Practicing a Lost Art
This might seem trivial, but lately I’ve been wrestling with what to call my Friday Write On Fight On blogpost. A blog that turns seven years old this month. A blog that has been signing off “Be well,” for almost seven years. A blog with over 580 posts. Some good. Some bad. But all, in some way, important to my education as a person desperate for human connection.
To call what I write a “post” seems too impersonal. Like a fence or a military assignment on the Siberian tundra. “Story” is misleading especially for new readers. I don’t write a weekly story equipped with a plot, foreshadowing, and character development. I simply don’t possess the Vonnegutesque tact to write a compelling story for you every week. “Article” simply sounds too polished. Too professional. Maybe “musing” or “meditation” or “rumination” or even a weekly “woolgathering.”
Since last Friday when I wrote, Your Voice is the Most Powerful Thing You Own, I have received more responses–than ever before–about a Friday thing-a-ma-jig. This week I had to cut my daily naps short and mute reruns of The King of Queens to reply to emails. Like I imagine Mick Jagger does.
One email said my writing is helping them through chemotherapy.
Another said they forwarded my what-cha-ma-call-it to a friend who’s going through a really rough patch and needs some encouragement.
And there was one response that said how much they looked forward to my weekly “letter.”
The mailman pulled away from our mailbox and Dylan sprung open the front door and sprinted down the driveway. When he returned through the front door, with a stack of mail, he was breathing heavily and smiling.
“I got a bunch of birthday cards,” he announced.
He tossed the mail on the kitchen table and began tearing open the cards. In the time it took me to move from the kitchen sink to the kitchen table there stood a mountain of shredded envelopes next to a plateau of birthday cards.
He looked up from reading the last birthday card, “I love getting mail.”
I smiled and looked at the stack of mail Dylan had carried in. On top was a letter addressed to me from the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission with the words “Violation Notice” printed on the envelope.
Like an adult, I said, “Not all mail is good mail.”
Dylan looked at me strangely. He fetched the mail once a year only to find birthday cards addressed to him. To him all mail was good mail. He has yet to experience the endless delivery of bills, loan applications, bank statements, retirement statements, supermarket ads, and menus from every local pizza shop.
“Well, it should be.”
I laughed at my nine-year-old son’s naivete. His idealism. And then I thought about all the emails I received this week and how some made me laugh, some made me think, some edged me to tears. And then another thought came, a thought that since its inception, has comforted me and brought the same joy that glows in my son’s eyes; Someone out there is thinking about me.
It’s believed the first letters were written around 500 BC by Persian Queen Atossa. And as centuries passed, from Shakespeare to Lincoln to Churchill to Martin Luther King Jr. the letter inked massive political and cultural shifts in history. Letters exposed reality. They explained how people lived. Articulated the contradictions of being human. They were important documents that captured human existence.
But now, letter writing is becoming a lost art.
In our E-age, the letter is a dusty relic. Like a rotary phone in the corner of Mick Jagger’s garage. We’re hammered with hourly emails, snaps, and tweets. Though convenient, this quick, informal communication has diluted the intentionality of written communication. Our modern spirit has been cuffed by brevity and speed. Sometimes we forget to breathe. Sometimes we forget to reflect. Sometimes we forget that slowing down is necessary for survival.
My disease has attacked my fine motor skills and handwriting for long periods is pure agony. Yet I recognize, the more my disease progresses, the more I need human connection. So that’s why I write these Friday thing-a-ma-bobs. To connect. To commune. To discover intentionality in an unintentional world.
To conclude the triviality of this week’s whatsy-what, from now on, I will call what I write each week: a letter.
Yes, an electronic letter, but a letter written with the same intention and reflection of a handwritten letter. Minus the postage stamp, mailing delays, and questionable penmanship. But written by someone who believes the world needs more introspection, more hope delivered to the inbox of someone who yearn for those same things too.
For someone who yearns for good mail.
Like mail should be.
With titles like 500 Daily Affirmations forAnxiety and Being Yourself Journal, this promo is full of books that strive to provide readers with new and healthier perspectives.
Congratulations to my friend Chris Palmore for recently publishing his 5th book–Gratitude Journey Volume 2. I’m so honored and humbled to have my writing featured in this awesome book. Please check it out!
Here is the link: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0B3GVTN8L
Last Week’s Post: Your Voice is the Most Powerful Thing You Own
In the past few months, my disease has breached my voice. I can’t understate how taxing this has been on my spirit. I’ll admit I’ve avoided taking and making phone calls. Avoided talking to strangers. Avoided interjecting quips and witty banter in rolling conversations. I’ll admit, at times, I’ve been a hypocrite.
If you would like to share something with others (a photo, a poem, a song, a quote, etc.) that tosses some positive vibes into the world, please send your suggestions to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks!
Bedtime Stories for the Living recently received not ONE…not TWO…but THREE highly coveted 5-Star ratings from Reader’s Favorite–a highly-respected literary website that reviews books from all over the world!!!
Readers’ Favorite Review by Emma Megan
Jay Armstrong, a high school English teacher, explains in “Bedtime Stories for the Living: A Father’s Funny and Heartbreaking Memoir About The Power of Pursuing Your Dreams” how he was diagnosed with a rare, degenerative brain disease. This striking memoir contains wonderful love letters for each of Jay’s children, beautiful true stories, and precious life lessons and advice. It also contains what Jay never told his kids, what he felt like saying to them but failed as life got in the way. In “Bedtime Stories for the Living”, Jay talks about poetry and books, the importance of writing and its impact on his life, offering aspiring writers valuable writing tips. He also talks about the beauty and the challenges of life, of being a parent, and the difficulty of dealing with a rare disease.
You cannot read this breathtaking memoir and still be ungrateful for your health. “Bedtime Stories for the Living” by Jay Armstrong is the best motivational book I’ve ever read. Jay’s writing style is addictive, mainly because it’s nostalgic, vulnerable, and filled with wisdom and sorrow. In his uniqueness, Jay inspires and encourages not only his children but all his readers to figure out their dreams and to chase the one that brings them joy, to read poetry, and never to ignore their internal voice. He reminds them that they are responsible for how they adapt to change. “Bedtime Stories for the Living” is truly an empowering book as it speaks to the heart and the mind and delivers inspirational life lessons and unique stories. It’s undoubtedly a must-read.
Are you a reader? Looking for your next good book to read or listen to? Check out my new page “Jay’s Book Shelf” for some book recommendations.
Here’s what I’m currently reading: Teacher Man by Frank McCourt
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Jay Armstrong is a writer, speaker, former high school English teacher, and an award-winning author. Despite being diagnosed with a rare neurological disease, that impairs his movement, balance, eyesight, and speech–Jay presses on. The leader of the Philadelphia Ataxia Support Group, he hopes to help you find joy, peace, and meaning in life. For Jay, a good day consists of 5 things:
4. Hearing his three children laugh
5. Hugging his wife
(Bonus points for a dinner with his parents or a drink with his friends)
Jay hasn’t had a bad day in quite a long time.
You can also visit Jay at jayarmstrongwrites.com