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Can’t hear the teacher with beans in your ears

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Staff writer Abby Hollingsworth is a junior English writing major.

Every time I get out of the shower, I have a sudden urge to clean my ears. If you think about it, they are probably never cleaner than at that moment, still holding on to the precious few shampoo suds I just couldn’t shake. Even as they crackle in my ear, my cleansing process feels incomplete and tainted by some particle of dirt that might remain lodged in the bubbles. I feel unbalanced and a bit water-logged until I find a Q-tip and flagrantly disobey the box’s instructions “not to insert into a body cavity.”

Swab of the right ear. Check.

Swab of the left ear. Check.

Now, I feel clean.

I’ve recently recognized this as just one example of my need to have the final swab of control in the most intricate areas of my life. Rather literally, I feel the need to shove a bean-sized piece of cotton on a stick into the delicate regions of my inner ear. In a broader (less graphic and sometimes painful) sense, this need to squeegee is a direct parallel to my itch to have the final meddle in other arenas of control.

Control has always been presented to me as a good thing. Coaches preached that you have to keep control of the ball if you want to dribble past that defender. I’ve constantly been warned that it is necessary to maintain some semblance of control over your finances, your weight, and your temper. Control is essential to living a balanced, healthy life. Right? Certainly. But I’m beginning to realize that control should not be sought after universally, that there are areas of life better left in more capable hands.

This week, for example, I attempted to shove the Q-tip of control into several relationships, my plans for the future, and my academic success. I never knew I had so many ears to swab. In each of these and a host of other delicate situations, I’ve been challenged to recognize that the Q-tip it would take to keep these areas effectively clean would be far too large for me to hold. I’m picturing the giant stick with punching bags on either end that they joust with on American Gladiator (Yes, I just admitted to watching that!). My futile attempts to shove such a giant weapon into my ears would be both physically dangerous and certainly humorous to watch. Yet, I do it every day.

Have the last word in that decision. Check.

Be better than the competition. Check.

Know what is coming in the future. Check.

Now, I’m in control.

The thing about swabbing is that I never really get clean. I can still feel a little water in my ear an hour after my shower. And swabbing harder only endangers my hearing. A trip to the ear doctor would probably show that my ears are just fine with a little water in them, and that the Q-tip box is right about not shoving small things into them. I’d be reminded that my body is quite capable of handling a little dirt and that a doctor should be the one to remove anything serious.

It is healthy to have good ear hygiene. This should be kept in mind. My attempt at an extended metaphor is not a cry for dirty ear cavities. I’m simply realizing that I cannot and should not maintain control over every area of my life at all times... I can’t keep them all squeaky clean. There is an element of trust that is crucial to faith, trust that my life is quite capable of handling a little uncertainty and that I’m not ultimately the one who is in control of removing it. I’m still quite fond of the clean feeling I get after my post-shower swab. I’m certain that God smiles when we are able to rejoice in the certainties he’s promised us. Yet, I’m becoming more comfortable with the idea of a little water in my ears and a bit of uncertainty that comes when I give up that final swab of control.

February 28, 2008

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