I’m going to go out on a limb today, because, although I feel I haven’t got a whole lot else to lose or sacrifice, I’m going to take the opportunity to also say how grateful I actually am for that at this point in my life. So…we’re going to put this in a positive light, instead.
My friend Marcus sent me this video a few days ago and he told me it reminded him of how he and I met. As I said, I’m crawling way out on that limb for this so bear with me…Two months after we separated, my (then) wife went into treatment and I was left with a lot of tasks of both preparation and relinquishment. I had her car at the Cadillac dealership one morning to get it ready to sell…There were two TV’s blaring, a packed waiting area, and a bothered attendant who mumbled his way through a repair explanation while looking *down* at a laptop. Throw in English as his second language and I was slowly combusting. I couldn’t say Look at me. I couldn’t say Please write that entire thing down. Show me. Nothing. I didn’t know him. I couldn’t say a God damn thing. I don’t know why. But he wasn’t about to give me an inch. In between the sensory overflow and my current life circumstances I was freaking. And Marcus puts his arm in to shake my hand. I still call him Dark Glory to this day 😍 And he said ‘I got you, Sir’ with a ‘yuge smile and the rest is history. (“Just once I’d like someone to call me Sir, without adding ‘…You’re making a scene‘.” -Homer Simpson)
His grandfather has been deaf for the better part of fifty years, though not his entire life, so his family had seen how frustrating and alienating it could be when someone can speak clearly to you, but they ‘can’t hear shit’ as he put it. Eloquently, I might add. You look like a defiant jerk. You look difficult. You look stupid. You look like you’re trying to make trouble. When you’re only trying to make headway. And you want to do anything but explain it. So, guess what, he’d learned through his grandfather to be patient enough to allow that full picture in. Whatever it may be. He had learned not to just be condescending or put off. And he’s intelligent enough to allow himself to see that full picture.
This will add some length to this post but it’s necessary background. I’ve made no secret of my love for Target. And I love it just a little more lately. I was checking out with my daughter a few weeks ago and it was immediately apparent that our checker, who was new, was deaf and had been since birth. She was sweet, bright attitude, and I chatted her up, I guess…maybe I thought I knew she probably struggled off and on and I didn’t want her to be uncomfortable, at least right then. Not with us. I couldn’t understand a lot of what she said but she understood me, and I let it happen, content being afraid to go all in. She motioned to my daughter about the pom poms on her headband. J. looked at her for a second, and signed, “I have shoes that match it”…like it was nothing. It was a moment. I couldn’t have loved her more. And there were smiles all around. It was that little second of safety. For all of us. I was proud beyond words that she’d had the courage I hadn’t, to step up. And step in. Maybe make someone feel like they weren’t alone.
Although it isn’t how we speak to one another, my daughters know ASL because I do. And because my parents did. It doesn’t come out often but we know it’s there. Thanks to the amazing paraeducators and a world class school district, our grade school classrooms are integrated and no one is kept apart or separate to learn differently than any other child. Everyone is given the same opportunities. I was thrilled this past year that she had a little boy in her class with an implant. They, of course, became buddies quick. He’s provided an adult partner to help him and sign with him throughout his day while he finds his footing. Thankfully for me, she’s also there during school plays, recitals and assemblies, because, with 100 little mouths singing or jabbering on stage it’s more than a bit difficult to discern what the actual hell is happening up there. And, they are often found together in their own space, signing and laughing in secret. And making each others days a little more ‘normal’. Brighter.
Because I speak, and I do it well, my difficulties aren’t given any consideration. And I get lost in the shuffle of daily life. Like we all often do. We all have our reasons for feeling like we can’t take something on. Or that we can’t communicate easily with someone even though we desperately want to. And the reasons are all different. The simplest exchanges and functions are sometimes full of anxiety, frustration and embarrassment. When they do not need to be. They just don’t.
So…this. I’ve been on both sides of this more than I care to mention or admit. I’ve been the speaker who can’t be ‘heard’, and I’ve been the listener who can’t ‘hear’. I’ve been the one on the lookout for people who need that little extra patience and understanding. And I’ve been the one turned away and not accepted. I think there’s a beautiful lesson here no matter who you are. And it’s a lesson in communication. If you possess any human qualities at all, this is a lesson in communication at it’s most basic. One world, y’all.
When I say I enjoy forming relationships and friendships, and that it’s difficult for me emotionally, this is why I feel this way. And also why both are true.
When I say that my relationships are precious to me and that I work hard at and for them, this is why I feel this way. And also why both are true.
If you tell me you enjoy me being a part of your life, if you tell me I have a unique perspective, this is why you feel that way. Even if you don’t know it. I’m telling you now…why that is.
And…if it’s crossed your mind that I’m ‘too eager’ for connection…and my feelings set off those confining ‘flags’ in your head…this is why. And also why you would have never known me or understood me anyway.