I am most definitely an Epistolist. Or Epistler, if you prefer. Which, if you’ve never heard the word before, you might think is someone who carries around a six-shooter or 9 mil and challenges villains to duels under a bright midday sun. But, you’d be wrong.
An Episotolist is simply a writer of epistles – or letters.
It’s my go-to form of communication, particularly once conversation has failed. I’ve written letters of complaint (in email form) to horrible landlords (both of the German and crazy-old lady who may have been casting spells on me variety) and ex-boyfriends alike. I’ve used letters to challenge abusive and racist work environments. I’ve pushed back and countered letters that were written about me. In many ways, letter-writing is my way of telling my side of the story—a way of rebutting the injustice (whether of a broken heart or world) that was done.
Far from being only a means of complaint though, letter-writing gives me a way to express the fullness of whatever emotion I am under.
In real life, I am not a particularly gushy person. I don’t overly emote. I’m that awkward person at Church services who can never figure out during the “turn to your neighbor” part if we’re shaking hands or hugging. I’m also least likely to cry in a sad movie. Seriously.“That’s really cool” said over and over in a slightly elevated tone accompanied by vigorous head nodding is about the extent of my emoting. I would probably be the worst game show contestant ever (evah evah evah) unless it was Jeopardy.
In fact, I would never voluntarily be on a game show like Price is Right where people jump up and down, throw themselves to their knees, and scream in toddler octaves about a washer and dryer combination. I just don’t have it in me. I am capable of neither emitting those octaves nor that frantic level of emotion. I even have this recurring daydream where the Love of My Life (LOML) finally proposes to me and I respond with a shoulder shrug and “Vegas or nah?”
And speaking of boyfriends, I dated this guy off and on in my early twenties and I was pretty convinced in my wildly naive and uninformed 25-year-old-heart that I was going to marry him. Obviously, that didn’t pan out. But we did have this really strange reunion about a decade later and one of the things that Specter (as I call him) said to me was particularly interesting:
I was ready to get married to you, he said, but I couldn’t read you — I couldn’t tell what you felt or thought about it. Even when we would talk about it, you’d just be like “oh yeah, sure”. It was like you didn’t care either way.
Specter confirmed something that I’ve longed noticed about myself: this could totally be due to being a writer, but when exciting and emotionally charged (good) events happen, I find myself monitoring my own reaction and noting what everyone else is doing. Sometimes I fine tune my response so that my energy level at least matches everyone else’s. I spend more time thinking about my emotions and holding them up to the mental light bulb for closer examination– mining them for writing gold midair — than actually showing them.
Obviously, I experience the wide range of human emotion (probably because I’m not a psychopath), but trying to express that emotion out loud always comes off – at least to my ears (and Specter’s) –hollow and insincere. Inauthentic — like a dad who tell’s his kids that he’ll see them on the weekend knowing full well that he won’t make it. It’s like my voice can’t quite translate the depth of the feeling that I have.
But my fingers, via a keyboard, can get much closer to the feelings that reside in the depths. And so I tend towards writing my feelings instead of vocalizing them.
What is a blog, after all, if not one long, never-ending letter of expression.