Listen Up

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.

 

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44 thoughts on “Listen Up

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  1. When I used to go out with a group of girls one of them was deaf, lots of guys used to be attracted to her but couldn’t understand why when they spoke to her out of her full vision she did not respond (She was a great lip reader)
    Once one of our group explained to the guy they faced her full on and got on great.
    I think that our school education should be radically changed, I think we should all gain better understanding in deafness and other medical conditions that make communication difficult with each other therefore bridging the gap between us all.
    Great post. πŸ˜‰πŸ˜ŠπŸ‘

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! That’s exactly right. My youngest is growing up through a system where she doesn’t discount or turn away from any child’s abilities or difficulties. She learns right alongside them and gets the benefit of the relationships with those ‘special helpers’ too. I couldn’t ask for more. And her teachers are so diplomatic and open about her occasional seizures that she has zero anxiety about it. It’s very lucky and I appreciate every second of it.
      I’m laughing at your story because there were so many times I heard from my buddies that someone thought I was a jerk, looking at my phone too much, or “rude”. I’m neither of those things but I do revert to my phone a lot in groups I don’t know because it’s easier than the explanations, or people not grasping what you need them to do in order to, well, be there. It just goes to show that if you matter to someone, if they actually are interested in knowing you, they will put in the extra effort to make it work and bend a little. If not…then there was no future in the communication anyway. Which is how I’ve learned to look at it.

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    1. Yeah, those are often the most difficult for me to handle. Those contrived and choreagraphed answers take someone out of the moment of listening or genuinely exchanging and…so that’s a miss for me. Thank you so much! 😊

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  2. This made me cry. We all just want to be understood, whoever we are. And we each have our own ‘language’. I used to have to ‘listen’ in my own way on the ambulance because I was often dealing with people very sick or even unconscious. There are many ways in which people speak to us… beautiful post and kudos to you and your wonderful daughter.

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    1. Aww, me too, lol! 😭😭😭 Phew.

      You bring up a great point. I noticed it with my mom when she lost her speech. I had known her my whole life of course so I could understand what she needed better than anyone else. I can’t imagine the nightmare of not being able to express my needs and feelings, having no one understand or hear me. Between her and I in that situation in particular, I started to be even more sensitive to folks ‘not listening’, having no regard, disrespect and the like. If you want it, you give it. It’s easy and human. Thank you so much 😊

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  3. This was a wonderful post, very well written. Thank you for trying to educate us on how a deaf person feels. A reminder to all of us to THINK before we try to pass judgement on someone. In life, we never know what someone else is going through. You shared a perfect video that showed how a woman went the extra mile to try and understand and help someone who was deaf. Heart warming indeed. Keep sharing! FYI – I am still smiling when I think of your FROG book!

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    1. Thank you so much 😊😊😊 I debated but I’d been thinking about writing it since he sent that to me. It’s a great little example of reaching out. Simple.

      Haha, that’s great! I saw it on her floor again yesterday which meant she’d been reading it at some point in the night. I think it gives her a boost, lol. It’s so great!

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  4. I had Scarlet Fever when I was a baby and it scarred my eardrum so I have hearing loss in my left ear. In elementary school I was taught lip reading. My hearing loss leads to funny statements like β€œHold on, let me put my glasses on, I can’t hear youβ€πŸ˜‚
    I tell people when I’m getting to know them that if I don’t answer I probably didn’t hear them. They can either speak up, face me when talking or go away.
    If people would just have more patience and be kinder in general I think everyone would be happierπŸ‘πŸ˜ƒ

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hah! Yes! I know that feeling! Like how I become the most sought after person in my house when I’m neck deep doing dishes, water running, facing AWAY in a whole other room! Let me shut down ALL this stuff and come “listen” to you!

      The eardrum I had anything left in burst when I was little so doctors love looking and going “WHOAH! You gotta come see this!” to all the students. Class A scarring I guess 🀣🀣🀣

      Absolutely! Patience, patience and more patience!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I had to slow down for a re read but yes I “hear” you😜. And thank you for sharing. I worked off and on in recreational programs that welcomed integration – a couple of decades ago. I was a support person and had to learn multiple ways to communicate with my kiddos – pic cards… ASL but I never got good at it because most of my kids had more significant challenges. The boy I bonded with the very most had Cerebral Palsy and zero verbal skills nor control over his physical body to use signs or pic cards BUT somehow he and I could roll through a day totally connected and tuned into each other. I used to marvel at his ability to get my wittiest jokes and kind of just moan when I made a terrible joke. I am off on a tangent now but just…. communication it is a unique and beautiful thing. With everything is a gift that you get to give back. You get to be supportive specifically and you also get that heart and soul attitude to make your relationships important. Something like that…

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    1. It would be so easy to walk away from any interaction that was difficult. Any situation that made us uncomfortable. Sometimes there is no choice on either side of the coin. It comes down to what you value and if you value connection and that kindness. I enjoy being one to hear someone out whenever I can. Because there are so many smaller instances that I’m shut down on or walked away from. You don’t abuse it when someone shares with you. That is the value of connection. Being let in, on some level, and being heard.

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  6. Oh I love this so much. And being on either side of that equation IS so hard, but what a simple thing it can be to make others feel heard, validated. Love is Love, in any language. What a better place this would be if we could all have, and make, more of those moments like the ones in your stories here.
    (Still totally giggling about the Homer Simpson reference πŸ˜‚)

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    1. That’s right 😊 It isn’t difficult to make anyone feel welcome or accepted. Even the smallest moments can make such a huge difference on either side. I’d like to think they are all part of a larger butterfly effect in the grand scheme but..I’m sure that’s wishful thinking. Thank you so much 😊

      Lolol! I was cracking up when I added that last minute πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚ It’s true!!!

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  7. This post is beyond amazing! You are too! From what I have read you have gone through a lot in life and even though there are daily struggles it seems like you find a way to kick ass. I know a few people who are deaf and or have major hearing issues and sign..they rock…when I was little I used to actually be envious of a friend in school because he could read lips and I thought he had super powers lol he had an implant and rocked it…We have tried to teach my daughter how to sign but she is in her own little world and didn’t catch on so picture boards it is for communication with her lol.. anyways I think you are doing a mighty fine job even if some days the world around you is so busy and an annoying sensory overload at times… seems like you are a great father and taking it one day at a time learning how to raise her right in this world where we need more who understand those who can’t do everything on their own.. we need more parents like that today especially so hands down keep it up!!..sounds like the school systems there are great too with how they don’t segregate those who have challenges… Sending you happy thoughts each day!!! πŸ™‚

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    1. Lol! I remember thinking it was like a spy power and that I’d never figure it out 🀣 Thank you so much for this. I needed it today. I’ve lost a lot of time (or given it up ignorantly) being distracted from my kids. Focus goes where it should these days ✌

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  8. Beautiful. πŸ™‚ I can identify so very well… sigh.
    It’s interesting to me that in a social setting, and particularly when there’s a lot of sensory stimulation all around, I sometimes get so overwhelmed, but I can’t escape for whatever reason. Maybe I’m at a kid’s activity, a loud gym full of screaming kids, a noisy hockey rink or whatever, and I have to stick around. People, other parents, they huddle together, chat…I don’t even join the groups anymore, and must look like some stuck-up snob to some people for choosing solitude with my phone over illuminating conversations with them.
    Explaining takes too much energy and the older I get the less I give a crap…
    In those circumstances, I can shrug off the stranger’s look. You know the look, the one that implies I’m rude? They don’t know and I don’t feel like explaining it to them, so I shrug it off. But when I get a similar look from someone who knows (and forgets or doesn’t remember how shit like this impacts me), I immediately feel embarrassed, then angry. I question myself: why am I embarrassed? Then I lash out, later, and redirect my anger at them. “WHY DO YOU THINK I WAS IGNORING EVERYTHING, STARING AT MY PHONE? DO YOU THINK I WANT TO BE VIEWED AS RUDE??”
    It can get very confusing. And exhausting. Throw in the towel, kind of exhausting.
    You inspire me with posts like this.

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    1. Yes!! All of it! Exhausting is a great descriptor. I shouldn’t have to walk in to an event at my daughters schools and wonder what other dads think I’m a D-bag or think I’m acting too good for them. When my youngest starts a new year we always talk about it with the teachers cause I help in class and stuff. Help man field day and parties, etc. So on that level it’s out of the way at least. I suppose I bring some of it on myself the times I don’t feel like putting it out there, lol!

      You know…I was thinking today after reading this…it would be really nice to go through a drive thru πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚ I haven’t thought about it in so long cause it’s been a non issue, or I let my kids yell it. But…even stuff like that. It’s like…I don’t even realize how tired it makes me having to ‘think ahead’ about some things. Would be a nice break to not have to *consider* so much, haha.

      I’m so glad you can understand this, and I’m glad you enjoyed it 😊 I was tentative about this one because it makes me come off like I can’t handle myself. I just need to let that go and let this be intention for a *little* more parience or understanding!

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  9. I love love love this. My son , who is now 6 wants to learn ASL. We have been watching switched at Birth and if you have not seen it it is on Netflix . But he thought it was amazing how someone can communicate with your hands. We have been learning signs. We all have road blocks in our lives and they are all different. What is important is we tear those road blocks down no matter what everyone else says or thinks of us.

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    1. That’s awesome! How is he doing with it?? My daughter will be 6 in November 😊 I haven’t seen Switched at Birth but I will check it out. Sound and Fury is another great one though it’s not necessarily for little ones. It’s a pretty amazing form of communication and the best part is that there aren’t many it’s off limits to. And you’re right, patience and understanding for ourselves teaches us the same for others! 😊 Thank you so much.

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      1. Yes you should it is a really great show and your daughter would really like it . And we just started but he is catching on. I’ll have to check that one out. I think ASL is a beautiful language and I think you can feel the emotion from it. My son has had some hearing issues because of bad allergies and has backed up in his sinus cavities. He is on his second set of tubes. so I also thought that ASL would also help communication when he can’t hear some days. Plus he can’t say some words because he can’t hear how it sounds And be gets frustrated when we don’t understand him πŸ˜€

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        1. Aw poor little guy 😞 Tubes can leave lots of scar tissue too which adds some difficulty. I had them twice as well. I’m glad you’re staying with it as a family because there is nothing worse for a small person (or big I suppose) than not being able to communicate effectively. As it becomes more second nature to him you will see his frustration level drop a lot. Exciting! And you will also find that he is more expressive in the long run 😊

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    1. Thank you ❀ You found a lot of my heartstring posts! I’m enjoying revisiting them. I did have an About previously but it was just likes versus dislikes and other silly stuff πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚ I should probably put it back up with some tweaks since it’s been a while! Again, thank you so much for reading this one in particular. And for all the nice comments!

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