Friday, September 7, 2007
QUELL THE WHITE NOISE AND LISTEN AT LAST
I found myself completely awestruck by what I was hearing. My best friend from college was saying words that I had so longed to hear for nearly a decade: you have the most amazing nail beds.. JUST KIDDING. He called me yesterday just to share some of the things that were going on in his mind. He said something like: for the first time in my life I find myself not worrying about the future. In some ways I have this feeling that my life is over.
Take that at face value and it might be a little bit confusing. He is saying he is not worrying about the future-- most of us would agree that is GREAT, but then he feels his life is over-- thats NOT GREAT. Or wait a moment.. is it?
My friend is someone who can do everything. He is handsome and winsome and takes everything he attempts to do by storm. In college everyone was a victim of his talent and brilliance. Let's call him Dr. Doolittle. Not because he talks to the animals mind you, although he probably could if he tried. A month after joining the vocal performance major, the faculty would call him into an office to say things like: you know we have about 150 full time students in this program. Of those 150 students, we think about 3-5 have a chance to actually make it in the opera world. We want you to know that you are one of those 3-5 students. You have just joined the major, but we feel so strongly about your potential. My friend would walk away feeling satisfied and happy that he received such validation from these renowned professors, but he also started to feel nervous. Do I really want to be an opera singer? Now that they love me so much what are they going to expect of me??
Inevitably my friend would spend the rest of the semester showing up late for rehearsals and classes, perhaps arrive a little unprepared with his german aria, and in whatever other way he could, he would try to dissapate the pressure by disappointing the faculty as much as he could. He did all of this largely subconsciously. When they stopped caring about his progress, he would change majors. Take the above scenario, and transfer it to the new major he chooses: Graphic design. There is a new star in the program people would soon say, but just as suddenly that star would begin to fade, or at least move out of view. Then English, then Russian, then Classics.. and on and on it went.
I would stay up late talking about the future with my friend, as college students are known to do. Over the years I probably had over 20 conversations with him about his career, and what he wanted out of life. I began to see his talent as a handicap in some ways. If this guy could only do one thing well he wouldn't be able to bounce about so. He would have to focus because there would be no choice. (OMG Satan's Plan?!?) My other friends and I would often discuss him and say things like-- this is a bigger issue than just career. This guy does not know how to be happy! Every time things start to go well for him, he sabotages the chance to be happy for some reason unknown to even himself.
My recent ex was very similar in many ways. The minute we resolved one problem that seemed like the ultimate crisis, another equal or greater crisis would arise in its place. After about a year of living in total crisis mode, I started to check out of the relationship. I started to feel like my boyfriend was creating problems because he didn't know how to feel like a whole person without a struggle. There was always so much white noise going on in his life. Sounds created only to create noise-- with no message: only a wall of sound. I would often talk to him about this hypothesis and he usually fervently disagreed with my diagnosis and for pity's sake would I stop psychoanalyzing him. Sometimes I stopped.
Imagine the reaction of all of our friends when Dr. Doolittle came forward with his newest career du jour: medicine. After already finishing nearly 3 majors at BYU, having a degree in Russian, and being accepted to NYU in the Russian Literature Masters program, he would go back to undergrad for 2 years to do the medical prerequisites. He would then most likely have to wait another year and apply for schools. Everyone said-- oh here he goes again. Another career-- more white noise to drown out the voices. Something inside me said that this was different. This is actually what he had always wanted to do but was too scared to try. Something from within him was trying to quell the white noise.
My friend is now in his third year of medical school. He is doing a pediatrics rotation currently. He did his 2 years of prereqs, took the MCAT, got an amazing score, waited a year to apply and was accepted to an amazing school: all to the chagrin of the white noise. What would happen to his life without the constant stress of a new career and an unsettled spirit?
When the white noise stops, what DO we hear instead? What is it that we have been drowning out? My friend told me yesterday that he had been thinking a lot about his Jr. High and High School years. He said that he was thinking back to those times when he had no self esteem whatsoever, and he found himself reliving small seemingly insignificant disappointments from his past. Little things like a passing comment to a teacher that had been taken in the wrong way which caused him a lot of shame during his whole senior year. Or like answering a certain question wrong on a test and getting a lower letter grade that semester. What do these vague memories from the past hold within their sordid narrations? What started the white noise? And why is it suddenly gone?
Is his life over because the white noise has become obsolete for him? In a way yes. His life of finding meaning only through unhappy struggle and confusion seems to be over indeed. But maybe you, gentle reader, will not see this as a positive occurance. Maybe he won't be so driven to spend what little free time he has volunteering. Or maybe he won't learn a new language this year. Maybe he won't call his mother as much as she would like him to. Maybe suddenly having more self esteem makes him a less productive individual. One thing is for sure though: a new person seems to be emerging. It looks like a happier person. It looks like a more peaceful person. It looks like our Doctor is more capable of loving.
Regardless of what it is we don't want to hear, the white noise is not the enemy. I think it protects us from things we are not ready to face, and that is why it exists. It is my conviction that one day we will all be perfected. Slowly the universe, GOD, or the collective consciousness all draw us toward perfection. Even our defense mechanisms are our temporary friends. But as with Dr. Doolittle, there comes a day when they are no longer needed, and like scales from our eyes they shall fall away. We are already reborn.