There's too much noise in my world. I can't hear anything.
Actually, at the moment, there is a lull, and I am listening to birds sing outside my window. They get started before five in the morning when it's truly quiet and they sing most of the day, but their songs are soon drowned out by the sounds of increasing vehicular traffic and the train that goes by early in the morning and then by the roar of leaf blowers and lawn mowers and big trucks, punctuated by the occasional siren from a police car or fire truck on a nearby street or an airplane overhead. The lull is nice; it gives my ears and brain a break. Summer is so hot and noisy.
A friend recently told me about the joys of a silent retreat. I am afraid of silent retreats. My head makes more noise than all the things noted above, even the beautiful birds. Being on silent retreat with my noisy head seems counterproductive - hardly restful at all. Sometimes I can't even read without veering off into active remembering and recrimination; the voices in my head clamoring for me to remember that time I messed this up, remember that time I was humiliated. This is why I prefer the ocean - the pounding pushes the noise out of my head with every wave that washes up on the shore, washing away not only the footprints and detritus on the sand but also washing away my noisy thoughts and inner voices that accuse and jeer at me. It's like baptism that washes away my sins, having the ocean wash away the consternation and fear and frustration with both the world and myself again and again with a reliable rhythm that says, "I know these things will return to haunt you, to clamor for your attention; and I will likewise return to soothe you again and again."
Some of my discomfort is just part of city life. I drive my son to day camp on six-lane surface streets (not to mention the interstate highway that comes into play several times a week and used to be part of my daily commute); neighbors mowing their lawns in the early morning sound as if they are right outside my window (because they are!); huge trucks that go over the speed bump in front of our house make the entire house rattle. It's hot in town - steam rises from the streets when a hit and run shower does little to cool things off and heat rises from the streets the rest of the time. There's visual noise, too - the many lanes of traffic full of cars, all the road signs and billboards, the nonstop buildings. The city is exciting and there's always something fun going on but it can be overwhelming even for an extrovert like me.
I think the ideal life combines noise and quiet, fun and downtime, simplicity and complexity, people time and alone time. Time to soak up the sun, to smell the flowers, to feel cool breezes; to read, to think, to talk; to be entertained and stimulated; to listen to the birds and the lapping of water. Most of us don't have the resources to have the ideal life - house in the city, place in the country, stimulating jobs and plenty of time away for rest and rejuvenation, time to spend with family, time to tend one's spiritual life, time to go all out and time to just do nothing.
For whatever reason, it's the noise that distresses me the most. Especially the noise inside my head. I'm trying to listen for God and I'm having trouble hearing.