Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: ABSENCE MAKES THE HEART GROW FONDER (02/28/19)
- TITLE: Eating, Breathing, Living
By Linda Lawrence
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Carl unconsciously tapped his fingers along the wall as he walked. He clicked his pen repeatedly as he made notes. I made myself sing to mask the sound. Lord, help me squelch this irritation!
Once I suggested to Carl we tell each other one or two things that the other did that irritated us—and try to stop doing that thing. His response? “Let’s just not be irritated.” So that was that.
But I didn’t choose to be hypersensitive. I just couldn’t escape it.
The sound of his normal eating and breathing was an everyday irritation. What was wrong with me? I wanted to love Carl well, yet I was inwardly wincing at his presence. My nerves were raw. I begged God, again and again, to heal me, to change my heart. When the amplified sounds continued to make me shudder, I concluded God allowed irritation as my thorn in the flesh to keep me humble. I certainly couldn’t think too highly of myself while swallowing groans.
Carl said he was comforted by the sounds of my breathing, even my unladylike snoring. But I stayed up late at night, dreading bedtime. The sound of his breathing made me toss and turn, jam the pillow over my ears—two pillows, and yet still hear his breathing. Lord, You breathe on me! Help!
Afraid I couldn’t stifle a groan at the sound of his chewing, I frequently jumped up from the table, making excuses to do something in the kitchen. I arranged to be too busy to sit down with him for lunch just to avoid the eating sounds. While he asked the blessing, I silently pleaded for rescue from my irritation. Lord, eat with us. Distract me with Your presence. Help!
What else could I do? What could I say? Please don’t eat or breathe? No, this wasn’t his problem. It was mine. I felt I had no defense for being so irritable. I was ashamed of not loving well.
I wanted our home, and my presence, to be a place of peace and grace for Carl. But to my dismay, hearing his presence made me tense up, my skin prickling. I did my best to smother the feeling. Reading, praying, singing, fidgeting to make my own noises to mask his. Irritation was always just below the surface. Swallowing groans filled me with self-disgust.
I went online to look for sound-blocking earphones. This led to my discovery that there is an actual brain abnormality called misophonia. I’d never heard of it but it described my torment—right down the line. Hatred of sounds like eating, chewing, loud breathing, repetitive clicks—because of a difference in the brain’s frontal lobe. It wasn’t a heart or spiritual problem, but a disorder in my brain! I had assumed sin was the root of my irritation.
What a relief. Oh, not from the daily irritation but of my condemnation of my hidden nastiness. I was enabled to have compassion for myself. I was freed from my shame.
I never wanted my husband to suffer knowing what the sound of his eating and breathing did to me. There was nothing he could do about it. My hope was he just thought I was cranky.
So, I wrestled with irritation to his dying day. Although there is no cure for misophonia, it certainly feels like it has been in remission these past three years, as I’ve lived alone in my quiet home.
It’s so much easier to think fondly of Carl with the absence of the sound of his breathing driving me to distraction. I wish it had been different, but it was what it was. We gained lots of practice in forgiving. When he wanted to give me an anniversary gift I asked him to give me forgiveness for when I couldn’t explain my irritation.
I am thankful grace was given so that my struggle never became his struggle. The Lord sat at the table with us, breathed on us, and gave us the grace to love and live together for fifty-three years.
2 Corinthians 12:7
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