Welcome to the twenty-second installment of my Thankful Thursday series – starting this month, I’ve decided to do it monthly! A little easier to synthesize what I’m thankful for and lessons I’ve learned, and it also helps me because of my giant course-load at grad school right now. ‘Cause let me tell you, 13 hour days 3 days a week is cray, and so is traveling out to UBC 4 days a week (case and point: I started writing this on Thursday and it’s now Tuesday that I’m posting).
This month, I’m focusing on gratitude for the start I’ve had to this new year. It’s been a great start to my second semester of grad school (despite the crazy workload), and I’ve made some more progress on the somatic symptoms of my anxiety this month as well.
Here’s my Thankful Thursday for the month of January!
Things I am thankful for over this month:
The weather. It has been the least-rainy January here in my recent memory.
Related to the nice weather, we’ve got daffodils earlier than ever before.
I started my half-marathon training program, to prepare for running my third BMO Vancouver Half Marathon in May, and my second Scotiabank Half Marathon in June (half marathons 5 and 6 in total!). It’s been going really well, and I’ve had some lovely meditation time on the seawall, (mostly at 5:45 am thanks to my schedule, so not as many photos as usual!).
I visited my parents in Calgary and for Christmas they got me this reading shawl from Indigo that is LIFE:
The fog has been AMAZING.
Joy took me to Botanist and we shared an “experiential drink” called Deep Cove. They actually blow the glasses into pieces of found driftwood so that they fit perfectly!
And the main theme of this post, mental health wins in January.
I’ve talked about this before on Instagram, but not much on the blog yet. I have dermatillomania, a mental health disorder characterized by picking at imperfections/zits/scabs etc. on the skin. For me, this means I primarily pick at my acne on my chin and forehead, often without even noticing it, and especially when I am distracted or anxious. I do it most often when I am reading or driving.
A friend suggested gel manicures as a possible solution – having longer nails makes it more difficult to actually pick. I’ve been experimenting with gel nails for a few years now to help with how brittle my nails are (an annoying side-effect of low thyroid and iron). I’d never really noticed the link between my picking frequency and my nails before, but I’m definitely noticing it now. That’s my first mental health win for January!
And it’s super nice that the manicure I currently have has been going strong for 6 weeks now! Here’s a little chronological collage:
Seasonal Affective Disorder
My second mental health win for January is that I seem to be beating Seasonal Affective Disorder! Last Winter was a particularly bad one for SAD for me. I think it was partly because my thyroid levels were low and I didn’t know it, but this year I’ve started taking vitamin D every day, and I think it’s helping. Or at least the placebo effect is! I’m also working hard to keep exercising and to get enough sleep, so that helps too.
There you have it!
So, that’s my Thankful Thursday list for this month. I hope it inspires you to make your own, and get on that gratitude train!
To start this post, we’ve got Hilarious Highly Sensitive Child Story Time!
My mom told me once that when her and my dad were searching for a new house when I was 2 years old, they knew exactly which one was perfect based on my reaction to it. I marched into every new room, got down on my hands and knees, and touched my face to the floor. I had a big, comforted smile on my face, almost as though I was affectionately rubbing it like a dog, or listening to some sort of hidden vibe only I could hear. Don’t worry, most of the rooms had carpet and they were certainly clean, as the sellers were showing it.
My point is that from earlier than I can remember, the environment around me, and the spaces I live and work in, affect me deeply. On an internal, subconscious level that displays itself in my mood and anxiety levels. Spaces all have a hidden vibe for me that resonates with me much deeper than it does for other people.
Like when my clarinet vibrated at a slightly higher or lower wavelength than the sounds ushering from the collective band and I knew I needed to tune it, I need to adjust the spaces I work and exist in so that our wavelengths match and my anxiety can turn to stillness. Otherwise it vibrates around, crashing into walls and itself, a never-ending tumble-dryer that can’t seem to run its course. It becomes a problem when I’m forced to function in a space that doesn’t work for me, but that’s another story.
Here’s a list of things a space needs in order for it to be a grade-A happy Bee anxiety-free place:
Live plants and flowers.
Fake ones are okay substitutes, and often have to substitute in my case because I have a thumb as black as night (I killed bamboo. It is almost impossible to kill bamboo.). Fake flowers can be super gorgeous. I’ve found some awesome ones at dollar stores, believe it or not. I have one live plant in my living room that somehow thrives despite me, perhaps to spite me. It needs to be re-potted, like, yesterday, which has my anxiety through the roof. I constantly worry I’m going to kill it.
(I started this post a long time ago. Since then, I successfully re-potted the plant, and although it was admittedly too large a pot, it was the only one I had. Consequently, some of the lower shoots of the plant have shriveled and died, but the positive outcomes are much greater: it has grown four new, much larger shoots that are reaching toward the sky like octopus’ tendrils and whose green is so much brighter than all those that came before it. It brings me joy.).
The bedroom and bathroom have fake plants, for now. Baby steps. Maybe I’ll get a second real plant if plant #1 survives the transplant. (That is now the plan! My friend just told me she is building a terrarium in her apartment. I decided to try a very small, easy version – low maintenance, creative art project plants? Sign me up! My terrarium had three plants in it to start with and one almost immediately died off, but the remaining two seem happy!)
Lots of natural light.
It is much nicer to read in natural light than anything else, and I read a LOT. As an added plus, it helps my plants grow! Also, I grew up in places with huge windows, and it was always my favourite place to be. In the big, aforementioned face-to-carpet house that I chose when I was two, the living room had a giant bay window. It was where I played with my toys, read on the couch, drew, made forts, and designed friendship bracelets. I wrote stories, watched lightning crash into the forest, and lay on the floor after hosting a Spice World birthday party sleepover.
When we downsized after my dad moved to Calgary, our living room still had a giant, if no longer bay, window. I almost always relinquished (rejected, really) the spacious dining room table for the floor, on my hands and knees, to do my homework. Something about that carpet + window combination, I don’t know. It’s a soul space. We don’t have carpet in our apartment. Thank goodness we don’t, because it’s much easier to clean wood floors. However, I still have two cozy spots by our huge windows. They are wall-to-wall on the North side of our apartment, which means one entire wall of the bedroom, where our headboard is, and one entire wall of the living room, where the couch is. Natural light is just so calming for me.
Too bad I live in Vancouver and have to take vitamin D six months of the year in order not to get SAD.
Blankets and pillows.
I love being cozy. It is impossible for my anxiety to stay at panic level if I have a blanket wrapped around me. If it’s warm in my apartment, I would prefer to open a window and wrap myself in a blanket than to not wrap myself in a blanket and leave the window closed. We own upwards of 20 pillows between the two of us and Andrew literally only uses 4 of them. I love having them in all different colours – my favourite way to decorate a space is to have white/beige walls and neutral furniture, and decorate with bright blankets, pillows, artwork, books, vases, trinkets, and plants. And again, alllll the natural light.
I have always loved taking and displaying photos, and all my photos and those taken of myself and my loved ones have special places in my heart. I COVERED my apartment in all kinds of different photo frames of all shapes, sizes, and styles, filled with pictures of all the people who have ever been (and usually stay) important to me. If I’m feeling not so good, I have the faces of everyone I care about me smiling down on me. And sigh of relief.
Shelves and books.
I love to read. It’s one of the best anxiety busters that I’ve discovered for myself. I also love to have books displayed everywhere. Shelves are great for displaying trinkets and things too, which I love as well. Willow Tree figurines, vases, and other such items. A life goal of both mine and my husband’s is to have home library. We essentially already do, now that I have three IKEA Billy shelves worth of books. However, it would be nice to have them all in an office-like space or in the living room, and not have to keep them in the bedroom. Although I will always want a bookshelf in my sleeping space; I often drink in the sight of my bookshelves to instead of counting sheep or singing myself to sleep (bedtime brain on the hamster wheel, anyone?).
My own, and that of others. Blank walls open up a space, but I find I need colour and creativity to surround me or I start to feel cooped up and stifled. I am always anxious to decorate a new space if its walls are empty. In my new classroom this year, the first thing I did was put up posters and colourful paper. It was so… empty and devoid of life with just white walls.
This is difficult for me. I LOVE to collect things and find it hard to let go of memorabilia and other such items. I also live in a very small apartment (450 ft^2) with another human being in it. Plus, we don’t have a storage compartment. So our entire lives are in here, and I’m CONSTANTLY trying to come up with more creative ways to store our things. This helps my anxiety stay relatively calm when I’m at home. I find the more space I have around me, the calmer I am, and we live in a very small space, so it’s a constant work-in-progress.
Recently I’ve really been strongly considering renting a storage unit. I can almost feel the weight lifting off my shoulders. But I’m concerned that because we live so organized and with such minimal extra stuff, that it would get annoying having to go back and forth between the storage unit and the apartment due to needing things we’d put there. Might be more anxiety than it’s worth. Still thinking about it.
(Update: Came up with a better idea. Most of the non-useful clutter in our apartment is all my funko-pop boxes (which I keep to make it easier to move when we eventually do), and all our extra (disassembled) IKEA furniture. These things are both eye-sores and not needed at least until we move to a bigger place. The furniture is mostly things we upgraded, but would still be great pieces of furniture if we lived in a bigger place and had more space for them. We have a desk, a few side-tables, and a couple of shelving units (and probably more that I’m currently forgetting about. It’s all just flat pieces of wood now.).
My better idea: Dad and Sharon are already storing some furniture for Andrew and I in their house’s basement in Calgary. We plan to bring it over here when we buy a bigger place. So, this summer, I am going to take all our extra IKEA furniture and all my funko-pop boxes to Calgary. I’ll add them to the stuff that Dad and Sharon are storing for us. We don’t need them until we move, so we’re just adding a little to the stuff we were already going to have to get when we move, anyway. Yes, the parental units approved this. They’re the best.)
This is a hurdle for me that I am constantly tripping over. My workspace must be neat, organized, and clean if I want to be productive and anxiety-free. However, I’m pretty sure I spend more of my life making messes than cleaning them up. I need to clean my desk, and pretty much the entire living room, before I can work on anything. My desk needs to be clear before I can work at it.
I think living in a very tiny dorm room at UBC during first year was the beginning of this neurosis (I definitely didn’t have it when I lived at home with my mom, ask her!) – I never could get any homework done until EVERYTHING was in its place – and everything had its place, to be sure. There was no other way to live. My single-room was about the size of two XL twin beds side by side. It had a dresser, a shelving unit, a desk, a mini-fridge, a laundry hamper, and my bed. Thank goodness I could put my bed on the highest frame setting. It provided great fun when I (literally) vaulted myself into bed every night, and my fridge, skis, dresser, hamper, and other stored items all fit underneath it.
Regardless of origin, my anxiety doesn’t settle into focused work until the space around me is neat. And because I spend my day making messes, I almost always do a quick tidy as soon as I get home. This gets me ready to settle into whatever work I need to get done. It’s a tiny ritual that helps keep my head clear.
And that’s my list! What do your spaces need to have to give you the right vibe?
Coming at you from a very neat workspace with a fake plant and my new nanoleaf aurora,
I came up with the idea for a post on busyness on Wednesday last week. It was time for me to write a blog post, and I realized I was so busy there was no way I was going to be able to do it. I wallowed in guilt and anxiety over not keeping up with my self-imposed once-a-week schedule, even though it was the first week of my new full-time teaching job, and that day I was so tired that I napped for 4.5 hours when I got home from work, got up, took a shower, and then went straight back to bed until morning.
I decided I wanted to write a post talking about how society tends to glorify busyness and it always seems like a competition to be the busiest person you know. It’s always been that way for me, at least. It’s also always been a trigger for my anxiety – I get anxious when I feel like I’m not doing enough or being productive enough, which is pretty much all the time. My standard for “enough” is usually “always doing something,” so if I ever take a break, boom anxiety.
Eventually, I decided to let it go a bit, and pushed my deadline for my next post to today. Now, I say “let it go a bit” because while I did push my deadline, I didn’t entirely let go of all the guilt that surrounded that.
“High anxiety can be a natural consequence of a busy lifestyle, but its existence is akin to the chicken and the egg. Which came first, the anxiety or the busyness? Am I always moving because I’m anxious or am I anxious because I’m always moving?”
This really struck a chord with me, and got me thinking about my own busyness. For a long time, have always been crazy busy. And it started around the time my anxiety started, which I pinpoint as around grade 7 or 8.
In grade 8, I:
Tried out for soccer and basketball (and didn’t make either team – this is an important point for later)
Played on a club basketball team
Was a volunteer peer tutor (I tutored a grade 6 student)
Played clarinet in the school production of Shrek
Acted in the school play, Roomers
Raced on the alpine ski team
Made the badminton team (which was cancelled due to work action)
Made the track and field team (which was also cancelled due to work action)
Wrote and illustrated a children’s book in an extra-curricular course
Took dance classes
Took piano lessons
Played clarinet in concert band
Played alto-saxophone in jazz band
Ran for student council (didn’t get elected, also important)
Did French and English speech competitions up to the District level
Ran 6-7 km ~3 times a week
Probably a whole bunch of other things I can’t remember
In high school, I:
Raced on the alpine ski team
Ran on the cross-country team
Ran and did field events on the track and field team
Acted in plays and musicals
Played clarinet in the concert band
Played alto saxophone in the jazz band
Sang in the concert choir
Sang in the by-audition Bluetones jazz choir
Co-head editor and photographer for the yearbook in grade 12 (and worked on it as a junior editor grades 10 & 11)
Reach for the Top team
Making Waves group, and acted in a play for it
Social Justice club
Volunteered for House Committee
Wrote a novel
Ran 6-7 km ~3 times a week
Got accepted into an advanced Studio Art portfolio program in grade 12
In university, I:
Took full-time classes every semester for 5 years
Was a varsity athlete, with practices 3 days a week, games once or twice a week, and conditioning/weight-lifting sessions 3 days a week
Worked part-time (usually 18 hours a week)
Volunteered as a rugby coach for a high school girls’ team
Was a leader for a Girl Guide unit
Was an orientations leader
Did a tri-mentoring program and received the Mentee of the Year award
Did Reading Week volunteer projects at elementary schools
Trained and ran a half-marathon
Made the Dean’s List twice
This brings me back to what I quoted from Sarah’s article.
What came first, the anxiety or the busyness? After taking a long, hard look at my past and my experiences, I deduced that for me, the anxiety came first. Accordingly, busyness has always been a coping mechanism for me. Not only that, but it became a crutch which I blamed my anxiety on. I didn’t have anxiety, I was just stressed because I had a lot on my plate. I overreacted about something stupid or yelled at my husband or broke down crying because I was stressed out, not because I had a clinical psychological condition.
A lot of the time I didn’t know why I did the things I did. It was important to me to be able to say I was involved in a lot of things, like it somehow proved my self-worth.
It was also a competition for me. I have always been incredibly competitive. I wanted to be the best. Highest grades. Involved in the most things. Most liked. Most creative and artistic. Especially busiest.
This is where I come back to soccer and basketball try-outs, and student council elections… I tried to do those things because I thought they would give me status, make me the winner of the busyness game, make me more popular… not because I particularly enjoyed them. To be honest, I hate soccer. Likewise, I love basketball, but I’m not that great at it, and I’m not passionate about it. The idea of being on student council or some sort of governing body makes me sick. It’s a good thing I didn’t get those things, and I didn’t get them partly because my heart wasn’t in it. But I did get into a lot of things I probably wouldn’t have done if I’d sat myself down and asked myself, Bee, do you really love these things?
I’ve only recently realized that for years I’ve had anxiety. This article helped me realize that I have high-functioning anxiety.
High-functioning anxiety, to paraphrase Sarah, is high-achievement, busyness, and perfection. It’s nervous habits like picking your nails and running your hands through your hair all the time. Muscle tightness, for me especially in the neck and back, stomach aches, and tension. Avoidance. It is being social enough to go to things, but feeling like you can’t connect with anyone. You never feel good enough. Most importantly, you’re always looking for the next outlet for your anxiety.
In this case, like being on student council, or playing on the school basketball team. Like furiously cleaning the kitchen counters or the bathroom sink.
Outlets as Coping Mechanisms
I use busyness and knocking things off my to-do list as a coping mechanism. Sometimes, it’s simply to cope with having too many things on my to-do list. Sometimes, I create work for myself, like reorganizing my hall closet, because it’s a task that won’t take me too long but has a huge payoff – I LOVE organizing things and feel so accomplished when I’m finished.
When I’m angry or really anxious or dwelling about something, I clean. Normally the kitchen or the bathroom. The task takes my mind off the anger or worry (and the anxiousness about not being able to stop being angry or worried), is physical enough (scrubbing is hard) to release some endorphins and channel my energy so I calm down, and also takes me away from the situation that caused me anxiety. Spaces affect me a lot (probably my next blog post), so if my desk is messy and stressing me out, cleaning the kitchen means I don’t have to feel the bad desk vibes. If my husband and I had a fight in the bedroom, cleaning the bathroom takes me away from that both physically and mentally.
It’s gotten to be so much of a habit that when I’m cleaning, my husband gets scared that I’m mad at him, because he knows that I often clean when I’m mad.
On Sunday, I had what I would call a FANTASTIC day. And I mostly qualified it as such because it was incredibly productive.
On Sunday, I…
Did some prep work for my teaching job
Went for a 1-hour walk
Finished a book
Skyped a friend I haven’t talked to in a while for 1.5 hours
Talked on the phone for 15 minutes with another friend
Cleaned the kitchen
Organized my desk and the living room bookshelf
Played video games with my husband
Finished all the paperwork I needed to do for my new job
Watched a couple of episodes of Master of None on Netflix
…. but I still struggled all day with feelings of low self-worth and guilt over not getting enough done.
High-functioning anxiety is a daily, hourly battle with the negative thoughts in my head. It’s incredibly hard because on the surface, I look like a very successful person who is happy, busy, and has her shit together.
In the 9-month period since I came to terms with the statement I have anxiety, I’ve gotten better at putting less commitments on my plate. Now I have less things to worry about. I also make sure that everything I take on is something I ABSOLUTELY LOVE. If I’m not sure about something, I don’t do it.
However, I still really struggle with feeling like I’m not doing enough.
I had a summer where I pretty much did nothing but read, travel, catch Pokémon, and go to weddings. At times, this felt amazing. Other times, it felt awful.
I’ve taken on a fair amount of things for the school year, but I LOVE them all, and enjoy committing my time and energy to them:
Teaching. I now teach French full-time. I LOVE IT.
Tutoring. English, for 2 hours every Saturday. I LOVE IT.
Studying. I’m taking two courses at UBC toward my Guidance Studies diploma (hoping to eventually do the Masters in School Counselling and become a high school Guidance Counsellor). I LOVE IT.
‘Gramming. I maintain two Instagram accounts. I LOVE IT.
Blogging. I LOVE IT.
It’s important to me that although I do lots of things to cope with my anxiety, I’m not doing so much that it begins to create my anxiety as well. I’ll leave the cleaning and organizing as my coping mechanisms. The things that I commit to need to be things that I thrive at doing and take great fulfillment from.
I just need to keep reminding myself what I do, whatever it is, however much it is, it’s enough. I’m enough.
I did a project in April (that bled into May, and eventually June) called Letter Writing Month. The goal was to write 30 letters to 30 different people in 30 days. I ended up taking longer, and wrote to about 34 different people, some of them several times.
It’s remarkable how well the project helped me realize that modern-day “instant” communication is a huge trigger for my anxiety. There’s something about the supposedly instantaneous methods of communicating that makes them incredibly stressful.
I told my counsellor at our last session that I hate e-mail (and texting). She raised her eyebrows, saying that it surprised her that “someone articulate like me” would hate e-mail. I didn’t have time to explain, as our session was coming to an end, but the reflection she made has stuck with me. She’s right, I am an articulate person. I love to write. Creative, persuasive, expository, poetic – anything really. But e-mail is TERRIFYING.
Reasons why e-mail is really scary:
I don’t know if the person has received it.
Even if they did receive it, it could have gone to their junk.
They aren’t necessarily going to read it, regardless of if they received it.
I don’t know what their schedule is for replying, so I don’t know how unreasonable I’m being when the person doesn’t respond for a week or more.
E-mailing someone again because they haven’t gotten back to me is just worse, because repeat all the above steps AND add on the worry that I’m bothering them by e-mailing twice about the same thing.
I don’t know how the person will interpret my words.
What if they think my sign off is pretentious, or my salutation is rude or not formal enough?
They might think the structure of my e-mail is too long or too short or too split up or too hard to read.
They could misinterpret something I say, or take it the wrong way, and I might insult them or they might not understand me and then I’ll need to reply to explain. Repeat all the above steps, but with more anxiety, because now I’ve gotten off on the wrong foot.
Texting has a similar list of reasons why it’s really scary:
I do know that the person has received it (“Delivered” shows underneath, even if they don’t have read receipts turned on), but if they don’t respond to me for hours, or even days, I have to wonder WHYYY.
I don’t know if they read it, regardless of if they received it.
Because people tend to respond to texts faster than e-mails, I know they’re ignoring me OR they legitimately missed my message after a couple of days (sometimes I open a message without knowing, and because it doesn’t show as “unread” anymore, I forget or don’t notice it’s there. I check through my messages for this every couple of days, but not everyone is as neurotic as me.).
Texting someone again because they haven’t gotten back to you is just worse, because repeat all the above steps AND add on the worry that I’m bothering them by texting twice about the same thing.
I don’t know how the person will interpret your words.
They might think the structure of my text is too long or too short or too split up or too hard to read.
What if they think my emojis are annoying?
They could misinterpret something I say, or take it the wrong way, and I might insult them or they might not understand me and then I’ll need to reply to explain. Repeat all the above steps, but with more anxiety, because now I’ve gotten off on the wrong foot.
Read receipts. To turn them on or not to turn them on?
When my anxiety wasn’t as bad, it was definitely turn them on. And I liked other people to have them on, too. It comforted me to know that they’d read my message, because I knew for sure if they were ignoring me or not (if they’d read and not replied to my message, they were). I liked to have mine on because I prided myself on being a quick and attentive responder, and liked them to know that I wasn’t ignoring them if I wasn’t responding – “Delivered” meant that I hadn’t seen it yet. “Read” meant that I had and I would be responding soon.
Currently my anxiety is pretty bad and they’re off. If I’m feeling super anxious, I don’t want the pressure of replying to a message right away just because I know they know I’ve seen it. I also prefer other people’s to be off, because then I can suspend my disbelief about them not having seen the message yet. If it’s just “Delivered,” I can tell myself they haven’t had the chance to see it yet. If it’s “Read,” and they haven’t answered for four days, WHY ARE THEY IGNORING ME DO THEY HATE ME??
For these reasons and more, I prefer in-person communication. I can say the same thing I would have said in an e-mail or text, and the person sitting beside me or across from me has to answer. Even if they don’t do a very good job with words, body language and facial expressions tell a story. I don’t have to trust notoriously glitchy technological media to reliably relay my message for me.
However, modern life circumstances have me living thousands of kilometres away from many of my closest friends. I have really close friends in California, Ontario, Alberta, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Newfoundland. I like to keep in touch. In person is generally not possible, and Skype and phone conversations are becoming increasingly difficult due to time differences and time constraints. We are all very busy people.
This is where letter writing comes in.
The letter writing project was eye-opening and wonderful. I started at least two, perhaps three or four regular letter writing relationships through it, and they bring me so much joy. A couple of them are even with people I wasn’t really friends with before. We just knew each other through high school and had each other on Facebook. I originally posted there about the project and asked if there were people who wanted to receive a letter. The way the relationships developed was so organic. It turned out that the things I wrote about were things that interested them. They also thought letter writing was really fun and magical, and we just clicked. You can’t get that from an e-mail!
Letter writing takes away all the things that make me anxious that go along with texting or e-mail. It leaves the essence of communication that brings so much happiness and joy into my life – connecting with people. And I can be as long-winded as I like, so there isn’t much room for misinterpretation.
Letters are formal in their own way, like e-mails. However, I feel less constrained by formalities and the way you’re supposed to write e-mails when I’m letter writing.
I also don’t have to worry if they’ve received it. Generally, a letter either arrives at its destination or it shows back up in your mailbox. Canada Post might suck for a lot of reasons, but they’re nothing if not reliable (except to my dad and step-mom’s house, but that’s another story).
Finally, I don’t send letters intending to receive a reply. I ask questions, but if I don’t get an answer, that’s fine. I find I never worry if a person is going to reply to a letter I send them. In the pen-pal relationships I’ve developed, I tend to know that they will. I put it out of my mind, and when the letter comes in the mail, it’s a wonderful surprise that makes my day.
There’s just something magical about receiving a letter in the mail. I have always loved getting mail. It feels special. There’s so much that goes into it that it just inherently means more.
With letter writing, the personality and the care that are put in are evident before the recipient even reads the first word. You carefully choose stationery (or in my case, create – I paint paper in watercolours). You pick a writing utensil. One of the people who has started being my pen-pal writes with fountain pens. Awesome. Also, in general, letters are handwritten, which in itself takes more time and care than writing on a computer. You address the envelope, stamp it, and take it to a mailbox. Many people handle it and take care of it before it arrives in your mailbox, to finally be read and responded to. Wonderful.
I definitely plan to continue the trend of writing more letters in the future. I hope that more pen-pal relationships develop, and I hope that I re-kindle more relationships that have stagnated thanks to my fears surrounding modern communication methods.