Tiny Tibetans in My Ears

My fun case of TMJ, or as I like to call it now, "Tim-jah" (accent on the second syllable), is honestly healing. For one thing, I can eat, and that is important progress. My jaw still gets tight, but ice helps as does relaxation which is a struggle for my worrisome self. Even so, there's been progress in that arena, too. And I have a new mouth guard for sleeping that makes me look very alluring (sarcasm). There is one negative symptom hanging on: tinnitus, or ear-ringing. When I worked at Whole Earth we sold Tibetan singing bowls. I've yet to hear one in use, but as my ears produce a continuous droning tone, I imagine tiny little Tibetans sitting cross-legged in my ears playing those bowls.

Johnny has a minor, permanent form of tinnitus due to not wearing ear plugs back in his early drum days and I never fully sympathized until now. My symptom popped up one night when we still lived in the apartment before I realized it was TMJ. The ringing was much louder last week while visiting my parents. So loud that I slept 1 1/2 hours the night before my Mom's post-op exam. I simply could not ignore the ringing at that volume. I played music via iTunes. I prayed until I was blue in the face. Finally, I went to my parents' bedroom when it was a decent enough hour to nudge them awake. As I stood by my Mom's side of the bed in tears (feeling like an idiot looking at her broken toes), I could barely hear the ringing. You know why? My Mom uses both an air purifier and a loud fan in their bedroom. Sweet! The hum of both contraptions was soothing to my eardrums. As my parents left for my Mom's appointment, I curled up in their king-sized bed, Kujeaux by my side, and slept three blissful hours until my parents returned. Then I barely moved and my Mom joined me for a nap.

After a few more hours passed, not only was Kujeaux yapping loudly atop my parents' bed, but Jake was maniacally barking in the backyard. We tried to slip back into sleep, but the barking continued. I stumbled to the window and Jake was poised, looking at the back of the house. I peered in the direction of his focus, but did not see a thing. Thinking he had lost his canine mind, I went back to bed. When the barking continued longer, my Mom hobbled over to open the back door and one second later screamed, "There's a snake!" She was not being dramatic. That snake was at least as big as Allison's, if not longer. My first thought was, "How cool (since I'd never seen a snake that big)!" Then the nature moment lost its charm and we slammed the door after coaxing Jake inside with cheese. My Mom called my Dad on the phone and he said, "Just get a garden hoe and chop up the snake." I said to my Mom, "Seriously?" Can you picture either of us - wimpy me or my crippled Mother - hacking a massive snake with a hoe? When my Dad arrived home, he grabbed the hoe himself intending to defend his women, but the snake had slithered to the nearby lake, I guess. My Dad would have tried his best to attack the snake, I assure you. Coaches have a certain air of determination.

He came to my rescue a second time that week, the night before I drove home to Houston. I tried to ignore the tiny Tibetans all day (didn't they hear I don't swing Buddhist?) and I was more than desperate for sleep, verging on selfishness. I said, "Mom, do you think Dad would let me sleep on his side of the bed tonight? For just one night? Because I have to drive home tomorrow?" The only reason I even asked is that my Dad can sleep literally anywhere. The floor (carpet or no), a sofa with the TV blaring, through an entire hurricane, etc.. I figured he could handle their plush couch in the den just one night. He agreed to my idea, but then I felt guilty. I urged him to walk to his bed, but he wouldn't budge and told me to get to bed, just like I was a stubborn tyke. I fell asleep next to my nocturnal Mom playing more Sudoku.

The next morning I opened my eyes to sunlight with a smile, very refreshed. My Dad had left earlier for a school meeting, but my Mom told me that as she played number games and I snored (quietly), my Dad walked through the bedroom on his way to the bathroom. She started to say something and he mouthed, "Shhh!" with is finger to his lips, pointing at me asleep. He mouthed again, "Don't wake her up." And so I love my Dad even more. I am 32 years old, yet his parenting instinct kicked in, remembering nights long ago when he and his wife thanked God that their first baby was quietly sleeping. They both tell me that instinct never dies, that I will understand one day when they are grandparents. All I know right now is:

1. The monks play quieter as I get more sleep (in fact, this morning it seemed they had packed up the bowls and set out for Tibet).
2. My Dad has rescued me all my life; he is one of my heroes.


JV said...

have you thought of getting a massage ? it may help. Last fall i thought i was just sleeping poorly and causing neck stiffness. When it lasted for more than 2 weeks i finally decided to get some treatment. The options were doctor, chiro or massage. i went with the massage route and i'm a believer.

kimberly said...

I loved this post Jenni. I've said it before, but it's true, your parents sound amazing.

I too sleep with a fan on, the air hitting me in the face. It helps to block out noise and the silence, when thoughts attack me as I try to sleep. I've gotten so used to it that it's hard to sleep with out one. Now, whenever we lose electricity in the night, I know it immediately and able to call to have it repaired ;~)

amy said...

what a sweet post, jenni. you do have lovely parents. and i am glad to hear our queen kitty ann is on the mend in addition to your aching jaw.

Jim Bohannon (aka Maché Artist) said...

Hi Jenni,

I found my way here via Shelfari, where I've been busy cataloging more books. I sympathize with the tinnitus; I've been enduring my own case of screaming ears for a few months now. About the snakes -- around here, I am a great defender of them, and I always capture them and take them (in a Rubbermaid container...not by hand) to a wooded area. Yeah...I know. You aren't the only one who thinks it's a strange thing to do. I'll stop back by your shelf, and your blog, from time to time.
~ Jim