Hurry Sickness

The first time I heard the phrase “hurry sickness”, I was sitting across from my elderly, widowed neighbor, Celia.  We were living in North Carolina at the time, and I had one of those rare opportunities to “soak up her wisdom” over tea and thin mints!  She was telling me about her son who had just retired for medical reasons, from a successful thoracic surgery practice.  He was depressed and suicidal.  He had put his surgery practice and surgical skills first in his life.  Now… forced to retire “young” at 52-years-old, he felt he had nothing to live for at all.  He had hurried through life, pushing himself to be the best (and he was!), making a name for himself in the nation’s Capital.  Two weeks after retiring, his practice had already replaced him and all he had to show for his sacrifice was a nice watch.

(As I recall… ) Celia told me, “Norm has ‘hurry sickness’… he always has!  He’s never been able to ‘BE STILL’ and enjoy quiet.  ‘Hurry’ has ruined his health, and now he’s alone in a big house, kids are gone… alone.  He never learned to enjoy ‘alone’… ‘Hurry’ has been like a pervasive, lethal infection, destroying him from the inside out!”

Dr. Ann McGee-Cooper has a great list of “red flags” for those who may think they have “hurry sickness”.  See if you can see yourself in any of these:

How do I know if I have “Hurry Sickness”

  • I typically drive 10 or more miles/hour over the speed limit.
  • I interrupt others and/or finish their sentences.
  • I get impatient in meetings when someone goes on a tangent.
  • I find it difficult to respect people who are chronically late.
  • I rush to be first in line, even when it doesn’t matter (for example, getting off an airplane first in order to stand at Baggage Claim longer).
  • If I have to wait over a few minutes for service in a store or restaurant, I get impatient and leave or demand service. To me time is money!
  • I generally view as less capable those who may be slower to speak act or decide. I admire people who move at my speedy pace! I pride myself on my speed, efficiency, and punctuality.
  • I view “hanging out” as a waste of time.
  • I pride myself on getting things done on time, and will sacrifice the chance to improve a product if it means being late.
  • I often rush or hurry my children and/or spouse.

Ones I have thought of as well:

  • I look for the check-out line at the grocery store with the fewest people, all the while scanning other registers to see if they are moving faster.
  • I stand in the shortest line at a fast food restaurant, and hop over to another line if the person in front of me just ordered something complex that will take time.
  • I go through my entire day multi-tasking so that I can get more accomplished in a short period of time.
  • I “dare” the kids to see who can clean their room the fastest, even offering a monetary reward for the winner!
  • I choose email over the phone because it won’t take as long as I don’t actually have to communicate.

I’m in the process of reading John Ortberg‘s book The Life You’ve Always Wanted.  He has a chapter in his book called “An Unhurried Life:  The Practice of ‘Slowing’ “.  I thought I was actually pretty good at “the practice of slowing”.  I was startled to read his opinion of what solitude is NOT.  I thought that by taking my cochlear implant off and curling up with a good book was a strategic way to practice “slowing”… to enjoy solitude.  Dr. Ortberg suggests that this is not actually practicing solitude.  It doesn’t “unhurry” you at all!  He said we need both brief periods of “real” solitude to “unhurry” our lives, but also extended periods.  Brief periods can be 30 minutes!  Extended periods should be at least for an entire day.  He states:

“What do we do when we practice solitude?  What should we bring along to that quiet place?  The primary answer, of course, is ‘nothing‘… At its heart, solitude is primarily about not doing something.  Just as fasting means to refrain from eating, so solitude means to refrain from society.  When we go into solitude, we withdraw from conversation, from the presence of others, from noise, (easy for me!  smile!  I need only remove my CI!) from the constant barrage of stimulation.

I have found that since I lost my hearing, it is especially important for me to be “quiet”.  You would think that would be easy!  But one must “quiet” more than sound.  I must “quiet” my hands from being busy, Busy, BUSY.  I must “quiet” my mind from always thinking about what I need to do next, accomplish before I go to bed, chores, work, service, etc.

This morning with my husband gone to work, my son busy working an eight hour shift at McDonald’s, and my daughter taking care of a doctor’s appointment and then a pet sitting job, I found myself alone.  Eager to take advantage of my solitude, I sat in our “quiet room”.  This room was lovingly dubbed “The Quiet Room” by my hubby.  The wallpaper is the cloth type that keeps noise from bouncing around, there are vinyl “noise reducing” blinds on the window, thick carpet and soft comfortable furniture.  NO ELECTRONICS ALLOWED.

Alone, with only a sleepy hound-dog at my side, I turned my CI off and sat in a big cushy chair and watched the rain.  Monday-Friday, our cul-de-sac is a very quiet place.  I enjoyed my time of just reflecting, praying and watching the rain!  I came away feeling rejuvenated even!

Do you have “hurry sickness”?  Do you need to learn to reflect… to enjoy solitude?

Denise Portis

© 2008 Hearing Loss Journal

Djembe and Elmo Live

Djembe Drums

Isn’t it funny the things that get my attention?  I’m a late-deafened adult, and only hear through the miracle of a cochlear implant.  And yet… things that get my attention are things that make SOUND.

This past Sunday I discovered that a newer drum being used in our band at church had a different sound.  Its sound was SO different than that of the other drums in the band, I ended up cornering the young man who plays it in order to ask him what it was.  Do you know how hard it is to hear a word like “Djembe“?  Grin!  I ended up asking him to spell it for me… he was very patient.  Wouldn’t ya know, I came home and googled it!  I want one for Christmas.

Elmo Live

Did you know that Elmo also has a new release this Christmas?  (You can watch him HERE)  I am so excited!  I have already thrown out a “hint” to my family.  (A “Denise hint” means an email copied to everyone in the family with a link and picture embedded was sent!)  Elmo is also a noise-maker!  You’d think I’d choose things that would involve my other senses.  Although if you think about it… Elmo and a djembe drum DO use the other senses as well.  But I find it interesting that I am mostly excited about “hearing” both of them.

Things That Make Me Go “Hmm”

I suppose the primary reason I like “noise-makers” for gifts is because I was born with normal hearing and struggle on a daily basis to STAY a “hearing person”.  I think that is what sets adults with hearing loss who choose to be “oral” apart from those who incorporate themselves into the culturally Deaf population, employing the use of American Sign Language to communicate.  I first heard (pardon the pun) the acronym OHL from Larry Sivertson.  He is someone I’ve been able to get to know through online correspondence and hearing loss conventions.  To my knowledge he was the first to coin the phrase, but i could be wrong about that.  He has a terrific site called Hearing Loss Web.  It’s a terrific website and tool for those with hearing loss… especially those who choose to remain oral.  His wife, Char, just had her own cochlear implant activated recently.  Larry and Char would likely understand better than most why non-essentials that make “noise” are such a grand gift for someone like myself.

My family doesn’t mind my “hint” list.  On the contrary, they really love seeing the UNADULTERATED JOY I receive in “hearing something” out of the ordinary.  It has helped them to not take their own hearing for granted I suspect!  I’m sure that everyone who has a cochlear implant, has a number of “noise-makers” that just bring a smile to their face to even recall hearing them for the first time.

I take their OWN “hint” list just as seriously.  (Who’d have thought iPod could continue to come up with new “must have” gadgets just in time for Christmas!)  Prior to my hearing loss in 1991, I use to only ask for things I “needed”.  I think it’s much nicer to have a “wish list” that includes things you’d never get for yourself because you don’t NEED them!  Sure we all tend to get things we NEED as well, but isn’t it fun to get some totally nonsense things too?

Denise Portis

© 2008 Hearing Loss Journal

Reader’s Digest and Thyme

OK!  I admit it!  I’m a fan of Reader’s Digest.  I grew up on a farm in Baca County, Colorado, and my only friends were tumbleweeds, newborn calves and my cousins up the road!  Because we had a “party line” for a telephone, I never dared to talk on the phone to school friends who lived several sections of land south on other ranches. (1 section of land = 640 acres) Needless to say, when the Reader’s Digest arrived each month my siblings and I fought over who had earned the right to disappear with it as a result of chores already completed in anticipation of the mail.

Since that time, Reader’s Digest has changed it’s look a little bit, and it’s index and page numbers are easier to navigate.  It comes in “large print”, and you can even access it online!  I’m still an avid fan of Reader’s Digest, although I’m the one who pays the subscription now.

This month’s RD came in the mail this past week, and I finally had the chance to sit down with it yesterday as it had been in “hiding” with my own kids who chose to disappear with it on it’s arrival.

I had to laugh at a “humor” story about a Simon and Garfunkel song.  Yes, yes I know!  Just knowing the song, and knowing the duet means I’ve tragically aged myself.  Perhaps this will finally put to rest that rumor that I’m Terry’s 2nd wife!  I really DID grow up in the late 60’s and 70’s!

It seems a little girl had been listening to the song, “Scarborough Fair”.  She looked up at her parent and asked, “So did Parsley save Rosemary in time?”  I can’t really explain why I got the giggles over this.  I was actually laughing so hard that I had to wipe the tears of mirth from my eyes.  Chloe sat and looked at me with her very serious hound-dog look.  She was a little apprehensive, as she had been given no training about how to deal with Denise if she’d lost her mind!

As a person with hearing loss, I often misunderstand things that people say.  I’ve learned to repeat what I THOUGHT I heard when something doesn’t “fit” in the conversation.  This allows me to be proactive about the way I hear, and helps others “hear” what things may sound like to a person with hearing loss should they “rush” or “mumble”.  (See?  All those workshops at hearing loss conventions have paid off!  I really HAVE learned something!)

I love that even people with normal hearing sometimes mistake what they hear.  I also believe it’s very important for people with hearing loss to communicate what they hear when something doesn’t make sense.  It helps EVERYONE to speak up and ask for clarification.

I’ve only encountered one problem with this practice.  It doesn’t work in reverse.  If you’ve men in your life (husbands and teenage sons in particular) you can relate.  You repeat what you thought you heard and are RIGHT.  Aforementioned subjects try desperately to find an “life raft” from their “ship that is quickly sinking“!  An example:

me: “Honey?  Will you let the dogs out and get one of the kids to set the table?”

“honey”: “I’m reading the paper, and have worked all day.  Give me a minute!”

(I poke my head around the corner with eyes wide and point to my CI which clues the other person in that I heard “something” just fine!)

me: “Did you say, ‘I’m reading the paper and have worked ALL DAY?’ ”

(The paper comes down, the color washes from his face and all of 60 seconds rushes by as if time is being SUCKED OUT OF THE ROOM)

“honey”: “Umm… I said ‘I can’t REACH the paper to THROW IT AWAY’ ”

(I look at the paper in “honey’s” lap and raise one eyebrow with the practice and finesse of a true “Mr. Spock”/Star Trek fan… )

“Honey” gets up to let the dogs out…

Denise Portis

© 2008 Hearing Loss Journal

“Life is My University”

Louisa May Alcott (1832-1888 )

“Life is my university, and I hope to graduate

from it with some distinction.”

I have always loved quotes.  I write them down, meditate on them, journal about them, and have learned the power of words.  Although many quotes have taken hold of my very soul… forcing me to make changes and “grow up”… I am very conscious of the fact that I am neither profound nor eloquent.  My own children will remember a couple of quotes all right!  My son will remember how fond I was of saying, “If you’d put it up when you’re done with it, I would not have to interrupt what YOU think is important to do it now!”  My daughter will remember, “You’re being to hard on yourself!”

I don’t “live”, to be “quoted”, and yet still recognize the impact “quotes” have made in my own life.  I am currently reading a book by Drs. Parrott and Warren entitled:  Love the Life You Live.  In the introduction, the authors chose to begin the book with a quote by Louisa May Alcott, “Life is a university, and I hope to graduate from it with some distinction”.  Sometimes quotes seem to leap off the page for me!  It is as if a hand reaches through the pages of the book laying in my lap, to touch my heart with the power of truths wrapped in the guise of words to forever change who I am.  I sat there re-reading, and then contemplating this quote for at least twenty minutes.  (Yes, I know!  It can take me awhile to read a book!)

“Stress 201:  MWF 8-9:30 AM.  Professor:  TBA

I’ve had a tough year if I’m to gauge it with the type of things that measure stress and anxiety.  If I’ve been “taking classes” in this “university of life”, I’ve not been able to pull a “C” and will likely need to repeat the classes if I’ve any hope of graduating!  The sobering facts about my “school year”, are that outside forces and circumstances did not cause the stress and anxiety.  These “classes” were manufactured by internal insecurities, “righteous indignation”, and the wails of a childish response screaming, “that’s not FAIR”!  I hate these kinds of classes.  The kind of classes where the professor is YOU, and you can’t believe that bad luck in ending up with yourself as the teacher!

When my husband was encouraged to resign his position as Executive Director of a national non-profit last year because his “skill set” was no longer needed, and the organization wanted to hire a younger, experienced fund-raiser that would represent the “new face” of the population, he was disappointed for all of one day.  He has the unnerving, yet enviable ability to see the positive in everything.  He is now in a completely different environment where he is making a difference in a larger population of “others”, than he ever hoped to touch at his previous job.  He is thriving, growing, and more importantly content and excited about the future.

I chose not to look at it as an opportunity to get out of a stagnate, negative environment.  Instead, I was angry that he was not given the opportunity to expose the truth, that he was not given the chance to present what was really going on behind “closed doors”.  However, I quickly went from “righteous indignation” to “praying God’s wrath” on their heads!  Yes.  Hubby and I registered for different “classes”.  His completed coursework complemented his work at life’s university.  My classes are the kind that if you looked at my “transcript”, you’d wonder why I ever chose to invest myself in things that had nothing to do with my “major”.  I may as well have registered for “Underwater Basket Weaving”.

A lady I’ve come to know who lives CLEAR across the country in California, recognized early on the poor choices I’d made in my “class schedule”.  Raegene recommended a good book about the type of forgiveness that is extended only after tough upper level courses in “life’s university”.  From there I found my attitude changing.  Quotes from my own mother came back to me as I read the book.  Quotes like, “You’re right.  LIFE ISN’T FAIR.  Shake it off!” Other quotes she has written on my heart and mind seemed to be intertwined with the words I read.  “You are not responsible for other’s actions.  You are only responsible for how you react to them.”  As a person of faith, I realized that God was hammering it “home” for me that I was not doing well when I received my “mid-terms”.  It’s not that I had even signed up for the wrong classes.  I was simply studying poorly, and failing to take “good notes” in class.

A Forced “Minor” in Hearing Loss

Sometimes we are forced to take “classes” that we have no interest in, yet need in order to graduate.  We can go belly-ache to the “Dean” if we want to, but in the end these courses are needed to complete our degree.  No one chooses to “minor” in hearing loss.  I think this avenue of “study” especially takes those by surprise who find themselves in the classes later in life.  Whether the hearing loss is sudden, or progressive… one never deliberately signs up for classes where the extra class fees include hearing aids, cochlear implants, Dry ‘n Store devices, and batteries by the truckload!

When I found myself in “hearing loss classes”, I immediately looked for tutors.  All tutors are not created equal.

The first day of class your professor may discuss “why” for about 10 minutes.  It’s all the time they have for this topic, as there is very little information to support it.  Yet students “talk it to death”.  When the professor would like to proceed with the lecture series, many students choose to dissect, discuss, and write term papers about “why”.  Some are lucky to have mentors who force them to move on to the next important chapters in the text.  These students have tenured professors who realize the important task of “moving on” and learning “life skills” instead of allowing stagnate thinking.  Others who aren’t so lucky, end up spending the majority of their classroom time arguing and trying to defend and debate a topic that doesn’t matter.  The professor may be apathetic as they will “get paid anyway”.  I long to tell people new to hearing loss to drop the class as quickly as possible.  Enroll in a class that moves on from the “why” to more important topics by the 2nd day of lecture.

Hearing loss, like most acquired disabilities, is not a chosen study.  Yet sometimes a person ends up with enough credit hours that they discover they have inadvertently minored in it!  The wonderful thing about this minor, is that all students can become substitute teachers if they choose too.  When I stopped looking at my course load, and instead sought ways to teach others what I have learned, my attitude about my “minor” began to change.  If I can help tutor ONE person with hearing loss, it will be worth the late nights I’ve spent cramming for exams, and tuition dollars I’ve thrown at “Hearing Loss”.  Because I had a series of good tutors myself, I quickly went on from the “why” to chapter two… “What now?”

I’ve met some people in the seventeen years I’ve lived with hearing loss, who have made a “major” out of hearing loss.  It was never meant to be a “major”. Life is much more than “hearing loss”.  However, I have met some people who have a Ph.D. in hearing loss.  Don’t get me wrong!  Hearing loss can shape who we are, teach us life skills, develop attitudes and mold our character.  It can have a profound effect on our studies in “life”.  But I am not defined by my hearing loss.  Hearing loss has simply brought out unique characteristics that would have never been developed had I not experienced it.  Life is never about a disability.  Life is about our ABILITIES.  I can’t hear well, but you should see what I CAN do!  And I can only do it because I’ve learned to live with the uniqueness of my own personal hearing loss history.

What about you?  Have there been unique trials and triumphs that have steered your coursework towards a special kind of “you”? Are you searching for “teachable moments” in your “studies”?  Are you “teaching” with your own life? I don’t know about you, but I want to graduate with distinction!

Denise Portis

© 2008 Hearing Loss Journal

Things That Go Bump in the Night

Denise, Chloe, Chris, Kyersten and Tyco

Chloe – 3 year old Vizsla/Retriever mix and hearing assistance dog

Chris – 17 year old son

Kyersten – 18 year old daughter

Tyco – year old Norwegian Elkhound

My entire family (all the humans anyway) are headed to North Carolina this morning.  I can’t remember the last time I was “home alone”.  I was up late last night thinking about it even… tossing and turning and failing to get any sleep due to the fact I was worryin’ I wouldn’t GET ANY SLEEP over the days to come!  (Now I ask you… Does that make sense?)

At night, I am completely and totally deaf.  As my Nucleus Freedom implant is in it’s Dry n’ store (a device that SUCKS THE MOISTURE out of the electronics to keep it working properly, etc), I do not have the bionic hearing I boast of during the day.

It’s peculiar how I’ll still “sense” things, however.  For example, we have had a great number of electrical storms during the last week.  The flashes of lightening from behind our bedroom curtains, and even the house shaking/vibrating after a close crash of thunder, will rouse me from the deepest sleep!  Chloe (my assistance dog from Fidos For Freedom), sleeps right through storms as she’s been taught that a storm isn’t a sound in which I need to be alerted.

We have a new dog in the house.  Tyco is a Norwegian Elkhound puppy (just turned a year old) that we adopted from a local rescue.  He sleeps in his kennel downstairs, and Chloe (who also acts as my alarm clock) sleeps next to my bed… for obvious reasons.  You’d think I’d feel at ease about having the house to myself.  Especially so, as Chloe alerts me faithfully to anything out of the ordinary in addition to her trained alerts!  I have to wonder if I’ll be aware of “things that go bump in the night”?  Only time will tell… well… rather, only tonight will tell!

Denise Portis

© Hearing Loss Journal

Addendum:  It was so nice to see my wonderful husband and children come through that door Tuesday!  I’m certain I’ll sleep better tonight!