Tuesday, January 19, 2010

If I could hear, would I...?

Note: I decided to go back to the old format for now. The reason I include Random Facts and In Other News is to show that I think, feel and do things just like everyone else. (The Hearing Aids part, obviously, is where it gets different.) Losing my hearing didn't mean losing me.

Random fact of the day: I love Hot Pockets (okay, Lean Pockets). My freezer is full of them. They were $1.79 at Target yesterday and I'm going back tomorrow to see if the sale price is still in effect. Nomnomnomnomnomnom. Oddly, though, I usually only have them for lunch. I feel like it would be taboo to have them for any other meal.

Hearing Aids: I think it's natural to wonder sometimes what it's like to be hearing. How does it feel to not have to look at someone to understand what they're saying? What does it sound like? How is it possible? But mostly, I wonder what I would be like if I was hearing. Would my personality be the same? Does hearing loss shape who I am as a person or does it not have any influence whatsoever?

I think it's somewhere in between. I can be kind of a ham. When I was in college, I got the normal jitters of having to give a speech or presentation in class but I got over it pretty quickly because I didn't mind talking in front of people. I won't say I looooove doing it, but I don't dread it like a lot of people seem to. And I could even have fun doing it - I like making people laugh and I always had a captive (eh, as captive as college students could be) audience. But I'm not always like that day to day. I stay quiet more than I'd like to because in a group, there's always that chance that the topic isn't what I think it is and chiming in with an opinion on Fox News when everyone else is talking about Team Coco is pretty embarrassing. I also don't speak up because, depending on the size of the group, I'm not sure if someone else is talking and I might be interrupting. So I'd rather just not say as much. Now sometimes I do have good days. I don't know what makes them "good." Maybe I slept really well the night before and have more energy to focus on what's going around me. Maybe new hearing aid batteries make more of a difference than I realize. Maybe everyone is just talking extra clearly. I don't know. But I do have good days where I can keep up, I can contribute, I can participate and ham it up. Some days are a mixture of both... silence and joining in.

When I'm in a group of people, I always assume there's information I'm not getting, which is what keeps me from speaking up. Did someone change the subject? Who just said what? Did they say "is" or "isn't"? Little nuances like that can drastically change my level of understanding of what's going on. And because I pretty much live in a constant state of assuming there's something I'm missing, I think this spills over into other, non-hearing-related issues. For instance, I like to think I'm quicker to give people the benefit of the doubt. If someone snaps at me for no reason, I assume there is information I don't have about why they are acting like that and that are other things going on in their life. On the other hand, I am pretty quick to assume that people are out to get me (in the sense of be rude to me, not out to get me, Jack Bauer-style) more often than not. Is that my regular personality (to take something personally) and losing my hearing has influenced that and made me a little more patient than I would normally be?

On the flip side, I have a hard time trusting people, precisely because I always assume there's information I'm not getting. Even when people pay me compliments or are nice to me or encourage me, I think a little part of me is just waiting for the other shoe to drop, to grasp that one piece of information I didn't have in the first place.

I really love to help people but sometimes I feel like that's a stifled desire. I remember when two (of three) of my college roommates were running around like crazy trying to pack up before graduation. I had finished most of my packing and, empathizing with the task before them, asked if there was anything I could do. They both said no, packing's really only of those things only the packer can do. Totally understandable. But then I felt frustrated when the third roommate was able to jump in and help them because she could hear them muttering, "Where's my brush?" or asking each other "Have you seen my shoes?" But I couldn't pick up on that, so I couldn't help. And I felt like I couldn't be part of their final time at college. I couldn't have those last few minutes with them as roommates. And I think sometimes it's not so much that I want to help as it is that I want to be part of people's lives and helping is a natural way to do that. Now I'm hesitant (though not for lack of desire) to pitch in because, once again, I worry that there's something I don't know. When I was in high school, I was in a play and part of the requirement was to participate in set construction. So I was helping these girls paint a piece of the set. Without warning, they left, but no one told me anything so I just kept painting. One of them came back and incredulously asked, "What are you doing?!" Looking back, I have no idea what happened or what I was doing wrong. I just remember feeling like I was doing something I was not supposed to be doing. So anyway, would I be more willing to help people if I didn't wear hearing aids?

I am one of the laziest people I know, even though I note that I feel much better when I keep active. I'd much rather go home after work and not move from the couch all evening. I don't make a lot of effort to seek other people out. I'm exhausted, man. I've spent all day trying to keep up with my co-workers, ignore the buzz of the office (confession: sometimes I just turn off my hearing aids altogether), constantly on edge when someone walks by and wondering if I'll be engaged in conversation. So by the time I get home, I don't want to do anything. I don't want to go to the grocery store and wonder about announcements. I don't want to go shopping and worry about the cashier with the accent. I don't want to try and meet someone for coffee because the cafe will be loud. Would I have more get-up-and-go if I could hear?

Finally, when I read back through these anecdotes, I see one thing in common: fear. I'm afraid of doing the wrong thing. I'm afraid of being embarrassed. I'm afraid I will (unintentionally) hurt someone's feelings by saying the wrong thing. And so on. I don't know that those fears will ever completely go away but I have to decide not to let them rule my life. Taking risks - now that's a good lesson to learn from hearing loss. Sometimes you just have to step out there and do things you're not sure are okay.

In other news: I finally took my ornaments off of my Christmas tree!! Now I just have to put the Christmas tree away. Baby steps. It's not that I've had a hard time letting go of Christmas... I'm just lazy like that. ;) Now, onto Valentine cheer!

No comments:

Post a Comment