Journal entry 011912: Isolated

Monday morning I got a phone call from the doctor’s office to reschedule my appointment. Again. Bummer.

The appointment was with an Otolaryngologist (an ear, nose, and throat specialist, which is a more descriptive title but much less fun to write); my ears had been plugged up for the past month, or two. Maybe three. At first, it was an intermittent problem and I assumed it would go away, which is my first response to all ailments.

However, as the plugging in my ears became constant and persistent, I got desperate. So desperate, in fact, I called the Otolaryngologist for an appointment. It turns out they are very busy, and my appointment was rescheduled twice.

It was fortunate that my ears didn’t ache, but it was certainly irritating. I could hear, but muffled, as if wearing industrial ear protection. If you spoke softly around me, I’d never know. Even worse, I couldn’t tell how loud I was talking, so I tended to speak softly to compensate. Even worse than that, I couldn’t hear myself when playing trombone in church orchestra except for the sound moving through my own head. I think I was playing in tune since none of my fellow musicians flinched, but I couldn’t tell if I was too loud. At least no one scooted their chairs away.

The real effect from this hearing loss was the feeling of isolation. Since everything I heard blended into a composite roar, it was hard for me to focus on the specifics of the outside world. The isolation festered until I didn’t want to take on new projects and I hesitated to interact with people.

The surprising thing was that the isolation could have been an asset rather than a disappointing discomfort. For example: I’ve been going through an exercise with my guys (we call it Journey Partner Groups) where we discuss our life stories, analyze our personality types, list our hopes and dreams, all with the goal of understanding our place in God’s plan, our calling. My own personality printout repeated this theme over and over: “focused internally,” “inside his own mind,” “within his own head,” “lives primarily inside his own mind,” and like that. Knowing this about me, one might’ve assumed a little auditory pain-free isolation would play to my advantage, giving me another oft-sought-after buffer, but in fact, I hated living in a muffled world. I needed more input. More color.

I’ve learned something. The fact I don’t like being isolated even while living most of my life “inside my own head” reminds me how much I don’t want to live in a small world. I need a big circle. Some might say I need a big stage, but I think it more accurate to say I need a big impact. I need people.

That simple phrase, I need people, has been my favorite lesson to learn in the past two decades. It came as a surprise that I wasn’t adequate in and of myself to accomplish all I desired. I need people around me, especially other men. The men around me make me stronger, speak wisdom into my heart, and fill in the gaps I never knew I had.

It isn’t just that I need people around me; I also need to tell my story. I have to give away what I learn and experience. If I don’t have a way to engage and give away, I will lose interest and go to seed.

Well, I finally made it into the doctor’s office Tuesday morning, and they were great. The doctor poked me, gagged me with flat wooden sticks, lit an alcohol burner to heat a tiny mirror which he slid carefully into my open mouth, rang tuning forks against my head and in my ears, peered unpleasantly up my nostrils, felt for swelling in my neck, and finally pronounced: “Your left ear is full of wax. It’s totally plugged.”

He took me down the hall to the Pit of Despair where he hooked me up to his machine and vacuumed the wax out of my ear. Then, finally, just like that, I could hear.

I was happy the problem was simple and cheap to repair, but still, earwax build-up sounds so old-mannish. I asked, “Is this something I can prevent, or treat myself, in the future?”

“No, not really.”

“Should I schedule my next vacuuming appointment ahead of time, a bit of preventative maintenance?”

“No. Just come in when you can’t hear.”

Well, I’m happy to’ve rejoined the hearing world, and I don’t feel as isolated. I suppose I’ll crawl back inside my own mind and think up more stories to tell.


“I run in the path of Your commands, for You have set my heart free.” Psalm 119:32

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