By the time I got my cochlear implant late last fall, my professional and social life had become a shadow of its former self.

Severe hearing loss so constricted my communication that I could only relax when I was alone. After all, I could still hear myself think. So I found ways to be alone, work alone, retreat. And who could blame me? The risks of not hearing correctly, especially in a professional setting but with family as well, were enormous. My strategy was to minimize risk, protect myself, shrink my life. Be my own lonely flower.

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Then the cochlear implant happened, the surgery, the implant, the receiver, the programming, things getting louder and louder, more discernible by the day until I can go to lunch in a noisy restaurant and I can have a conversation with a friend without guessing what he is saying and hoping I’m right.

What an incredible thing!

I could have a big life again. I could re-inflate, re-hydrate, expand, enlarge, unfold and blossom. After all, I just got handed my big life back. What would be the excuse for staying small?

I’ve been thinking a lot about this. This will sound strange but I think it’s true. A person makes a new life when they have a disability and it can become oddly precious. Oh, it’s not the accommodations that make a disability precious, it’s the recreation of oneself that a disability requires. It’s learning to separate who one is as a human being from poorly functioning ears or eyes or legs and then creating a new identity that doesn’t include perfect hearing or 20/20 eyesight or legs that can run a marathon.

It took me years but I finally ended up liking myself with a disability. I taught myself to do without knowing what was going on around me; I lived in my own space, heard only what I made an intentional effort to hear, lived the ‘life of the mind,’ my mind. I took to regarding myself as just a ‘person in the world.’ I just wanted to be a person in the world. Intact. Moving through and beyond hearing people, living in my tiny house with soundproof walls. It was my way of coping, my way of keeping my integrity.

But now I need to let the small life go. It’s time to be a person in a world that has other people. I think I need to make myself a big life again.

 

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The Daily Post: Pensive