The Life Between the Line

pencil-1692531_1920I remember my parents making fun of my brother, Stephen, for how terrible he was at communicating when he was in boarding. They always said, “It’s difficult to read between the line,” because there was only ever one, in his emails. He’s never been a man of many words when it comes to writing.

As I look back on the past several months, I wonder if my parents are saying the same thing about me. I think about the amount of short ‘one-liners’ I’ve sent off to my parents or friends lately. I know I mean well. I’m always wanting to set aside a good chunk of time at some point to write a proper email and give a more full picture of things, but it usually doesn’t happen. My all-or-nothing approach with emails usually means people either get emails that resemble text messages, or nothing at all. I’m still waiting for that time when I decide to sit down and write out a proper email.

Unfortunately, so much of life happens between the lines. So many of the thoughts we have throughout the day, or the experiences we go through, never quite make it out to the people who want to hear all about it. I realize this even with Michelle each day, as things get missed or forgotten. And it’s always the craziest or best stories that are the hardest to relate. Some of the biggest lessons, impressions, and insights seem to fall into the blank silences between the lines, as words so often fail to express the beauty and complexity of these moments.

As everyone knows, it’s often when more things are happening in life that communication gets harder and harder. And as the schedule fills up, the conversations are pushed to the sidelines. It doesn’t mean that the conversations become secondary, it just means that as the quantity of story to tell increases, the motivation to tell it decreases. Before you know it, life becomes “a long story” that you hardly ever have time to tell, with all the backstory, prefaces and appendixes to everything that makes up our experiences.

That is, I suppose, the nature of life. So much of it is unexplainable and passes by in a beauty and chaos that can’t quite be captured in words. And yet, it also begs to be described and communicated. As the writer, Thomas Mann noted, “A writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.” And I’m sure, in the same way, it’s the most beautiful moments, of life that art and artists struggle to put to canvas, or to capture with a camera. It’s impossible.

Life is an unpaintable model. However, you may read between the lines in this post, and realize that I do need to work on my communication. I’m a procrastinator at my core, I think— especially when it comes to written communication — always waiting for that perfect moment to start something, when nothing else is getting in the way. But everything always gets in the way. And so, this is part of my effort at doing a better job — choosing to start, and put words on paper; choosing  to try to capture the fleeting moments of life.


I recently had some troubles with my car. One of the tires had developed a bulge, (which I didn’t realise at the time) and the whole car would wobble a little and tend to one side. It stressed me out. I had only recently got back from Pakistan and I was jet-lagged and tired. On top of this, I had just begun classes, which is always overwhelming, as students get bombarded with outlines of our assignments for the semester. On days like these I find myself going back to my room after class, lying on the bed and staring up at the ceiling wondering, how am I ever going to get through this?


Of course, it’s not actually as huge a mountain as it seems — it’s just a bit of an information overload. I think that’s often why God tends to keep us hanging in life, never revealing too much of the future. He knows we wouldn’t be able to handle the whole picture. Instead He gives us enough of a glimpse ahead to know where to put our foot next, but other than that, we’re left in the dark. I don’t always mind the dark, because I know if I could see everything ahead of me, I’d probably go lie down on my bed and stare at the ceiling forever. In fact, I might decide it’s just not worth getting out of bed at all.

Life can often be overwhelming, even in the little things. As I went through my first week, trying to muster up the energy to make a simply call, find a mechanic, and get my car looked at, I felt a little anxious. It was just a lot for me to handle, along with everything else that was going on. Tiny things in my day seemed like massive hurdles, as if anything on top of what I already had to go through would be the final straw for me. Sometimes I felt like a pressure cooker, ready to blow. Parents experience this stress a lot. I can remember times when I was little when, after one tiny issue, one of my parents would reach their limit. All the stresses that had been building up over time would burst. Suddenly a torrent of emotions would come gushing out, with a long list of all the tensions that had all been piling up within. I feel like it happens more often for moms. But I can sympathise. I don’t even have kids and I have days when I feel like I’m at the end of my rope. The smallest most unrelated event can often be the pin for the grenade that’s been slowly forming itself inside.

Thankfully it doesn’t always have to explode. I did finally get my car looked at. And two days later I had new tires on, and my heart was a thousand times lighter. I had been worrying that it would be something bigger in the suspension or steering, but thankfully it wasn’t. Tires are easy to replace. Not cheap, but easy. My long list of things that were going wrong in my life were suddenly all forgotten — because most of it really came down to the car. It’s interesting how that happens. Layer upon layer of stresses add themselves onto each other, all piled on one central problem. And once that single stress is removed, suddenly you realise the simple cause for all this turmoil, making everything else feel unbearable.

I may feel like a real idiot at times, but I’m glad things worked out the way they did. I’m glad I needed to learn to just go and get things dealt with. I wish I would have done it earlier. Now I know. Hopefully next time I have a problem, I’ll just deal with it before it gets to the point where it becomes overwhelming. I’m glad I’m learning, even though sometimes I would give anything to just have my problems solve themselves in my sleep. But God knows that I wouldn’t learn anything that way. He knows that I have growing to do, and though He doesn’t often make it painless, He is always faithful to walk with me through it. On top of this, I’m glad I have friends and family that are there for me too. Sometimes I just need people who are willing to talk to me and listen to me, while I unload the things that feel I can’t carry, only for me to pick them back up again after and get them dealt with. I’m so thankful for the listeners in my life.