Considering the fact that I listen and talk for a living, I sure do get tired of listening and talking. By the end of the week, I reach my capacity. My hard drive gets full. I need to process the information in my database and file it into long term storage before I can take any more in.
This is especially true if what you are asking me to take in is foolishness.
It just so happened that I had a long work week not too long ago. I had a lot of high-powered listening to do. A seven hour mediation. A lot of traffic hearings over which to preside. No less than three people crying in my office (for good cause.) By the time the weekend rolled around, I wasn’t good for much beyond staring off into the middle distance. Being the parent of teenagers, this was not an option. Instead, we had to pile in the minivan and drive across creation to go to a wind symphony concert.
Individually, I love each member of my family more than can be quantified. I would take a bullet for these people, throw myself in front of a train in their stead, and sacrifice anything to make their lives better. Collectively, I cannot stand them and would happily throttle the last living breath out of them. They bicker over every side eye and perceived tone of voice. “Are you making that noise on purpose?” “What noise?” “Stop it!” “Stop what?” “That clicking noise.” “What clicking noise?” “The one you’re making with your tongue.” “That’s the cup in the cupholder.” “No it isn’t, you’re making it with your tongue. I can hear it. It’s wet.” “No I’m not.” Mind you, these kids are not toddlers, they are honor students who take classes like AP Calculus. They are both taller than me, their father is an active participant in this intellectual conversation, and I Cannot. Make. Them. Stop.
There are times when my brain is full and I simply cannot bear the cacophony. That day, each syllable felt like someone pelting pebbles at my ears. I sat in the passenger seat of the minivan, holding my hands over my ears and rocking, trying desperately and unsuccessfully to travel in my minds eye to a tropical island I was a highly reactive toddler in the middle of an episode, locked in the dumpy body of a middle-aged woman.
Eventually, we booted my son out of the van for his dress rehearsal and we three remaining Duffs went to kill time at a local Target. Not far into the store was a display of random stuff I guess you’d call $15 and under stocking stuffer type things. There they were. Big fluffy Tribble-like earmuffs. They were not attractive in the traditional “they look good” sense, but they were most certainly attractive in the look-at-me, legal definition of “attractive nuisance” sense. You could not look away from these things. The blue pair seemed the least bizarre, and I put them on. They seemed a more socially acceptable version of my hands cupped over my ears. It was winter. They were sold in a trendy store.
I walked to the café section where my daughter and husband were eating giant pretzels. “Well?”
Marin cocked an eyebrow at me. “They definitely say ‘stay away from me.’”
I was ecstatic. “That’s what I’m going for!”
“Maybe you should go for a brighter color. Blue is almost normal.”
She might or might not have been kidding, but I ran back to the display and got a retina burning yellow and came back. “Like this?”
She was speechless. My husband chewed on his pretzel for a moment, and then said, “If you really want them, I’ll buy them for you.” I suppose he was trying to be generous, but honestly, I pay all the bills.
I bought them. I wore them the whole time in the car and pretended not to hear a word anyone said. I brought them into my office and announced their purpose and we all had a good laugh, but everyone also got that I was serious. The truth is that they really don’t block out much sound, but they do keep my ears toasty warm, and send a message. People tend not to direct their comments towards me or ask me to get involved when I’m wearing them. They are my I’m-Done-With-Your-Foolishness-Muffs. They are my I-Need-A-Break-Muffs. They are my Mommy’s-on-the-Edge-Muffs. And they are fabulous. If you see me wearing them, follow your instincts.
If you enjoyed this and want to read more like it, visit Lori on Twitter or on Facebook. Lori is a National Society of Newspaper Columnists 2018 Columnist winner, and a New Apple, Readers’ Favorite, and eLit award winner for her latest release, “You Know I Love You Because You’re Still Alive.” She is also the author of the bestselling books “Mismatched Shoes and Upside Down Pizza,” and “The Armadillo, the Pickaxe, and the Laundry Basket.”