Tinnitus has been my tormentor for 10 years. It never stops. In the quietest moments when I should be calm, all I can think about is the never ending zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. When I have to be up in the morning, I lay awake in bed hearing only zzzzzz. It never goes away, but I do my best to block it out.
After two years of backpacking, I’m back in the United States. I have a respectable job, rewarding though unambitious. I live in the same town as my extended family, a riverfront town in Oregon with mild winters and a great art scene. I’m perfectly comfortable; I’m happy. But something is missing.
The sun. The sun is missing. Dark clouds have blocked out the sun for the last two weeks. Sunny beaches with warm water are missing. The rhythm of Latin languages is missing. Mostly, I miss the feeling of uncertainty, the feeling of being in just over my head. I’m perfectly comfortable now, which is why I’m not perfectly happy.
My clock has a noisemaker on it with different settings: rain forest, ocean, rain, summer night, thunder, and white noise. It may have been the best $10 I ever spent. I set it to “ocean” every night and turn the volume just loud enough to block out my tinnitus. The sound of the ocean does more than block out buzzing; it makes me forget my problems, my stress, and my apathetic view of my good life.
Every morning, my phone screen lights up for five seconds before the alarm goes off. In my semiconscious state the sound of the tide transports me back to Mozambique, to Brazil, Australia, or Peru. I feel the sand between my toes and the warm water rushing over my ankles. It’s perfect.
And then my alarm goes off. I wake up, turn off the ocean, and get on with life.