Tag Archives: life lessons

The Thing Tim Haight Taught Me, A Long Time Ago

I was in the band starting in 6th grade. I played percussion. I could read music decently well, so I primarily played the bells (the little xylophone-looking thing made out of metal rather than wood) until high school, but also dabbled in drums and other keyed instruments of various sorts (like an actual xylophone).

Any excuse to show off my band uniform– that’s a xylophone, bells on the right. Well, it was a glockenspiel, actually, but same thing.

My freshman year of high school, I officially joined the drumline and played the snare drum when we marched. I don’t know what it’s like to be in any other section of the band because I’ve only experienced what I’ve experienced… but my impression was that drumline was a bit different.

Drumline! My senior year at a football game. See that lady quad player??? The coolest... be impressed by her. Very, very impressed.
Drumline! My senior year at a football game. See that lady quad player??? The coolest… be impressed by her. Very, very impressed.

You see, we had to play cadences (da! dig-a-dig-a-dig-a-da! go!) and keep time while everyone else was marching along between songs. It makes sense, really, since our instruments didn’t require lung capacity (only bladder capacity– those harnesses press down right on your bladder) so we could play and play and play without needing the break everyone else did. Except that meant extra practice, a special drumline coach, and a general level of rowdiness that was disconcerting for a nerdy little goodie-two-shoes like me. Which is what made Tim Haight so scary to me.

Tim was musically gifted, but alternative– to say the least. He didn’t follow the rules and didn’t care if he got in trouble for it (gasp!) and he scared me because people who don’t follow rules and don’t care about the consequences are unpredictable. I made a lot of assumptions about him.

He called me on it one day.

I don’t remember what I had said, done, or assumed or why Tim felt the need to call me on it at that moment, but he said to me, “You know what happens when you assume something, don’t you?”


“You make an ass out of and me.”

Jaw drop, heart stop.

It was a pun (a very, very clever and punny pun!) and it was crazy true.

I had never heard that adage before and I’m sure I reacted to hearing it that time very poorly, but it was a good lesson for me. I’d like to tell you I stopped making assumptions right then and there, but that would be a big fat lie and Tim would probably happen to read this one blog entry and call me on it in front of all of you… so I won’t lie. I do still think of that day from time to time though, and every time I find myself ashamed at the assumptions I continue to make.

Most recently, I’ve found myself making assumptions about other people’s intentions. My therapist called me on it this morning. (I’m not certain, but I suspect Tim may have grown up, changed his name, purchased some khakis, and moved to Marshfield to practice psychology…)

It’s never easy to hear someone else talk about your weaknesses– the things you don’t like about your character, the way you should have acted, the assumptions you shouldn’t have made. But that’s what I pay the good doctor for, so I had to choke it down. And now I’m forced to think about it. Ugh.

Self-awareness can be so obnoxious.

It was a lot easier to live in an assumption-fueled rage.

It shouldn’t be though. Because truly, I pride myself on putting my faith in other people and trusting in them to be doing the things most suitable to their own conscience. At least, I thought I did. But I think when it comes to moments why I feel personally hurt or affronted, I automatically assume that the hurt was intentional. Even though, logically and rationally, I can recognize that that’s probably not the case.

My freshman year of college, I lived in West Wadsworth Hall at Michigan Tech (West Wads!!!) in a hall called Good Intentions… as in what the road to hell is paved with.

The Good Intentions broomball team 2002... cleverly named Cruel Intentions. Because it's the opposite. And opposites are... clever?
The Good Intentions broomball team 2002… cleverly named Cruel Intentions. Because it’s the opposite. And opposites are… clever?

And it’s true. Because despite our best intentions, we still end up inflicting hurt on other people, and no one is immune to that. Myself included. (Waaaahhh!! I’m not perfect!!!!) I have a much easier time forgiving myself for hurting someone with my best intentions, though, than I do forgiving someone else for hurting me– based largely on the assumption that I know their intentions to be malevolent.

(Btw, I really like the words malevolent and benevolent. They’re good words.)

I’d probably be a happier person if I assumed the reverse. If I could think “wow. That hurt. But I trust that to hurt was not the intent, and I can move on” instead.

It’s not nearly as satisfying, of course, because very little feels more satisfying in the short term than self-righteous anger. But it’s probably a lot healthier, emotionally speaking, in the long run. Dang.

I’m certainly not there yet, but having had my assumptions pointed out to me, I can feel something inside me breaking. It makes me feel like I understand why people hold on to power and anger and resentment so desperately though, because it’s painful to let forgiveness and understanding and patience take their place. It’s painful to admit that you were wrong. And nobody likes to be in pain, no matter how temporary.

Tim was older than me and different from me and our paths crossed only briefly, but he was fascinating and he left a mark on my life that I’ll never forget. At 14, I never would have expected his silly words (and a swear word even!) to be so profound, and yet here we are… amazing, isn’t it?

I’m a Little Teapot

Perhaps sometimes there really is no silver lining. Sometimes something is just plain terrible.  The unexpected ending of a life, a relationship.  However, that doesn’t make that thread any less important in your tapestry. It’s still there and even though dark and gloomy doesn’t feel good, it’s part of the picture, it serves a purpose, whether or not it’s something we can understand. The story I’m about to tell you is like that– it’s sad, I don’t understand it, and neither will you, but I did learn something and that’s what I need to tell you about.

In 2000, my friend Nate passed away– suddenly and tragically, just days after his high school graduation.

Nate and I grew up together. He lived just two houses down the street and I think he spent as much time at my house as he did at his own. His parents were my parents and mine were his. I went to family reunions with him, we played GirlTalk with his cousins, and he played Ninja Turtles with my brother when my sister and I were making him do too many girly things. Our families were incredibly close and we all loved Nate. When he died, we were stunned.

There are a lot of things I remember about Nate– the last time I saw him, his big bright smile and blue and white striped shirt, the celebration of his life, his beautiful life, at his funeral, his football number (64), the day we fished for catfish (and I actually ate it!), and the first time I laid eyes on Janet’s beautiful furniture (she was the most sophisticated woman I had ever met)– but none of these things are as poignant as the wake. That wake will stay with me forever and ever, for a number of reasons.

First, the line. The line to see Nate wrapped around and around the building. So many incredibly sad people, lined up to say goodbye, lined up to tell CJ and Janet how sorry they were, lined up to shed some tears. It was a line from here to eternity. I have no idea how long we stood in that line. But I know how I felt every moment. Scared.

I remember the body. How it was only the body because Nate was not there. He looked like Nate, he was dressed like Nate, but it obviously wasn’t Nate. It was more like a wax museum statue of Nate. His soul, his self, the thing that made him Nate wasn’t there.

I remember my parents. They. were. so. sad. I remember my dad crying and touching Nate’s face. I remember my mom hugging Janet while Janet cried, “Beth, our baby! Our baby is gone, Beth!”

And I remember being alone with my grief for just a moment. Tears streaming down my face. Recognizing Nate in that coffin and knowing that this was real. I remember the way it felt for my parents to be busy dealing with their own grief and unable to deal with mine. And it was hard because I needed someone to comfort me.

And then someone did. Two someones did.

First, the nurse.

She was a tiny little lady in a pristine white nurse’s uniform, complete with the little white hat. She had a box of kleenexes and she handed me one. She hugged me and said, “It’s ok, baby girl, you let it out now.” And I did, I let it all out– the tears, the snot, the sobs. I couldn’t stop and I didn’t care. I just needed to be sad.  She was an angel on Earth, I wonder if she knows that.

Second, the judge.

Nate’s grandpa, Janet’s dad, was a judge. He was a big, tall, regal-looking man and if I gave you three guesses as to his profession, judge would have been one of them. You just knew he was important and decisive. And he was the second person to hug me at Nate’s wake. And he told me, and I will never ever forget what he said as long as I live:

“God made use like teapots. Crying is how we release the steam.”

Yes, God made us like teapots. And crying is how we release the steam.

Have you ever heard a more beautiful analogy? Have you ever just needed a good cry? Have things ever gotten to the point where crying was the only option, nothing else would do? Because God made us like teapots…

I spent days, weeks, a good long while completely stunned and a lot of that time is very blurry. I remember coming home from work and my parents asking me to sit down while they told me the news. And I remember crying. I remember the skirt I wore to the funeral. It wasn’t black. I remember being at Pioneer football field. I remember the song those four guys sang. I remember being sad. But most of all, I remember that God made us like teapots, and crying is how we release the steam.


Click here and scroll down to read Nate’s thoughts on living life with no regrets.


Number 64