Keep lice away from your liver

I love language. I love English, I love other languages, and I love trying to make sense of a language I don’t speak in the language I do. I work with some people from Germany, one of whom I’m pretty close to. She and her husband are moving back to Germany this coming Saturday, and Friday is her last official day in the office. I’m going to miss her terribly. What’s more, I’m going to miss our hilarious conversations about language and idiom.

As a fellow lover of languages, my friend and I have had many conversations comparing English to German and vice versa. We had the chance to have lunch together one last time yesterday, so we jumped at it and ran down to our “regular” place, a cozy little restaurant called Caffe Moderne. It was soggy and somewhat nasty outside, not exactly cold but not warm either. I pulled into the parking lot, looking for a space close to the restaurant—not because either of us are lazy but because my friend is about six months pregnant.

I was heading for the parking garage across the plaza, but I thought I’d make one more circuit just in case a spot opened. Well—one did. So I drove up to it and parked. We climbed out and started to go into the restaurant, and this car pulled up behind us, and the lady inside started shouting at us about how we’d stolen her parking space. My first response was horror because I certainly hadn’t intended to do anything of the sort, and I indicated my friend and her obviously pregnant state. The lady’s response shocked me: she shouted, “I don’t care!” and drove off.

Neither of us really knew how to react. I actually felt really bad about it, but I hadn’t seen her waiting for the spot. If she’d been that dead set on it, we certainly wouldn’t have minded giving it to her, but we’re not mind readers. And, seriously, to roll down your window and shout at two strangers about how they stole your parking place? When one of them is obviously pregnant? Really, lady?

Afterward, once my friend and I had calmed down some, we got to talking about how we could have handled it differently. And my friend told me I should have asked her if a louse had crawled across her liver. If it were any other German, I would think they didn’t know English, but my friend is fluent in both, and as much as we love to compare idiom, I knew this had to be something in German.

Ihm ist eine Laus über die Leber gelaufen. Literally it means, “A louse ran across his liver.” It’s used to indicate that someone is in a bad mood. What’s more, it’s used to indicate that someone is in a bad mood about something that doesn’t matter. It’s a problem the size of a louse.

Empty cicada shell on the garage wall at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Empty cicada shell on the garage wall at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verse is Proverbs 14:29.

People with understanding control their anger;
a hot temper shows great foolishness.

I can sit here and criticize this grouchy woman in the car all day long, but how many times have I been in her shoes? Granted, I’ve never rolled down my window and chastised a pregnant woman for taking my parking place. But how many times have I gotten my undies in a twist over things that don’t matter? How many mole hills have I turned into mountains? How much trouble have I caused myself trying to prepare for something that never happens?

I don’t want to admit how often I get irritated or frustrated by life in general. I’d like to think I’m fairly good at letting stuff roll off, but I’m not nearly as talented at it as I should be. If it were up to me, I’d say I’m probably a better person than the lady in the car because I don’t take out my frustrations on other people. I don’t automatically, selfishly assume that everyone who gets between me and what I want is intentionally trying to hurt me. But I feel that way. Just because I don’t express those feelings out loud doesn’t mean I haven’t felt them, that I haven’t thought them, that my heart hasn’t whispered those things to me and I let myself believe them. So there’s no better person in this circumstance; there’s just one who does a better job of keeping her mouth shut.

So am I saying that we shouldn’t get upset about stuff? Not at all. There are some things in life that are worth speaking up about. There are some instances where you need to speak up and try to stop what is about to happen or to try to prevent something from happening again in the future, and there’s no cookie cutter description to identify those times. You just have to choose them for yourself. That goes back to choosing which hill you want to die on.

But think before you speak. Give yourself a moment to consider what you’re getting upset about before you shoot your mouth off. Ask yourself if you’re being unreasonable and talk through it logically, and if you can’t talk through it logically, you’re too upset to be communicating with anyone. It’s very likely that the person you’re getting ready to spit nails at doesn’t even realize you’re upset with them.

All I can say is that I’m glad this lady didn’t have an ichthys on the back of her car. If she did, I’d have something else to say about her behavior.

In any case, the more upset you get about things that don’t matter, the more idiotic you look to the people you’re screaming at. You may think you’re standing up for your right to park, but really you’re just demonstrating an immense lack of self-control. And then when you top it off by implying that a pregnant woman should just be grateful to hike across a parking lot in the rain, you’re just coming off like a psycho.

Let it go. There’s more to life than where you get to park your car, although I doubt anyone in Wichita ever believed that. There’s more to life and living than the tiny little insignificant issue you’re facing right now. To draw from the German idiom, keep lice away from your liver.

Life is bigger than its tiny irritations. Stay focused on the things that matter. Trust me; your life will be much happier. And you’ll be far less likely to irritate the writer who intends to use you as an example of childish behavior in every blog post, short story, dramatic sketch, and novel from here to kingdom come. Maybe this lady should apply for a job at Verizon….

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