Every once in a while someone makes up a new holiday that resonates with me.
Kim and I were sure that Sweetest Day was one of those made up holidays just to sell greeting cards and candy.
All holidays are made up – we just meant that it was recently made up and just for crass commercial reasons.
It turns out we were wrong. It wasn’t as recent as we thought. That said, we never celebrated it. We didn’t see the point of waiting for such a day to do something nice for each other.
But I digress.
In a week there’s a holiday that I like a lot: Email Debt Forgiveness Day.
The folks at Reply All (a podcast from Gimlet Media) invented this day to encourage us to write that email we’ve been meaning to write but haven’t gotten around to.
You know how it is. You’re going through your inbox and you come across an email that’s going to take longer than a minute to reply to. Maybe you need to gather information or maybe you have to cover something awkward or unpleasant.
Whatever the case, you put it aside until you have more time.
And then it sits there.
And sits there.
And the longer it sits there the harder it is to write because now you have to explain why it’s taken so long – or the fact that it’s taken so long has given it more import than it might otherwise have.
So you never write your response.
But you continue to think about it. You feel bad about not answering. Something that shouldn’t be that big a deal has become a big deal.
Email Debt Forgiveness Day is a day on which you are to feel free about digging up those unanswered emails and writing the short response they deserved. You can include a link to the official page: http://emaildebtforgiveness.me to explain what you’re doing.
Like Sweetest Day, I’m not sure why it should only be one day a year. You should feel free to send your overdue email and link to the site any day – but having it on one particular day might pressure you into actually doing it.
Your debt might not be an email. It might be a text, a card or letter, a phone call, or an in-person visit.
The level of guilt and resistance increases as we move towards the end of the list.
On the other hand, the relief of having done so also increases.
Last week I noticed I was speaking at a conference where a former boss of mine was speaking.
Our relationship had gotten awkward at the end of our time together and we hadn’t spoken in many years.
He sent me a nice email after Kim died and I replied.
That wasn’t a small thing for him to do. We hadn’t spoken in many years.
His business partner hadn’t contacted me after Kim died and we had spoken since I left and it was never pleasant.
So after noting we’d be speaking at the same conference, I sent him an email asking if he’d like to meet for a cup of coffee or a drink or something.
He emailed back right away that he would.
And we did.
And I feel so much better.
Neither of us talked about the past. We didn’t re-argue disagreements or even think about them at all. We talked about the present and the future. I remembered what I liked about our relationship and left feeling grateful that we’d had a chance to talk.
Will we talk again?
I don’t know – but we won’t avoid talking to each other.
Friends asked if we cleared the air.
I don’t know how to explain it but there was no air to clear. We weren’t who we were back then and what would have been the point.
Friends asked if I asked him about collaborating on work.
No. That wasn’t the point of the meeting. The point was for us to sit for an hour together and talk to each other. It would have confused the issue if I’d brought up a project or two. That wasn’t why I contacted him.
I’ve been doing a lot of this lately. I’ve been considering people that I should reconnect with, just because – and I’ve been doing it.
Not everyone welcomes it.
There are people who don’t respond when I reach out.
That doesn’t keep me from trying.
I’ve mentioned that I’ve greeted one of my neighbors for years and he’s never responded. The other day he replied and we stood and talked for a while. I didn’t need anything. I just wanted to say “hi”. I felt great. It may be another four years until he replies again, but I’ll continue to speak to him whenever I see him.
I hope you’ll celebrate the upcoming holiday with me on April 30. There are no cards for Email Debt Forgiveness Day – that’s kind of the point.
I think I’m all caught up in my email – if I owe you one, you should let me know so that I can send you something next week.