Friday, September 5, 2014

Study time

Waking up every morning in the bed next to the Fuhrer was also something.
She would wake up, pray, go to the bathroom and start doing her "workout" in the living room, all without saying a word to me.
I'd say some variation of Good Morning! or Hey! or try to lighten the situation with some aside, but I was only met with a stone face and one or two word irritated responses if I asked a question. I came to see that she would not talk to me from the time we woke up until 9am, when we'd begin companionship study. I tried to accept this as normal, but it made me really sad and likely contributed to my misery! I know you might not be a morning person, but there's a certain warmness and decency you can still display even when exhausted....maybe I'm wrong.

At 7:58am, she would silently kneel to pray to open up her personal study time. She'd start reading her scriptures or Preach My Gospel, wordless still, eating cereal, sitting across the table from me. Then, at 8:58 she would get up and walk over to the carpet and kneel to pray solo. I would just imitate her behavior, worried that if I didn't kneel while praying or if my prayers were shorter in length (as they typically were), she would think less of me.  

At 9am she would finally talk to me, quizzing me on what I had studied in my one hour of "personal study" time. She would ask certain questions, and I'd answer in a way that was more personal than a rote response from the manual. For example, if we were studying prayer, I'd offer something like- "One time Elder Oaks came to our ward and made a great statement that prayer isn't a monologue, it's a dialogue. So that makes me think that....etc etc etc" But I quickly came to find that this was not correct. She would make a crooked face while looking in her PMG, shaking her head to indicate I was somehow wrong…or even flat out telling me, "Hmm, no. It's actually X…."
The only time I was 'right' was when I gave her word-for-word answers out of the book. She would hardly even look at me, checking for comprehension on elementary topics like "the spirit", "prayer" or "holy ghost". I hated to be prideful but so much of me wanted to scream out some variation of "HEY! Not even a year ago I was in an East Village bar recanting the Joseph Smith story to a nonmember friend who wanted to know. I think I know how to talk to people about this stuff! And even if I didn't, you think I didn't go to Primary or was paying attention even a fraction of the time in Seminary?" But no, she'd just get frustrated and ask me things like "Well, what DID you study in your personal study time, anyway?" And I would bring up things that were ultimately deemed "off topic" (even though they weren't…they just weren't rote).

But I just tried to accept the Fuhrer's method as The Way It Was Done, figuring that it was part of that "refiner's fire" that all missionaries go through. But part of me couldn't help from racking my brain thinking of all the people I knew who had served missions. I made myself think that ultimately, everyone else had gone through the same experience with study hour… so why was I having such a hard time? This question made me spiral into a lot of self-criticism:
"So-and-so did a mission and they are the most dim-witted person you know! And you can't answer the Fuhrer's questions 'correctly'?"
"Even lazy so-and-so did a mission, and you are having a hard time here? Get it together, you piece of shit! You aren't even learning a language!" I would tell myself over and over again.

Anyway, after a torturous 2 hours of this every morning (you study for 2 hours as a companionship in your first two transfers while you are being "trained" instead of the usual 1) and even if I was mid-sentence in thought, Fuhrer would cut me off and we'd kneel to pray, and then head out.


Valerie said...

Thank you for sharing this! It is really interesting and a lot of what I worried I would encounter if did a mission. I'm really sorry this happened, and am so glad you made it through alright and continue to be yourself.

Alexandra said...

@Val- I thought about you all the time when I was out there and wanted to be in Burkina with you! It's so good to hear from you.