Sunday, April 10, 2005

Abstinence Makes The Heart Grow Fonder

Thanks to Erica Vetsch, member of my writer's group that meets under the mentorship of Joy DeKok, for serving as my editor this week.
I love titles. In fact, I think I get as much enjoyment out of writing titles as I do writing the stuff that goes after them.

Take the title for this submission.

The play on words is obvious. The familiar platitude reminds us of two absent lovers’ hopes thriving while forced to separate for an anguishing, life-wrenching semester of college (or two weeks of family vacation). For some, absence worked. The heart yearned, burned and endured the separation only to celebrate the reuniting. For others, it merely made the inevitable demise possible.

Ah, but abstinence, that is a whole different story. It is not merely a platitude. It is a truth in multitude.

Think about it. Diets are all about abstaining. They are all about saying “No” to one thing and “Yes” to what tasted like the wrapper the last candy bar you ate came in. I remind myself, when tempted to indulge in a Tootsie Roll, that I am not sweating at the “Y’ just to create an opportunity to indulge.

How about sleep? Do you ever struggle, feel the strain, become overwhelmed with the danger of needing to sleep, all the while hurtling down I-35, 5 minutes from Albert Lea and within one hour of home? How the heart is so fond of sleep at just that minute.

Conditioned to abstain from time to time, we hear, “It is for your own good.” “It will make you stronger,” echoes through the halls. “You will be a better person” and “You will appreciate the sacrifice someday,” are submitted as encouragement. Just then you look up from your second bowl of salad and see your loved one get three more slices of thick crust pepperoni pizza with extra sauce and cheese.

Don’t think these familiar phrases describe a shell game played on us by friends and loved ones trying to acquaint us with pain. Abstinence - it actually works. It really has a purpose in our life. There are times we need to abstain. But what is it that reaches into our mind and dredges up dread when told we must forego something which, only 24 hours before, barely blipped on our radar?

We know if we are to abstain, it will depend on us. To be absent means someone left. You can’t do much about that. To abstain means to give up, go without, cease and desist. It means we initiate everything and ultimately have no one to blame but ourselves. It comes down to saying, “I put myself on the line. I have the discipline, the foresight and the wisdom to make a decision that wilts lesser mortals.

Abstinence can bring out the best in a person. Absence simply inconveniences us. Abstinence can define us, direct us and make us wholly true to our calling. Absence passes the time until “the next big thing.”

Abstinence is full of worth, filled with vision and packed with purpose. Absence is valueless. The very nature of morality is bound up in abstinence. There is no morality in absence.

Abstinence affirms that I am not simply a consumer. Ecological stewardship runs on the commitment to abstain. Financial development depends on abstinence. The blossoming of marital union requires you know the difference between fidelity and “tom-catting.”

Abstinence creates its own reward. It builds capacity and it heightens hope. It creates the opportunity for a clearer understanding and gives time to chart the future. In the end, it is more than just saying, “I won’t.”

It is about saying, “Because, I will.”