Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Tom Matlock - The Sweetest Sound

Tom usually offers inspirational posts at The Good Men Project, and he has an inspirational story that got him to this point in his life. This post is a little darker, but it offers a clearer glimpse into this past - a past that I can identify with all too well, even though I never reached his level of success.

The Sweetest Sound

January 17, 2011 By Tom Matlack

During my waking life I’ve always been tormented by noise—voices in my brain that turned terror into self-hatred.

For as long as I can remember I have had the same nightmare. My brother and I are in a prison buried deep beneath a mountain. The guards beat us. A fire breaks out. The guards flee, leaving us locked up. My dad is trying to get to us but he can’t. Just as the flames reach our cell, I wake up. I would stare into the dark and try to see something real to focus on—something to erase the images in my mind. Mom said that I’d often scream for quite some time before she could wake me up. Apparently, the unconscious drama had to play out to a certain point before I was allowed to escape death by fire.

During my waking life I’ve always been tormented by noise—voices in my brain that turned terror into self-hatred. The sensation in my body is bone grinding on bone. Tracing the origin of the noise is like trying to unravel the mysteries of the Big Bang. I am sure my parents’ utter commitment to justice, combined with my fragile nature, planted a seed that sprouted and flourished as my size (I was already six feet tall in the sixth grade) made me a freak. It became a cancer that grabbed my soul with its dark tentacles.

Despite being a swimmer of great promise, as a teenager I’d gorge myself on Oreos and banana bread until my stomach was distended, then look into the bathroom mirror with an overwhelming urge to smash my blond-haired, blue-eyed image. I discovered some small respite by going out for my daily 10-mile run through the hills that surrounded our house. I was always alone. I liked to run the same paths to reduce the mental energy required to figure out where I was going. The physical pain of running up those hills was what I sought. At the top, I could swear at the top of my lungs and no one could hear me. The payoff was the dead, dreamless sleep I craved. The noise stopped at least until the next morning, when I’d have to figure out a new way to obliterate my senses.


From age 17 to 27 I was in a blackout. I experienced moments of freedom rowing boats in college, crushing opponents in our wake, but the main focus was all-out drinking; it required less effort than my physical trips to the other side. I flipped a car on the Massachusetts Turnpike, threw a couch out a high rise UCLA dormitory, got kicked out of Tuck Business School before attending my first class for lying on my application, put holes in any number of walls in frustration over relationships with random women—and still woke in the middle of the night in the prison of my own making.

Read the whole post.

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