As a child I imagined growing up occurred when I could look back and admire how awesome I had become. When I could look back and be impressed by how strong, brave, intelligent, and capable I had become—then I was grown up. To this I aspired.
Then I discovered that growing wise manifested when I perceived the true unravelling of myself. When I became undone so that every strength I imagined turned to dust in my hands—that is where wisdom grew. So it was in eight hard years that I grew more in wisdom than in all the years I aspired to grow up. In eight years I lost so much of what I wanted to think about myself, but it is in growing down (in humility) that I learned what is the truly important kind of growth.
That is a good thing. And yet, I find the cost in ways I didn’t expect, and harder than I anticipated. That is life.
The journey isn’t over.
Here I am, now. At this place time frightens me, in many ways. One way time unsettles me is how it and forgetfulness walk hand in hand.
One day passes, then another. Soon it seems like only yesterday, but a is year gone. What of true import has been forgotten, swept from memory’s storehouse?
Today it is a year and months since Grandma died last June. I moved quickly from that end, an end which drew stage curtains on eight years with the finality of a last breath.
I prefer life sorted, but those eight years defy all attempts to quantify the stretch and the strain. When I try to sum the journey my words sound like paradox. Hard times, the hardest of times, the worst thing for me. A time of learning and growing, the best thing for me. I walked out of that journey feeling weaker than I had ever felt before, more battered, more broken—and it was the very thing I had needed to pass through. It felt like the worst thing, but it was the best. The old truth shows up again: what we need is so often not what we want, or like.
I marvel at the many ways I broke—or, better put, my existing brokenness was revealed. In every journey the school of life teaches.
Then after Grandma’s show was over I walked away from that trial, and I was afraid I would forget. No, I am afraid. When I feel like I have seen great things, feel the weight of meaning, and learning—I become afraid that I have not learned all I should, and will quickly forget what I did grasp. All lost in time’s passing until I am as impoverished in spirit as before (if not more so).
Like a digging goad, hard times force me to consider difficult thoughts. In the crucible of trial I thought more, felt more, learned more, than in the years prior. That is struggle. In the span of eight hard years I apprehended important things about myself and life; humbling, hard, and sublime truths—some which I hope to share, some for which I may never find words. But when the curtain closed on those eight years of labor how thrilling the sensation I felt: Free now.
Then I thought, Free to live in apathy?
When there is no prickling pain from the rasp of life’s rough grain thoughts can quickly turn idle. What a tragic waste if all the things I had seen and learned from eight hard years quickly dulled and disappeared in comfortable days. In some almost perverse way I felt as if it were better if I didn’t come out of those hard times. Better to stay there and know the truth of myself clearly. Strike me again, I’ll know truth in the sting.
How easy to recommend myself while in comfort—I see that when comfort and confidence desserts me–and there is a repulsion when I feel the falsity of that old thought. I’ve seen a truer through the prism of difficulty. If the lash of life’s hard times makes me wiser, more humble, more mature, then isn’t it better to always walk such a road?
Like a starving man come back to food, days of comfort felt like gluttony—a thing uncomfortably held, intoxicating and slightly obscene in its pleasantness. Why should I have this? Are good times just a trick to make us forget how difficult hard times are, to make us fat and lazy in false comfort so that the battle of life is much more difficult? After eight years certain habits of thought are hard to shake. Why should I have a pleasant time when others in the world are suffering? It felt wrong to not have a burden to carry, as if I needed to find something for which I could suffer.
Struggling felt like remembering truth, being battered became tied with understanding the mortal lot. Standing in that muddled place, I was afraid that I would forget what carrying a burden had taught me. I never remember the truths that suffering brings to light so well as when I am living it. Time quickly dulls the edge, and I can say with certainty that those eight years are dimmer than before, and will be dimmer still. The true loss from those eight years would not be the time spent in service but rather to not learn, or not retain, the truth of what such suffering time taught.
I fear that dullness and forgetting will render all that I once saw, felt, and knew, null and void. Mental disease offers the excuse of human frailty—what I dread is the moral failure that doesn’t truly care to reflect and recall the uncomfortable things once learned. There I find myself balanced, grateful for what I have learned even at cost, and fearful I may forget. I look for an answer, an assurance.
I can’t promise myself that I won’t forget. Neither can I figure out what is the right proportion for trouble and ease in my schooling of learning wisdom’s ways. Some days it feels like I’ve had too much hardship and failure already, other days not enough. But when I feel the fear that I will walk through life with a numb soul, and that all I have seen and learned will fall away in the futility of forgetfulness, the only comfort I can find is the truth that the God who apportions to each their measure of trial and comfort knows the nature of what discipline I need. As he taught me through all the hard times, so it is only he who will keep me from forgetting every truth learned. That is the only hope which keeps me from the terrifying sentence of repeating history.