Thursday, April 23, 2009

A Year Of Digital Sound.

Time is the equalizer it seems, when one is trying to gain back some of the lost art of comprehension.
For every bad day where the roar of the tinnitus, or the poor quality of the conversation due to background noise, there are golden days where I stumble at first; then adjust; then roll with the topics de jour.

I had the good fortune of being invited out last Wednesday night, to a group gathering of the co-workers where my friend Mary works.
Always nervous at first at being judged as different, I slink into seat and listen as best I can.
The venue was a restaurant, so I was handicapped right out of the gate. Lots of noise from bar area, other tables filled with families and little ones screaming around the tables.

I sit.
I listen.
I watch.
I guess.

I grabbed enough of the conversations that I jumped in when I was positive I had it nailed.
When unsure, I would listen hard and fill in the blanks.

I am fortunate that my friend Mary helps out. She watches my look to see if I pose a quizzical frown, or a nod of "ah ha, I got it" acknowledgment. She is kind and good to me to ensure that I am part of the world at large. Ever careful to keep me at least in the loop of conversation.

What a nice feeling to be back in the world! I so enjoy the art of conversation. The banter and playing with issues. The tossing and lobbing out of opinions, to see who will volley them back over the net.
It has been a long time since I sat and took part in social gatherings of any sort.
I was a giddy as a school boy at Christmas.

Today I went for my one year Cochlear Implant sound test. In a few days I will celebrate the anniversary of my activation on May 1st last year. The test in the booth is simple: Words are heard by me from a speaker that sits in the sound proof booth, at various levels of volume.
I just repeat them. The audiologist records my mark.

"Duck" comes through the speaker
"Duck" I say back
So far so good. If only the world worked in simple one word conversations.

The next part of the test is listening to sentences.
Five or six word sentences using all of the "Ling" sounds are heard by me, in the booth. I just have to repeat the sentence.
"The boys drank the water" is played through the accoustically perfect sound system, in the perfectly sound proofed and quiet room.
"The boys drank the water" I repeat back.

Next is the "HINT" test or "hearing in noise test", where sentences are played through the speakers as in the last test, but there is the roar of background noise. Very much like real life.
Very much like last Wednesday where the roar of a restaurant frustrates us.
I guess a lot.
If I can get one or two words, I can string together a pretty good guess.
"But dime cause da train repeat" is what I hear.
"What time does the train leave" is what I repeat.
Just like real life.
Fake it to make it.
Fill in blanks, read lips, nod your head, laugh when others laugh. Never let them see your puzzled look if you can help it.

My scores were high, and I was pleased. It has been quite a year since my activation.
My world changed more dramatically and drastically then I would have ever imagined.
One year ago today, I was deaf as a stump, but implanted with a on-board PC that would have a processor linked to it in a few more days, via a magnet.
The first sounds I heard after 230 days in utter and profound silence, were the beeps of my audiologist program to set volume levels to be fired at my auditory nerve. The setting of the sound levels had me grinning from ear to deaf ear.

The first voice I heard in 230 days was my audiologist.
I almost wet myself with laughter because she sounded like Minny Mouse after a mouthful of helium was sucked into the cartoon character.
Everyone sounded like that for weeks. Men and women alike all sounded like the mouse on helium.

Patience and work prevailed, and I grew in leaps and bounds to where I sit and listen today.
Comprehension is in the 90% in both quiet and noise in the cozy confines of the audiologist booth.
Not so high in the real world.

Much has happened in the year that saw me go from deafness, to digital sound.
Many losses, but many gains.
Back to work, gain of balance, new friends, new life really!

I like where I am, but more importantly like where I am headed. I figured out the world of change and the way to deal with it is acceptance.
My number of problems is no different from yours. We all have 83 problems, every day.

I stopped trying to pair that number down a long time ago. I need to respect the 83, and move forward.
The snow melted after a long winter.
The world of work greeted me after a 15 month medical recovery.
New wonderful and amazing friends came into my life.

And sound returned to my life after a long hiatus.

So as easy as it is be reflective as I celebrate my one year in new sound, I am more apt to acknowledge and accept the changes that happened.
I have a new way of hearing.
I have a new and very different life.
I have new and wonderful people in my life.

I still have 83 problems.

They are just different then they were 365 days ago.



Sunday, April 19, 2009

The Roar In My Head.

The buzz and hum that dogs my inner auditory nerves, is at times unnerving. Rumble and roar from tinnitus is so much a part of my life, that at times acceptance is the only way to deal with it.
It drowns out conversation at times, and that is not what I need.
I need some quiet up there to hear the conversation that I so miss and crave.

I had a wonderful Sunday, except for the noise that crept up all day. Louder and louder it progressed until all I could hear was the automotive assembly plant that lives in my head.

The day started great: A run in the early morning was as splendid as it gets. Not the run itself, as I hate the act but the love the results; the endorphins and the high that I get around 10 minutes after completion.

I went to a great BBQ that my friend had for her daughter and family. It was special to be invited and meet any and all of her family and friends.
As the day wore on, the gears and motors of tinnitus increased until it became an embarrassment of:
"did you say...?

The guests were patient and kind and understanding as I expected, but man does it make for a difficult time trying to fit in to the conversation. I miss so much as I struggle with the comprehension. I take guesses as to the subject like always, but today I was off the mark all day.

One discussion about American Idol was the only one I guessed right at, but sadly could offer no insight into the show, as music and TV are so foreign to me in my cochlear challenged world. So the lovely day and wonderful people that were part of my afternoon got my attention visually,
I read lips, watched eyes, studied faces, just as I did in my deaf days.

I took breaks and retreated into the quiet kitchen to see if I could simmer the sound down, but it just amplified when I concentrated on quiet conversation.
It is a nuisance indeed.

I'm not going to give it any energy. I am home enjoying the memory of a lovely Sunday in my new world.
My new chapter.
My new friend.
And the joy that all that brings me.



Tuesday, April 14, 2009

There Are No Accidents In The Universe

There are no accidents in the universe, in my beliefs of life and in my experience.

We ramble about the planet doing what we do, living our lives, and change is happening.
I spent a great deal of my life in search of happiness, and discovered that searching and seeking usually brings about more of the same searching a seeking.

I was, and am, content in my new life for the most part. Other than missing a soul to share the day to day concerto with, I could be be content live busy with my activities.
So I am cautious yet curious when new people grace my life.
Still, I have open mind and open heart to new ideas, people, places and things. I am also aware of what the human spirit has to offer, so I forge ahead observing and taking in the new people who grace my life daily.

So when someone graced my life a few weeks ago, I did the usual observing, listening, contemplating, deliberating, meditating, and reflective thought. After reasonable time and conversation it became clear that this new soul was a kindred one indeed.

I am pensive and rational by nature, so I was intrigued by my "full speed ahead" quest to spend more time with this wonderful soul as she was so engrossing.

My deafness along with my obvious magnet on my melon, has made me more shy and guarded than the previous analog version of myself. It was with great delight that this lady disarmed my silly perspective of myself, and made me feel "normal". In so much as I hate the word normal, and at times believe I am no different than before, I am also aware that my challenges with cochlear aided hearing do indeed make me different.

I had also forgotten how wonderful it is to share conversation one on one, as I posted a while ago. I get caught up in the wonderful world of sharing, and find myself "hogging" the conversation, as I have been for starved of that for quite some time.

Acceptance of new friendship can be hard. When one is "not looking", "not interviewing" or "not accepting resumes" for the friend position; one is caught of guard a little bit when the universe offers up a wonderful kindred soul to share and laugh with.
To allot and apportion my time with is a treat now as I look forward to the experience and the daily give and take of the conversation that is offered up when two people share common interests and goals.
The give and take of life is worthy of sharing with others. So my enchantment moved quickly to contentment.

Yes it has been a relatively short period of time in our friendship, but we are not 17 any more, and there is no sadness in that simple fact.

Life moves on at the speed of life. Change happens faster than we like, but it changes.
The glee and gratification of sharing the day to day trials and tribulations are lighter from the mirth and pleasure of having someone to chew the words with.
Another wonderful soul to relish the day with.
A kindred spirit to share the hilarity and jollity of life and it's joy.

There are no accidents in the Universe



Sunday, April 5, 2009

Just Breathe

There is no "normal" for me. Acceptance of that statement/fact is huge for me, and it puts me in a new space that requires constant review and challenges. I struggle to develop a better mental toughness most days, that is required to bring me out of a place and space where I often drift to in my hearing and balanced challenged world.

In the past eighteen months I have lost much: Hearing, balance, a beloved family pet, and my spouse of 19 years. But I have gained much in that time. Managing my expectations of a new life, is the challenge and the new reality of my this new space that I occupy in the universe.

I recently read a quote by Michael J. Fox, the Canadian actor who lives daily with the quirks and jerks of Parkinson's disease.
"I may be different from other people, but someone told me that the growth of happiness is in direct proportion to your acceptance, and in inverse proportion to our expectation"

This was an epiphany of sorts to be sure. I read it, and re read it until it struck me as why there are days that I get mired or stuck in the "why can't I just be normal".
I have what I have, and my cochlear challenged world is what it is.

I will never get hearing back as it existed pre-1997. So once I grip that fact, I can move forward to deal with life as it exists now. Which more often than not is hearing at a 80% level of comprehension in quiet situations, filling in the rest with good guesses; and hearing at a sub 50% level in noisy environments, and playing a huge, but oft-times hilarious guessing game.
"Are they not bastards? " I heard from a friend last night with my processor and mic on the opposite side of the speaker.
"Huh? No, no, they are good people" I responded, "not bastards"
"No, no, Baptists, not bastards" they corrected.

I can and do laugh at the daily frustrations of what I "get", but what I "miss" is the source of frustrations. Phones are still a nightmare, for me and for the callers I suspect. Some calls that should be around a minute or two in length are five minutes in qualifying the caller.
"I'm sorry who are you asking for"
"Who are you again"?
"Are you with a company"?
"I'm sorry I am hearing challenged, can you tell me the subject of your call"?
"One more time, is it David or Dan you are looking for?"
"Oh hi Mom, sorry"

Confidence at times slips out of my persona like warm air through a open door. I go through the "this sucks, and I am alone now to deal with it" daily. Yet there are times, where I give thanks to this technology and marvel at the implants and what they provide in sound for this deaf as box of cereal boy.

Michael J. Fox hit a spot in his challenges and said "This sucks, this is what it is and this sucks, and then you move on from there"
While I am in that spot or space, I still ask myself if the universe decided to play a cosmic joke, or a God of my understanding decided that life was too easy, and needed to put me through a cosmic test, and took away some powerful things, and people in my life, to see how I deal with life without the love and understanding of some people, and the necessities of normal hearing and balance.

If I accept this as my new spot here, and accept that even that is ever changing, then I can start to deal with life from a better vantage point. I have what I have. End of story. Move forward now.

Yoga and meditation keeps me grounded and provides a "jumping off" point for the day. Deep and slow double breaths remind me that I have life. The slow process of air entering my lungs and slowly filling into the belly, gives me hope and is a reminder that 18 months ago I fought survival in a coma on life support. Written off and family gathered around, I somehow was given a chance at a comeback. But hearing would be the cost of this battle.

In my silence I changed of course, and saw the world through vision and touch.
Eyes became my ears, and a new vision of life emerged.
A gentler kinder vision as I needed compassion and understanding to survive in the dog eat dog environment, so I best learn how to give compassion and understanding if I was to receive it.

So the metamorphosis of David began in a hospital bed, but continues daily.
I lower my expectations of what I can and cannot do now in life, and I learn acceptance of my new life without important things and people in my life. So much I shared with people that no longer grace my world, go unshared. So be it. It changes not the fact that they exist with or without what or who I have or do not have at this point in my life.

Michael J. Fox has a small square painting hanging on his office wall. Just black text on a white background that immortalizes an expression Fox, a former heavy drinker, used as he was trying to quit and accept Parkinson's disease.
It reads: "fuck it and breathe."

This morning as a beautiful sun rose, and I stood in full Tree Pose attempting ujjayi breaths, I drifted to that spot that dogs me. The confidence escaping me as I dreaded the Monday morning dealings with the phone at work and the frustration that comes with it.

Life became calm and clear when I removed any and all expectations and stopped reacting. As radical and unfamiliar as this was, it calmed me, and my attention shifted inwards.
I have what I have.
I am what I am.

Now fuck it and just breathe David.

Friday, April 3, 2009

"Me" Time

I don't get here much. Which is a shame. I miss it.
It's a shame because I love it here, writing, reading, sharing, laughing, and running the gambit of emotions with the other writers in the blogosphere.

Life got busy for a moment or two, and while I enjoyed the change in the parade, I missed doing some of the things that kept me grounded during stronger winds.
Writing was one of those things.

What sticks out as a time consumer is being a Dad.
I have of course been a Dad for 15 years. And for a great deal of time in the last five of those years, I have been the primary "go to parent" in Janet's long illness.
A fifteen month hiatus as that principal was a result of my medical 9/11 and my subsequent deafness.

I did find myself thrust back into the role of "Chief cook and bottle washer" of the house after my recovery, and Janet's fall back into the darkness of leukemia.

Now that I am without Janet, I find it a little unnerving at times as I search for the right answers in the care taking and parental advice needed with a now 15 year old boy.

Some things Mom just always knew the answer to, or the right thing to do.

I enjoy figuring these things out I suspect, but find myself at times looking up towards the clouds and asking for a little help. I'm not the first nor am I the only single Dad on the planet. So I take comfort in the fact that it can and will be done.

There will not always be the right answer or the right thing to say or do, so I give myself some latitude and the odd "mulligan" on issues that stump me.
It keeps me busy.

As life is ever changing, so are my answers to questions. There really is no right answer to many of life's questions, because what may have been the right answer or action 10 years ago, may have little relevance today.
So I try to lead by example and give Dan some room to discover and grow on his own, offering guidance and assistance when asked or needed.
I will never attempt to duplicate his Mom's efforts and actions, as they were hers. I think he knows that and respects that.

Janet and I had 2 very different styles of parenting, as I suspect many couples with children do. I think my style as the Dad worked for the most part, but miss her wisdom in answers that only Mom's seem to have.

Dan was never shy about talking about people in his life with his Mom, and I have to admit a little jealousy on my part over the years. His openness about people in his life was a subject of many late night chat between the two of them, and something I thought would come to us with time.

Perhaps it will.

If not, I am there with open mind and cochlear challenged hearing.

So I forge ahead with the day to day duties of laundry, shopping, dinner, dishes, homework check. And still find time to put in a 9 or 10 hour day at the office. Like most parental "stuff", there are little rewards seen at the end of long days. But we don't do life for the rewards really, do we?
We help them to live, to love, and to learn, and then we hope that the legacy we leave them will show itself one day. Perhaps as we watch them as parents struggling with the same questions, and coming up with the same answers that we instilled in them.

Certainly as life moves at the speed of life, we think that we do not spend the time or give the wisdom we should. But then we watch an action or hear a word or two one day, that comes from the heart. An action that could only have been learned from this environment. Bred in the bone if you will.

I see many of Janet's traits in Dan, and that makes me happy. There was never a more "common sense" Mother to be seen like her. No nonsense, careful, diligent, and forever making sure that the right thing was done for the right time. But always with love and kindness.

Dan has that to be sure. But he also has my ridiculous sense of humour, and my love of life.

He will do fine. I just need to accept that and chill a bit I guess I need to spend time on me. It has been years since I did anything for me, and I miss that. This writing was my one token "me" time, and I miss it when I break for too long.

I think as life changes, and Dan moves along into a fine young man; I just might do some things I always wanted to do.
No idea what that will be, but I am sure I will find my pocket of interest in something or someone along the road.

The journey is great, and enjoyable. I just have to live in the "now" and not worry about 4 or 8 or 12 years down the road. All we know for sure is that it will be different. Always. And life will have curve balls, fast balls, and the odd one to hit out of the park.

I just want to enjoy all the pitches it has to offer every day.

Or just sit in the grass and enjoy the changes at the "ball park".



Thursday, April 2, 2009

Conversations With Myself.

I need to spend more time here.

I catch myself drifting aimlessly at times, searching for something to occupy my new found "free time".
I like having the time now, it's just that I need to spend it more focused.
I drift.

After the mundane chores of dinner, dishes, laundry, homework checks, and bill paying are complete; I still go to old auto pilot and think about driving to hospital, or preparing solutions to clean the trach that needed to be done nightly in days of old.

In my new chapter, I need not check in on patient at hospital, nor do I need to do the home maintenance that was once required in home care of said patient.
I pick up mornings newspaper and re read it. I go through the many books laying about that are marked with spot of last exit. I fuss with furniture. Surf aimlessly the Internet catching up on blogs and forums.
Then I watch clock to see if sleep draws near.
Hmmmm seven thirty.
Still time to kill before bed.

I made some stabs at hobbies. I even spent nights researching cameras after a thought of spending some money and getting serious about photography.
I got as far as eliminating many choices and narrowing my purchasing decision down to three or four options. I even went to store and picked up the ones I thought might bring me some activity with joy.
Then I left the store and went home to look a web sites offering how to speak and learn Portuguese or Spanish.

I am interesting!

With spring now making longer attempts at brightening up the day, I consider the garden. It is a job that will take considerable labour and planning, yet it is too early to think about planting. So I just drift visually and take in what needs to be done once May is closing and June approaching. So I go through books and magazines and write and draw ideas out. I do som preliminary tossing of the old growth in bags, and prepping the area in anticipation of first plantings.
I research Hosta of the year, and see if I have room for it.

I guess I am still evolving into my "new space" in the universe. Discovering, if you will, more about me and my needs and wants.

I miss conversation at times, even the most simple and mundane.
Always one to share whatever came to mind, I find myself sharing with the sky, the silly things that occupy my brain at times. The many days and nights that Janet was in hospital, I would tell Speeder the wonder dog, how my day was, or what concerto was the most current of my worm songs that play on loop.

Dan, of course, is happy and content in his fifteen year old world of music and on line "stuff", and when Dad wanders down to his space, I get the "look". The "look" at times is one of almost sympathy: "Hi Dad, is everything going ok?"
"Yes, just wondering what you're up to, and if you wanted to catch the hockey game with me"
"Maybe after I finish learning this song" he compromises.
Evening turns to night, and drift off in thought as hockey game is "on" in background, books are stacked up in the ready for review, and thoughts turn to next days business activities.
Dan gets involved in his world and forgets his semi commitment.
The day draws to a close, and we wish each other a good nights sleep.

Maybe activity is not so much the thing I crave I miss. Perhaps conversation, or lack of, is what dogs me at night.

Days are busy of course, as I attempt the activity of business and commerce, and pretend that I can salvage and save this economic situation we find ourselves in.
God knows the challenges of comprehension in my tinnitus/cochlear challenged world are enough to keep me on my toes and active on a minute by minute basis. It requires a lot more thinking and reviewing than I ever imagined. I need to fill in blanks; guess at the "subject de moment"; and give intelligent answers or comments based on comprehending around 75% of what my auditory nerve has attempted to translate for my brain.

So days are fine, and most go quickly. It is the nights that drag, and I am convinced that being one who shared everything all of the time, I might need to get a bird or a hamster (can fish hear?) to bore into submission with every detail of what comes into my pea sized melon.
I am comfortable in the "alone" thing for the most part, as I do enjoy the solitude at times. It offers time for reflection that I never thought existed. I am careful to keep my Buddhist teachings in mind as life changes. I accept living in the now more than ever.

It's not that I view something as "broken" per say, it really is a matter of missing the sharing of my passions, my joys, my sorrows, and my hopes and dreams. I was never one to clam up when something excited me or disappointed me.

The crocuses are up, and I love that simple fact. I do however crave the pointing it out and sharing it.
There are many people in my life at present, and I am grateful for that,
I just need to get my head in a spot where I am better around "change", and get better at acceptance that we are different on so many levels.

I started this post just after 5 am this morning. I wrote a bit, read a few blogs, read some newspaper, did Yoga, made a smoothie for mornings consumption, checked email, put away dishes from dishwasher, walked out in the backyard, then came back to try another stab at finishing this post. It just never got finished, as I always found some little task to do.
I then showered and readied for work, got Dan up and drove him to school, and made way into office.

Five hours after awakening, I sit at qwerty attempting to finish this rambling of thought.

So, I guess the point is this: I have activity and am not looking to join an amateur radio club, or a local theater group that has requirements for hearing challenged, balanced challenged, frustrated comedians/actors.
No, I am good with things to do.
I guess I just need to yap about the things I do.

Julie wrote a post today that I started my day with. In a nut shell is was about the fact that men don't communicate. It caught my attention because I was in a head space at the time about how I wish there were more people in my concerto to communicate with.
I am never at a loss for words, just at a loss for people to hurl and swirl them at. Perhaps for that reason, I blog. It allows me a chance to vent, rant, mope, exude happiness, cry, laugh, share, and care with you.

Julie in her wonderfully funny and thought provoking post suggests to men that conversation is like a tennis game. One party hits a question over to the other, and one hopes it gets hit back.
The analogy is good, and I'm not sure it just pertains to men as being the ones to offer one word answers and then clam up.

I have been in many one way conversations where I seem to do all the questioning and answering for both parties. It bothers me not, but I see the danger in a relationship if one is the clam and the other is open and forthcoming in all regards.

Still no idea where I wanted to go with this post, and at the point now where I am busy at work, and taking stabs at a conclusion.
But this is what is interesting: There are no answers or conclusions in this ever changing universe.
Our concertos go up and down in tempo and volume. The melody is ever changing, as are the musicians.
We all have 83 problems.
Some have partners to share them with, some have pets to hear the 83, others have a spiritual place to speak of their 83. I have acceptance of that fact.

There are those of us who are happy sharing their hopes, dreams, joys and accomplishments right here; in the blogosphere world.
I accept that.

I just miss a good gab fest I guess.

And I accept that, move on, and live on.

Things will change.

Always do.