Easy isn’t always better

Last week I sent out the Christmas cards with the tiniest newsletter I’ve ever sent. Barely four lines of update per family member. (Apologies to my Meissners. I know you are worthy of so much more.) I included a photo card of the six of us lounging around giant clay pots of impatiens and skinny palm trees, and that was imprinted with a cheerful greeting in a cool font, and I sent them out with address labels I printed on my home printer. At  nearly 50 cents per stamp, I did send less than in years previous. It was probably the least personal Christmas card I’ve ever sent; good thing maybe that I sent so few of them. And I admit I do feel a little guilty about that.
But, I rationalized, the two jobs are crazy busy, the husband is deployed, the yard is big. I had to make the sending easy or not send. That’s what I told myself.

Easy is a soulless adjective. It really is. Lovely is lovely. Nasty is nasty. Dreamy is dreamy. Scary is scary. But easy has no soul. It doesn’t describe the thing you are doing, only if you can do it without much pain or effort. And conventional wisdom tells me that whatever I’ve accomplished that cost me next to nothing is not much of an accomplishment.

When I was growing up, before the personal computer or home copier, no one sent newsletters in their Christmas cards. And back then, cards were cards. Mass-produced photos were not cards. A card was folded and had heft. Glitter, maybe. Texture. And the people who sent my parents those Christmas cards signed them by hand, jotted a personal note, they even licked the stamp with their own spit. The envelopes alone were amazing when they arrived, with the personal script of each sender right there in all its uniquey uniqueness. My mom would put the cards in the little wooden sleigh on the coffee table, still in their opened envelopes of course, for meaningful browsing.

I miss those days. They were never mine as an adult, only as a kid. I concede maybe that’s why the Christmas cards of my childhood seem magical, because they were from my childhood. But you can’t convince me that’s why they were more personal. That equation won’t work. They weren’t even my cards; they were sent to my parents.

I think – and I know I am not the first person to think this – that ease has replaced personal effort and involvement. The very innovations that have allowed us to stay in touch while expending less energy and time have actually made it easy to be personally disconnected – all within the very act of connecting. Sounds convoluted, but I think you know what I mean.

Some future Christmas, maybe next, I will attempt to send cards that open and close, that bear my personal script, that include a note that is personal and meaningful, a photo that is actually a photo and not a throw-away card, and I will address them myself. I probably won’t be able to lick the stamp – do they make those anymore? – but I can get cards where you have to lick the envelopes. I know they still make those. My DNA will be all over those cards. It won’t be easy, but by golly it will be personal.

Somebody remind me of this worthy goal sometime in late summer, wouldja? If I put it off until November, the ease of my technologically-advanced life will preclude any hope of actually pulling it off. . .

Author: Susan

This post has 3 Comments

  1. Kay Day on December 12, 2011 at 7:59 pm

    This post has stirred up my thinker. I'll be pondering it a while. Particularly since I read a similar post yesterday about how it's often the hard things that are most worthwhile.
    I tend to back off of hard things. For various reasons, some of them valid. But I need to figure out how and when it's best to do it the hard way.
    Thank you.

  2. Susan Meissner on December 12, 2011 at 8:21 pm

    Thanks for sharing, Kay. I am pondering as well. There's a great line from one of the Harry Potter books about how there is a time when we need to decide between what is right and what is easy. That was more about the struggle between good and evil which pales in comparison to Christmas card habits, of course. . . but still, there is such wisdom in that pondering…

  3. Anonymous on December 13, 2011 at 1:01 am

    Oh, my, I'm in the pondering soup with you and Kay (as highlighted on my post about Ann Voskamp's blog a couple days ago). Seems with all the time-saving tech, I get less done now than 20 years ago. Could it be age? Oh, I hope so, and then hope not. Still the dilemma – do it the easier way, or don't do it at all. And not at all is just too, too desolate.

    For the last few years, hubby said it was too much trouble to put up a tree, but that extended to NO decorating at all. Last year I surprised him Christmas morning with a tree cut from green tissue paper, hung on our living room curtain, decorated with bit and bobs of my jewelry. But easy cards have to be better than none to distant friends. I cannot surprise them on Christmas morning with a tree even more sad than Charlie Brown's.

    Easy card and prayer, I pray will carry a hug and a smile to my friends. And, just think, won't heaven be wonderful?

    Hugs to you, Susan.

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