It is a rare gift to like someone before you know them. This past week I had the chance to get coffee with a new friend, and I came with a hopeful heart. I had already heard about how we should be friends through one of my very best friends. Saritha knows me incredibly well and if she said we should be friends, I believed her. As I sat across the table from my new friend, there was a familiar comfortability that comes with people you connect with well. It felt funny and wonderful that it would happen so quickly, and honestly, before we’d even begun to be friends in person. Anne Shirley might call this connection “a kindred spirit” and someone else might just say that this is just what it is to be friends. Either way, I’m in.
That’s how If you feel too much: thoughts on things found and lost and hoped for felt to me. I already liked Jamie before I even picked up his book. Donald Miller has a chapter about his friendship with Jamie in his book Scary Close, which is also included as the forward of Jamie’s book. As Don wrote about this tender, brave man who helps others when they’re hurting and loves people enough to tell them the truth, I liked him immediately. When his book came out this year, I knew I wanted to read what he had to say. After all, I knew I already liked him even if I didn’t know him yet.
I hadn’t even gotten past the introduction that Jamie wrote before I knew I was all in. From the beginning, his honesty and kind heart are all you see. He shares about his process in writing this book, and I felt my hopeful writer’s heart take courage as he spoke. He wanted to write a book and even set aside time to do it. But the book wouldn’t write. He considered a ghostwriter and it felt too strange. But then, slowly, he realized that perhaps his book was already mostly written. He had written many words in the past ten years that were good and had helped people. It might be unconventional, but what I hold in my hands is the work of many years, patchworked together in a beautiful way to make a book. And in line with the patchwork nature, the first chapter is an honest email to his mom from 2005.
As I read, I slowed myself down. I wanted to savor his words and his story. I didn’t want to blaze through ten years of this man’s life. I wanted to pace myself as I read Jamie’s journey. Jamie shares many years worth of writing and as I read through his years, I could almost sense his heart expanding or his roots deepening. He writes about what Father’s Day feels like and how it felt to lose friends to death. He writes about meeting girls and things he worries about. He writes about the journey it was to help found To Write Love On Her Arms. He writes about songs and movies that meant something and how friends changed him. He writes about battling depression and the joy his nephew brings to his life. He gives permission through his own story to be in pain, to keep showing up, to be loved, to be human. He cheers you and me on in the work we are doing and the people we are becoming.
This is one of my favorite parts:
“I’m facing my own questions and struggles, wrestling with my dreams. My hope for both of us, for you and me alike, is that we won’t settle; we won’t walk away from what we love because it’s too hard or because people are mean or they don’t see what we see. Whether it’s songs or sales, whether you want to be a doctor or a teacher, in life and work alike, I hope you get to do the things you love. It’s easy to be a critic, easy to tear things down, easy to be blind. It’s a braver thing to build, to create, and to surprise.”
This book feels unconventional and wonderful. There are emails and poems and letters and reflections. It is like a scrapbook-journal-conversation hybrid of Jamie’s life that he’s offering us to read. It feels alive and raw and kind and deep. It is full of good things. It’s a beautiful reminder that we are not alone and our stories matter and it’s okay to be human.