Yesterday’s News

The news is that I am one of several writers recognized as a Voice of the Year by BlogHer. In the blogging world, the VOTY designation is a coveted, wonderful thing. But it always seemed to me to be something that much younger writers attained, people who were funnier, edgier, on the inside of the blogging world while I was standing outside on the window sill with my Windex and ancient squeegee.

I consider being designated as a VOTY to be a combination of extraordinary luck, persistence and writing skill honed by writing 650 blog posts over the past five years, those things and a willingness to be almost totally exposed in the search for understanding of my own situation.

When I got the news yesterday – and it was an astounding, outrageous, joyous piece of news to get, believe me – I couldn’t even read the piece that was selected. I just remembered it as being very painful to write but ultimately becoming a call for my own action to overcome a hearing disability that had been beating me to shit for years. The essay is Blindsided.

It is probably the truest essay I have ever written and perhaps the one of which I am most proud. That BlogHer picked this one is gratifying on the deepest level. I just read it again and it made me cry. Thank God I don’t have to read it at the BlogHer event in New York City in July. I just have to go, get my award and pose for pictures along with a lot of younger, funnier, and edgier people.

I will be the one with the biggest smile.

Blindsided

I wasn’t prepared for this. No one told me how to take my personality, my intelligence, my accomplishments, my ambition, my ego and put them all behind a gauzy thick wall that mutes most voices and distorts the sounds of everyday life. The siren could be a whistle or a baby screaming or someone’s worn out rear brakes, I won’t know until the ambulance crosses the street in front of me.

I wasn’t prepared for this. No one told me how to stop the waves of self-pity, the dejectedness I feel when I realize that once again I have missed the point of an important conversation or become the target of loved ones’ exasperation with my having heard them wrong one time too many today. Until death do us part skipped the part about the burden of a disability suffered by the partner who doesn’t have it.

I wasn’t prepared for this. No one told me how to breathe through my hearing loss like the nurse told me to breathe through contractions, how to accept what can’t be changed but not give an inch away too early, how to look at people when they are talking, how to fully concentrate on them, take each word one at a time, see it formed, watch hands showing, illustrating. I have been spoiled by the expectation of casual conversation, the challenge of finding the best argument, winning.

I wasn’t prepared for this. No one told me how to find other ways to be smart, different ways to be competent and capable, strong and steady, and how to resist the magnet of dependency, how to be honest about what I can no longer do well but courageous about what I can still do if I am not afraid, but I am always afraid, in my heart, of failing, of not being the person I was ten years ago or five.

But then I think who am I to think I should have been specially prepared for hearing loss? There are so many people who truly were blindsided by terrible conditions, limbs lost in war, speech lost in strokes, catastrophic blindness, extreme depression, all things coming out of the blue. That’s not what happened to me. My hearing loss crept up on me, a bit at a time, until the lines on the graph headed ever and ever more downward. In my head, a constant sound plays, like water running through a pipe, sometimes there is a humming accompaniment, a secret din. I look at people talking to me and want to say, you have no idea how loud it is in here.

Every day I remember that there are many worse things. I tell myself that it is up to me whether I see myself as broken. It is up to me to handle this in a way that keeps hearing loss from being the cancer that ends my career and hobbles my relationships.

It is my job to be stronger than the thing that is crippling me.