Let It Go – Or It’ll Kill You


I am home today grading papers, writing my dissertation, and doing laundry. I love laundry.

No. Really! I love laundry!

So needless to say, I’m in my “happy place” today in spite of some sprinkles, high humidity, and lots of wobbles. Heck. I didn’t even put on make-up.

This morning around 7:30, I noticed this cluster of acorns by the pond. They were still on the branch (and at the time, INTACT), surrounded by some pretty Autumn leaves. I thought, “Wow. That’s kinda purty. I’ll bring my camera out later and take a picture“.

Fast FOR..W….w……w…ard……….  2 hours:

The next time I took the dogs out I grabbed my iPhone and thought to myself while springing the screen door open with a flourish,

  1. Deb will be so proud.
  2. I, too, can spot beauty.
  3. Hope the showers hold off.
  4. Did I skip breakfast? (Just keeping it real…)

I got out to the pond and searched first for the ROCK, then for the little oak tree branch with acorns. The picture above is what I found. Every single acorn gone, y’all.

I looked around a bit thinkin’… I must be in the wrong spot. The thing is? There are only so many rocks around the pond! Besides! Right there was the wee little branch, surrounded by perhaps a few more leaves, with ZERO acorns on it!

Do you know I had to sit down a second and ponder on it? I mean… what in the world happened in two hours?


Well a clue, was that this guy <points up> was very, VERY interested in the wee little branch. He sniffed and snuffed. He circled around the spot. He sniffed some more. Then he lay down next to me and continued to sniff while I slowly but surely turned my investigator meter off.

A critter! It had to be. Something sly and sneaky… something small and (evidently) smelly… something HUNGRY was here.

Sigh. I stood up and brushed myself off thinking, “Let it go, Denise. Let it go!” It’s not like I could glue some acorns back on the twig and make it work (though I DID think about it long and hard). “You missed this photo opportunity. Let it go, Denise. Let it go.”

Now, I’m fully aware that most of you have launched into song. Your arms are flung wide, you twirled at least ONCE, and you are belting out, “Let It Go” for all you’re worth. Raise your hand if you’re guilty…

Do you know I have not seen “Frozen“? Oh, I have seen the video of the song, and numerous other parodies. I’ve seen adorable videos on FaceBook of folk’s kiddos singing the song as if it were their own. Needless to say, after I looked up the lyrics for the first time (necessary when you hear a song and are trying to make out the words with a hearing loss), I wasn’t that impressed. I mean, “The cold never bothered me anyway” was SPOT ON for this cold-weathered girl. The rest of the lyrics are kinda harsh, IMO. No worries. I’m not getting ready to dissect and demonize the lyrics to a favored song.

Why Letting It Go – is GOOD


I hold my breath. I do so,

… when I’m concentrating

… when I’m nervous

… when I’ve just fallen

… when I’m about to fall

… when I have panic attacks

… when I’m afraid.

That’s right. I have excellent diaphragm control and lung capacity. (Not really… I just pass out a lot). Any-WHO, I learned to “let it go”; my breath, I mean. I was chanting “let it go” before Disney made the phrase famous. (Sorry, Disney… I checked the published date for the song).

Don’t you wish we could “let it go” as easily as a breath being held? I get a little disgusted when people tell someone to “let it go” when they are hanging on to something they need to let go of to be free.

Perhaps you are waiting for an apology that will never happen. 

Someone hurt you and you are still waiting for them to make it right.

A complete loser made your life miserable for years, and you still hear their voice in your head.

You are so accustomed to things going badly, you are in a perpetual state of waiting for the other shoe to drop. 

You cross your fingers and wait for God to finally punish someone who really needs punishing.

You wait around for the Cubs to win the World Series.

Let it go. The problem with holding your breath – AND – holding on to things like this, is that a state of increased tension and anxiety only harms YOU. It’s like a burning feeling in your lungs. Holding on to things like this can harm your health. Blood pressure, mental health, heart disease, and many other conditions are affected by “holding on”.

Forgiveness is one of the hardest things in the world for me. Yet, I have been forgiven for so much. Pretty arrogant, aren’t I? Forgiveness became easier when I realized it didn’t mean I had to pretend something didn’t happen. It did and it hurt. However, holding on to grudges, bitterness, and anger was only hurting ME (not them). “Forgiveness doesn’t mean that you deny the other person’s responsibility for hurting you, and it doesn’t minimize or justify the wrong. You can forgive the person without excusing the act. Forgiveness brings a kind of peace that helps you go on with life” (Mayo Clinic, 2014, para. 4).

I recognize that part of the human existence is missing opportunities, forgiving others, and learning to “let it go”. One of my favorite songs (To Forgive by Al Denson) can be found HERE. I’m not saying it is easy.

You know what, though? As a differently-abled person who also struggles with depression and anxiety, I have learned that holding on to stuff only makes my life more difficult.

And I can do without more “difficult”.

So if I can be proactive about my own health and lay the groundwork for having more good days than bad… simply by “letting go”.


That’s what an exhale sounds like.

Mayo Clinic (2014). Forgiveness: Letting go of grudges and bitterness. Retrieved October 30, 2016, from http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/in-depth/forgiveness/art-20047692

Denise Portis

© 2016 Personal Hearing Loss Journal


“I’m Fine” = Code for …

Sometimes you just need to lay down, close your eyes, and hug your dog.
Sometimes you just need to lay down, close your eyes, and hug your dog.

“Hey Denise! How are you today?” 

“I’m fine! How about yourself?” I cheerfully chirped in reply.

Exchanged in 15 seconds as we crossed paths and headed in opposite directions…

It is considered common courtesy to exchange greetings or acknowledge another – even in passing. What has become habitual to say really isn’t very good English if you think about it. It isn’t very specific, is it? Not, “How are you feeling today?“, “How has your DAY been so far?“, “How many people have you slugged today?” Instead, “How are you?” What does that actually MEAN?

Don’t get me wrong. I think we should be courteous to one another. In my opinion, it is a way to show respect and regard for other human beings. Before you feel defensive, please know that I do this too! It is a habit and habits can be hard to break. I will tell you, however, that I AM trying to change this “good habit”. I want to ask “How are you today?” only if I have the time to stop and HEAR how you really are doing today. The expected response is almost rhetorical. “I’m fine.” I was involved in a small group discussion this week about this topic. One friend said that “… people don’t even stop to really hear your response. I don’t get from them that they CARE“.

The fact of the matter is, “I’m fine” could be code for a number of things. Worse, it may just be an out-and-out lie. Oh sure, folks aren’t TRYING to be deceptive. The response rolls off our tongues automatically. “I’m fine” might be code for:

“I’m terrific! I feel great, look great, and believe that – heck… I’M GREAT!”

“I’m just so-so. Thanks for making me think about it and respond though.”

“I’m broken.”


My Mouth Says “Fine”, My Expression Says HELP

This weekend I was on Howard Community College’s campus for the MDCAP (Maryland Consortium for Adjunct Faculty Professional Development) conference. During one of our breaks, I took Chloe outside to “do her business” and to sit in the sun for a few minutes. The “quad” at HCC sits in the center of a number of buildings, with a beautiful brick walking path that breaks up the area with various green spaces throughout. I found an unoccupied bench and sat for a few minutes just enjoying the sunshine and autumn breeze. Across the quad, a young woman sat with a stroller and a kiddo. An open book was on her lap and she did her best to keep an eye on the toddler while obviously trying to read or study at the same time. On a bench about 20 feet away sat another young woman. She hunched over her phone and the tension just seemed to roll off of her.

The child looked to be about 3-years-old. The kiddo skipped over towards the young woman and watched silently for a minute. The little one said, “Hi! How are you?“. The young woman looked up briefly and said, “Hi! I’m fine“. She went back to texting furiously.

The little girl continued to stand there and stare and broke the silence by finally saying, “You don’t look fine. You want my rocks? They are really pretty!” She dug in her pocket and pulled out what I guessed to be rocks (I’m brilliant that way). She sat them down on the bench and stepped back as if to let the young woman know they were all hers now. And weren’t they the prettiest thing?

The young woman got a little choked up and said, “Thank you! I’ll keep them forever and ever!” The little girl shyly scuffed her shoes on the sidewalk and then very “spur of the moment” reached over and hugged the young woman. The mother called the child back over – for she’d finally noticed her little one was hugging total strangers. I watched as the young woman took a photo of the rocks with her phone and then carefully put them in her backpack.

You see? This little girl looked pass the words. She KNEW this young woman was not FINE. She stuck around long enough to care. She intervened. She shared. She hugged.

A Challenge

It’s great to be polite and it is expected of intelligent, caring people who understand proper niceties and etiquette. I’d like to ask you to change one thing, however. Let’s stop asking “How are you?” Instead, make a comment about the day if you only have time to greet and walk on. Something like “Hello! Pretty day, isn’t it?” Better? “Good morning!” “Hello! Nice to see you today!“.

On my lunch hour today I received a text from a good friend. “How are you doing? Really.

I knew I could take the time to really say how I was doing – and that she cared. Take the time to do more than greet when you can. Look for the code words. Share your rocks. Hug someone.

In the end you “broke the code” and unlocked the “secret”. Compassion.

Denise Portis

© 2014 Personal Hearing Loss Journal

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