Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Swim Deeper

“Either you decide to stay in the shallow end of the pool or you go out in the ocean.” - Christopher Reeve


I never liked waiting in a sterile examination room behind a closed door, wondering if they’ve forgotten somehow. Each minute makes my stomach tighten like a turning screw applying pressure, becoming near claustrophobic. The paper lining crackles under me and I take a deep breathe in an effort to sit still, worried the noise would give away my impatience.

Nearby Paul makes faces and pretends he’s going to examine me with various instruments. His presence is comforting, none the less he earns a glare for his efforts. No matter how large the word DEAF is written on the front of my file, they still at times fail to turn so I can read their lips, spurting a barrage of questions to the surrounding walls (nurses and doctors alike). So Paul is a necessary extra pair of ears.

My patience is soon rewarded by the door opening, which admits a new (to me) doctor. She appears nice enough, even if she at first talks slow like the animated pauses in a Roadrunner cartoon. Seconds later her questions and lips begin moving rapid fast – at a machine gun rat-a-tat pace. I glance toward Paul and he shrugs with a half grin and repeats what the doctor just said. Within minutes I become accustomed to her speech patterns and I’m able to communicate without help.

“You’re good!” The woman replies, after I repeat back the latest information to make sure I had my facts straight. The comment catches me off-guard. Reading lips has become so natural to me; I don’t grasp at first how it must seem to a hearing person. She’s actually excited and a little awed at the prospect of talking to a deaf person with no sign language. After the initial consult, I’m sent to make an appointment for a minor procedure, leaving the room still slightly baffled by the woman’s response.

Not even three minutes later, talking to the receptionist – she turns to me and exclaims, “You’re good!” After I finished a sentence for Paul in the midst of trying to repeat something he wasn’t sure I understood. By now I’m thoroughly amused; I seem to have become the novelty of the day. Or perhaps caught in an episode of ‘The Twilight Zone’ (the doctor’s office is located in Rod Serling’s home town after all). By nightfall amusement would turn to bravado. I had seen myself through the good doctor’s eyes.

Years ago I dared to jump off the pier of comfort I had originally submerged myself with my deafness. Something I had feared would alter my life had become an extension of me instead.

The thing about piers – is once you’ve jumped off they’re still in sight, still close by to grab hold and pull yourself up to safety. Unless you swim like the devil away with your arms and heart growing stronger with resilient determination, you might want to stay on board and never jump again. Crazy as it seems jumping isn’t enough in any scenario - you can either drown, swim, or grow into a vine entwined into the floorboards of a desecrated rickety pier (boredom).

I wasn’t happy treading water 6 years ago (with my deafness)…So why am I still in sight of the pier with my writing? My advice – swim deeper in whatever life offers, safety is lost in the stagnant recesses of not fully living.

**If it seems I’m talking about my deafness a lot on my blog of late - I am. Simply because there are some hard lessons here, reminders I need to stay the course with my writing.

Picture from here