Before ghosting existed in its modern iteration, there were three simple ways to cut off all communication with someone: don’t answer the door when they knocked, don’t answer the phone when they called, and mark their letters return to sender before sending them back in the mail. If you really wanted to ensure you disappeared from this person’s life altogether, you could resort to a fourth and/or fifth step: never leave the house ever again or move to a faraway city.
Even now, there’s no real practical way to cut someone out of your life completely, but as Manitoba singer-songwriter Lana Winterhalt suggests on “Return to Sender”, it’s often necessary in order to regain control of your life. With devastating poignancy, Winterhalt counsels someone caught in a caustic relationship that’s robbing her of dignity and self-worth. “Breathed in your innocence,” she points out, “But every exhale was a lie / He called you beautiful / That word now cuts you like a knife.”
“Return to Sender” is a reclamation of one’s heart, soul, and self-worth. Rendered through a simply strummed guitar and Winterhalt’s angelic harmonies, the song never completely reveals whether it’s an internal dialogue with herself or addressed to another. Either way, “Return to Sender” hits its cathartic core in its final moments: “So you said, ‘Give me my heart / give me my heart…’ / Though it’s broken and it’s dirty / and it’s half the size of what it used to be / Though it’s fragile and it’s been misused / It’s been pushed aside / It’s mine to have, to hold, to heal, to give.”