Thursday, February 4, 2016

White Noise

Recently, my high school writing class and I met at a local coffee shop. I gave them a writing prompt. I mean it is almost cliché to sit and write in a local coffee shop, right? And you are in some famous company if you do: Rowling, Rankin, Fitzgerald, McCall Smith, and many others have strung words together while sipping coffee or some other form of liquid fortifier.

What was the prompt? The jump start words to prime the proverbial well?

Two words.

White noise.

In the dim light of the coffee house conference room, light streamed in through the seven-foot windows, and the muffled noises from the street and downstairs wafted up to us, I asked my students to identify the white noise of their lives. A few of them looked at me puzzled. Some looked past me with a blank stare as if I had just spoken Russian on a Japanese subway. Some met my gaze, and the light bulb glimmered like a compact fluorescent—slow and low, and then bright. A couple lit immediately. 

I watched as they scratched their words on the paper, hesitating, erasing, and pausing. Some of their answers surprised me. As I quietly meandered around their chairs, I considered the white noise in my life. And I asked myself the question I asked my students.

What is the white noise in my life right now?

What is the static that crackles just under the surface? What is the hum of the underlying current? What is the consistent tone or pattern I hear layered just under everything else?

A friend of mine asked me to consider 2015: the highs and the lows and the shallows and the depths.

The summit places have been broad and open and full of light, places of indescribable joy.  In March, my grandson arrived. I held Atlas in my arms, the five percent miracle of him, and joy swelled in me in proportions uncontainable. 

August marked the release of my first book, Growing Room. The publisher sent the first copy off the press to me. My husband and I stood in the break room at work and opened the box. The joyful rush and exhilaration of holding my book in my hand were surreal. I pressed my head into his chest and wept.   In September, I experienced my first book signing, and another type of joy pushed into me, pressed in leaving embossed indentations on my spirit.

These wonderful events produced definitive heights—experiences much like the ridges on the roads in the hills when I visit my dad. And for much of 2015 I rode on these high places. Drove them. Maneuvered them. Navigated them. I’m grateful I didn’t see the ninety-degree bend in the road that was coming. I’m thankful I didn’t see the drop-off and the crumble of the pavement. I’m blessed that God does not reveal the future to us; he did not show me the wreckage in the distance.

In October, Steve and I took a sabbatical weekend and drove to Gatlinburg, TN. In the early hours of the third day of our trip, my phone rang waking me from a deep sleep. I know the phone rang two different times because later I would check my records, but it was the second call that broke through my sleep.

The story of that few minutes of eternity is for another time, but my brother was dead, killed in an accident on an interstate.

The descent from the heights of the joy ridge began, and the white noise commenced.

As I viewed the residual fall out of my brother’s death, white noise infiltrated my thought processes, inserted itself into the routine of my life, and became the underlying discordant hum I couldn’t quite decipher.

Last week I stayed home from church. The inner chaos and white noise were taking their toll on me. I keyed up a worship playlist on my computer and cleaned house with a focused vengeance. At last worn out, I sat down on the couch and the white noise increased to deafening levels.
Anyone who knows me or has read my blog or book understands I am a crier. I cry, and I cry some more. But since my brother’s death, I have lived the last three and half months dry-eyed. The white noise clogged my tear ducts, dam tight. 

I sat in my living room curled up on the couch, and the white noise pushed against my ears and eyelids. Strangled cries and choking sobs broke through my throat. I tried to stop them, futile efforts. Finally, I wept for my brother and for the wreckage his death left behind—for the situations and people I can’t fix or help. 

I finally wept for me. And I called things what they are.

Grief and depression.

I heard the static of each of them humming under the surface; I identified my white noise.

And now begins the work of turning down the volume of this white noise named Grief.

Friends, I know many of you are struggling with white noise in your life. Some of you (of us) are living with a deafening roar in your ear, a ringing that just won’t stop. The hum is so familiar that you selectively don’t acknowledge it anymore, but it is taking its toll. Perhaps your white noise is grief, fear, anxiety, infertility, loneliness, anger, isolation, cancer, brokenness, resentment, addiction, depression, abuse, busyness, rejection, lethargy, or emptiness. Maybe, you can’t seem to identify it at all; you just know that you are going to go deaf.
Friends, don’t go deaf. Ask the Spirit to identify your white noise, to name it, and to show you how to decrease its volume. Identification and recognition are the first steps.  

Take the first steps.

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