“Sorry: I hate these things.”
Words at the top of an email from a friend.
I glance down the page.
….chose you ….12 women who have touched my life….. with you together, nothing would be impossible. … how special you are.
yadda yadda yadda.
They all sound innocuous till you get to the threats.
….. MAKE A WISH…..SEND THIS TO 12 WOMEN IN THE NEXT 15 MINUTES….SOMETHING WILL HAPPEN…DON’T BREAK THE CHAIN … WISH WON’T COME TRUE… YOUR LAST CHANCE…..
I’ve seen the same chain letter at least 20 times already and I aim the mouse at “delete”. Even though this chain promises good luck and my wish come true.
It’s a standard variation on the messages that come from the Dalai Lama or your Aunt Betty or your college roommate. All good thoughts that promise good karma and good health and good luck and maybe even a winning lottery ticket.
I’d like to win the lottery. But I don’t send this message to 12 friends in the next 15 minutes. Or the next 15 hours. Or even 15 days. .
I used to do this faithfully. Even as a kid when I got handwritten chain letters from a camp friend or a penpal in a faraway place. These messages had supposedly circled the globe at least 7 or 8 times by the time it arrived at my house in Florida. The least I could do was re-copy them, which I always did dutifully, putting my name at the top of the list—all by hand.
The payoff wasn’t even a pot of gold—but only more mail—postcards that would supposedly arrive from places all over the globe. So I copied and I mailed and I waited.
And I never got postcards from Paris . Not even from Peoria.
But the chains kept coming. And I copied and complied. I didn’t want to risk the consequences. The guilt that the person who sent it—-and everyone else — would somehow know I broke the chain. I complied because it was the rule. It was what a good girl did.
And then came the chain letter from hell.
Actually I was already in hell when the letter came.
I’ve blocked out the memory of who sent it. Because this was not the kind of chain letter that promises good luck or a long lost relative leaving you money in a will. This chain letter told bad luck stories of what happens to people who break the chain. The kid whose father dies suddenly of a heart attack. The best friend paralyzed in a car accident. Bad things would happen to me unless I copied this chain letter and sent it to ten people in the next 48 hours.
Just what I needed to hear the week I was diagnosed with breast cancer.
Then again, the irony is priceless.
Are you kidding me? I’ve already got cancer, I’m looking at a year of chemo and radiation. I’m losing a breast, losing my hair, I could be losing my life. I should worry about something bad happening? Wasn’t my life already as bad as it could get?
Of course unfortunately the answer is “no.”
So of course unfortunately I had no choice.
So I choose 10 friends I think are good bets to continue the chain and who won’t be mad at me for sending it to them. In the middle of worrying about a mastectomy and cancer treatment, I do what I’m afraid not to do. I sit down and laboriously copy and mail out ten copies of this letter to avoid terrible things happening to me that hadn’t happened yet.
And then more terrible things DO happen. Although who knows what terrible things could have happened if I had NOT sent it out. Which is the twisted torturous psychology that keeps us chained.
I’m not as compliant in general since I had cancer. But for the first few years I kept up my end of all chain letters out of utter fear. By now they’re electronic and compliance requires only a click or two. Or ten.
But they bothered me—-even the ones that promised good things. Even the ones from the Dalai Lama. So a few years ago I went cold turkey. I broke a chain. And I waited. For the other shoe to drop. Cancer recurrence? Earthquake? Car accident? When nothing happened, I got bolder. I didn’t send the next one.
Now I don’t even bother reading them. I just delete. So when I got this latest message , the one with the apology at the beginning, I went on automatic pilot. But for some reason, before I hit delete, I scrolled down to the bottom. And even though this message didn’t come from the Dalai Lama or a spiritual guru— I read it, and I took in the words. Maybe it was a coincidence, but it was just what I needed to hear:
‘May today there be peace within. May you trust that you are exactly where you are meant to be. May you not forget the infinite possibilities that are born of faith in yourself and others. May you use the gifts that you have received, and pass on the love that has been given to you. May you be content with yourself just the way you are. ..
Apparently it was a message I was meant to hear. I got the very same chain letter twice more the same day.
But I don’t send it out to 12 people in 15 minutes. I don’t send it out at all. My computer is a dead end.
I broke the chain—although technically I did pass on the message. Right here. Maybe someone who reads the message is in the right frame of mind, as I was, to take it in. Maybe I’ll get some karmic credit– even if I don’t win the lottery. And maybe all our wishes will come true.