She had been deaf since the age of 18, the day she went swimming in the ocean and suffered the jellyfish sting. She still remembers the pain of that day, the pain that started through her body leaving her withering in fire and silence.
For the last 10 years she suffered through the pity, the difficulty learning, getting a job, communicating and living her life. She lost her close relationships, her boyfriend, and her so-called friends. On the upside her reading improved though and she learned to view people through their actions, body movements and the way they held their eyes.
Now at the age of 28 she returned to the land of noise though an advance operation and technology. While it was not perfect, noises were not the same as she remembered, it was a vast improvement. Many people during that time “helped” her along, often translating a loss of hearing to a loss of other senses or intelligence. They assumed a loss of one meant the loss of many. There was one person who had remained consistent and grounded her to reality. That person did not make excuses for her “handicap” nor allow her to excuse herself. While this treatment was rough and seemly harsh, it had built her inner strength and allowed her to function in this world. She was better for it and looked back with thanks. She remembered that person being involved in her life from the beginning and was looking forward to today’s visit. She sat back in her seat and readied for landing.
She entered the room and sat in the chair across the small table. Refreshments were prepared and silent pleasantries exchanged as was their custom. Hugs were warm. The silence of the room was comforting, and she broke it reluctantly.
“I hear the words now, often they do not match the actions or signs I learned to read over the last 10 years. People say one thing and do another. What I thought I heard does not match the message sent. I get confused and am not sure what to believe.”
“Do you think the message is always sent properly?”
“What do you mean?”
“If I say I am cold, what does that mean? Do I want you to turn up the heat? Get me some clothes or a blanket? Perhaps I want to move somewhere warmer. People often clearly understand the message they are sending only to have it heard in a different way. The words are tainted and filtered through both the sender and receivers experience and views. Cold to me may mean 50 degrees and to you it could be 60. If we want to clearly understand each other without having identical experiences and conditions, we have to be precise or risk misunderstandings. This is extremely hard if not impossible to accomplish.”
“I think it was easier when I could not hear.”
“Perhaps, but not as stimulating as learning to communicate. Communication is hard work and worth the risks involved. People get hurt and words can wound. However, without the words you get 1 side on the equation.”
“What do I do then?”
“Communication is a two way street. The sender and receiver are both responsible for the message. If you get upset you have to work through it and really understand the message being sent. Perhaps you got it right and being upset is warranted, but why was it sent? What actions should you take? What should you send back?”
“Why is this so hard?”
“We are complicated beings. We think far faster than speak, however, we do not often think far enough ahead to understand all the consequences of our actions; no can we see them all. Our backgrounds, the way we are raised and educated, our experiences all taint the messages we hear and send. We assume things we should not. It is part of being human. You know this quite well. People assumed things when you could not hear. Asking these questions means you are taking steps towards self-awareness. I am proud of you.”
I lapsed into silence thinking about what I heard. The rest of the visit was filled with questions of health, holiday planning and general life experiences. Hugs were given and received and I left.