Crates of old mail line a wall of my garage like buffers along a pier. This mass was accumulated over several months at a time when I could scarcely open my mailbox, much less examine its contents. Before divorce, the idea that I could be phobic of mail would have sounded to me like a storyline for Curb Your Enthusiasm. Then, lawyers, creditors and court clerks commandeered my innocent little mailbox and morphed it into a portal to Hell.
It started out with the initial serving of the divorce papers. I don’t know anyone who would be thrilled to see her/his name on a legal document preceded by the word “defendant”, but I had been warned and thus prepared. What I soon learned, however, is that divorce is like a steam engine…it takes time to build sufficient pressure, but once primed, that engine can drive a freight train. If the action of divorce can be thought of as the work produced by this engine, then the blizzard of mail that fell into my mailbox is the exhaust. That figures because trying to keep up with it all began to exhaust me.
After a while, I couldn’t go within a few feet of that sinister semi-cylinder at the end of my driveway without breaking into hives and hyperventilating. “My God”, I thought, “is it possible that I am afraid of my own mail?” I never had to answer the question; the reactions were real. It got so bad that my children, aware that the box was often crammed to capacity, would periodically empty it and dump the long‑neglected missives onto the dining room table.
Interestingly, the same mail that, while in the mailbox, evoked in me sweaty palms and heart palpitations simply became a nuisance when sprawled onto the table. Though I still had no interest in browsing it, I wanted it out of the way, so I started to chuck it into boxes. When the boxes piled up, I moved them to the garage. I stacked them along the wall. Where they remain.
Some of the mail in my garage is old enough for preschool, but if you’ll pardon this awful pun, it’s about to be addressed. I’m ready and, thanks to some foresight, I don’t even need an intervention.
At the outset of the marital issues that led to my divorce and subsequent aversion to mail, I made a very good decision: I sought counseling. I did this because, if my marriage was falling apart, which it certainly was, I wanted to make sure I was handling the related stress in ways least harmful to myself, the children and anyone else. I write “least harmful” because the nature of a failing marriage is generally disruptive – there will be some harm done. Optimal management of said harm is critical to optimal rebound. But before there can be any rebound, there must be a bounce.
My bounce is well documented. Over the last four years, I salvaged whatever I could and set all else aside, especially mail regarding bad news of which I was already painfully aware. So, while I rebuilt Rome, I hoarded mail. Now that I can touch the stuff again without throwing up lunch, it’s time to turn it into confetti for the victory parade. When it snows this winter, I’ll have a place to park my car.
To think, there was a time I considered adopting a dog to chase the mailman away. Now, when I see that funny-lookin’ little truck ambling down the block like a sick albino cockroach, I go to my mailbox, flip it open and stand beside it with folded arms. When the letter carrier pulls up holding out that once-feared bundle of Bed, Bath & Beyond coupons and up-to-date bills, I cock my head to the side, look her/him dead in the eye, twist my lips into a snarl and scoff “that all you got?”