As I continue to process the impact of this book, I realize it has likely become part of the reason the number of entries have dramatically declined on this blog. For the past four years (actually, more technically since I was 12) I was driven by the question of “Why? Why can’t I be myself? What IS IT?” This question was the driving force behind blogging, a medium where I didn’t need to hear to express myself. I wanted to figure it out. Intellectually I had many of the answers, but in my heart I did not know it yet.
I believed if I tried hard enough, I would have a hearing person’s experience. I believed I was OWED a hearing person’s experience. I believed someday, in the right time with the right people, I would HAVE a hearing experience. Otherwise known as “being able to be and express myself” in social situations- just like everyone else I knew. With these beliefs so firmly a part of me, the recurring patterns that happened in every social experience I encountered became inexplicable, torturous and full of injustice.
Inevitably it was either:
- I am a silent outside observer, stuck and unable to speak or join in.
- I make a friend. Then a third (or more) person(s) joins in and start talking. I drop out of the conversation like a boulder, no longer able to participate like I want to.
- Then, I watch helplessly as the friend and newcomer seem to, in a matter of minutes, become much closer to each other than they ever will to me. Their easy access to communication rapidly creates social experiences and bonds that will surely surpass and replace me.
- Helplessness, resentment, jealousy, despair creates even greater distance from the hard-won friend.
- Nobody seems to notice.
Not to say that this was reality, but it was definitely my perception and my reality. Since I didn’t believe that it is an inevitable side effect of hearing loss, I took it personally. I didn’t understand the experience and I didn’t have the words. Anger and resentment became misdirected. I wasn’t even in touch with how much I was pretending, how much I was mimicking the body language and facial expressions of others to appear like I was actually following the conversation.
With acceptance- I will NEVER have a hearing person’s experience- comes words. Now I have choices. I can make disclaimers. I can say outright that I have a dichotomous life. I may appear a certain way in most social situations, but it is not who I really am. Get to know me one on one, or you won’t know me at all. I AM NOT QUIET.
More than once I have heard that it is actually “easier” to be completely deaf than it is to be hard of hearing. With deafness comes a culture whose language gives you complete 100% ease of communication and socialization without strain or stress or getting left out. During dinner, Gina encouraged me to try the ASL language camps or the Phd Psychology program at Gallaudet. Similarly, a week earlier a colleague tells me about the astonishing lack of services for those with hearing loss in Vermont. There are no therapists who know sign language and certainly none who truly know what it is like to not hear in a hearing world.
I begin to see where my life is headed.
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Oct 31st 2007Hearing loss