If I had more time, I would have written a shorter letter
I've been thinking a lot about the burdens people carry. As well as my own. Sometimes these things are obvious to the observer but more often we have no idea what someone else is going through. Perhaps even, we have no idea we're going through something ourselves until we look back on it.
I have a tendency to think through past memories in light of my experiences today. Memories are funny. They're not some static unchanging picture of the past. Often they are intertwined with deep emotions. One thing about memories however, is while they may fail in the specifics, or are colored by emotion, or be understood in not-exactly-linear time, they do often record the gist of what happened. In fact, they capture more than the eyes can see or the ears can hear. They capture us... at a very specific time.
Music often functions something like a memory as well. As a teenager, I used to think that older people who only listened to music from their generation had just never moved on from their generational milieu. As someone who can now say he's in his forties, my take on the music of our formative years is less to do with not moving on and more to do with recalling what it's like to inhabit the past once again. You can't live there, but you can visit once in awhile. Songs can act like a time machine. They can recall not just the memory of what it was like back then, but what it felt like back then.
Last night I found myself sharing an old memory with some friends after our church service. I was a junior in high school and had several ongoing stressors, the greatest of which was my grandfather being hollowed out by Alzheimers. When I encounter stress, my body responds in various ways but most significantly as exhaustion. Always tired. I just can't get enough sleep. A real Rip Van Winkle situation.
At this point in high school, I ended up being a junior in a sophomore biology class due to needing to cram a required science credit in before I graduated. Biology, at that time, was probably the least interesting class to me. I had hoped to take chemistry but I doubt the outcome would have changed at all. The biology teacher was notoriously difficult (to a teenager) and while he provided everything you needed to pass, you sort of had to work out the "how" all on your own.
I wasn't a student who enjoyed being disrespectful to teachers and staff. I honestly wanted to do well but this class just hit all the wrong buttons with me and I ended up finding myself immediately drifting off to sleep.
I did end up passing the class but it wasn't for my natural ability to study or strong personal discipline. I passed because of my two sophomore friends who sat in the seats directly in front of and behind me. You see, Jessica and Carissa carried me through that class. They did everything that they had no requirement to do to take care of me at a time when I just really couldn't do it myself.
Lectures were the worst given my "condition". I was out like a rock. These two would take notes in duplicate, then as the class was preparing to get excused, they would collate their copies, staple them, wake me up, explain what we covered, and hand me the notes. A sort of CliffsNotes for sad teenagers if you will.
During labs, they would always pair up with me and graciously walk me through a dissection. I have very odd memories of them with severed frog heads on the end of their fingers speaking to me in a terrible French accent like some twisted Muppet show.
Jess and Carissa carried me at a time when I couldn't. They didn't have to. They hadn't been directed to. They just did it because I needed it. I can't say I remember anything from that biology class and thankfully dissecting a frog isn't a life skill I've needed since. I will, however, always remember the grace that is the act of being carried.
That particular time of my life was extremely difficult and the memories it generated are painful. This little act of grace however is collated and stapled in with them. I'm thankful for that and I'm thankful for friends that carry us.Photo by MChe Lee on Unsplash