As I shared in my last two columns, I used to suffer with tinnitus but not any longer. I still have it. Like I have baldness and other symptoms of being 57 years old. It is present like the clouds in the sky are present or the sound of traffic is present. The sound is still there. But I no longer suffer with it. Not even a little. The ringing is still there but I have not suffered with it since that morning eight years ago when I woke up to the lesson it was trying to teach me. I got it. I still get it. And it is one of the best things that ever happened to me.
The ringing still comes and goes. Sometimes weeks go by and I don’t notice its shrilling roar but even when I do notice it — like right now — as I type these words and seek its special meaning to my life, I know one thing as deep as breath, moonlight and heartbeats, I do not care. I welcome it to my life. I have room for it. It is here so I might as well get it a chair. I allow it to be. I refuse to resist it. I surrender to its song. I open my heart and mind to that which I cannot change or control and refuse it any control over my own sacred peace. It is only when I give it my attention that I am even aware it is present. It is my choice. I decide. I am in charge of it. It is not in charge of me.
The ringing persists and it reminds me to smile. It whispers I’m alive. It tells me to wake up from my dream of sorrow and live. It gently advises me to see and know and understand. All is well. This moment may not be what I planned or expected or wanted or decided should be. And yet it is. This moment is all that exists. It is all that exists. This moment. Here. Now. And once we forget our sad soliloquy, we can sail. We can stroll. We can love deeply all those we know who need our light and our sight.
There is a movie I like called “Another Earth.” It stars Brit Marling who plays Rhoda, a young woman who suffers a tragedy with which she must learn to live. At one point in the film she tells a story to John, played by William Mapother, a special friend who is suffering as much as she is.
Rhoda asks John, “Do you know that story of the Russian cosmonaut?” John says no but is clearly interested. Rhoda continues, “So, the cosmonaut. He’s the first man ever to go into space, right? The Russians beat the Americans. So he goes up in this big spaceship, but the only habitable part of its very small. So the cosmonaut’s in there, and he’s got this portal window and he’s looking out of it, and he sees the curvature of the Earth for the first time. He’s the first man to ever look at the planet he’s from. And he’s lost in that moment.
“And all of a sudden this strange ticking (Rhoda gently taps the table with the fat end of a butter knife in a continuous, steady rhythm) begins coming out of the dashboard. He rips out the control panel, right? He takes out his tools. He’s trying to find the sound, trying to stop the sound. But he can’t find it. He can’t stop it. It keeps going. A Few hours into this (as the monotonous tapping continues) it begins to feel like torture. A few days go by with this sound, and he knows this small sound will break him. He’ll lose his mind.
“What’s he gonna do? He’s up in space, alone, in a space closet. He’s got 25 days left to go with this sound. So the cosmonaut decides the only way to save his sanity is to fall in love with this sound. So he closes his eyes and he goes into his imagination, and then he opens them (the tapping stops). He doesn’t hear ticking anymore. He hears music. And he spends the remainder of his time sailing through space in total bliss and peace.”
We are all sailing through space on this blue-green rock together and within our tiny skulls each of us decides what we are willing or unwilling to have. The pain we are unwilling to have and unable to change is the pain that runs our live and rules us like a tiny tyrant from within. But when we turn to face the demons, the dark and uninvited truths, memories, fears and regrets that form the topography, the history and the commentary of our small world, we can finally find peace.
We receive these guests and give them room. We learn to love and let them be. When we are finally willing to have them completely they will finally leave. Or they will stay and become part of the furniture. But either way, we won’t care anymore. Their power will drain away. I promise you this. Our peace is not for sale to anyone’s offer of pain, even if we are the one who is offering.
Doug Craig graduated from college in Ohio with a journalism degree and got married during the Carter administration. He graduated from graduate school with a doctorate in Psychology, got divorced, moved to Redding, re-married and started his private practice during the Reagan administration. He had his kids during the first Bush administration. Since then he has done nothing noteworthy besides write a little poetry, survive a motorcycle crash, buy and sell an electric car, raise his kids, manage to stay married and maintain his practice for almost 25 years. He believes in magic and is a Sacramento Kings fan.