My first car was one that was passed around the family for a long time. It was a stick-shift which I grew to love, but was pretty old and rickety by the time I was finally graced with the privilege of driving it as my own. Still, it ran. And as a poor college student, that was the important fact: it ran.
On numerous occasions, I remember being in the car and seeing smoke– of various colors– billowing out behind us, clouding the view of drivers unfortunate enough to have been behind me.
Seriously, that car ran until it could run no more.
Today, I felt this way. I call it the “smoking car syndrome”. There are days where I feel like I have grinding gears and smoke of a black nature that would indicate approaching failure of a vital organ. The organ in question would be my brain.
Both last week and this found me talking with a dear bilingual Japanese friend back home who is an incredible help and asset to our ministry. I wanted to consult with the tax office to research into the tax system here in Japan and find out how things work so we could make plans for the future, but I knew that this was way out of my league.
So I explained to my friend what I knew of the forms and how they work, referencing my handy-dandy tax booklet.
(See, in Japan, everyone does their own taxes– or, in many cases, the company files for them. Hiring someone to do it for you is mucho, mucho dinero– so people do it themselves when they have to).
After explaining my A+D=Fx2 situation to her via video chat on my computer, I put my phone on speaker and called the local tax office for a good ‘ole round of “confuse the tax agent”.
If I could paint the scene for you, you’d see me cross-legged on my bed, surrounded by books, chin in my hand staring down as I hold my phone to the laptop screen.
This is where that smoke starts to come in.
Mostly my friend and the agent held the conversation, going back and forth and confirming/correcting things while I tried to follow along and grab various forms/papers to hold up to the screen when need be and write down notes when I could.
Two phone calls, 3 hours, and research in-between by all of us, and I think we’ve come to an understanding of how things work in our unique situation and some good next-steps.
Afterward, as my brain gratefully sputtered to a stop after all this processing and deducing, I noticed the smoky car syndrome. This means that for the next period, you may not get anything coherent out of me. And what you do get from me may be filled with long pauses between words. Hopefully there are no crises with kids or projects until my brain has effectively cooled down and I can try turning the ignition to see what else I may be able to accomplish that day.
Granted, there are seasons where smoky-car syndrome is less frequent than other times. The last year, I feel like it’s more chronic…
But still, the car runs! We’re still going! Some days a little spluttery or clunketty, and requiring some proper cooling down, but we’ll make it.