Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Hum (06/06/13)
TITLE: Background Noise
By Susan Gurney
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When Ben suggested she should spend her early Saturday mornings helping him clean the house instead of sleeping in until ten as was her habit on her days off, Jo noticed the humming got louder. After Jo burned the toast and Ben said, “That’s alright, I’ll just pick up a donut on my way to the office”--it seemed to Jo that the humming grew louder still. But it wasn’t until they had their first argument as a newlywed couple that the hum seemed to turn into a roar...
It was easy at first to blame that incessant sound on Ben, or--perhaps more accurately--on her marriage to Ben, but when she was being really honest with herself, Jo knew the noise in her head had been there a long, long time before she had met the man who was now her husband. To be fair to Ben, she knew that he rarely criticized her, never raised his voice, and always tried to listen to her viewpoint. Jo had no doubts that Ben loved her more than life itself and would do anything to make her happy. It was just that whenever Jo thought Ben was looking at her with disappointment, or she thought she could hear a tone of reproach in his voice, it seemed that crazy hum would get so loud she couldn’t even think straight.
Growing up, Jo had always tried to do her best in everything she set out to do: best in the third grade spelling bee, best soccer player, best test scores in every subject--but she knew even then that the background noise often got louder the harder she tried to excel. The worst times came when Jo was confronted by things she couldn’t seem to do right no matter how hard she tried--art projects, playing the piano, geometry, getting along with her siblings, taking a joke, making friends...
Things didn’t get any better in college, either--or when she graduated and got her first job. Life just seemed so hard at times as she juggled responsibilities, finances, decisions, and relationships at work. It seemed the older she got, the harder it was for Jo to know how to make it all come together. By the time she met Ben, it seemed to Jo that she really couldn’t do anything “the best” anymore, because her “best” always seemed to be wrong to somebody.
When Ben stepped into her life, Jo was relieved to find that as he lavished love and attention on her the hum in her head almost went away. But now, a few months into their marriage, that awful humming was back, and growing ever louder. With the humming, Jo noticed that her shoulders had started aching, too, and she had started getting frequent headaches. No wonder, since she constantly kept her body rigidly at attention so as not to do or say anything that would get her in trouble with her boss, or her husband, or--herself. Everything had to be just perfect--just right--all the time.
Ben realized something was wrong, but whenever he tried to talk to her, Jo always said, “Everything’s just fine!” He really wanted them to start a family soon, but Jo made sure Ben knew this was totally out of the question--though she didn’t tell him that she could never be a good mother with that tormenting hum in her head.
When the neighbors suggested Ben and Jo visit their church, Jo didn’t want to go--but Ben did--so Jo went along so she “wouldn’t make waves.” By now the hum was so constant and loud she realized that it was really a muddle of voices all talking at once: “You can’t do anything right!" "What if you say the wrong thing?!" "You know you can’t do anything right!" "You are such a bad person!”
During the worship service Jo could barely hear the singing, but a few of the pastor’s words made it through the roar: “Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. He is the Peace that passes all understanding. He is knocking at your heart’s door. Let Him come in and give you peace--rest.”
Jo sighed. “Peace. Rest. That’s what I need. Jesus, please end the humming!”
Note: This is a work of fiction.
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