A stack of love letters


Yesterday, I spent upwards of 5 hours shredding documents at my work. I filled 6 Hefty bags full of confetti, and succeeded without getting a single paper cut. I only jammed the shredder once, and wound up completely sweaty from the heat of the hulking machine. At financial companies, they don’t mess around with their shredders – they invest in high-powered, serious beasts.

And so, feeling incredibly satisfied from my completion of the monumental shredding task, I was reminded that I had a stack of papers at home that I have been meaning to shred. I brought them in today, ready to feed them to the grating teeth of the destroyer. Some old bank statements, credit card applications, and…

Some letters. Letters from ex-boyfriends.

I’ve had this stack of letters for a while. While dating each of these guys, I saved cards and notes, and printed out certain emails, positive that these words were going to be important memories to share with our hypothetical-someday-grandchildren.

I don’t know a girl who doesn’t, on some level, think this way.

When I moved out of my apartment in Seattle last summer, I purged myself of so many unnecessary things. But for some reason, I bundled up these letters. I couldn’t get rid of them. They reminded me of the existence of love – and that maybe it could happen for me again.

Recently, I started feeling like maybe these letters – filled with once-meaningful, but what I now see as cheap words and empty promises – were weighing me down. Why was I holding on to them?

I mean, really: these are the same guys that propelled me to write a song that ends, “I don’t have much heart left to break.” Why keep any – any – remembrance of them? Good riddance, right?

So I brought them to work today. To shred the hell out of them.

But before I did, I took one last read-through.

And call me crazy, but I cannot destroy these letters.

Some of the kindest words ever bestowed on me are in these letters. I had to re-read certain paragraphs, baffled by the pure goodness and generosity and love that had, at one point, been poured out onto me. I had forgotten how these words felt. These words bring life. And though I am not expecting a resurrection of romance with any of these guys, these letters make my heart believe in the connection between two humans. They remind me that I actually do have a lot of heart left to break.

And that’s a good thing.

Maybe someday, I will shred, burn, bury these letters. But not today. I can’t do it today.



  1. Greta on May 8, 2008 at 9:40 AM

    Oh thank the LORD you ended with saying, “Not today.” I thought it was going to be, like, “Here goes nothin'” followed by monster shredding noises.

    It may be unhealthy- (I’ll admit I have a seriously over-developed sense of nostagia)- but I don’t– and don’t want– to throw ANY of those away. I keep them all– all the journal entries I wrote with sighs and pining, all the notes that left me giddy and reeling, all the break-up letters, all the ugly IM conversations and emails that I printed out that paint ME just as ugly as the other contributer…

    That’s our history. If you shred or burn them, that time becomes unmarked, undocumented– non-existent. And those letters and feelings and men DID exist. Otherwise, what do you have to show for a hurting heart?? Isn’t it the most painful thing ever when you see a movie character burn letters or things that they’ve written??

    Don’t do it. Not today, not ever. Hide them from yourself if you have to if they get that painful, but don’t blot out their existence completely. It would be erasing part of yourself just as much as it would be them.

  2. Nicolas Frisby on May 8, 2008 at 10:23 AM

    I once wrote a similar song. The central line was:

    “I need a heart transplant, but the doctors can’t help me.”

    I was a deep 11 year old.

    I, too, keep all my letters.

  3. Annibelle on May 8, 2008 at 11:55 AM

    Hmmm… Yeah, I hold on to old letters, too.

    I wonder why we do that though? Maybe, as you said, it’s to hold on to the hope of finding that sort of acceptance and support again. Or maybe it’s to remind ourselves that we are worth something? Perhaps it’s that forever mortal void in us ~ that inherent desire to connect, to love, to be loved and valued.

    It’s odd… When people in Korea go through a break-up, a death or other sudden loss, they’ll set ablaze any memento of the past. I guess it’s their way of letting go (or maybe of releasing that person/circumstance?).

    I dunno, I’m waxing philosophical mumbo-jumbo…

  4. Annibelle on May 8, 2008 at 11:57 AM

    I just had another thought…

    Maybe we keep these letters for the same reasons we keep journals ~ to remind us where/who we once were and where/who we have become (are becoming).

  5. MB on May 8, 2008 at 1:28 PM

    Hi Annie. You don’t know me, but I’ve wandered over here from Cam’s and Allie’s blogs some time ago (How many good blogs are there in Nashville?). I just wanted to say “Hi” and let you know I’ve been enjoying your posts, especially this one.

    I have boxes of letters that prove I also have a hard time letting go of encouraging words. Thankfully many of them are from my wife – from when we were in high school back in the mid 90’s.

    God bless!


  6. kates on May 8, 2008 at 4:44 PM

    I think most people keep these things. I still have printed emails from my 8th grade boyfriend. I hold no flame for him (I think he might even be married), yet I still can’t part with them.

    We know a girl who set fire to all the pictures, letters, cards, gifts, etc and sold the promise ring her first “real” boyfriend gave her only reconnect with him five years later and marry him. Think of the awkwardness involved with explaining that one.

    Its a memory and I’m glad you kept them.

  7. Case and Los on May 8, 2008 at 4:47 PM

    I was married for two years before I recycled all my old love letters. It felt right and good to purge stuff from people my heart doesn’t belong to once I knew who my heart DOES belong to:)

    love a future Texan;)

  8. jnt. on May 8, 2008 at 6:03 PM

    i’m a wanderer too! i have linked yours and Greta’s blogs to mine, cause i love ya’ll’s stories and how real they are!

    every time i go through old letters, emails, etc., i wonder if i should get rid of them as well. i don’t know why it’s so hard for me to let go. like annibelle said, maybe it’s just to remind us of who we once were and (hopefully) how much we’ve grown since then. to remember things we want as well as things we don’t want in a future mate… thanks for your vulnerability…

  9. kristy on May 8, 2008 at 7:55 PM

    dearest annie. the reason is much simpler than you think:

    we keep these letters, these “remembrances” because it reminds us that once, a while back, we were loved that much, in that way.

    (just in case we never find it again)

  10. Annibelle on May 8, 2008 at 8:01 PM

    Hmmm, and yet, we don’t cherish God’s love letters to us. (At least not as we should/could)

    Just think what it would be like for His people to relish His words and remember this love of His. What would it look like for us (me) to sit and read and breathe and live in each word, each verse, chapter and book.


  11. Allie, Dearest on May 9, 2008 at 6:49 AM

    I have kept lots and lots of letters and emails. I also have gone back and forth with purging. Lost some, kept others. But I always am grateful to remember that someone once called me honey and be reminded that it will happen again, just like you said.

  12. finance girl on May 9, 2008 at 9:50 AM

    Don’t do it. Ever. I did the same long long time ago.

    Regret it to this day.

    And…don’t let anybody tell you you should get rid of them.

    They are reminders of your past relationships and trust me with the passage of time will only become more and more dear (and the rough parts with be smoothed out e.g. the “why’d it not work out” part).

    Please please hold onto them

  13. Annie Parsons on May 13, 2008 at 3:07 PM

    Awwww. Nick! That is a sad line. :) (that is a sad smiley face)

  14. ashley & jeremy parsons on May 13, 2008 at 7:29 PM

    I love this annie.

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