Cutting Away the Noise

Fifteen years ago, there was no end to the noise. It took a cutting to get me to silence.

I worked twelve-hour days and longer in an aircraft hangar on a flight line of hundreds of helicopters with the cacophony of auxiliary power units, the collision of metal, and rotor blades beating the air outside, sounds so loud earplugs and noise-canceling helmets were required.

After my shift I would climb into my car and turn on the radio, classic rock or country at a moderately high volume, and drive home to my condo. There I turned on CNN while making something simple for dinner. I watched the thirty-minute circuit and then left it on for company.

Other noise and other stories ensured I didn’t go too far into my own deadening loneliness. I found silence terrifying, though I didn’t see it that way then. I liked motion, and noise, and doing things. I talked a lot. That’s where I saw and added value, where my sense of self worth lay. [Read more...]

Peripheral Vision

Not long ago, I had surgery. I suppose that in the vastness of creation, the precipitating problem wasn’t much; with age I’d lost peripheral vision due to drooping eyelids. For several years I’d lived in shadow, sight obscured by canopies of flesh.

My ophthalmologist prescribed blepharoplasty coupled with an endoscopic brow lift. If I chose to have the surgery, he’d put me under general anesthesia, incise along my eyelids’ natural creases and in several places in my scalp. He’d remove excess skin, muscle, and fat and close the gashes with myriad stitches. The procedure would take about two hours, healing, four to five weeks, after which—he hoped—my field of vision would appreciably improve.

When I woke up in recovery, my body tensed with terror, my eyes and head pulsed with pain. I could scarcely press open my eyelids—was anybody there? I felt my husband’s hand in mine, heard a nurse calling my name, but saw only an under-ocean swirl—searing light, floating glow-spots, miasmatic silhouettes. Had my surgeon blinded me?

The first few days at home, I lay supine on the couch—inert—ointment in my closed and crusted eyes, pads on my livid lids, bandages round my throbbing head, heavy icepacks on my face. And for some reason I still don’t understand—anesthesia, pain medication?—I lost control of my thoughts, which tumbled into pondering my past, spiraled into panic for the future, pummeled me so relentlessly that my physical black and blueness paled before the bruising of my heart.

[Read more...]

The Heart, a Home under Construction

In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. —John 14:2

When Charlotte moved in with me in January of 2005, my Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder surged with such searing intensity that I had to schedule an emergency session with my therapist. I sought treatment in the first place because every time I tried to date someone, electric anxiety coursed through my central nervous system, threatening to trip all the breakers in my body.

“I don’t get it, Troy,” I said to my therapist, who diagnosed me with OCD in August of 2004.

“It’s not like I’m dating Charlotte—she’s a cat, for crying out loud! Why am I freaking out?”

One of my housemate’s coworkers needed to find a home for Charlotte, and I agreed to adopt her. I always wanted a cat to call my own, so I was shocked when my body betrayed me after I took her home.

“How will I ever love this cat if I’m so anxious about her?” I asked Troy. “If all I feel is fear, how will there ever be room in my heart for affection?” [Read more...]

The Work Awaits, Part Two

Almost exactly two years ago, I made my Good Letters debut with a post titled “The Work Awaits,” in which I wrote about my vocational insecurities and obstacles, and how living out my life as a writer hasn’t felt the way I expected it to.

This sequel is long in coming, and it’s my last post as a regular contributor.

The two years that have marked my tenure here happened to coincide with one of the most difficult periods of my life. I’ve used this space to work through many of the puzzles I found myself facing at midlife.

I’ve written about my father, depression, diabetes, not being a mother, Jazzercise, John Mayer, and Peanut M&Ms. Mostly I’ve wondered: Am I doing what I’m meant to be doing, in the way I’m meant to be doing it?

And also: Is this all there is? [Read more...]

What I’ve Been Given

Six dogs: Snoopy, Prince, Woody, Ramona, Leon, Bubby. All but Bubby now nothing more than names.

Apology: not in the old high sense, think Sidney’s “Apology for Poetry.” Rather, this:

Let me introduce myself. I’m sorry that I didn’t visit you in the hospital. I’m sorry that I haven’t called you in a year. I’m sorry that I’m not as good a storyteller as you. I’m sorry I haven’t read-that classic-book. I’m sorry that I’m not as smart as you. I’m sorry that these books—my gift to you—contain only mediocre poems—my poems. I’m sorry that I’ve-spoken when I should have just listened. Nice to meet you. [Read more...]


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