“I really think I’ll be okay / They’ve taken their toll, these latter days…”
So sings the hauntingly beautiful voice of Karen Berkquist, the mesmerizing vocal behind Over the Rhine, the songsmiths that most closely capture my moods of late. It is true, these “latter days” have been quite taxing, and now I sit in my little cubbyhole desk in the teachers’ offices, hunched with specific care over my computer so as not to further aggravate the lower back pain I am suffering today (that’s what three and a half hours of Monday night, blow-off-steam, adult basketball and volleyball will do to a body). Spread around me is a smattering of work I need to catch up on, but like any stretch of free time that comes as a blessing, I cannot help but squander a small portion of it by taking time to update the ol’ blog. The seventy or so essays by my 11th grade students will have to wait a little longer. My red pen is running out of ink anyway.
I have never been proud of the way I deal with stress. In college, I met stress as tranquil as a banshee with a migraine. I might never have come off as dapper as a Dr. Jekyll on a normal day, but I could certainly pass for a Mr. Hyde while engaged in combat against stress. I am still embarrassed by the manner in which I often conducted myself before such trivial stresses as set-up snags for the college coffeehouse I directed, or contending with the network printer when trying to print out the final copies of a class project. I would never be mistaken for a jolly, care-free individual. And, lately, I recognize the same mood swings as an easy temptation in which to fall.
“One thing at a time, World!” I want to scream. Even after two months in Germany, there are still so many things that are not properly established and still require so much help that I am losing track of what I need to do next. Recently, I found out the reason our Internet was not being set up by Telekom was not because they were slow, but because, according to their records, our account did not include it (forget about the fact that we asked for it and complained about it to them numerous times). Not only this, but Internet itself is impossible to receive at our farm apartment, way out in the cornfields, unless you have a satellite that can accept service being beamed from a nearby town. This costs A LOT of money. We have a friend working on this for us right now, but I am not getting my hopes up, and so Internet-usage has dwindled to the few and far between moments of free time Leigh and I can find during our busy days at school. Once we are at home amidst the corn, we feel cut off from the rest of society, and, in reality, this is not far from the truth. In addition to this major problem, we still have banking issues, shipping issues, and I just found out that Match.com is charging my credit card for services I never requested (until today, I have never even been to that ridiculous site). So, obviously, the stress is here. And still, to my right sits the folder full of essays and a stack of rubric sheets awaiting a grade.
The worst feeling that accompanies the rolling waves of stress (for they always come in crashing waves, rather than one gentle lap against the shore of my equilibrium) is that I often do not feel as if I have arrived, as far as life itself is concerned. There is always the dangerous thought that, eventually, everything will be squared away and I will be fully engaged in the living of a life that I have, until now, only been growing into. One day I will have time. One day everything will make sense. One day I will be the person I have always wanted to – or dreamed I would – be.
Lies! It never ends. In one way or another, the waves do not stop. And it is not simply a missionary thing…
And so, I will plan to get to those essays tomorrow, to finish them and hand them back to the students before the week is over. I will wait to hear from my friend about the Internet mystery. I will bring the correct banking documents in order to work with another friend on our account troubles. I will hope some boxes arrive in the mail soon. I will keep taking Ibuprofen in hopes that my back pain will subside. I will keep thinking. I will keep breathing. And, in the midst of it all, I will pray for an awareness of the Presence. Perhaps the simple knowledge of Its nearness will comfort the stress, will still the raging waves.
May you come to an awareness of the Presence. May you not become captives of the thousand inevitable stresses of this life.
Some images from the last few weeks…