Category: The Sun Magazine’s Topics


Noise

A couple writing friends and I have assigned ourselves writing exercises based on the The Sun Magazine‘s Readers Write topics. There is one due each month covering a wide array, but the submissions must be ones where you are the only authority–in other words, your personal experience. If you would like to participate, go to The Sun Magazine’s site here and view the topic due the first of the next month. That is our deadline, too. We share our results with each other for fun, not critique, unless you ask for some and the others have time. You don’t even need to share, it’s very relaxed. Just write. It’s amazing what comes out.

April 1 topic was Noise. I’ve been on the road and totally missed the deadline. Here it is late but done, albeit a bit scattered over the map, or should I say soundscape of moments in a life. Hearing starts before we are even born. We hear the sound of our mother and loud noises or music around her. Her heartbeat is probably our first sense of rhythm. Even the deaf can feel the vibration of sound waves. We use noise as a component to keep ourselves safe, becoming alert when something is awry. Noise follows all of us around all our life. Here are some noisy snippets from my life.

When I was a newborn my Mom was unable to surreptitiously check on me because my eyes would pop open and later my head would lift up in an inquisitive “what?”

Growing up in a quiet Dallas neighborhood, there was nothing finer on balmy summer nights than climbing the tree and scrambling onto the still warm roof to lay looking at the stars and listen to the cicadas susurration. Or hearing a wild mid-western storm crash and bang and flash, the wind whipping the trees around, hail sometimes pounding down on the roof.

Adelaide-storms

In college I dated a guy who apparently had thin walls in his share house because I found out much later that his room mate could hear my lusty cries when my boyfriend and I made love. That’s also the era my hearing took a beating from the many bands I saw. Monster speakers were in close proximity to the stage and one had to be as close as possible, right? Of course.

Pythagorus of Samos, Greece.

Pythagorus of Samos, Greece.

Pythagorus believed that music was akin to maths and the two were the underlying key to the Universe. We are therefore tuned in to music on a very basic level. He told a story of a young man he observed bent on revenge. A nearby shepherd was playing a martial air on his flute. Pythagorus told the shepherd to play a lullaby. Suddenly the angry man lost his desire to harm and abandoned his revenge, his savage breast soothed.

As an adult I marveled at the silent muting of snow, a rarity for a southern gal. The whisper of wind in the pines as I was camping was a joy as well. I’d find desolate spots by a river, usually in a National Forest, shunning designated campsites as unsafe for a solo woman. The isolation was somewhat eerie. In the quiet of the evening, sitting in front of a gently crackling fire, even a tiny bird or mouse can sound like a bear crashing throughout he underbrush. A fearful flashlight search discovered two tiny eyes at ground level. Was it laughing at me? Probably. I was. I’d pop an Ella Fitzgerald tape into my boom box and let her soothing voice relax me.

These days I generate my own noise. I have weak lungs and use one of those CPAP machines that most people only use at night for sleep apnea, but I use mine all the time. The air it helps blow into my lungs when I breathe in sometimes works at cross purposes when I’m eating or drinking. I snort and wheeze and gasp although I’m perfectly alright. Sometimes a high squeal escapes the nose piece mask when I naturally don’t breath so I can swallow. These circus noises are a bit disconcerting when in a quiet house, so when I’m with people who don’t know me or haven’t seen me in my current condition I like going out to restaurants. I welcome the din there to cover mine up. Why do I care about that instead of the absolute mess I make and therefore have to wear a bib? LOL. It’s strange where we draw the line. As I get older though vanity fades and practical comfort breathes a sigh of relief.

At home, my bedroom is constantly awash with the steady motor noise and whoosh of my oxygen concentrator and the soft rise and fall of the CPAP. People liken it to the sound of waves on a shingle beach. When I have to share a room on trips, they are lulled by the white noise so like the surf. Since we come originally from the sea and more recently the fluid of the womb and yet need to breath, I feel that these oceanic noises are somehow appropriate for respirators. If the electricity goes out my CPAP still works on battery but the concentrator falls silent. It’s almost too quiet then. I feel like a New Yorker trying to sleep in the countryside. Noise has come to mean comfort to me, to help me breathe, to keep me alive.

I’m a bit deaf now because the CPAP creates this roaring in my ears a lot. I find myself yelling to reach that subconscious threshold of volume we think we need to be heard. You can’t tell a loud person to quiet down and expect them to stay that way because once they get distracted they revert back to that threshold. I also have to have the TV volume higher. It’s becoming more and more necessary to just put the subtitles on. But my favorite button on the TV remote control is still MUTE. I relish that silence. Those loud-mouthed ads drive me crazy! They are truly noisy.

images

When does sound become noise? Is the difference in the ear of the listener? With age, does sound become noise if we get more cranky? I’ll keep you posted, because noise is determined to follow me around.

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Making Ends Meet

A couple writing friends and I have assigned ourselves writing exercises based on the The Sun Magazine‘s Readers Write topics. There is one due each month covering a wide array, but the submissions must be ones where you are the only authority–in other words, your personal experience. If you would like to participate, go to The Sun Magazine’s site here and view the topic due the first of the next month. That is our deadline, too. We share our results with each other for fun, not critique, unless you ask for some and the others have time. You don’t even need to share, it’s very relaxed. Just write. It’s amazing what comes out.

The topic due Mar. 1, 2015 was Making Ends Meet. I was stymied at first because although I’ve had a few lean times, I’ve never been destitute or never had family or community I couldn’t turn to for help. For this I am very grateful. I had to think of another way to approach this topic.

Last year in 2014, I read some non-fiction. I hate non-fiction. I read the same paragraph over and over, trying to visualize it and if I’m in bed I usually end up fast asleep in seconds. But I was curious to read a book I found at my mother’s house after her passing. It was a New Age self-help book without actually saying that. I scoff at self-help books usually, but since Mom was a staunch Catholic, definitely wary of anything New Age, this intrigued me. Why did she have it? I had to read it. I know she read at least some because she took a few notes.

It had good advice about how to speak your word with integrity, not taking things personally and striving to do your best. I found it uplifting and affirming of lessons I’d gleaned and discovered in my life. I was hooked and shared this story with a few friends. They suggested another non-fiction book about achieving happiness, and that author’s suggested reading led me to another, none of which caused sleep! Perhaps it really is true that when you are ready, a teacher appears.

I started to apply the suggestions from these books, both internally and in outwardly practice and I began to notice that my life was becoming happier, and fabulous events were occurring, too. The phrase “build it and they will come” sprung to mind as my surge of happiness released mental blocks and mild depression that had plagued my adolescent and adult life. I did projects that had been on the list for years. I no longer had bad dreams and woke up feeling heavy, struggling to let my natural optimism and drive reestablish control. In fact, I was now happier than I had been since I was a little kid.

I realized that I had been on a long circuit of mild unhappiness, but had now taken the wildly flailing ends of my happy childhood and recent reemergence of soaring spirits and connected them. It felt gloriously like making ends meet and closing that chapter of my life, as well as reconnecting with the carefree spirit of youth.

There have been a few times in my 52 years that have been “Aha!” moments where I think that now I’ve got life figured out. I’ve been around long enough to know now that I’ve just reached another level of understanding, and the occurrence of those epiphanies will probably outlive me. Being open to keep searching and learning about our precious existence is the key.

2014 ended, the euphoria subsided and the old heaviness crept in a bit, but I’m changed. I now I felt like I have a toolbox of coping skills, and effective phrases to counsel myself. My moment of fear that last year’s happiness was an anomaly gave me the opportunity to test what I’d learned. It worked. The happiness level I’d reached was still there. This time it felt like firmly gripping the ends of two dangerous, live wires and connecting them in a burst of arcing energy that neutralized and seared them shut, able to carry on the new currents charging my life. I look forward to my next epiphany with this lighter feeling of being.

catnip copy

Ahhh, yessssss….

Rec’d reading:

The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz

The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin

How to Live-or-A Life of Montaigne by Sarah Bakewell

The Conquest of Happiness by Bertrand Russell

Epictetus (1st century Greek philosopher. Short version: Wikipedia)

A couple writing friends and I have assigned ourselves writing exercises based on the The Sun Magazine‘s Readers Write topics. There is one due each month covering a wide array, but the submissions must be ones where you are the only authority–in other words, your personal experience. If you would like to participate, go to The Sun Magazine’s site here and view the topic due the first of the next month. That is our deadline, too. We share our results with each other for fun, not critique, unless you ask for some and the others have time. You may choose to let me publish it on this blog, but better yet, post it on yours! Or not at all. You don’t even need to share, it’s very relaxed. Just write. It’s amazing what comes out.

So, the Feb. 1, 2015 topic was ‘Breasts’. I wrote a thought piece and my writing buddy, Suzanne, reminded me that The Sun‘s Reader Write editors lean toward personal memoir based on factual experience. I would enjoy a discussion highlighting the worthiness of inner dialog as an experience that shapes us like actual events. However, we adopted this flagship so we want to adhere to it’s style. As it happened I decided to turn it into a poem to see if it worked better that way. I realize I’m breaking away from what I perceive as the rules, but meh, who cares. As I said, it’s a relaxed writing exercise, and I wrote something!

 

Breasts -or- If It Happened

Would I do it? Let them take one if it happened?
I’d look a bit odd. A binary O and I. Or O and —.
I could get that tattoo I’ve always contemplated,
never able to think up the right design to last a lifetime.
Would I live long enough for it to blur like an old sailor’s tattoo?
I want to have a lifetime. Is that the price?
Doctor, I’ll trade you a breast for a few decades.
That would be the medically sanctioned bargaining stage then.

What if it’s both? I could go swimming in just a Speedo.
I could be an ambidextrous archer.
I could be happy I’m not lop-sided, but
I think I’d miss admiring at least one in the mirror.
It’s viewing would be forever altered, too.
Maybe I should reread The Beauty Myth,
get over the vanity before it’s seems a like putting on a brave face.
If I get It. I’m a childless peri-menopausal woman so aren’t I more at risk?
Why haven’t my girlfriends and I discussed this?
It’s a lonely exercise, asking yourself hard questions.

I see I’m running at the mental mouth. I’m just testing the waters
for the loud and proud Anjolina Jolie in me. Wanting to know
I could butt heads with any traitorous cells, and not give in to their smirking doggedness.
Be proactive! Push the frightened child onto the stage.
And the next one. Be my own stage manager.

But what if it’s not so cut and dried, if you’ll excuse the pun.
A long war of skirmishes with traitors requires positive thinking.
Would my pragmatic skepticism get in the way of that?
There must be some truth in mind tricks because look at the placebo effect.
So, if I think like a warrior then perhaps—no, I will be one.

It’s an exhausting topic.
Maybe that’s why we don’t talk amongst ourselves before it becomes an issue.
Forget learning archery, I need mental juggling practice.
A Felix the Cat bag of tricks would come in handy,
to have on hand while cycling through the ups and downs and tangents.
Then I could relax and live in the now. I hear that’s a good trick.
If it happens.

Inga Duncan Thornell's after a double mastectomy. The photo was first published in Margot Mifflin's book Bodies of Subversion: A Secret History of Women and Tattoo. It recently went viral which has surprised Inga who says, "if it helps more women to feel better about their bodies, then I will try to keep my blushes to myself." Tattoo by Tina Bafaro, in Seattle.

Inga Duncan Thornell’s tattoo after a double mastectomy. The photo was first published in Margot Mifflin’s book Bodies of Subversion: A Secret History of Women and Tattoo. It went viral which has surprised Inga who says, “if it helps more women to feel better about their bodies, then I will try to keep my blushes to myself.” Tattoo by Tina Bafaro, in Seattle.

Note: To all women who have had “it happen” my thoughts and prayers are with you. You are warriors who have been called up. For more awesome tattoos from survivors click here. My favorite is #16.