The noise can be too much


For the most sensitive among us the noise can be too much.
– Jim Carrey, to Philip Seymour Hoffman

I have not been able to get Jim Carrey’s tweet on the occasion of Philip Seymour Hoffman’s sudden death out of my head.  That line has been running through my thoughts pretty much constantly since Sunday.

No.  I am no Philip Seymour Hoffman, that’s not what I am saying.  And I am not saying I know anything about his private demons or struggles.  But I do know what Jim Carrey’s talking about, and I’ve written about it before.  The loneliness that is curled at the core of my human experience.  The quiet, jagged seed of desolation and sorrow that is buried deep inside of me.  The emptiness that I wrote to Grace about, warning her of the behaviors that so many people indulge in to fill the echoing void.

I’m convinced that this gnawing loneliness is a universal aspect of being human, but I’m equally certain that people are aware of it to varying degrees.  And there are many ways that people try to distract themselves from feeling it, and some of these behaviors are more socially acceptable than others.  Some of them are also riskier, as Seymour Hoffman’s story vividly demonstrates.  It’s the socially acceptable avoidance tactics that have always been my personal favorites.  This can, and does, lead into a trap: almost exactly two years ago I wrote about the dangerous complexity that is born when the ways you hide from your own life are applauded by the world.

I’m learning to stop avoiding my own life by focusing on external achievement, and beginning to let authentic goals replace brass rings.  There is no question I’m making progress.  But the thing is, as I get quieter and more in touch with the whisper of my own voice, somehow, the world gets noisier.  Maybe that’s what happens, as paradoxical as it is: we shut out the noises, the coping techniques that blur the pain, and in so doing we expose ourselves to the real noise.  Does that make sense?

The world’s noise has always affected me in a deep way.  It’s not the first time I’ve noted it, and it won’t be the last: I’m extremely porous, and the world seeps through my membranes quickly, powerfully, and, often, overwhelmingly.  In the simplest terms I like silence.  I was a cross-country runner in high school: is there a sport more designed for someone who likes to be alone, likes to be outside, likes to admire the seasons as they ripple across nature?  I don’t think so.

And yet the silence holds so much music.  It’s the same way that I now see how the darkness is full of stars almost blinding in their brilliance.

As I turn towards quiet, tune into my own internal world (the hidden geode lined with glittering that Catherine Newman describes), I am by turns dazzled by the symphony of sounds and disoriented by their startling cacophony.  You can’t have one without the other, I don’t think.  This is a line that each of us walks alone and we all make choices about how to cope with how open and exposed to the world’s noise we naturally are.  I am deeply saddened by Philip Seymour Hoffman’s death.  Since Sunday I’ve felt a bone-deep reminder that the world’s noise can be destabilizing and terrifying for some, and that we all need to find a way to manage our porosity to the world.

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  1. Posted February 5, 2014 at 4:11 am | Permalink

    Hi Lindsey
    “I am by turns dazzled by the symphony of sounds and disoriented by their startling cacophony. You can’t have one without the other, I don’t think.” So beautiful, and so true. I too have been haunted by the loss of such a talent, and what happened to push him back to that dark space. I am not an actor, but I would think that for someone with that magical ability to morph into different people while still being in his own skin could feel so….confusing. And overwhelming. And groundless. Like being lost in a cyclone of emotions – some that are yours, some that belong to others, some that belong to others that you are trying to make yours, etc. Anyway, just some early morning ramblings, no facts, here;) Thanks for sharing. Your writing is beautiful as always. xoxo

    admin Reply:

    Thank you so much. Yes … overwhelming, confusing, groundless. And I love the image of a cyclone of emotions. That’s exactly right (some not our own!).

  2. Posted February 5, 2014 at 5:45 am | Permalink

    The answer to that question at the end of the fourth paragraph? Absolutely. I am also quite familiar with the noise and the whispers. This exquisite piece is unquestionably a new favorite of mine.

    admin Reply:

    Thank you so, so much. And I’m glad you agree on that question. xox

  3. Isabelle
    Posted February 5, 2014 at 6:54 am | Permalink

    Oh wow, this resonates so deeply for me. Carey’s line bowled me over too. As the parent of a child with sensory processing disorder I think about sensitivity and porousness to the world often. Knowing how to build safe spaces and manage one’s interactions with the cacophony is so critical. Also, I too ran cross country in high school and love that you connected it to a discussion of silence. I’ve always thought of it as the perfect sport for introverts. Thank you for bringing clarity with your beautiful words.

    admin Reply:

    Isn’t it? I always say: it’s the ultimate introvert sport!!

  4. Posted February 5, 2014 at 7:39 am | Permalink

    I had not read Jim Carrey’s tweet but wow, is he right! Beautiful words from you as always. Thank you.

    admin Reply:

    Thank YOU. xox

  5. Posted February 5, 2014 at 8:05 am | Permalink

    Oh this, Lindsey.

    I’m porous and prone to my inner whisper as well.


    admin Reply:

    Ouch indeed. xoxo

  6. Posted February 5, 2014 at 8:27 am | Permalink

    once again you and I are in sync because I too saw Jim Carrey’s tweeted tribute directly to Philip Seymour Hoffmann as remarkable eloquence in a few syllables. What struck me most was his conclusion: “Bless your heart”

    I’ve considered this over the last few days, wondering how to write about it as well. I have spent much of my career working with addicts, and known some who died intentionally or unintentionally by their own hand from overdosing. What they lacked, what they never seemed to know is a blessing that reached their heart, that reached so deeply inside that the drug became unnecessary anesthesia.

    This is what I feel we must do for one another: even more than new detox techniques, longer rehabs or more accessible cheaper legalized drugs. It is opening up to blessing and being blessed when we are in pain, allowing ourselves to be cared for and about by our Creator who suffered for us. We must focus on the pain of others to heal ourselves. Bless Jim’s heart for blessing Philip.

    Thank you for articulating what I have been struggling with about this tragic loss.

  7. Posted February 5, 2014 at 8:31 am | Permalink


    admin Reply:

    Thank you. xo

  8. Posted February 5, 2014 at 8:36 am | Permalink

    Thank you for writing this. Again I read your letter to Grace which is a letter to all of us and so wise.

    I am finding that world is louder the older I get, and I am also less able to find quiet companions so the loneliness gets deeper. There is something solitary about being a woman approaching middle age.

    I have been so sad since Sunday. Such a bright light snuffed out. Thank you for this tribute.

    admin Reply:

    Consider me a quiet companion, please … far away, maybe, but running alongside you in the woods, both literally and figuratively xox

  9. Posted February 5, 2014 at 9:37 am | Permalink

    So poignantly written, Lindsey. I think this is why many people have trouble with meditation, as it’s hard to listen to the mind and the silence sometimes. It is, as you say, when the demons can come out. I for one like the silence, but for those who struggle with addiction and other problems, I’m sure it’s overwhelming.

    admin Reply:

    I like silence, too … but I do think that it’s when we strip away the distractions and numbing behaviors that sometimes we can really stare into the sun, you know? xo

  10. Posted February 5, 2014 at 9:44 am | Permalink

    This topic has been on my mind a lot lately. I think it’s the current that runs underneath much of what I write.

    You are so right. Finding a way to manage our porosity is essential. xoxo

    admin Reply:

    Thank you – I’m glad you can relate, and not surprised, since so much of what you write touches me so deeply. xo

  11. Posted February 5, 2014 at 10:30 am | Permalink

    This deeply resonated with me. My son was diagnosed with Sensory Processing Disorder last year and in learning about it, I cried. Because I know I have it too and this is the reason for my anxiety disorder (diagnosed 11 years ago) and alcoholism (sober 2 + years).
    I drank to quiet the noises. The noise of my kids. The noise of my brain. The noise everything. The pain of not just my feelings, but of others. I took the world on my shoulders and didn’t know how to not do that. I just wanted it all to stop when I wanted it to.
    I feel for you, sister.

    admin Reply:

    I’m so grateful to know that this resonates and that you can relate. Yes, lots on my shoulders, in my spirit, in my heart. But I’m not sure of another way to live, at least not now.

  12. Posted February 5, 2014 at 11:48 am | Permalink

    This is so beautiful, so heartfelt, and rings so true for me and so many (okay, probably all but not everyone realizes it). Robin Hallett just wrote about numbing out yesterday for the SDS blog tour:

    For me, I could avoid and try to muffle the loud sounds by work, controlling food, keeping busy and the scary thing is that I can find ways to tell myself that it’s okay and justify it. But now, I’ve lost the ability to disconnect and numb and have the awareness of what I’m doing… which can sometimes be just as hard.

    admin Reply:

    Off to read what Robin wrote right now. And yes, I so agree that not everybody realizes it. xox

  13. Posted February 5, 2014 at 12:24 pm | Permalink

    A wonderful and beautiful post. I also really enjoyed “Holding ambiguity and emanating peace.” I couldn’t agree more with everything you said in that post.

    admin Reply:

    Thank you so much. Really grateful to know that you can relate. xo

  14. Posted February 5, 2014 at 12:26 pm | Permalink

    Once again, thank you. My city is celebrating a super bowl win today and I instead am surrounding myself in silence. The disconnect I feel from what seems to be the dominant culture sometimes grows large today. It is hard to understand people’s joy sometimes, and how I know the noise of a huge parade is so wrong for me and my family. And it is a real blessing to read your piece today as I ignore the loudness of my city, which feels so brash to me right now. Thank you.

    admin Reply:

    Brash is such a perfect word. I think of it sometimes as dissonance – between my own internal landscape and what’s going on outside. xox

  15. Posted February 5, 2014 at 3:03 pm | Permalink

    I can relate so much. so

  16. Posted February 5, 2014 at 3:04 pm | Permalink

    Hit ‘post’ too quickly. Sorry. You’ve put my feelings into words that I could not capture. So thank you thank you. xo

    admin Reply:

    Thank YOU. xox

  17. Posted February 5, 2014 at 3:16 pm | Permalink

    Yes, to all of this, Lindsey. As you know, that quote has been on my heart this week also. And yes, the quieter I get, the noisier everything else seems to be. I feel like I’m walking that fine line of isolation and… well… I’m not sure what the other thing would be. I don’t want to isolate myself from the world. But being choosey about what enters my little bubble helps, as long as I keep letting things in… if that makes sense.

  18. Posted February 5, 2014 at 4:53 pm | Permalink

    ” . . .the world seeps through my membranes quickly, powerfully, and, often, overwhelmingly”–you pegged it. My experience as a young child and throughout my life. It has only been within the past couple of years that I’ve been able to truly get better at tuning the noise out. Bravo for the brave post.

  19. Posted February 5, 2014 at 10:14 pm | Permalink

    Lindsey, I love this post…especially this line: “But the thing is, as I get quieter and more in touch with the whisper of my own voice, somehow, the world gets noisier. ” I remember feeling stopped in my tracks when I read that tweet also, and have wondered about the despair people feel and how they cope, and how we all sometimes, or frequently, experience the dire need to go within. Have you read this piece by Russell Brand? I found it so touching.

  20. Posted February 6, 2014 at 12:21 am | Permalink

    This resonated so deeply for me. Like previous commenters mentioned I too am a seeker of silence, struggle with sensory issues (only given a name after identifying my oldest’s own sensory processing issues) and anxiety and depression, it is sometimes a major battle to stay in this world, but I keep fighting and hope for peace someday. I was so shocked and saddened by his death and feel for his family.

  21. Posted February 6, 2014 at 9:52 am | Permalink

    “Socially acceptable distractions”…yes, absolutely. Never actually thought about it that way, but that is exactly what I’ve spent a lot of my life doing. I’m working on it, but its hard to sit quietly with the loneliness and not reach for the next thing to numb, to distract, to get some bit of relief. This is an amazing piece, Lindsey, thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  22. Posted February 7, 2014 at 6:12 am | Permalink

    “The quiet, jagged seed of desolation and sorrow that is buried deep inside of me.”

    Yes, and as you say, it’s in us all. I have really been whopped by his death too, and appreciate your making sense of it here. It is risky, because I am sure some addicts or other experts will say, He was just an addict. But I don’t think it’s quite that simple; instead that the sensitivity he used in his work is in some way connected.

  23. Andrea
    Posted February 7, 2014 at 6:44 am | Permalink

    This is the most beautiful essay. I felt like I was reading art. I thought about it all day yesterday and had to come back and comment this morning. Thank you.

  24. Rachel Taylor
    Posted February 7, 2014 at 4:38 pm | Permalink

    I stumbled on your site after I read Jim Carreys quote. It left me breathless, trapped in the moment. I was sure he was quoting someone else. My search of the quote found it to be originally his and led me here. I am a stranger to you, yet I identify with your words so succinctly. Whatever breathlessness came from Jim Carreys quote, you continued it with your post. You put to words concepts and ideas that I could never hone to the descriptions you used. Well said.

  25. Posted February 8, 2014 at 2:29 pm | Permalink

    Oh, Lindsey, once again you’ve left me speechless. I keep reading this over and over and clicking the links and hopping to older posts and back again. Every time I come here I get lost, in a good way. xo