I awake with loud ringing in my right ear. I stick my finger in it. Wiggle it. Blow my nose. No such luck. The ringing grows louder. I turn to Google and search “sudden onset of tinnitus in one ear.” Google says tumors and blood clots and, hopefully, ear wax. I resolve to never search a symptom on Google ever again. The best recommendation: ambient sound, avoid silence at all costs.
I go to my hushed therapy office for a full day of work.
Photo Credit: nitimongkolchai (Bigstock)
By the end of the day, I’m jumping out of my skin. I’m starting to get anxious. I will be traveling to Virginia on Saturday for a speaking engagement, and I can’t imagine doing so with this ringing. Of course, people live their whole lives with tinnitus, but silence has always been my best coping method—the idea of living with this forever almost undoes me. It is always a little terrifying when a lifelong coping strategy quits working.
I go to sleep, hoping for magic overnight.
No magic. After a restless night, I rise to the ringing even louder in my ear. I call my chiropractor, and he takes good care of me, but afterward, the ringing continues unabated. I can sense something dark lurking at the edges of my hope. For the rest of the day, I do my best to ignore it.
I awake and the ringing is louder than ever. Remembering the ear wax thing, I call my doctor and set up an appointment for Friday afternoon. Then, I try to concentrate on producing my podcast. Around noon, with the mercury pushing seventy for the first time all year, I finally give up. I put air in the tires of my bike and go for my first outdoor ride in six months.
Nature has been stubborn here. Though it has been spring for more than a month, there is no green to be seen. I ride through brown, barren forests. With no foliage yet to obscure it, the death and decay on the forest floor is laid bare. Toppled trees. Lightning scorched stumps. Rotting leaves and branches. A month from now, on this very same ride, I will be unable to see any of it—it will all be obscured by the resurrection of springtime, the dense blessing of new growth. The death and decay will still be there, but it will be hidden within the beauty.
I ride through the barren forest and, suddenly, I realize I can’t hear the ringing.
The rush of air past my ears is is obscuring it.
The brokenness of my hearing, hidden within the beauty of the wind.
The dark thing at the edges of my hope retreats a little.
Usually, I insist on believing that blessing is found in the absence of brokenness. But I’m reminded once again, blessing is not the absence of brokenness; it is beauty amidst the brokenness. Beauty is the blessing that helps us bear the burden of our brokenness. Beauty is given to us, in seasons, so we may pay attention to it for a little while, rather than the brokenness, rather than the death and decay.
I get home and do the dishes. I realize the running of water obscures the ringing even better than the wind, and I live in a town with a river running through it, and in the middle of the town is a dam. I imagine spending the remainder of my years—my march toward death and decay—with a broken ringing in my ears, and I picture myself going down to the river daily, to let the sound of the dam replace the ringing in my head.
Beauty amidst the brokenness.
Brokenness lost in beauty.
Continue Reading »