Demon #5 Noise


From a Series: One! Half! Dozen! Demons!

(after One! Hundred! Demons! by Lynda Barry)

Noise 2: Collage of post-its and note scraps from eight years ago. Why do I have these?

Today is November 6, Sunday, two days before an election in the U.S. not quite like any other. Barack Obama’s in 2008 was the only one thus far to make your Miss O’ weep with joy and hope and possibility. The election of Hillary Clinton would be another historic marker like no other. (The alternative doesn’t bear thinking about today—we all know where that will go.) I work like mad for candidates I believe in, person by person, conversation by conversation. I don’t knock on doors, I don’t do phone calls, but neither do I shy away from conflict. To be the best citizen I can be, I read everything of merit I can find, and lots of stuff NOT of merit, to know what’s out there. Emotional involvement is unavoidable, but it’s not been for naught. I know that. It’s exhausting, and election years pull me away from something I cherish more than any single thing in being alive: Total focus, my creative head and spirit in a single zone. The rest of life, quite simply, is noise.

Shut UP.

As a child, whenever I ran in from outside, I would find my mother as often as not working on the Washington Post Sunday Magazine crossword puzzle, using a black mechanical pencil she’d had since she was in the navy. As soon as she heard our noise sloshing through the open back door threatening a wave of nuisance, I know she began to lose focus, but she’d try to finish her thinking on just one more clue, often by the light of a single lamp, surrounded by a blue menthol haze. Her steady companion in her own zone all the years of my childhood was a Salem, one in her mouth, one in her hand ready to light. An only child with her own key (to the apartment she shared with her divorcée mom) by age 4, my mom Lynne knew more solitude than companionship. That habit of solitude carried over to her children, for though we enjoy a party and friendship as much as anyone on our dad’s side of the family, we are, in varying degrees, solitary, as likely to disappear as not from a gathering, or to stand back in a corner and watch.

Subway platform view. When Miss O’ is at her most quietly reflective while waiting on a train.

This habit of solitude is not necessarily meditative. In fact, the habit my siblings and I share most deeply is the long attention span focused on a single activity, interrupted by a constant recall of work that must be done. Thus, watching a movie will be met with, “Oh!” and a leap out of a chair to put on water to boil, or give the bathroom a quick cleaning before company comes, or put out the bills on the dining room table so we don’t forget to pay them, or any number of other quick thoughts that prevent us from being, say, successful artists.

Miss O’ cleaned out the takeout menu drawer yesterday. First time in 13 years. She did not, however, write anything.

Now Listen

Claire Booth Luce called politics “the refuge of second class minds,” and each political season I am reminded of why I’ll never be a first-rate anything. I’m sucked into the noise of America being assholes, my mind alert to the world’s ills, and also to my dirty kitchen floor, a thirst for a cold one, associative reading of books and magazines otherwise collecting dust around my apartment, and zipping around the web and social media and putting idiots straight with facts.

Noise. So much noise.

All of it little more than noise. And I get sick from it.

Being sick with noise reminds me that I so deeply want to be a better, more focused, finer human being, that I often forget to do the very things that might help me achieve that—things like writing, drawing, or creating theater.

Maybe I will do those things.

Right after the election.






Author: Miss O'

Miss O' is the pen and stage name of writer and performer and spinster Lisa O'Hara. Miss O' was an American high school English and drama teacher for 15 years, and she appreciates her freedom to leave it behind for a new life in Queens, NY. Her eBook, Easier to Live Here: Miss O' in New York City, is still available, after ten years, on Amazon Kindle and Barnes and Noble Nook. Her stage show, The Miss O' Show Teacher's Edition: Training Pants, will someday arrive in small works-in-progress venues to be announced, maybe; and in the meantime the work continues.

One thought on “Demon #5 Noise”

  1. You write, “Being sick with noise reminds me that I so deeply want to be a better, more focused, finer human being, that I often forget to do the very things that might help me achieve that…” Just to say you have inspired me to be better for years now, Miss O’.


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