to have served you for all these years, but there are less than perfect parts of how this business limps along that need to be noted too. I have a book planned that will have a broader vision of the people, the culture and the place. Good and bad. But this is not that. This is a thank you.
These thirty years have been a thread holding together a life. I have so many stories and I’ve been touched by so many of you. Fifteen years in, I was questioning all of it. Why do I stay ? What difference am I making ? Am I living my best life ? I was ready to walk away. But then a miracle happened.
Gloria Lanza. She was my miracle.
I met her on my route and we visited a bit every day. When she was diagnosed in 2003 with a late stage cancer, our conversations became more meaningful. She shared her moments of panic and fear, but she also shared a kind of grace I’d never known. I think she was less afraid for herself than for her family. She was courageous to the end. She was so deeply sad to be leaving. And I was deeply sad too.
When she died in January of 2004 it was heartbreaking. Loss can push you into a place of questioning all meaning of all things. That’s when my other miracle happened. I embraced a new way of seeing my purpose. Thanks to my wife, Kelly, I began to sense that maybe there was a reason for staying. Maybe I could make a difference in a different way. Kelly told me over and over that I did far more than deliver mail. And I finally let it sink in. Life is really about who we are and not what we do.
I started really seeing people and places differently. I stopped thinking the job was supposed to bring me something, and instead, I started wondering what I could bring to the job. I started learning names. I started asking questions. Learning about different cultures broadened my experience in ways that I never could have imagined. I cultivated real friendships from the modest seeds of interest. I gave, and in turn received, attention. And attention, well … it is everything.
There were many heartbreaking losses that followed Gloria: my dear, sweet George, Lisa, Tom, Gaye, Gary, Margaret, Sandra, Scott, Bob, Smitty, Mike, Geoffrey, Minh, Chuck, Janeen and Anne. And there were many others. But there was joy in there too. You had grandchildren and children, you bought houses and took vacations and got sick and recovered. Your kids grew up right before my eyes and your business grew too.
Your religion, your politics, your culture have made me better. Something swells in this heart of mine to see you and to see how alike we are. We have shared turbulent times in the country, deeply personal losses and big wins. We are one, when it really matters.
My ancestors came here from Sweden and Europe just a couple generations ago. You came from China, Japan, Korea, Ukraine, Russia, Germany, India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Lebanon, Iraq, Iran, Mexico, South America, Central America, Thailand, Israel, Vietnam, Yugoslavia, Philippines, Austria, Yemen, Turkey, France, Romania, Egypt, Jamaica, Kenya, Ethiopia, Dominican Republic and a dozen other places I have forgotten. Knowing you has made me a more compassionate, kinder human being. I have no words for the gratitude I feel.
You are Buddhist and Jewish and Mormon. You are Muslim and Catholic, Hindu and Sikh. You are Christian and Atheist. I currently have an Islamic center, a Hindu temple and a Buddhist center all within ten minutes of one another on my route. You are gay, straight, lesbian, queer and transgender. You have taught me once again, not how different we are, but how very much alike we are. I feel fortunate and grateful to know such rich diversity. A perfect example is my friend Alia. When the skies went silent after 9-11, I went to her mosque. When the closet door flew wide open, she came to my wedding. We are all family. And we are there for each other when it counts.
My ten years volunteering at Highland Center helped me understand that “disability” was really about being “differently abled”. Dan and Kim, you are at the shining, virtuous center. To be a part of such a joyous community of people was one of the highlights of my career. Your abundant hearts are forever a part of mine.
My years delivering to Sound Mental Health and Hero House let me slip into their spaces as a civil servant, but more importantly, as a friend. I now know the challenges those with mental illness face, and I am in your corner every day hoping you find a way to live your best lives.
I will miss your faces♡
I see you. I see all of you.
I wish I could write about you all individually. Our visits have been the thing that held me together some days. If I brought you “broken”, I was healed. “Empty”, I was filled. “Joyful”, you found a way to multiply it in ways I couldn’t have imagined. You gave me a reason to smile and to share my life. Whether it was indulging my hike stories, or playing weekly trivia, it was the connection that lifted me up every day. And I’ll miss that more than you know.
And then there were all of my four-legged friends. These beautiful creatures brought me so much joy. Thank you for sharing their short, extraordinary lives with me. I grieved their loss right along with you when they passed. I celebrate the wiggles, smooches and joy of all of those I get to enjoy now.
I tried once to write this post “by the numbers”. Number of miles I’ve commuted, number of miles logged on my fitbit, number of hours in my car, number of days I took sick. I tried to imagine the number of letters I’ve delivered, managers I’ve worked for or the number of times my truck broke down.
I tried once to count the dogs …
But it’s more than that, isn’t it ? Behind everything counted or measured, there is a story. At the end of every day there was my personal review. It wasn’t always perfect. ” I ” wasn’t always perfect. I swear too much in traffic. I have expectations of others and I’m disappointed when they let me down. I have expectations of myself and I’m disappointed when I let myself down.
It’s been a laboratory of life. Wild success and painful failure. But that really IS life. Our days, filled with salt and light: the flavor and the soft illumination. Who was it who said: “How we spend our days, of course, is how we spend our lives ” ?
It’s so completely true.
(It was Annie Dilliard)
( Click Here for my attempt to give you a different “snapshot” )
My family held me up in so many big and little ways. They made it possible for me to reach the finish line. Thank you all for supporting me and loving me and well, just plain putting up with me all these years. WE did it !
And then there were the 18 years of lunches and smoothies from Kelly.
That, my friends, is love 💞
As for my co-workers, what can I say ?
Others will never understand the ways of this place. Keep talking about it with those you work with. Let the crazier parts fall away as you walk through your door at night. It got harder toward the end of my time here at the P.O. ( just ask Kelly about that …) but it matters so much that we try to leave it in the driveway, or at the front door. Trust me when I say that what you will ultimately take away, won’t be any of those things. We are all, every single day, in this thing together. Lift each other up. It’s a tall order to deliver meaningful service at a time when such high value is placed on speed. I doubt that any of us will be as proud to say “I did my job fast”, as we will to be able to say “I did my job well”. Don’t ever forget who you work for. You will outlast every supervisor on the floor. You’ll outlast whatever manager is sitting in that office. You work for your customers. I hope you all find a way to be proud of what you do and proud of how you do it. This is not just a job, it’s a career. We don’t just serve customers, we build relationships. We have an incredible opportunity every day to be a part of something greater than ourselves. We have a unique role in this community and it matters.
It is worth taking care of yourself every day to avoid the kind of ‘stress injuries’ that can happen. I can’t blame my RA on the post office, but I can say it made the last few years a whole lot more difficult than I ever imagined. Be kind to one another. I can’t think of a single reason not to. Remember the likes of Mike Bruggeman. He was the best carrier I ever worked with and had a very unceremonious last day. There should have been a big party and a lot of gratitude. But despite the door closing quietly behind him, Mike was a professional until that last delivery.
Be like Mike.
(I inherited this route from Mike 25 years ago. )
There is also a generation coming up that I hope we can preserve this Postal Service for. The “littles” love everything about the postal world. Here was MY biggest fan, and he captured my heart. Alex, I imagine your career options will expand, but you’d be the kind of letter carrier people love. Thanks for being in my world.
I hope you choose to stay connected:
You can follow me here on this blog, by clicking on the “follow” button.
There are links to other social media as well as my website, in the “about” section of this blog.
My email is : firstname.lastname@example.org and I would love to hear from you.
I shared this post on my personal Facebook page and made it public if you’d like to share a comment there. (Bonnie Rae Nygren)
I’d also love for you to share my blog if you’re so inclined. Connections are everything.
And finally, I love letters. If you are interested in writing, ask for my address. I’m happy to share it.
I have a book planned and a lot of art that won’t make itself.. Check back on my Braenstorm site. I will have lots of content up as soon as I can create it. This next chapter is going to be awesome.
Sometimes we live just inside the very edge of our own limitations. I can see the road narrowing as I look back and leave this chapter behind. And I see a long, winding, beautiful road spreading out before me. That’s where you’ll find me. Just beyond the edge, in the land of the limitless.
I know I will have left something, someone, out. This week has been a flood of memories and I’m caught a little off guard by the gravity of it all. Thank you for the hugs and love. I am going to miss you all so much.
Thanks for helping to make me the person I am today. The job is just the bones. I hope I succeeded in bringing it to life ♡
Oh, and here’s the guy I nominate as my replacement. I know it doesn’t really work that way, but if I could choose, I’d choose you, John. Thanks for being so good at what you do. And thanks, well … just for being you. I am so grateful to know you.
More words and photos soon. I know, I know, what could I possibly still have to share ? You’d be surprised … ♡