This post is long overdue, and I blame it on the unexpected side effects of new hearing.
To recap: In the old days, no matter how badly I wanted to socialize or participate in the activities I cared about, I simply could not hear well enough to keep up. I applied myself again and again, but even if I heard scraps of conversation or bits of meetings, I never got the punch line or the point because for some universal reason it was always delivered in a different tone/pitch/volume/direction. Eventually, the cost—in energy—of forcing comprehension was insupportable and I had to stop doing the things that fulfilled me. No more lectures, meetings, or responsibilities that involved communication. No noisy restaurants or small talk—or people. I lived in fear of my disability.
But then I got my cochlear implant, and shortly after activation I found myself—sometimes—getting the joke. Given favorable acoustics, I even bantered and took pleasure in small talk. This is not to say my hearing became perfect. I still have trouble in noisy places, seek a front row seat, and ask for captions. (And I once got in over my head in a hotel ballroom with a microphone and a podium and 105 witnesses). But believe me when I say my hearing is nothing like before. My husband says: It’s a completely different world.
As a result of my CI, the vast amount of energy I once spent on comprehension, overloading my cognitive function to the extent of bankrupting my future sanity, is now freed up. The vast amount of energy I once spent on fear is now freed up.
I have excess energy.
Which brings me to why I’m so late with this post: About five months after my activation, (fearless and full of new energy), I did something I hadn’t done in years, I attended a meeting for people who wanted to volunteer for a job. Most people sit on their hands, look the other way—or pretend they are deaf—when it comes to signing up for volunteer jobs. But after so much isolation, I was feeling a strong desire to reach out, raise my hand, and say YES. And it didn’t stop there; I reached out, saying YES to friends, lectures, concerts, meetings, big jobs and little jobs, cocktail parties, restaurants, and an entire new Dallas literary scene that had blossomed while I was gone. I gorged on participation and connection.
I don’t want to get carried away here, but the sheer joy of rejoining my world where I am able do the things that fulfill me, is what I imagine breaking free of a kidnapper would feel like, or dodging the Ghost of Christmas Yet-to-Come, or rising from the dead.
And here’s the bottom line: I’m too busy to think about my hearing that way anymore. Except to remind myself that I must sit down and write this blog and bear witness to how the CI has transformed what I do every day of my life.