When do you write the letter that tells someone they are making a huge mistake that will torture them in the years to come and chase them down the rabbit hole of the afterlife?
I hear you saying, well, it depends on who it is. Yes, it does. Not everyone deserves the blunt truth written in ink on paper that will last a hundred years. But why a letter, you ask? Because I want the receiver of the letter to keep it somewhere, not out on a desk or the kitchen counter, but somewhere where, when they try to remember its exact wording, the letter can be readily found, unfolded, read, and refolded dozens of times. I want it to be unfolded and refolded so many times that little tears begin at the edges from all the wear. Getting rid of the letter would require burning it or placing it in the trash on top of the coffee grounds and the scrapings from last night’s dinner where it would sit until someone took out the garbage tomorrow or next week.
Obviously, I want to write such a letter, so much so that I’d like to buy a special ink pen and fine paper just for that purpose, maybe make a special trip to a stationery store and buy a new Cross pen. Make an occasion out of it, light a candle and have a nice glass of wine. Remember how to write in longhand and be eloquent. Take care and be unrushed. Say exactly what I mean without threat or hyperbole. Fold it into the creases it will have for a hundred years and put it in an envelope, seal it with hot wax and the sign of a dove.
But I won’t. It’s not my place to decide when someone else is making a huge mistake. Not even when I’ve made the same mistake. It’s not my right to judge or even to call out when I see the train barreling down the tracks. My responsibility is to manage my own mistakes and leave others to their own futures, whatever they are. That’s hard.
This is what I’ve figured out in the hour that it’s taken me to write this piece.