By Martha M. Barantovich.
Someone has written the opening scene of a horror flick. Slowly they pan the camera back and forth and find that one thing out of place in the abandoned, dust covered room. The doll with no head, lying face up, arms stretched out, as if reaching for a hug. And in the background is the slow pulse of music that sets the tone. It just moves the watcher ever so slowly, creating a sense of angst. You’re not sure why you feel the angst, you just do.
The sound of a hum.
Just below the surface, between my skin and my essence, like an internal itch I’ll never reach is where it lies. For as long as I can remember, it’s been there. It’s an internal noise. A buzz, a hum, a constant vibration. It has taken me forever to recognize it and name it and look at it and feel it. My whole life has been attached to and driven by the noise. My whole life has been a search for the name; like a miner hoping to make it rich. And that really is the crux of it. The naming and the feeling. Because I have finally found THE WORD. THE WORD that I need to face so that we can change the dance.
We will get there. To the naming and the feeling. But in order to name, I have to peel away the layers. The thick, imbedded layers that need to be torn back and examined and turned over and squinted at and sniffed and held and hidden away in shame. Over and over and over again. This is how I always seem to do it.
Diving into one’s soul and history is frightening, at best. I’m not talking about the family story time in which everyone recalls moments of collective pasts. I’m talking about our personal stories and histories that replay over and over again that create the patterns and behaviors. You know the ones. These patterns usually end with the telling of “I will NEVER do_____ <insert behavior/situation/moment/experience here> again.” If you’re like me, you’ve said that same thing a hundred million thousand times over. I think it’s because we just don’t know what it is we are doing. Life tells us we are all works in progress. And when we are brave enough to do our own personal work and examine the depth of our being, we hear clearly and can NAME. Without judgement. Without disdain. Just NAME. It’s empowering and enlightening all at once.
I’m fat. In this moment and in this space, I am fat. I’m not writing that to get some sort of band of brothers to rally behind me and boost my ego. I became fat on purpose. I didn’t know it at the time, but I do now. I fattened myself up like someone fattens up a pig heading to slaughter. I fattened up because of the noise, the buzz, the hum. You see, because if I put some distance between myself and the noise, I can’t hear it as well. Like the earplugs I wear at night to quiet the sound of my husband’s snoring, the fat quiets the sound. Being fat makes me braver because all I have to focus on for the time being is how my clothes don’t fit and how my belly gets in the way of bending over and how my arms won’t squeeze into my sweaters and how I live in elastic-waisted pants. I can self-hate all day because of the external manifestation of the internal noise. The fat creates a barrier that protects me so I don’t have to hear the constant hum.
I wish I could record it so you could hear it too. Or maybe you do. Maybe you have a NAME for your noise as well. My journey to fat started a long time ago when I was a child and I didn’t have the language to deal with some particularly ugly feelings. On-going, heart-wrenching, ugly feelings. I sometimes revisit those particular memories without even knowing I’ve travelled back in time. This time, however, the fat began with removing the addiction that protected me. It started when I quit smoking. I am super proud of that fact, but not smoking has brought up so much more than I knew I had buried (that’s another post for another day). So I got fat. I got fat because the lack of cigarette smoking routine challenged my daily habits and practices. I had to be present. I had to learn how to process. And in the meantime, I learned that there is a constant noise. And that noise is
Not the spine-tingling, creepy crawly, almost get in an accident, or be attacked by a giant flying cockroach kind of fear. It’s more of a general FEAR that just travels around with me. Always. It speeds up my thoughts, makes me tired, and sends me into the dark spaces. It’s the noise that suggests (in no particular order and in varying states and stages):
- I’m not good enough
- I’ll never have any friends
- I’ll die alone and lonely
- I’m not pretty
- I’m not worthy
- I don’t deserve good/nice/happy things
- I’m not loved
When I write that, it seems, at this point in my life, a bit silly. None of those things are true, but they define the noise, the hum, the buzz. I cannot think of a time in my life when the FEAR hasn’t been there. It has, as a constant companion, given me all of the experiences to date that define me as me. FEAR has compelled me to drive people away in my life, to test the limits of their love. The crazy thing about the FEAR is the amount of control it has. It stops me from doing things I may be good at. It makes me do things because of “what-ifs”. And, the best part of being so connected to FEAR: it creates the most insane scenarios that when looked at from a distance, look like ornate spider webs with moving internal clock-like parts. If I could draw a picture of what FEAR does inside my brain, it would look something like an offspring of Escher and Dr. Suess.
The Indigo Girls have a stanza in their song, Closer to Fine,
Well darkness has a hunger that’s insatiable, And lightness has a call that’s hard to hear. I wrap my fear around me like a blanket. I sailed my ship of safety till I sank it.
And when I first heard that, I was like, “HOLY Crap….they KNOW….how do they KNOW???” Indeed. It was probably the first time I understood what the noise was and simultaneously, I realized I wasn’t alone. Someone else has a noise, too. And their noise is FEAR. And I needed to listen to that song 100 times so I can recall those words on command.
Ash Beckham, in her TEDxBoulder talk, gets real about coming out of the closet as a gay woman. She also brilliantly connects to everyone in addressing the notion that we all have closets of our own that we hide in so others don’t have to know who we are. Who we really are. At the end of her talk she says,
The only story that matters is the one that you want to write, so the next time that you find yourself in a pitch black closet, clutching your grenade, know we have all been there before. And you may feel so very alone but you are not. We know its hard but we need you out here, no matter what you’re walls are made of. Because I guarantee you, that there are others peering through the keyhole of their closet, looking for the next brave soul to bust a door open so be that person.
Thanks for that Ash. I’m busting my door open and putting my FEAR out there. It’s taken up enough space inside me for too long. I’m sure it won’t be gone tomorrow. Just like the fat I want to lose won’t go away over night. I have work to do. But by acknowledging it and naming it and seeing the consequences of trying to hide it, I have a plan of action. I’m ready to quiet my noise, look my FEAR in the face, and connect with the light within. “There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.” ― Leonard Cohen. Well Leonard, I’m going to let my light out.
About Martha M. Barantovich: Martha has been on a few retreats with Jen Pastiloff and wrote one of the most popular pieces on this site about her experience. She lives in Miami with her husband and teaches yoga. She tweets at @thisismarthab and her blog is here.
Featured image: by Fede Racchi
Wow Martha what a powerful piece. You are amazing.
Great piece! I remember hearing that lyric from the Indigo Girls. I’m off to listen again right now. Thanks for sharing, Jen!
Insightful. Just yesterday I was reading this article. It also speaks powerfully about the interpersonal causes of addiction. I think it applies to addictions of all types, not just the hard drugs featured in the article. https://www.huffingtonpost.com/johann-hari/the-real-cause-of-addicti_b_6506936.html
You have NAMED my noise too!
Beautiful, beautiful writings my sister in fear, but no more.
It has a name now and it is losing it’s power in me.
Thank you. I too, have underlying fear and addiction was my way of life until 6 1/2 years ago. I have been taught to address my fears and when I don’t they manifest and grow, nearly paralyzing me.