Friday, April 1, 2011

A Conversation with Myself

For the last three days a migraine headache has had a death grip on my body. I couldn’t eat or sleep, I just sat around the apartment feeling (and looking) miserable. I used to get them all the time, but they have become a very rare occurrence in my life. For those who get them or know someone with them, migraines are difficult to manage because everyone has different triggers for them. Mine are typically perfumes and stress. I am guessing that this latest one is due in large part to stress.

I can hear you all saying now (sarcastically, I might add), “what do you have to be stressed about?” Well, my German-Norwegian-Lutheran upbringing can create stress where none exists. I have become mostly immune to those voices, but every now and then they try to have their own little “come to Jesus” meeting with me. Hence the headache…

The Norwegians are represented by my Grandpa G who was a minister in the Assembly of God Church, the Germans by my Grandma Hauck who was a master of getting the “good” out of everything, and my Lutheran heritage by a committee (naturally) of old friends who believe what they believe because they’ve always believed it, period. I am representing myself.

The reason for this meeting, I think, is that I am happy; happier than a German-Norwegian-Lutheran really ought to be. To some it would appear to be a life without purpose, whatever that means. I find my days to be very pleasant. They are filled with food and wine and sunshine, walking and cycling and making love, new friends and old friends and friends yet to be. I do all this under endless blue skies to the sound of centuries-old church bells and Italian conversation. I‘m not homesick, I am unafraid of the future and thoroughly enjoy each day to its’ fullest.

No one at this meeting seems impressed with my happiness. Grandpa G drums his fingers on the table, obviously troubled by the fact that his oldest grandchild has taken to drinking wine. And not just at dinner, but for lunch! Drinking in the middle of the day can only mean one thing, you know. AND I’m living in sin. He is watching me closely…but I just don’t seem very sorry about my slide from grace. I am very afraid that this is the one time he will be unable to find a Bible passage that captures this moment for him. Well, not one with any comfort in it, that’s for sure. Probably one that involves smoting and I am on the receiving end.

Grandma Hauck clears her throat every five seconds but finds it hard to actually speak. She is concerned because I am eating my fill at every meal. She always made sure that people at her table were fed in the correct order…Men first because they worked the hardest, children next because they were growing and the women eat what’s left. Or not, if you can save enough for another meal. Saving is the key word here. If I’m not saving something back then I am not planning for my future. She saved everything: tinfoil, plastic bags, newspapers, sweet-n-low packages from restaurants. She wore her clothes till you could see through them, which wasn’t indecent because it showed just how dedicated she was to not wasting anything. She struggles with how to nicely tell me that I am not being careful enough and having too much fun now only means trouble later.

The Lutheran committee, after gathering the coffee makings, deciding who will take notes and telling a couple of bad jokes to lighten the mood get down to business. Somehow I seem to have misunderstood the message of Luther. Life is not about my own personal pleasure. They aren’t concerned about my life now, but want to know…what I am doing about my eternal life? In this orgy of food and drink and love, where is my struggle to know God and to understand His purpose for my life? My purpose certainly isn’t to simply enjoy the life He is providing for me. Nope, if I were truly devout, I would turn away from the pleasures put before me. If I am feeling at peace with God, and worthy of this kind of life, well, they are certain I am mistaken. Life is supposed to be a struggle, you get to rest in heaven. If you rest here, what’s left to look forward to?

No wonder I got a headache. All good arguments, as far as they go. But each of them is speaking out of their own experience, and not mine. Their ways to peace and fulfillment aren’t mine. In their own way, each of them is right. But not completely. It is also probably good to remind myself that I can stop listening at any time.

I know can’t simply float along enjoying each moment and not consider the future. But I don’t have to go to the other extreme either. I need to find a balance between work and play, or find work that is play…oooh, I think I may be on to something there.

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