white noise

11 01 2010

The Dr. sleeps with the radio on – our local NPR affiliate runs the BBC – all night long. White noise for him, by day (via a steady stream of CNN, HLN and the like) and by night, are voices commenting on world affairs.  After all, it is his bread and butter to know what is happening around the globe.  Sometimes in the darkness, I can tell what time it is without looking at the clock by counting the times I’ve heard the stories on repeat – they are on a cycle that runs three times. Those aren’t my favorite nights.  I don’t blame him for my insomnia because as many times as not, the talking heads don’t bother me at all and despite all the yakking, I sleep fairly well.

A few years ago some friends in LA introduced us to genius little white noise machines that they had in each bedroom.  Just cranking those puppies up regardless of whatever else was happening in the house (usually late night recording sessions involving a dozen or so people in and out- so LA for us artsy fartsy types) the cacophony was so masked that sleep was just an instant away.  I was officially addicted.  Once back home I got one of these by Brookstone called Tranquil Moments ® Sound Machine for Sleep that sits on my bedside table.  There are nights when both the radio and the white noise machine are going.  If I’ve been working with words during the day then I need to quiet the voices at night. No more words – no talking…just noise.

If it is too quiet I am distracted by the constant hum of the tinnitus I think I’ve inherited from Billy.  Oh, it could be meds, it could be impending deafness inherited from the Mrs. or it could be insanity…but I can hear it right now throbbing it’s way through the veins and vessels in my head like little subway trains using my ears as tunnels.  The word in Spanish is a perfect onomatopoeia for what it sounds like to me – zumbar: to hum, buzz or whirr.  (When pronounced in Castilian that “z” becomes a “th” sound.)

The subject of white noise came up when Shop Girl’s friends from Spain were visiting.  She has a nice machine in her bedroom and suggested the use of said device for the jet-lagged duo so as to drown out Donny Diva’s squawking for a midnight snack.  They just guffawed at the preposterous notion that you could actually sleep better by piping noise into your ears.  It is all around us whether we notice it or not…on planes, in the malls, in office spaces…almost everywhere.  I love the fact that to muffle certain noises all you have to do is add ALL noise to it.  That IS white noise.

There is another kind of white noise affecting my life these days – snow – drowning out voices in my head telling me what I should be doing.  It’s either been here by the foot or along the lakeshore by the multiple feet or dumping right along the southern edge of the lake, making stretches of the highways impassible or not advisable at best.  It almost seems like I’ve been on vacation with this extended time at home since Christmas.  The Mrs. has survived just fine thanks to the kindness of a good friend from church who stepped in during my absence – doing a grocery run and sorting through a week’s worth of pills.  These people have saved my skin on more than one occasion and I am very grateful.

There have been moments where adding just one more voice of worry to the chorus ringing in my head (“Is she eating enough?,” “Has she remembered to take her pills?,” “Will she try to drive somewhere in this weather?”) has begun to work like a white noise machine.  By adding more things that I can’t do anything about – it’s actually calmed me down and relaxed me in a weird sort of way.  It’s helped me to focus.  I have more energy.  It’s like getting eight hours of uninterrupted sleep!

Maybe it is because I’ve turned my nervous energy toward my own basement for once and have donated about a dozen boxes of stuff and thrown away an extra eight bags of garbage in the last two weeks.  I can hardly wait till next week when I get started on a new facet of my winter project. I found a place that will take the twenty-plus boxes of books collecting dust and donates them to schools and libraries around the world.  To think that someone can actually USE all those tomes we bought instead of spending money on groceries during the Dr.’s years of graduate and post-grad work –  really makes me happy.

With each box and bag I carry out of this house – it is like white noise music to my ears.  By Spring, maybe Donny Diva and I will both be sleeping through the night.

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