A Note from a Stranger

Posted On: 05.23.12

So here’s the thing. This blogging thing is hard for me sometimes. Existentially so. It is hard because, depending on the day, I literally crack myself open and say come hither and take a peek at my soul and this makes me feel vulnerable and rightly so, I imagine. And then there are those times when I publish something raw, and real, something that matters to me, and deeply, and there are crickets. Silence. A mere trickle of comments. And this makes me feel more vulnerable. And I am a creature who is wired to question everything and I do, I question everything. I wonder why I continue to do this thing, this odd and beautiful thing, even when it makes me feel shaky sometimes.

But then. Once I start down this predictable path, this avenue of analysis, this road of self-examination, like magic, something happens to snap me from myself. A comment appears. A note arrives. A friend says something. A person, a real person, gets in touch with me, little me, and says two words, two good words, two of the best: thank you. And here I am reading or hearing the words of a real person living a real life somewhere who is thanking me for doing this odd and beautiful and often scary thing I do, and saying that it has made them think, and feel, and realize.

And when this happens, I’m blown away. And all of those doubts evaporate, become beyond silly. And I feel it. A surge of strength, of purpose, of knowing. This thing I do, whatever it is? It feels right. Even when it feels scary, it also feels right. And I am coming to appreciate more and more as the days march on that it is not just about me, my feelings, my fears, it is about our feelings. Because, yes, we are in it together. This life thing.

And it happened again. Not long ago. I was all cozy, cuddled up in my own insecurities, having that threadbare (and tiresome) conversation with myself, in bed but writing my novel (it is getting good, friends!) late into the night while Husband was away on business and – ding! – an email arrived. And I read it and I smiled. And I felt it again. That thing. That ineffable and incredible thing. And I knew it. Again. Anew.

That I would keep going.

And I will.


Dear Aidan,

I’m not sure where to start. I am a long time reader of your blog but I’ve only commented once…

I thought about writing you with my ‘real’ email address but chickened out. We are fairly close in age, and based on the fact that you went to Yale, and I went to Harvard Business School, I’m guessing we have some acquaintances in common. We have a few other things in common. I have two baby girls, which is one less than I would probably have if it was only up to me. I have a graduate degree that I’m not always sure I want to put to use. I go by my given name, maiden name, married name. I could go on, but I want to get to the point.

There are a couple of your recent posts that have been of a huge help to me. One was the post about giving up drinking for a year and the subsequent posts. I do not drink a lot, but I do have a few glasses of wine, and i’m not sure it’s for the best. Your post about wine and anxiety was a huge eye opener for me and I discussed it all with my husband on a long long long walk last week. I told him your story and how I felt it related to me, things I had never really told him about before. Thank you.

And your post yesterday about your miscarriage. My first pregnancy also ended with a miscarriage and it has forever changed me as a person and as a mom. I try to be open about it with my friends, but not always, and I am not quite ready to even begin talking about it on the internet. So it broke my heart when I read your comment about the lack of comments. Sorry I cannot comment in public, but know that your blog is helping me in more ways than you can imagine.


This email came from an anonymous address. I don’t know who wrote it, but I do hope that whoever you are, you are here reading today. And if you are, I want to say thank you for taking the time to write words, and to send them. Thank you for making me think and realize and reaffirm why I am here day after day doing this. Thank you for reminding me how important, and meaningful, it is to press pause on Life and write that comment, or send that email, or communicate that thought. These gestures never go unnoticed. They matter. A great deal.

Sometimes, they are like magic.


Do you take the time to write notes to people in your lives, those you know well and those you don’t know? Why do you comment or not comment on blog posts you read? Does the universe ever step in and encourage you to keep going, to keep doing the things you do, the things you love?

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26 Comments for: "A Note from a Stranger"
  1. Jen

    This serves as a timely reminder to thank a few people in my life.

    Thank you.

  2. Anonymous

    We all need to be snapped from ourselves sometimes, right? I do think, as you suggest, the world has a way of stepping in and reminding us to keep going with things that matter. So wonderful that this mystery reader took the time to write this. We should all do these things more often.

    And, no, she(he?) is not the only one you are reaching with your stories. There are many of us.

  3. B

    Why do we all doubt ourselves so much? Why is it so easy to question everything? I wonder these things sometime. I do. Keep going & I will keep reading.

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      I think doubt is part of the game. I think doubt keeps us grounded, and aware. Aware of what matters, what means something. I am not always a fan of doubt, but I respect it. Does that make any sense? Any at all?

  4. I’m so glad that reader wrote to you, because I know I still want to see your stories here. Thank you. xox

  5. tara

    i can’t always put my finger on what it is that strikes me about any number of your posts. but, i don’t comment often for one very main reason though: i hardly ever relate to you for the reason you’re writing about, so if i want to comment, i feel like i’m changing the point. like, if we were sitting at a table face to face, i would never listen to you pour your heart out, and then turn the conversation to how i internalize your feelings. maybe that’s what we, the readers, are supposed to do, but it doesn’t feel natural. i do want to say “thank you” though…i find myself emotionally and intellectually stimulated by your blog.

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      Thank you, Tara. I am intrigued by, and encouraged by, the idea that my words are making you (and others) feel something even if you cannot linearly relate to the content of my musings.

      Emotionally and intellectually stimulated? A high compliment indeed 🙂

  6. Wow…what a great note. I think we are often want to leave that great comment to tell a writer how deeply they have touched us and sometimes we (the reader) get caught up in the questioning also…”is our comment deep enought?” I love your writings so very much.

  7. I can relate… The internet can be a lonely place sometimes. It’s also conducive to forgetting our manners. Saying thank you is quick, easy and cheap. It’s also priceless. THANK YOU, Aiden, for the reminder and for doing what you do.

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      Thank you, Andrea. I don’t think this is about manners. I think it is more about mystery. I think I often forget how downright weird it is that I cannot tell who is here and reading, who is feeling something, and sometimes I want clues, little crumbs, tiny pieces of evidence that there are indeed creatures out there hearing me.

      But you are right about something: saying thank you is easy. But why does it sometimes feel hard? I don’t know. Is it because we have so many people to thank? So many things which we are actually or theoretically thankful for?

      Thank you. 🙂

  8. Jan

    Never doubt how wonderful and inspiring your words are. I cannot Thank You enough for all your inspiration and honesty. I cannot wait to read these words every day.
    Thank You for sharing your gift.

  9. I agree a lot with what Tara said. Although just about every one of your posts touches me and gets me to really think in some way, it’s not always relatable in an obvious way. And so, I don’t comment always. There’s also the insecurity in commenting and wondering how that comment will be received (much like your original writing, just in shorter form). And maybe the point is that your posts do get me thinking, even if I do take them in a different direction – and that’s not a bad thing.

    Also, I love how you talked about how your new novel is getting good because it makes me really excited. I love when I’m writing something and that moment hits me where I think to myself: this is good, if I hadn’t written it, I would still want to read it! So, I can’t wait to see what your efforts, excitement and goodness brings to us!


    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      I need to remember this more; that comments are bits of writing too and that the authors of those comments worry about the impact of their words just like the rest of us do.

      Ah, the novel-writing process. Magic at times. Torture at times. Yesterday was downright icky. Today is golden so far. So unpredictable. But a wild privilege to do this, to sit down, to write words.

      Chipping away 🙂

  10. It’s wonderful when people talk the time to share some support, encouragement, and gratitude. My blog is currently read mostly by my friends and family, and while they love the hilarious commentary on events in my life (such as my high school reunion), I also hear crickets when it comes to posts dealing with my insecurities about writing, among other things. Now, some of that is because a lot of the people reading my blog are not “writers,” and that is my fault for not knowing how to target the right audience. But it IS hard, to be so vulnerable, so raw, to show people what’s in your heart. I think that’s probably the hardest part of being a writer, because no matter what you wrote – be it a blog post, a short story, or an entire MS, you’re essentially showing people a piece of your heart, the most intimate and fragile part of you. It’s terrifying!

    I don’t always comment, and have gone in and out of being a faithful reader, but know that I am in your cheering section as well! I appreciate what you put out there and how you do it so poignantly. Keep on keepin’ on, sister.

  11. I read your blog every day before I sit down and ponder my day. Your words and honesty and yes your insecurities give me courage. Courage to be vulnerable and scared and wondering how the heck I got to where I’m at. I started my blog because I was felt very alone in my situation. I needed somewhere to put my thoughts and maybe find people to connect with me. My blog is a scary place for me yet it’s the best thing that I do for myself. And I got that from you.
    Yay for that gal who took the time to write you. I think about doing that but don’t for whatever reason. I do visit NYC a couple times a year and always peek in the windows of Starbucks hoping to run into you!

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      Wow. This comment makes me smile. Thank you, Lucy. And I love the Starbucks bit. I was at a coffee shop a few weeks ago and at a communal table and there was this young girl next to me and she kept staring at me like she knew me and it did make me wonder. I should have said something. It would have been an interesting story, I imagine. But I didn’t. I kept my eyes on my screen. I kept telling whatever story I was telling at the time. In retrospect, I might have missed out on a good one.

      How often do you engage strangers? I don’t often enough. I want to work on this.

  12. You need these affirmations. I believe we all do. This note offers a message that we all need: Your writing. You. It matters.
    And that energy fills you up.

  13. Dia

    Hi Aidan!

    I also fall in the category of not commenting as often as I read. Part of it is wondering whether I have something to really contribute (My first-ever blog post explored the pressure I feel around putting words in print, and a draft-form blog post not yet published explores a bit of the “who am I” to be out there, acting like I have something important to say… so these are definitely things on my mind!). Another part is that many of your posts actually trigger my own insecurities– at not having a family– no kids (which I really want, there I said it– in print, on the internet), no husband, no boyfriend even… so I don’t relate to some of the struggles or worries of your day. OR, said a more truthful way, I’d rather flip the page than find the ways I do relate, or share how I feel thinking about those things.

    BUT. All that said– I have been incredibly inspired by your blog. It’s actually the only one I’ve ever read with any regularity, maybe even at all. I just started reading one more when I figured out blogging is a challenge and I should read more of them for inspiration and motivation for my own! So I have been inspired. And I have been engaged in thoughtful discussion (sometimes only from reading the comments… though when I do comment, then you know I’ve been moved to something quite real!). And lastly, and perhaps most importantly for me, I have LOVED getting glimpses of the current life of an old friend– it’s so sweet to see you giggle with your girls, experiment with life, and shine a flashlight inside especially where it was dark.

    So, my heartfelt thanks to you, my friend.
    Lots of Love!

    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      Smiling. Big-time. More to come in an email but must plug back into my novel-writing. Promised myself that much-needed pedicure if I dive in for three hours. Yes, I have resorted to bribing myself. Alas.

      Thanks for this, Dia. xoxo

  14. Sometimes, for me, reading such a raw and meaning-filled piece is a bit intimidating. Meaning, it feels like something sacred, and if I don’t have just the right words, I don’t feel right leaving a comment.

    Also, I know that I squeeze in reading posts inbetween all the other chaos in my mommy life. So that means that I don’t always have the clarity to write a comment, or I’m reading on my phone, etc.

    Basically, I love reading your words. You are an inspiration to me, through this blog and through your novel (soon to be plural!). You are where I hope I will be in a few more years! So thank you for sharing your stories, your truth, with us all! 🙂 XO

  15. i’m new here to you and a big fan. keep it up. comments are no longer the measure of success or effectiveness in this here blog world, but oh how they do help us along. thank YOU for taking time once to comment over at my place. we can all use some snapping.


    • Aidan Donnelley Rowley

      I have been wondering more and more about this comment thing. Have comments really dropped off across the board a bit? There were times when I was getting far more comments, but my readership was less… Maybe people are reading but not responding these days, flitting around a bit more? Who knows, but always interesting to think about.

      So happy to have found your blog. As you know, you have me pondering poetry these days.

      Snap. Snap 🙂

  16. Your blog is a wonderful way to use your God-given gifts. You are a fabulous writer and mom. I read yesterday’s blog but didn’t read through all the comments until today so I had no idea someone attacked you the way they did. It shows a lot of integrity that you left the comment up even though you could’ve taken it down. It allowed people who care about you and appreciate you to came to your defense. I’m so grateful for this blogging world we’re a part of and I’m one of your biggest fans!

  17. Elijah

    Blog about receiving a complimentary comment and poof — get 20 more. Nothing better than nice comments about how nice it is that you wrote about how nice it is that someone wrote you a nice email.

  18. I comment when I feel like I can actually add to the conversation, start a dialogue, or insert a new point of view. Sometimes I am quite moved by a post, but don’t have witty or charming words to add. It’s hard not to measure yourself in abundance and sincerity of comments, but it’s only one measure and perhaps not even the best one.

    Also, sometimes readers are in receive mode rather than engage mode when reading through their feeds. Sometimes it’s just not about the post.

    You are well read and loved by many. Keep up the great work!

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