One of the few things that has ever motivated me to sit down and write is wanting to write a letter to Max. We used to write them to each other, seal them up (always draw the stamp), and slip them under each other’s bedroom doors.
The letters are less frequent now, and sometimes more serious. I wrote this one a few days ago to let him know I wanted to do “screen time” a little differently, and he gave me permission to share it.
P.S. he was cool with it
P.P.S. my letter made him laugh and I love making him laugh. I hope it makes you laugh too :)
February 7, 2018
I want to talk to you and I wasn’t sure how to word it. I know I ramble when we talk too, so I decided to write it down so I could think more clearly and give you time to read it and think too.
First: Nothing is wrong. The opposite is true…I actually feel wonderful.
I was thinking just now about you asking me about taking your phone to your dads, and whether I thought that was a good idea or not. I thought of a few scenarios…like maybe talk to dad to have him blahblah…not important. Ultimately I really just stopped and realized that my brain was reeling with things, analyzing what’s best, what have I read, what will Max think/want, etc., but my body was quietly and steadily humming. When I felt that it was funny, it kind of threw me off. When I sat down and tried to slow my mind and just feel instead, I knew I was uncomfortable with you keeping a phone with you. I knew it wasn’t right and isn’t best. I knew it like Teddy knows George can be a whiny bitch but he still loves him. Didn’t have to read a single article or ask a friend…I knew it. I know that seems like a dramatic reaction over a small decision, but it gets better.
I have been sitting here ever since that moment, just thinking. And guess what? I’m thinking clearly. I NEVER THINK CLEARLY. I never have only one thought at a time. I feel like I spend every waking moment in a simulated hurricane machine full of thousands of old worn dollar bills and every one of them represents a completely different train of thought. All I can see are glimpses of each one and each glimpse is glowing as brilliantly as the sun and calls to me like a hot rock calls a lizard on a cloudy day.
Leaving a space for a quick but pretty solid lizard drawing to clarify your understanding of this point:
So anyway.I don’t think clearly and often struggle to focus. *suddenly overcome with the sobering fact that I didn’t really need that lizard to prove my point. One only needs knowledge of the ten minutes I just spent trying to figure out how to insert a box into this document for my drawing to know that it is true* BUT I DIGRESS.
My reason for writing isn’t really about your phone, though I would like to take this moment to humbly present to you the fact that I have decided that you will not take it to your dad’s. I do care how you feel about it, and I understand why it sucks. I know it hurts to feel like the only kid who has these rules. I could tell you you’re not but I know it wouldn’t feel better to you and truthfully, I’m sure you’re not but it isn’t that big of a stretch for you to feel that way. Further research is needed(1), but I’d bet a lot of kids have a phone, X Box, computer, VR, whatever at their disposal with no real rules. But…two things of import. 1) Those kids also probably have a hard time regulating their impulses and choosing how to best care for themselves and balance their lives to allow for optimum brain growth, self esteem, and happiness…Yaknow CUZ THEYRE [KIDS] HUMANS, and 2) They’re statistically(2) more likely to be a prick(3). Maybe not now, but someday. And having a phone 24/7 as a teenager does not a prick make all by itself, but it certainly adds a pebble or two to the scales, know what I mean?
(1) I have done no actual research
(2)My use of the word statistically may be misleading. I am not referring to a specific set of statistics, though I know they exist.
(3) “Prick”, in this case, has no solid definition but can be used to describe someone with a host of characteristics ranging from selfishness to extreme grumpiness from lack of sleep.
Illustration (ICANTHELPITGETOFFMYBACK) :
My real reason for writing is that hum(4) I mentioned earlier.
So I was noticing this hum, and I don’t know how else to describe it. I didn’t literally hear it, but I felt it. It’s hard to describe because what I felt seemed VERY much like a sense, like experiencing taste or smell or sound, but because it isn’t one of the five senses it is hard to describe and probably to believe. But if you never believe me about another thing ever, please believe it is real Max. I sat there experiencing that hum, and it made me wonder what other decisions I’ve made in my life while I was in the middle of that hurricane simulator, grasping at thoughts and opinions, overanalyzing each one before settling on a decision that wasn’t truly my own. I never knew how to know, you know? How do you know how you feel? How do you choose what to do when the choices seem endless and its exhausting to explore and weigh them all?
(4) I really just wanted to add another footnote because this makes me feel fancy and I like that.
I’m sad to report that I thought of A LOT of times I’ve made a decision that way. Each one had its own set of considerations and possibilities. And I probably mulled over all of it, overanalyzed it, felt overwhelmed, and kind of gave up and just picked something. Either I didn’t know how I truly felt or I ignored it, but either way you get the same result. When you ignore YOURSELF because you think you aren’t worth listening to, or maybe just don’t know how you feel, or aren’t tuned to the frequency of your own hum just yet...you know what happens? You SUFFER.
The more I think about this, the more I think it actually is kind of tied in with the phone thing. Understanding how you feel is complicated when there is a lot of other noise going on in your life. When you’re sleepy, or hungry, or full from eating things that aren’t good for you, or stressed, or under pressure to present yourself a certain way to teachers, parents, friends, girlfriends, or whether you’re avoiding it all with movies/video games (which pack in a ton of noise all at once), you can’t hear the only noise that really matters. Your hum is your core, it is who you are inside and you have it with you all the time. It’s like a factory install, and it will never ever break. Think of it like existing at a frequency that is always there, but you have to tune your radio dial to it to be able to pick it up. “But wait a second, how can I do that, mom? There are a MILLION other stations with dub step and trance and pots and pans and whatever other bullshit kids my age listen to and they’re all RIGHT HERE. And the hum is BORING. It’s just one tiny noise and it never changes. I’ll just listen to the other stations for a minute then I’ll set it to Hum I swear”.
Well, Max, I appreciate your honesty and frankly am surprised at your level of self-aware humor. I understand it’s not easy, so [until I’m dead] [until you’re 50] [until you move out] for a little while I’m going to do it for you. I’m choosing my words carefully here because this is a decision borne out of my love for you and it was guided by my very own hum (which I tuned my little radio to all by myself, finally). There is nothing bigger than my love for you and there is nothing more important inside me than my hum. If anyone else asked me to ignore those things I’d tell them to [go suck an egg] do a thing that is insulting in a culturally relevant way and makes me seem cool for saying. I have made enough decisions without my hum. In my mind he’s a really painfully adorable little radio that I will draw and eventually make a book out of which will be wildly successful, spawning a feature length film and many interviews with important people in fancy places that smell like mahogany. Yes, the little radio has become quite an icon hasn’t he, [Diane Sawyer] culturally relevant and hip interviewer? Sorry to cut you off, but Max and I have a flight to Nepal we don’t want to miss…
Where was I? Oh yeah-the radio. He’s going to be cute when I sketch him below, but you know who he really is? He’s me. He’s who I really am and I heard his hum loud and clear with absolutely no interference today for the VERY FIRST time. He’s me and I owe him an apology. I’m sorry for the times I ignored his station for flashy, cheap mp3 players. I’m sorry he’s been humming his little heart out for 36 years hoping I’d listen. I bet 36 years of being ignored made him quiet down a bit, but he’s belting like he’s on American Idol today, and I’ll never ignore him again. I think it’s really cool that the VERY FIRST time I heard him, I sat right down and wrote you this letter. Your hum will tell you what is important and what is right and it will guide you away from suffering and toward peace and happiness. During this period of mandated personal silence and simplicity, I really hope you can hear yours. I bet your radio is the cutest freaking thing that has ever lived. You gotta draw him.
I’m going to take you home to gather up your things like you used to for a weekend at dads. Get books that interest you and paper to write and draw your ideas like you used to. Sometimes you would pack a little statue of a president or a plastic pork chop-I’m not here to judge, you do you. Pack it like you did when you were little, before you ever wondered who you were. Go hang out with dad and when you get bored, know that that is coming from a brain that is used to a thousand stations all at once. Go back to your little radio and hang out with him in the quiet some before you turn on the TV or talk to anyone. Your brain will adjust, just like when you cut out sweets and suddenly a strawberry tastes like an afternoon at the Wonka factory. I bet your boring little hum will become the most beautiful, complex symphony when you really listen.
I love you Max.