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...]

Depression, Gift, and Legacy

For Johnny, of course

My mother has been dead a year now, and it has taken me this whole time to begin to find value in her faults as much as her virtues.

For much of my adult life, I’ve been in flight from just such a consideration: There’s a book called The Spiritual Advantages of an Unhappy Childhood, but I didn’t want to read it.

The short version of the story—as anyone who’s read my posts on Good Letters knows—is that my father died and then my mother fell apart, friends left behind and relationships squandered.

Her life shrunk to the dried husk cast off by a locust. She even began to speak in the past tense. My siblings were grown and gone, and I was with her in the house alone. [Read more...]

Whispering Along a Thin Trembling Thread

Most of us are vulnerable to the solipsistic notion that our sufferings and joys are exquisite. My ex-wife once attended a seminar, a Christian women’s retreat, in which the keynote speaker opined about the peace of God. “Most of you have never truly known the peace of God,” the speaker told her audience. “You may think you’ve known the peace of God, but you haven’t.”

The speaker had the peace of God in a headlock. She wrote a book about it, after all.

She’d experienced her dark, or at least dimly lit, night of the soul and lived to tell about it and write about it and tell about writing about it. And somehow along the way she came to think that this set her apart from other women––women who’ve buried children and suffered infidelities and survived breast cancer, but who hadn’t found the time, in the midst of grieving and raising their children and maintaining something like order in their homes, to write books about it.

And so in strode the writer, knowing none of them from Eve, to instruct them on the peace of God.

[Read more...]