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pathetiquette CONFESSION: I am not good at writing thank you notes. In fact, I'm pretty bad at it.

Growing up, I never wrote them. On Christmas morning, I would sit there in my parents' living room, amid a swirl of sisters and ribbons, clutching a tiny pad, pen cocked, ready to record all the gifts I got. And, like a good girl, I did. I wrote everything down. Little identifying details so that when the time came, I could write the perfect personal note of gratitude. But I would never write the note. Never. In some nook of my past, there is a whole stack of tiny pads scribbled with things I received and never thanked anyone for.

If you are reading this and sent me a Christmas gift before 2004, I am sorry. I'm sure I liked it. Whatever it was.

Yes, there is some hope woven in that tiny little paragraph above. The 2004 part. Because it is now 2009. Things changed a bit when I got older, when I got married. I was entering a new family and a new world.  The adult world. A place where these notes were non-negotiable. A place where I felt compelled to please everyone, to be super polite. I started writing notes. With frenzy. I remember sending wedding shower thank yous the day after my wedding shower. My etiquette was in full bloom. Finally. I was a changed woman.

Except that I wasn't.

Last week, I rifled through the box of stationery that we've accumulated over the years to find cards with Baby's name on it. I was about a month late in writing thank yous for her first birthday (which is not too terrible, right?) But while rummaging through, I happened upon something horrible: A slim stack of wedding thank yous, already penned, never sent. These people were never thanked for their thoughtful contributions to our collections of fine china and good silver (that we have used all of zero times). Husband and I have been married five years on the 18th of this month. Five years. This is not okay.

If you sent us a wedding present and did not receive a thank-you note, I am sorry. I apologize profusely for my pathetiquette.

Yes, pathetiquette. It seems that my etiquette is so tarnished, so sullied, it deserves its very own name. When it comes to these things, to simple strictures of politeness and gratitude, I am a bit pathetic.

The epiphany. Yes, that's right. I have little light bulb moments from time to time. Don't be envious. There are plenty of revelations to go around. Yesterday afternoon, I sat here at this desk, a mad woman trying to meet a publishing deadline, scouring my own work for itty-bitty flaws. And there it was. The Acknowledgments Page. The most lofty thank you note I have written to date. I think I did a decent job with it. In it, I thanked several people who helped get me here, unwittingly or no, to this place and time. But while reading and rereading this page, I suffered a stabbing moment of panic, of sadness. I realized that I've never thanked many of these people before. I have never picked up the phone, or crafted a little email, or said over coffee: Hey, thank you. Thank you for your help and encouragement.

It is not just that I am bad at writing thank yous. I am bad at saying thank you. This is much worse. Far more grave. This is not about the formalities of social life. This is a bigger deal. This matters. Really matters.

Why is this so hard for me? I think thank you all the time, my mind is often awash with appreciation and praise, but these things sometimes get stuck inside me. Why does this happen? Is there something about saying thanks that makes me feel vulnerable, less strong? Is not saying thanks, actually saying it, evidence of entitlement? Of laziness? Of something more sinister? I don't know. But whatever the reason (reasons are slippery suckers, aren't they?), things need to change. I will work on it. I will change. Change is possible. Always.


Thank you to everyone in my life for tolerating the vicissitudes of my pathetiquette over all these years. Thank you, Santa and sundry family members, near and far, for your Christmas presents over the past 3.1 decades. Thank you Danielle LaPorte for your exquisite existential guidance and fiery friendship. Thank you Gretchen Rubin for your camaraderie and for adding that little link to the bottom of your compelling (and decidedly non-boring) post.

Thank you. Readers of my words. For lending me your eyes and minds for a few fine moments each day. For tolerating my imperfections. For absorbing my evolution. For forgiving me even if you don't know me.

Thank you.

(Hey, it's a start.)


Are you good at writing thank you notes? Have you always been? Are you good at saying thank you? Why do you think it is sometimes hard to express the gratitude we feel? Where do you fall on the Etiquette/Pathetiquette scale more generally?

The Sandwich of Time

Decades & Dreams