Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Gift of Hearing

I originally wrote this article about 5 or 6 years ago, but have added a few changes.

Several years ago, I learned I was hearing impaired.  I had been given an amazing gift.  I know, for many, it wouldn't feel like a gift.  Sometimes it doesn't even to me.  It still is, though.  Here are a few examples of what I've experienced before I was tested and try to imagine:

...watching a television with bad sound.  You see the people talking, moving their mouths, and pick up a few words here and there.  Unfortunately, no matter how hard you try to hear what they're saying, it's more like a hum or expressive mumbling you hear.  You can only fully hear a few words.

You're in a meeting and again, the odd words seem to make sense.  The rest are, again, more of a mumbling hum.  Someone turns to you and asks what you think.  You feel thrilled to be asked; however, there is a sense of embarrassment as well.  You know you were focusing.  You know that you weren't really thinking of anything else, but you've missed out on the main reason for being at the meeting at all.  This could also be a class you were in.  Your teacher picks you out of the whole class and asks you for an answer to her question.  You look at her blankly and she says, in front of the class, "Someone Wasn't Listening!"  The class laughs.  Unfortunately you did hear the teacher that time or at least the obvious gist.

At many points in my life, I've found it hard to see my hearing loss as a gift.  After years of experiencing situations such as this, I finally had my hearing testing in 1990.  I had been tested as a child. However, in those days, it was believed that you were either deaf or not.  There was NO grey area.  Tests kept coming out negative and I often heard "Nothing wrong with her hearing," they said, "she's just not learning well."  My marks in school were horrible.  I withdrew more and more into myself because it was easier than being around people I felt had perceived me as being stupid.  Some even outwardly said it.  As said earlier, I finally got my hearing tested (my husband waited for me in the lobby).  I was asked, as I was again today, to push a button whenever I heard a different sound in a variety of volumes and frequencies.  I then had to repeat words I heard through the earphones.  It turned out I was suffering from moderate to severe nerve deafness.  I could not hear different sounds the way they were meant to be heard.  Today, I found I was picking up very few words starting with consonants.  "D" and "T" sounded exactly alike.  I was hearing words along that were inappropriate for different situations or conversations.  I would wonder why people were laughing, but realized that my answers were totally out of sinc.  Sometimes, I would unintentionally hurt some one's feelings because they felt I was either ignoring them or criticizing what I thought I heard. 

Hearing aids were researched.  What would be the best solution to my problem?  I was fitted, at one time, with one hearing aid, thinking that was all I needed.  Later I purchased, with help from family (the hearing aids cost $2,500 per ear!)

I decided, once I realized what was happening, that I wanted to upgrade my English marks.  My marks were horrible in grade school, but, there I went, to summer school, tape recorder and binder in my arms.  For the first time in my life, I was getting "A's"  I was actually almost at the top of my English and grammar course.  I got 100% on an exam on Hamlet!  Something was happening and I was happy!  With my little tape recorder, I could play over and over again what my instructor was saying until I picked up the words and compared them with the notes on paper.  I really couldn't believe those were my marks!

Jason, my husband, got a job in Calgary (we were in Saskatoon at the time) and there, I decided to go to school.  I'd always loved libraries and heard there was a post-secondary technical school with a program in Library and Information Technology.  I started slowly, with just one course and then built up to several in one semester by the end.  I was absolutely terrified.  Even though my confidence had risen and I knew it was possible to get good marks, I worried that maybe it was all a joke on me.  I had had a very bad experience going to a college in Kingston, studying Early Childhood Education and had become deeply depressed, eventually having to drop out.  Would I go through that again?  No, I was a different person.  Jason encouraged me and stood by me and I knew that I was different as well.

Like the high school upgrading courses I did, I knew, despite my nervousness, that I would do well here too.  Again, I went to school, tape recorder, books, and binders in my back pack.  I was nervous, but because I now knew there were resources for me, I felt free to enjoy learning.  I graduated from SAIT with a diploma from Library and Information Technology with high marks.  Two years after my husband's untimely death, I'm going back to school again--this time to work towards a degree in English.  Despite hearing few words, I love words and reading.  Finding out I had a hearing problem can be a royal pain still and it doesn't always feel like a gift, but, I now know what I can do as opposed to what I can't!  I still struggle with Math, which I'm needing to upgrade, but, now, I'm learning patience!

Time to View the Trees and Boats

I was riding on the bus into Vancouver today and, because of an accident ahead, the bus was moving turtle-like along highway 99.  At times like that, I start out feeling a little anxious.  I was supposed to meet a friend and then go to get some hearing tests done.  My inconvenience was eclipsed, of course, by the inconvenience and trauma suffered by the family at the side of the road with the police.  It didn't look like a huge accident, but the family's day was already ruined.

Before I knew of the accident, I took a deep breath and looked outside the window at Deas Slough.  Despite the word "slough", it's actually a lovely body of water and I was fortunate to see several teams of rowers steadily moving their boats through water and leaving v-shaped wave patterns behind them.  It relaxed me, looking at those rowers. 

Before the bus reaches the place where we can see the slough and cafe, the light through the trees acts like a beacon showing the way to a place of calm.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Little Roo

This isn't in Vancouver, but Adelaide, South Australia. I saw you across the room and fell madly in love with you. I thought at first you were a toy that a man had put in his napsack for his children. Then, your ears flickered and you moved your little head around, taking in all the sounds, smells, and sights of the bookstore. Hard to believe we were in a bookstore. I had only two days before I returned to Canada and once I held you, I teared up, not wanting to let you go. You were so beautiful and I wanted to hold you forever! I thought your hair would be course, but it felt amazingly soft.

 I wouldn't have been surprised if you were terrified. Once everyone realized that you were real, you were surrounded and you wanted to pull your head back into the backpack and baby blanket that had become your pouch. According to the man who'd become your full-time caregiver, your Mum died on the highway, leaving you much too young to venture out of the pouch. You needed her warmth but you had to make do with an artificial pouch. By now, you'll probably be almost full grown. I dearly hope you are safe and warm--and free! I pray you will not be a victim of cruelty and stupidity, but feel the love many felt for you while you were in captivity.  If you are still in captivity, I can only trust that those who are taking care of you will watch out for you while you discover the world.
Posted by Picasa

Friday, April 16, 2010


One of the truly most gorgeous university campuses in Canada has to be the University of British Columbia in Vancouver.  A mix of modern and historical buildings stand on campus.  One of the buildings I'm talking about is the Irving J. Barber Learning Centre.   From one side, you get the picture of an old stone manor house with beautiful bay windows (perfect for the coast) and an arched doorway.

I walked around yesterday and found the campus buzzing with activity as it always seems to be whenever I visit.. It was exam time but also managed to be party central.  I saw several students walking around with cotton candy or hot dogs.  Tents were erected everywhere with bands and booths promoting different causes and activities. Like I said in so many other postings, there seemed to be happiness everywhere I went.  Of course, I can't speak for those who are stressed out by exams or unhappy for any reason. 

UBC seems to be a university that encourages good health and exercise.  You get the fresh sea air, the trees that are green year around no matter how cold it could be, and flowers (especially tulips and rhododendrons) in the spring. The Pacific Spirit Trail is a popular walking and hiking trail and there are several beaches close by the campus.  I visited two of the libraries on campus and was impressed by the large windows, comfy seats for students to study on (all of them used by conscientious students).  I hope that someday, when I've completed some of my upgrading courses, that I will not only work, but attend UBC as a student.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Roots of Math Phobia

I'm taking a break from my math class for fifteen minutes (along with my instructor and classmates) and what's going through my mind is a question of where my fear came from.  Frankly, I don't know.  I had a memory today where I was still in grade one.  My teacher pulls out the math booklets and my six-year-old stomach contracts.  I don't throw up, but each day I dread that time of day (I think it was the afternoon) where she gets us to put away our reading (my favourite activity) and she pulls out the arithmetic.  I was able to do arithmetic and I often did my work even though I dreaded it (like I had a choice).  To this day, though, I cannot figure out where this math phobia turned up.

I actually enjoyed math these last couple of days.  I still wish I didn't have to do it, but, once I get going and grasp a concept, I"m okay.  I get tested, though, and the familiar old ache returns.  Someday, I'll find the answer!  I'll get it done!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Dreaming of Giants

Sitting on the bus on the way into and back from Vancouver, I'd look over at the mountains.  Vancouver's surrounded by them.  Yesterday, they were so clear, big and snowcapped, I almost wanted to walk right over to them.  I felt like a child, imagining myself taking giant steps over to them, grabbing a handful of snow, and tossing it as far as I could.  Of course, they are further away than they look and I'm sure it would take a whole day just to walk to them.

Still, the clarity and cool air yesterday made them assessible, somehow, and I didn't want to stop dreaming.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Birds in the Wind

Today, the wind kicked up the waves.  On the pier, I stopped for a moment, watching a young (I think), grey sea gull trying to fly against the wind and NOT succeeding.

She lifted her wings ready to take flight.  She would get up in the air and the wind would push her backwards almost in slow motion.  Then she'd land, lift her wings again and try and try again to get a little further and each time she'd appear to be flying backwards.  She paused on the sand and then tried again.  I couldn't watch much more as it was painful to see this little seabird try to achieve what seemed impossible.

Humans on the pier and on the beach almost made a game out of letting the strong winds push them forwards or backwards and it was hard to walk a straight line with the gusts.  I looked back at some of the birds flapping in vain against the wind.  Maybe the young gull was playing a game too!  Who knows?!  Before I saw her, two other seagulls flew over me, flapping with every effort and making it down on the other side of the pier.  I could almost imagine them: "Race you to the other side!" one would say, and the other would say, "we'll see about that!"  So many different kinds of life out today yet a similar seeming struggle against pressure pushing you in the opposite direction.  Like the little seagull, we can only hope we're strong enough to push through the wind.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Guitars and Sea Air and Freedom

It seems wherever I go now, I hear the gentle or passionate strumming of a guitar.  Yesterday, I was going up the escalator at the Bridgeport station and I looked down and saw two young men jamming while waiting for the bus to take them to the ferry.  I almost wanted to go back down that up escalator just to hear them.  In Ocean Park, there is a gentleman who sits in different areas near the library who sits and plays a gorgeous tune everytime I hear him.  Thinking he was busking, I almost put some money into his guitar case and he smiled and said "no."  I've seen him since and he and I often say hello to each other or just smile. He was just playing out of love.

There was a busker last Saturday at Granville Island who was playing and singing and making some money, but what he did was add to the already positive feelings surrounding the market.  People sat and ate their lunches, drank their coffees, or just sat enjoying the complimentary senses that made the environment so beautiful.  Guitar and seagulls: a quite harmonious duet or quintet, depending on how many seagulls.  I love to go there and I never feel bad at the end of a day.

I love that people are pulling out there guitars more and more, whether for bringing in money for themselves or just playing for the joy of it.

Keep strumming, people!