Box My Ears Until My Head Rings

I have a mind that lights up like a deep blue summer field blinking with lightning bugs. A dark but active background with points of light flashing on and off, on and off and on. A constellation, not a comet. 

I don't brood. I'm close to incapable of it. 

I spend my days and nights in academia and I wonder what it would be like if I could just sit and think on one thing for a while, reading the same book for a long time, and free from the currents running upwards in me that tell me to move move move and find something else to do. 

Unless hypnotized by conversation or good writing or a video, I rarely think about the same thing for longer than a minute. Rare is the activity that can mesmerize my firefly field and hypnotize them into a synchronized glow that lasts entire minutes. My mind is normally a deep blue summer field.

Photo by Fernando Gregory Milan/iStock / Getty Images
Photo by Fernando Gregory Milan/iStock / Getty Images


An emotion has to really punch me in the gut to distract me from my myriad distractions. A little hurt feelings won't do. I need a big wallop, or a series of serious wallops, to do the job. Someone's gotta box my ears until my head rings or else I'll keep changing the radio station.

This happens occasionally––the big smash to the head, the kidney abuse. Right now I'm in the ring, 7th round. ––A series of blows. An unforeseen interpersonal rift that hurt in a big way and now hurts every day in a little way. A long negotiation to resolve a church issue (getting worse before it gets better). And the first of four big, "comprehensive" exams in my PhD program. 

This first exam is on Thursday and I'm not ready for it. People ask me how the studying is going and I tell them it's a disaster. I'm accused of overstudying (they think that's something I would do), and no assurance from me seems to convince them that I'm in real danger of not passing. It's a little hard to get sympathy when people think you're an overreacting genius.

I'll have to write three essays in three hours on three topics that will be chosen for me out of a list of eighteen; I feel great about maybe 5 of those topics. I've worked for two months researching and writing and now I've got three days left to memorize it all. I'm supposed to prove to a couple of the smartest theologians I know that I know what I'm doing. But I don't know what I'm doing, so it's a hard sell, see? "Without any notes, write an essay real quick on theories of meaning and interpretation and how that intersects with the grammatical-historical method, for evaluation by Kevin Vanhoozer." (Google him and you'll understand why I don't want to do this. He's a great guy and I'm fortunate to have him advising me, but sheesh. Ease up on the genius, Doc. Similar problems of expertise arise with my second reader, Lisa Sung.)

As the deadline nears I've found myself thinking about nothing. The flashing in the field ceases. The meadow is dark. I'm sitting up in bed, looking at nothing and thinking of nothing, and Joshua says, "Kitty, I've never seen you like this before." I tell him: "I've never taken an exam like this before and there's never been so much to lose."