Thursday, September 17, 2015

Triathalon Part Three - The Race

I couldn't sleep.  This had never happened to me before.  Over and over my mind kept asking, "How would I run this race if I couldn't get any sleep?".  Nerves were settling in hard and I knew that if I stayed up too long I might not follow through.  Four months of training and pushing myself would be all for nothing.

Fear after fear and one negative picture after another plagued my thoughts but fear of what?  I could not identify it.   

I wasn't afraid of not finishing, I was confident in my endurance that no matter the time, the race would be completed.  I wasn't afraid of the route as I had mapped it out just a couple days before so that I would have an idea of what to expect.  What then kept me from drifting off into a much needed rest?

I believe it was a mix of anticipation and adrenaline.

Because of the how far away the race was we had to get up at 4:30am.  A time that was growing rapidly closer on the digital red numbers that glared at me mockingly.

Finally around 2:30am my body and my mind were at peace.

Amazingly I awoke at 4:30am refreshed and ready to go.  I attempted to eat and drink some water but the nerves were making that hard.  Thankfully Chris was driving which allowed my body to sit and prepare.  Mentally I began to envision the race...

Swim, massive amounts of people jump into the water and fight for their place to move.  One loop around, just like at practice.  Once on sand the swim cap and goggles would come off as I traveled to the transition place.  There I would quickly dry, put socks and shoes on and jump on the bike.

Bike, hill after hill and multiple car laden roads would take me on a trek not with any type of trail destination ahead.  All small town roads some without curbs would be my path.

Run, this was a trail run and the shaded areas would be most welcomed.  I would add my runners belt on after I dismounted and eat my Gatorade chews as I ran. 

Importantly, after training without music I did decide to wear my hearing aids.  I had them tucked safely in my runner's belt for me to put in after the swim.

And then it was time.  I remember standing on the sand with my number written on my arm and my age on my leg full of nervous energy but invigorated from the excitement.  I was all alone yet surrounded by hundreds that were united by a similar goal.

We lined up in front of the water and then it began.

Swim:  I was kicked, punched and pushed in the water but nothing bad enough to stop my forward momentum.  I pressed on to get out ahead and away from the masses.  When I exited the water my family stood cheering me on with homemade signs and I waved warmly.

Transition 1:  I dropped my hearing aid.  I guess that should have been anticipated.  They are small and I was in a hurry.  I found it quickly though and was off on the bike.

Bike:  So many people passed me on the bike.  Even with my new road bike I could not keep up with their speed and leg strength.  I put up a respectable time but could tell I had a lot to learn in this area with regards to technique.

Transition 2:  Jello legs.  They were always present after dismounting the bike.  Most of the time in training I would just give up after a mile and call it good.  But today I knew that was not going to be enough.

Run:  Surprisingly I picked up my race in this area.  The jello legs faded about 1.5 miles in.  My only goal was no matter how tired I was that I would not stop running.  No, walking.  I held true to that even when I wanted to quit I would look ahead to those in front of me.  Age 50,45, 23....and think, I can keep going.

Finish line:  I could see it.  I got a surge of energy and sprinted to it.  I vaguely heard the announcer say my name and comment how I still had some fuel on the back end and was finishing strong.  A smile broke out on my face.  It was done, I had completed it and the most important part - I loved it.    



Triathlon Part Two - Endurance In The Ring



                                                              Swimming

When I would talk about running a Triathlon the most popular response was, "I can't swim".  Their body language would instantly tense and the words would be spoken with their head shaking, eyes wide and a tiny hint of fear.  This consistent response confused me.  I truly never knew that so many people are not comfortable in the water.  A glance at any city pool would seem to prove the opposite but in this case my experience showed a different side.  It was such a frequent statement that part of me started to wonder if I should feel the same.  Herd mentality right?   However nothing about the water, other than sharks, scares me.  In fact, this was the part I felt suited me most. So with each fearful swimming declaration I would respond, I love to swim and shrug my shoulders. 

I began my swimming journey in our small subdivision pool.  I would squeeze in a swim wherever my schedule would allow even if it was just 15 or 20 minutes.  To be fully prepared I carried my swimsuit around in my car.

The size of our the pool was not ideal and became a bit of an issue.  It felt like I was a goldfish in a small bowl swimming circles around the edge headed somewhere but going nowhere.  In complete contrast to the bike everything about the swim was predictable.  Over 50 laps back and forth, the turns so frequent that I would feel dizzy as I was swimming.  

It was in one of those moments that my hearing finally became something I should consider on this journey.  I began to wonder if the dizziness was from more than just the size of the pool.  Each time I would exit the water my ears would ache slightly from the pressure and I would shake quite a bit of water out of them.  I hadn't even considered if I would even have my hearing aids with me during the race.

You see, up until that point my training had been for an imaginary goal.  I had not signed up for a Triathlon or even researched how the race worked, I just simply started to train.  Faith sometimes is funny like that.  I just did what I felt I was being called to do and the plans were nowhere in sight.

When I found my Triathlon I quickly realized some of my assumptions were wrong.

The first being that headphones in a Triathlon are not permitted.  OK, all of my bike and running training had been done listening to music or words on my earbuds.  When I read that in the Triathlon rules I was almost going to give up.  Silly huh?  I am dizzy after a swim and I press on.  I find out I can't wear headphones and I think, oh OK this isn't for me.

I am sure by now everyone understands just how important music is in my life.  One of the things I like most about exercise is the rhythm of the music as I move.  As a former dancer, music and working out go hand in hand.

When I read that the reason behind it was for cycling safety I started to wonder if I should be wearing my hearing aids in order to hear passing cars before they approach.  During that week I began riding and running without music with my hearing aids in.  I also went and purchased ear plugs for the water which made a large difference in the dizziness.  The size of the pool it seemed was not to blame.

Since I knew this race would not be in a beautiful pool but rather, a murky lake with no sides on which to rest when needed.   A friend suggested that I should start practicing in a lake during a special time set aside for triathlon runners.  Luckily several of our local lakes offered those options and so I set out one evening on an adventure.  The whole family came with and my hubby and kids played on the playground while I gave this lake thing a try.

This my friends was a pretty funny sight.

I showed up in my one piece "granny suit" as Chris calls it.  I wore my bright green kid goggles that are scratched an in need of repair along with my very obviously bought in a store swim cap.

To say I look like a novice would be being kind.  I appeared to be quite aptly, a fish out of water.

Summing up the area I saw 90% triathlon suits and multiple people in training groups.  The other 10% were men in well rather small swim suits.  Embarrassingly I had to ask the life guard what I was supposed to do.  She pointed to the far buoy on the right hand corner of the lake and then the equally as far buoy on the left side of the lake.  That, she said, was my path.

I waded in the water nervously keeping my eyes fixed ahead.  Then, when I could stand it no longer, I looked back to the playground where my family was.  I longed for their protection and security. Words of affirmation would have been richly welcomed.  

This was shaping up to be a very humbling affair.

It has to be done.  It has to be done.  I told myself over and over.

Just go for it my subconscious breathed.  And so, I did.

Diving in I began to swim without much site or planning.  Every so often I would stop and doggy paddle in order to make sure I was on the right path.   This wasn't about timing for me this was about practice and pushing boundaries.

Much like the bike path I enjoyed the swim way more than I expected. Yes, I was swimming towards a goal but the sand between my toes was only one of the perks.  Much deeper even then the lake was my repeated need to do things never done before.

As I exited the water I felt strong and good.  This was right.  It all felt so right.  I liked that.

I would practice the swim only three more times in the lake before race day.  Each time I felt more comfortable in the water and my time improved.  I no longer needed to glance back to my family before I waded in.  I would attack the water with force and determination.  Diving through it all, keeping my eyes fixed on the first buoy and then the next.  One punch at a time building my endurance physically and mentally.






*During this time, after I finally committed to a race,  I purchased a road bike, triathlon suit and runners belt.  I did not get the top of the line in any of it but all of those items were needed and I felt that practicing with them would be helpful. 



 

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Triathlon Part One - I Needed A Fight

I am not sure what the "natural" response to dealing with a situation that is beyond your control should be, but for me it was to find something that could be managed.  You see in the face of my hearing loss I had allowed small, seemingly insignificant doubts and fears to control my actions. 

Being forced to acknowledge my limitations hurt my independence and began to drive a need in me to prove that I could rise above and become more than what I was at that very moment.   In essence, I needed a fight.

What?  I recently blogged about passive peace right?  Ha! Exactly.  But the truth is the truth and I could feel that old familiar feeling welling up inside threatening to erupt if ignored.

I instinctively knew that my opponent had to be something that would really challenge me physically.  It also had to be a pass or fail so I would have no choice but to commit 100%.  An "all in" or "take up the cause" mentality was what I craved. 

The adversary I chose was a Triathlon. 

This is that story, condensed and aptly divided into three sections.



I hate to say that I just woke up one day and decided I would run a triathlon but that is exactly how it happened.  I was sitting in Caitlyn's room nursing her in the wee hours of the morning and relishing the complete peacefulness of the house.  I was calm and happy.

Then, discontent.  

What happened to that sweet serenity?  How is it that moments are stolen by dissatisfaction and self doubt?

Perhaps you all have been in my place before.  Maybe you understand more than I know the power of that distorted looking glass as it stares back at you not only revealing but accentuating all of your most embarrassing flaws. 
  
I began to think about my baby weight with great frustration.  About 9 months in was always the hardest time for me after having my babies.  It just seemed like for all a mom's effort and care that she takes carrying and birthing a baby it should only be fair that we are reciprocated on the back end of that journey by losing weight easily.
  
Truth be told, I was mainly frustrated that I did not have time to workout and that even if I did there was so much guilt attached to it that it was not enjoyable. 

Cartoon bubbles of 5K options began circling my head but I dismissed them as too easy.  I believed I knew that training for such a short distance was not necessary for me as long as I didn't care about my race completion time.  I honestly didn't even think about marathon or half marathon because while I enjoy running, something about those distances just didn't appeal to me.

I remember thinking that I loved to swim and then the idea was just there.

No, I had never biked before.
No, I didn't even own a road bike, helmet, water bottle, etc.
No, I didn't own goggles or a triathlon suit.
No, I didn't belong to a gym, community center or fitness group of any kind.

I only had me, a mountain bike and the very small pool at our subdivision.  What I was armed with was my S5 phone that had the new S-Health application and more determination than I had felt in a very long time.

I began my mental journey on Instagram with the user handle tritokeepup  This allowed me to hashtag items that would then connect me with other triathletes in training.  Watching their journey helped motivate me on mine. 

I started the physical part that very next Monday.  I used what I had, a mountain bike.  Slowly at first with one mile, two, five and then ten.  It became rapidly apparent that biking suited me as I looked forward to it and was excited by it.  I would also pass cyclists in my car and feel happiness for them and for my next upcoming ride.   Something about feeling the wind on my face during a sweltering day invigorated me. 

My most favorite route was a regular 12 mile course that took me down car driven roads to a bike trail.

It is important here to focus on the word TRAIL.

You see, this became the focus of my ride - the destination, the inspiration.  I would anticipate and look forward to the trail from the second I pedaled out of my driveway.  In fact, the entire distance to the entrance filled me with an unexplained excitement and joy.   Right before the entrance appeared I would cross a busy four lane road, hit an expected bump where the sidewalk was just slightly too high and cross a bridge overlooking a train.

Then there it would be.  Instantly I would be covered by the overhanging shaded greenery of the trees creating a sun dusted path full of twists and turns.   Along the trail nature would reach out in all its glory, the trail bending and weaving with the earth.  

Deep in the fabric of the ride there were two hills that always beat me yet I still loved the path.  Even knowing they were coming did not ever dampen my joy.   

Two hills always beat me yet I still loved the path.  There was a lesson hidden here, I am sure of it...and then there it was:  Things like my hearing will always beat me, I am unable to correct it or change it yet I still love my path, my life.   

Now, back to those hills, they were steep my friends and I am afraid of heights. But this journey wasn't about being held back.  No, this was about being pushed forward again and again into an unknown outcome with an unexplained peace. 

And so, going up I would pedal hard and fast getting as far as I could before having to dismount and walk.  Going down in parallel to the incline I would walk slowly down beside my bike until I reached a comfortable distance in which I feel safe riding down.  Importantly, with each bike ride that spot rose and my comfort level increased. 

I never did make it to the top of either one hill but every time I rode, I was beating something.  My previous ride, expectations, responsibilities, fears and much more.  I found that I was growing not only in physical strength but also in character, just by taking a few minutes to take care of me.

Not really a popular subject with mothers...taking care of themselves.  In fact, that thought holds such a negative connotation by so many that women are often unfairly judged and held to an unhealthy standard.  This was the other reason that running a triathlon came to mind when I was thinking about losing weight and taking time for myself.  Because if I was going to take time away from my family it had to have value in order for me to avoid that guilt.        

After about a month of consistent biking I added a short run afterwards.  But, lacking mental endurance I never really made it more than a mile with my jello legs.  And so, biking 12 and running 1 (or less) miles became my regular workout.

I was surprised that even with that large dose of exercise I did not lose any weight.  I was even more surprised to realize that this journey had nothing to do with that motivation at all.  It was a drive born out of the peace and acceptance of my hearing loss.  

That even if I never beat those hills I would not give up the fight.  

One of my favorite songs from Tenth Avenue North comes to mind:

You are more than the choices that you've made, 
You are more than the sum of your past mistakes, 
You are more than the problems you create, 
You've been remade. 

'Cause this is not about what you've done, 
But what's been done for you. 
This is not about where you've been, 
But where your brokenness brings you to 

My brokenness brought me to that place in Caitlyn's room.  The spot where I woke up and decided that win or lose I needed a fight. 

Monday, August 3, 2015

Rock Concert? Why Not?

Recently I was asked to go to a concert to which I responded with an emphatic, jump up and down, please please pick me -  "Yes!"  I mean what's a girl to do,  between work and family I really don't have a lot of extra time to just hang with friends.    I was so excited I didn't even ask any details about the concert itself.  And it wasn't until a few days later that I started to really think about the implications of a concert for someone with hearing loss.

Since the girls that asked me were avid fans of the group we were going to see quite a bit was spent on the seats and from that I surmised  that they were going to be pretty close to the stage.  The venue was not one I had been to before but I was sure that the stage was going to have gigantic speakers that sat in front of it.

Truth be told, I haven't had a lot of experience in concerts.  I will just be kind to myself and say this, the last time I went to a concert fluorescent shirts, fringe and torn jeans were popular.  Oh wait - those are all popular again.  So yeah, a long time.

I decided I needed to do some research on the subject and found quite a bit of information out there.

First - concerts are loud.  (yeah, thanks I figured that one out)
Second - expect ringing in your ears after attending a concert no matter what seat you are sitting in but with much more intensity the closer you are to speakers.

Since tinnitus is already so prevalent in my life and with the addition of this last new ringing sound my emphatic yes was falling on deaf ears so to speak.   I shrugged it off as I knew my life couldn't be lived in a hole or captive to fear.  That if it was something I wanted to do even after risk assessment then I would press on with courage and have no regrets.

I do this on a regular basis in everyday situations anyways.  One example is that every Sunday at church I turn off my hearing aids because of how loud and yet how marvelous the music is.  It's worth it to be immersed in the sound.  I know I  have used that term before on my blog with regards to music.  Immersed.  I love to feel swallowed up by the music, especially at church.  Raising voices in unison reminds me of how small we are in this world.  But being able to sing at any volume no matter how well you sing without fear of others judging makes me feel powerful and free.




I haven't told this story to many people but it is one of the reasons that I love being immersed.

Quick back story - My mother started playing the piano for her church when she was very young.  By the time I came along she was playing and leading music in a volunteer capacity for whatever church we attended.  That meant that I not only spent all day Sunday there, we would also come during the week and on Saturdays for music selection and practice.  My brother and I would play in the pews, color or draw until she was done.  Unknowingly whatever songs they practiced began to sink into to my very young mind.

Then, come Sunday, we always sat in the front pew so that my mom could easily move back and forth to the piano.  I would stand there singing my heart out Sunday after Sunday.  I was probably about 8 at the time and I knew no fear or awareness to what adults thought or cared.  Until the day that the pastor, our friend, asked me not to sing so loud because it was hard for others to worship.

In that moment several things changed for me. 

I was instantly embarrassed and began to wonder how many people I had, "disturbed".

I was instantly ashamed and realized that the voice I heard inside of my head must not sound very good out loud. 

I was instantly aware that there was a proper way to worship. 

Religion lost some freedom for me that day and my perception was that I was not accepted in the church for who I really was.  (Throughout the years this feeling would be unknowingly reinforced in different ways by several different churches and church officials.  But I am grateful today that I live in grace instead of by religious rule.)  

I don't know if I talked about it to my parents ever.  But I remember how I felt still to this day.  And that is why in the dark, loud auditorium of our church I feel free, and taking out my hearing aids is an acceptable trade to be immersed.  
 



So with all of the above information in hand and determination at my back I was on a path to not sacrifice living for fear.

Fortunately, my husband flies helicopters.  These beasts are loud and he has his hearing checked yearly to make sure that it is not being altered by the constant loud noise of the bird.  I began to think about him and what they do to prevent those losses of hearing.  Oddly enough they wear ear plugs with headsets over them.  So they protect their ears by using the ear plugs but then with the headsets they are able to still hear and talk to each other. I texted Chris immediately and asked him to bring home a pair of ear plugs for me to try.  I then got out my Beats headphones which were a Christmas present from Chris that possessed the noise cancelling function.  Sure enough if you push certain buttons the headphones will be noise cancelling even without music playing in them.

I started playing music from the TV and then tried out the headphone set to see if it ended up making a difference.  The change was slight but not nearly significant enough to block a very loud noise.  Plus Beats headphones to a concert....but then I knew.

The girl in me started seeing my whole outfit revolve around my white beats headphones.  Torn grey skinny jeans that look amazing with my two-inch black high heels.  My signature ribbed tank top in black and a fitted army green military style jacket.  I would wear my dark brown hair as straight as it would go and for fun adding a teal color to the ends of my hair.  The white Beats headphones around my neck when not needed would be the perfect accessory.

I casually mentioned it to a couple of my friends that I would probably bring my headphones trying to get a feel for if they thought it was stupid or cool.  All seemed to think it made sense and I felt bold in my choice.  I didn't test out the earplugs but took them as a last resort tool in case my ears started to hurt.

As we entered the auditorium and traveled to our seats my headphones around my neck I felt neither odd nor stupid even though not one other person adorned the same accessory.  I actually felt edgy and cool.  No one knew my story, no one knew who I was.

Once the concert started I quickly decided I should put in the ear plugs and then put my headphones as a second layer.  The music soared and I still heard it very clearly.  A couple of times I pulled my headphones down and all of my friends would scold me.  They didn't know that I also had ear plugs in and they were worried about me.  It was so sweet of them.  I never took the ear plugs out.  I didn't need too.

When we went up to get more drinks I did have a hard time hearing what the cashier was saying and finally I just signed the words, "Thank you."  Her eyes lit up in understanding and she nodded signing, "Your Welcome."  She may have thought I was completely deaf and wondered what in the world I was doing at a music concert but it didn't matter to me.

After the concert everyone was complaining about ringing.  When we got to the car I took out my earplugs and returned my hearing aids to their proper place.  I heard the same, there was no extra tinnitus at all.  I was so happy that I was able to take precaution and protective measures in a fun and useful way while still being able to enjoy something.

I was glad:

That I didn't let it keep me home

That I went out and tried something new

That I stood unafraid to be different 

That I sang as loud as I wanted from the front pew of the church once again

because I can, because I could, because you should.





Wednesday, July 8, 2015

I Can't Lose This

She sits, barely breathing on the edge of her seat as the beautiful music carries her beyond life at that moment.  It was as if  a spotlight was shining down upon her.  The imagined warmth of it turning her cheeks a perfect pink.  Confident she was presenting an image of togetherness with her perfectly pressed skirt, tucked in shirt and silk grey scarf she relaxed into the lead character it seemed she had become in her mind.  Unfortunately, what showed on the outside reflected nothing about what resided within.  Emotions she was unaware of and could never have predicted bypassed her mind and came flowing down her cheeks.  The music swelled and she knew that nothing else mattered in that moment, it was meant only for her.  

Fighting the reflex to raise her hand in glorious unity she allowed her fingers to instead brush away the free flowing tears.  The shameful weight of self pity was being allowed to hang in the air, simply brought on by the power of the sounds.  And that was all it was to her, a mesh of voice and instrument together creating a moving rhythm that pulsed through her body.   Whatever the words being sung, it did not matter.  

"I can't lose this."  Her inner soul whispered softly.  

A small sigh escaped her lips while her had instinctively covered her mouth and more tears fell.  The unknown emotion wrestling with her insides was fighting to be felt and finally, forcefully erupting into a whimper.  There she froze holding tightly to and welcoming the arrival of .......grief.



This weekend Chris and I went to see the Broadway musical, "Once".  It was undoubtedly one of the most unique and moving shows I have ever seen.  From the cast of under ten people to the wonderful way each one was gifted not only in voice but by instrument.  Mix that with a playwright who found a way to keep everyone on stage throughout the entire play and maintain a mostly static set it created a masterpiece.  The Tony awards were well earned and deserved.     

Unfortunately, we were late because of me.  Not for reasons you might assume like fixing my hair or saying extended goodbyes to the kids.  We were late because I remembered the time incorrectly.  In fact, it wasn't until we were driving away from the house that I looked at the tickets that we had just printed online.  When I saw the 1:00pm time I yelped and turned to Chris with surprise in my eyes.

"Drive fast!"  I said emphatically as my eyes darted to the clock reading 12:40pm.  My mind began whirring with math problems.  We were still 22 minutes from arriving at the venue then there would be parking, walking in and finding our seats.  40 minutes.  12:40pm and we were 40 minutes from sitting down.  I felt sick with regret and anger at myself for having not double checked the time at any point over the last few days.  Dreams of a glass of wine while we toured the newly designed theater shattered at my feet along with every moment of peace I was hoping to find upon arrival.

I began to pray for peace and for time to slow down but for our car to maintain speed.  It may seem a silly thing to ask for but this little outing meant so very much to me and fitting these types of things in were becoming increasingly difficult.  Traffic and God were kind to us that day.  We ended up making it to the theater several minutes before predicted and only 3 min after the play was supposed to begin.  We used the valet service to save time and rushed to our seats walking in during the opening song and missing nothing important to the story.  It was such a relief and a gift. 

When the song ended the lead male began to talk and I instantly sucked in my breath.   A thick Irish accent vibrated throughout the theater and I could not understand one single word.  I sat very still straining with each sound to try and pick up on anything that might clue me in on what was going on.  My back muscles ached from instinctively leaning forward as if that would help.    

People laughed and I stayed silent.  

People nodded in agreement and I remained still.  

Chris could tell from my lack of interaction that something was wrong.  He asked if I could hear.  I shook my head no.

Admitting it to him opened the gates of what I was trying to keep hidden and I was instantly frustrated.  All of the rushing, expectations and anxiety in arriving had been enough of an emotional drain but now it seemed to be all to be for nothing.  I pouted silently like a child that was being left out.  I sat outside the jokes, jabs and jeers 

until the music began.  

Then in that moment I was no longer an outsider.  

I appreciated every note, chord and harmony that flowed out from the stage.  I was moved by the drastic difference and unity I felt just from the mutual appreciation of beautiful music.  Even not understanding what was said I could still participate.  Watch this Youtube video of the Broadway cast.  Skip to minute 3 to be in the exact place I was when the live music moved me so very deeply.

 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KfeRdH4Q_sg#action=share


The moments that followed were captured in the above italicized print.  They were written as fiction to help me better express that moment to you. 



Crying helps me clear my head.  As soon as the song ended I began to wonder how I could avoid this situation in the future.  Solving my new problem gave me a sense of purpose and direction that kept me from staying stagnant in self pity.

I reasoned that perhaps I should have found the play on the internet and watched it so I would know the story line and most of what was being said without hearing word for word.  Buying the sound track ahead of time would have also proved to be helpful.  The plan going forward would be to research new plays more thoroughly before hand.
 
As the first act closed Chris and I set out for our much needed glass of wine.  As I sipped it appreciating the beauty around me my mood was revived.  And while I stepped into the ladies room Chris went to the gift shop and procured me a set of special headphones.    

Grateful.

The second act started with much clarity.  The headphones seemed to be tapped directly into the microphone system and I heard everything so much better.  I laughed when they laughed and cried when they cried because I could understand.   

I am learning that within the context of this disability grief periods will come and go over different things.   With each new opportunity that I learn will not be the same there may be a moment of sadness that needs to be had and that is OK.  Healthy even, because releasing it means it can't hold me down.  

I listen to the song that moved me so much that evening as I write this blog and I know in my heart that,

I can't lose this. 



Saturday, May 23, 2015

Until The Bells Toll, Today Is A Good Day For A Good Day

The other night Carter and I were watching the movie Annie just the two of us.  Nothing out of the ordinary for a Saturday night.   We sat on our leather sofa snuggled together and as I sang he asked me how I knew all the words to the songs.  I thought this was super cute considering that they were in the captions on the TV, but somehow he knew that I wasn't reading.

You see, Annie was the first musical my mom took me to.  I remember feeling like such a big girl getting to dress up and go out in the evening, a time usually reserved for her and my dad to go on a date.  I wore a dress and felt so very pretty.  I can still see the outside of the building as were walking across the downtown Kansas City streets, the word Annie exploding in lights on the marquee.

People were huddled everywhere, talking and laughing.  Each one smiling and looking forward to the performance we were about to witness.  Many were watching my mom and me as we walked up to the ticket counter but I wasn't sure why.  My velvet dress was swaying softly with the wind and I felt bold in the energy of being seen.  The lady behind the counter winked at me and I was filled with an excitement that I could not explain, almost like I was being exposed to something magical.

When we entered through the beautiful double doors I was enthralled by the architecture of the theater.  It had an elaborate vine pattern carpet throughout, chandeliers every few feet and an old time looking bar where adults stood talking and sipping their wine.

In that moment I was hooked.

Everything about those adults was what I imagined for my life.  Their beautiful dresses, handsome men and wine in hand, I wanted to be them.  Even though I was young enough to still be holding my mother's hand, I knew for sure that this was how I saw my future life.  No matter their hardship, sadness or weaknesses apart from that evening everyone was happy and relaxed.  I went to bed that night with a smile on my face thinking today was a good day.

I have enjoyed an amazing amount of theater since that night.  Chris and I have seen shows in New York, Chicago, Kansas City, Virginia and London.  We have been "those adults" many nights over and it never loses its spark with me.  The music always transports me to a place beyond myself that
is able to alter any outside interference into a peace where I can say, "Today is a good day for a good day" and it all returns to Annie.

Annie...

There my son and I were enjoying a good rendition of "Hard Knock Life" when I started to hear a distinct bell ringing.  It somewhat resembled the microwave timer but with a higher pitched tone.  Immediately I paused the movie in an effort to locate the source of this annoying ding.

But Carter didn't hear it.

Unfazed I started walking around the house holding my ear close to every electronic device we owned.  Microwave, computer, phone, Xbox, Wii U, and anything remotely motorized in the kids playroom but everything came up quiet.

Still Carter didn't hear it.

I removed my hearing aids.  The ringing continued and the volume never changed.

I put my hands over my ears.  The ringing continued and the volume never changed.

I pushed my ear drums closed.  The ringing continued and the volume never changed.

At this point Carter was getting a little bit concerned thinking that I heard an actual noise and that I was scared by it.  But how do you explain to your 10 year old that your ears can't be trusted?  He began to get nervous that someone was in the house.

"It's just something that only I hear."  He looked at me and shrugged.  (Kind of anticlimactic huh?)  Well I have learned not to try and predict a 10 year old's reaction.  Ha!

We resumed the movie and about an hour later it went away but returned the very next day.

It rattles me to be sure.  I don't know what is causing the new sound in the absence of my sounds but it is more annoying than the steady hum of locusts that I have grown used to hearing.    This little ding ding ding makes me stop and look around for a source each time it decides to surface.

But the bells - ah the bells tolling is such a significant part of so many things:

Angels Wings
Sleigh Bells
A death
A life
A warning
The passing of time
A visitor
A reminder
A need
A fulfilled order
The beginning
The ending

I have decided to make my bells a reminder.  You know, like the little red string you used to tie to your finger before smart phones were invented.

A reminder that when they chime I need to take a pause no matter what is going on.  To pause and say, "Today is a Good Day for a Good Day."

Each stepping stone can become an opportunity.

Until the bell tolls..."Today is a Good Day for a Good Day."  

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Replace Limitation With Opportunity - The Evolution Of My Blog

A friend of mine told me a few days ago that I should show myself some grace.  Surprisingly, I did not have a quick response nor did I realize what an impact those words would have in the future.

You see, I often think of grace only as a biblical term.  In fact, throughout my childhood history in church I remember learning about this beautiful gift God gives us and mistakenly I believed that it was something only Christians received.  I now believe differently.  It is made clear though out the Bible and history that grace is something that is given to the deserving AND the undeserving.  I thank God for that.  I for one am an undeserving recipient.  I have wronged people in my life more than I care to admit.

I guess one could make the argument that very few among us are deserving but I think I believe the opposite.  There are so many of us that are deserving because that IS the very essence of grace. 

It's kind of like when you use the term "bad boy" to your child.  It is incorrect.  Your child isn't "bad" it's the choice that he made which is bad.  I feel like grace looks at the individual act and not the person as a whole.   Grace says, "I love you despite your mistakes."

Goal 1 - Show myself more grace

Since this journey began I have been forced to deal with things that other people never have and may never will.  And as my hearing deteriorates more and more I know that I will have to work even harder to have patience and grace with myself.   Because losing my hearing isn't a mistake I can correct, a behavior I can unlearn or a failure I can rise above.  This is something that happened outside of myself without any fault of my own and yet I am still forced to look this blemish in the face and call it what it is - a hurdle.

Lately, inwardly I should say, the frustrations are building and starting to affect my mood.  Specifically, I have felt myself get agitated as my limitations materialize.  I ask for patience from those closest to me while I navigate through and try to replace the word limitation with opportunity.

Goal 2 -  Replace limitation with opportunity

For those of you that don't see me much you may be wondering how my life has changed and what are these limitations and hurdles that I am referring to.   So here lies the top two most notable differences from 3 years ago till now.

First -  I will not hear everything you are saying.  Of this I can pretty much guarantee.  Customers, employees, family members, friends, cashiers, waitresses or some random person at Wal-Mart - there is no situation in my life that I fully hear with my hearing aids, with my beats headphones or with my ear buds.  Life is and forever will be just a bit more unclear than it was before. And the reason for this is because:

Turning up the volume does not equal turning up my understanding

While volume itself is a part of the problem the truth is that even loud sounds can be distorted. When I ask for repeating what I am really looking for is probably slower first, clearer second, and then louder last.

Now, I'm not asking you to speak as if you would be talking to someone who doesn't understand English.   But, if you remember from one of my first few posts very often speech can and does sound foreign to me. So as my brain races to find context in our conversation I need a bit more time to process what is being said.

 A couple of weeks ago Carter and Chris were waiting for the bus. I was upstairs with the two young ones and I hear Carter yelling something from the stairs. I am unsure if it is meant for me or not and so I do not respond knowing that Chris is down there to handle whatever the problem may be.

I hear the yelling again but because I cannot hear his words it really could be anything. So to make sure they didn't need me I moved to the stairs and I asked him to say it again. He yelled in a very anxious voice something that was unintelligible to my ears. I stated that I did not understand what he was asking me. The response was the same words said in the same hurried way but this time in unison with Chris. Having no contextual clues other than Carter was waiting to go to school I had completely nothing and I got frustrated.

"Guys!"  I huffed flustered.  "Just because you yell something louder does not mean I will understand what you are saying, please say it in a different way."  I felt pretty agitated with my ears at that particular moment.  But once Carter looked up at me where I could see his lips I got the information with no problem.    

Second - I have completely given up on TV.  We use captions 100% of the time.   Carter doesn't like them very much and I agree they can be distracting if you are not reading them like I am.  For me, they are so crucial that if something interferes with my line of sight by walking in front of the TV or just blocking my view I am ripped out of the show or movie I am watching instantly.

It goes from light on to light off and I feel disconnected

Most of the time if I watch a show at night without captions you will find me asleep within minutes.   

This also carries over into movies.  Chris and I are big movie goers.  We love taking a date night and going to a movie we want to see and we are happy to take the kids to a age appropriate movie that they are interested in.  Either way for me now I do not hear everything.  Unbelievably even with the loudness that is the modern day movie I will ask Chris at least once what was said.  Chris has recently encouraged me to get the "caption contraption" as I call it but I just can't bring myself to give in.  Pride and lack of grace hold me back.

Grace you say?  How is a lack of grace keeping me from using a tool that would help me hear?  Because as my friend mentioned at the start of this post:

I am not showing myself enough grace 

I am not able to say to myself,  "despite your limitation you are still whole and using an aid to hear is not something you should be ashamed of". 

In a true effort to do this you are going to see this blog evolve.  Look for me to invest more time in daily posts with personal stories.  More like a mommy blogger.  I feel like this will give you a true picture into my life and allow me to share with you the beauty that is this hearing loss journey as a full time wife, mom, and general manager of a restaurant. 

Show yourself some grace today