Life as Charades: Sounds Like . . .

My hearing is fine, but the way my brain processes sound is not. I have an auditory processing disorder. I clearly hear things that I shouldn’t, like the small beeping noise in the far corner of a room. Except I hear the beeping as if I’m wearing headphones with the volume on high. I call this my supersonic dog hearing.

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Under certain other circumstances, I don’t hear things other people can hear well. I can’t hear anything but cacophony, for example, if two people are talking at once. When I don’t understand what’s being said, I try to figure out what the sounds I’m hearing are like. It’s as if I’m in a perpetual game of charades, but with indistinguishable vocals. Sometime this method works, and I can figure out what someone said. Other times I have to admit that because of the background noise or multiple speakers, I can’t hear, and I have to ask people to repeat themselves. I feel bad about doing this, but in order to live in the world, sometimes I have to request tolerance and kindness from others. This is simply life. I don’t like it, but I’ve accepted it.

Adaptive Solution 3

tea-time-3240766__480My father wrote poetry most of his life. As his cognitive abilities declined, he didn’t give up poetry writing. Instead, he wrote haiku, a short form of Japanese verse. When he was placed in an assisted living facility, I found sheaves of haikus scattered all over his study. They were numbered, and he’d written one hundred of them. I thought Dad’s ability to adapt to his limitation without giving up a pastime he loved was inventive and admirable. It’s so easy to be upset and angry when our bodies fail us. I’d rather be like Dad and try to find creative solutions to those limitations.

The Growler


I have a special fondness for the meanest dog in my apartment building. She’s a little gray thing and looks like a shaved Shih Tzu. However, she growls if I get near her. If I find myself on the elevator with this dog and her owners, I make a point to stand far away from them. At first her owners seemed embarrassed by her behavior. They assured me they were trying to socialize her. I’ve learned over time that this dog was found wandering alone in a canyon, starving. I’ve told her owners how much I admire them for adopting her. Dogs that snarl and growl are often euthanized in shelters because they’re considered unadoptable. I feel sad about the Growler’s previous life, but happy that two loving people took her in. It’s not her fault she was neglected and learned to fear people. I know, despite her growling, that she’s still a good dog. pet-2530265__480

 

The Little Things: Thank you Marg Fong Eu

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In the 1970’s, California State Assemblywoman Marg Fong Eu ran a campaign against pay toilets in California. Her efforts succeeded, and now all public toilets in California are free. I have a medical condition, interstitial cystitis, which causes, among other things, urinary frequency. I use the bathroom more than any other person I know. As a citizen of California, I’m grateful to this trail-blazing politician for eliminating an obstacle to meeting my medical needs. Thank you so much, Marg Fong Eu! Your legacy is not forgotten.

Adaptive Solution 2

When I lived in Boston in my thirties, I had a colleague who suffered from intermittent sinus infections. In warmer months, she would recover from these illnesses by going to Cape Cod and lying on a beach. She explained that she knew she wouldn’t be able to work and would need to spend her days resting. She told me she might as well rest in a beautiful place instead of at home, staring at her own four walls. She would sleep and read on the beach until she felt better. She was a social worker like me and seemed to be able to handle the expense of weeklong hotel stays. I thought this was a great idea, and I may someday try it myself.

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Do the Right Thing—Scoop the Poop

I woke up one morning during the 2018 holidays and went about my morning chores. This includes scooping my litter boxes and carrying the waste in a plastic bag to the garbage shoot in my condo’s building. On my way there, I saw that a neighbor’s dog had had an accident on the walkway. I stepped carefully around the mess and returned to my apartment ticked off.

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I thought about what had just occurred as I continued my morning chores. I realized I was being a jerk and went outside to remove the mess, so none of my other neighbors would have to navigate around it. Once outside I saw that the poop was gone. I felt ashamed of myself for having been angry and judgmental toward my neighbors, who probably just needed a few minutes before cleaning up. But I also was proud of my willingness to do the right thing and take care of the mess myself. This incident reminded me of two important things. First, to always try to do what I believe is right, and second, to be more gracious toward others.

Adaptive Solution 1

I’m always on the alert for adaptive solutions people employ to meet their needs. Several have stood out over the years.

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When my father began experiencing dementia, unable to remember directions, he could no longer take the bike rides he’d enjoyed for decades. Instead of giving up on exercise, he began taking yoga classes several times a week. I once asked Dad what he liked about yoga. He explained that he felt a sense of accomplishment when he mastered a pose. This mastery enhanced his sense of self-worth, in and out of the yoga studio, as he slowly lost his cognitive abilities. Dad replaced an exercise regimen he loved with another that made him feel good about himself. I thought this was one of the smartest things I’d ever heard. As my body changes, I will remember how Dad coped, try to be mindful of what I’m still able to accomplish, and focus on that.

MY FRENEMY – THE DISHWASHER

This article was published on YoursNews.in on July 25, 2019

My new dishwasher is not my friend. It cleans dishes adequately and dries them no better or worse than my old machine. But I swear the thing is possessed. If I so much as brush against the touch controls, the machine turns itself on. After the dishwasher was installed, I needed two days and several frantic phone calls to the store where I purchased it to master the controls when it mysteriously self-started. I have a narrow kitchen, and when the dishwasher door is open, it’s easy for me to accidentally make contact with the ultra-sensitive control panel. While it turns on with a mere brush of my calf, it’s challenging to turn it off. I have to press the Cancel feature numerous times before it will obey my wishes. I’m pining for my dishwasher from the 1980s even though it periodically flooded my kitchen. At least that machine had levers and knobs that were user friendly.

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I forgot two basic truths when I purchased this dishwasher. The first, and most important one: I should never undertake projects, large or small, when I’m recovering from illness. Years ago, after a two-week sinus infection, as I was regaining my energy, I stood on a step stool and trimmed a hanging plant, accidentally killing it with my zeal. I have numerous stories like this. So fourteen days after undergoing a splenectomy, when my thirty-plus-year-old refrigerator suddenly and completely died, I should have replaced it and left the rest of my kitchen as is. Instead, just recently off painkillers, I thought, why don’t I replace my dishwasher too, since it’s clearly on its last legs, and rip out the old trash compactor and replace it with a cabinet while I’m at it? I knew I’d be putting in half days when I returned to work and wouldn’t need to take extra time off to let delivery people and my handyman into my condo. This thinking was delusional.

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The second basic truth I chose to ignore is that all home improvements are more complicated than expected. For example, three delivery dates were scheduled when I bought a new stove, and the deliveryman was going to bail on the third one except I cried when he tried to cancel. In order to install my stove he needed to bring his girlfriend with him, for reasons I don’t remember. While he worked on the stove, I sat at my dining room table making small talk with a stranger, yearning for the process to be over. I also have several stories like this one.

The men who delivered my new refrigerator and dishwasher were over an hour late and didn’t bother to give me a courtesy call to inform me of their tardiness. They were subcontractors of the big box store where I’d purchased my new appliances, and it required four phone calls to confirm they were on their way. Once they arrived, the new dishwasher needed a longer hose than the one that came with the machine, so one of the deliverymen left to get one, causing my installation to end four hours later than the delivery window. I accidentally pressed some buttons on the dishwasher after their departure and couldn’t figure out how to void the instructions. Neither could my neighbor, who came over to help. I called the big box store for assistance, but they wanted to schedule a tutorial for me on another day. Only after I begged did they put another person on the phone, one who could assist immediately. He figured out what I’d done wrong and instructed me on how to fix it. This guy was so nice, I wrote his boss a letter praising his customer service.

After this initial experience, I lived with the machine for a week before discovering that it sometimes flashes an error code that neither the big box store nor the manufacturer are familiar with. When that code flashes, the only way to reset the machine is to turn the breaker off and then back on. It’s a huge annoyance.

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Now I’m living with a machine I don’t like. Compared to having my spleen removed, this is hardly catastrophic. But I hate the hypervigilance needed in my kitchen whenever the dishwasher door is open. To maintain good mental health, I’ve decided to reframe the problem. I lived with a special-needs cat diagnosed with four medical conditions a couple of years after I adopted him. He required a great deal of care, none of which was invasive, but all of which annoyed me. I loved my cat and managed to keep him alive for two years with feline AIDS and heart, bladder, and anxiety conditions. I’ve begun to think of my new dishwasher as a special-needs appliance. It’s not the appliance’s fault that it has a terrible design I should have paid more attention to when I purchased it. It’s not responsible for the fact that I purchased a machine two weeks after losing an organ and shortly after tapering off painkillers. It can’t be blamed for my disregard of basic truths about my life. So I’m going to try to think of it with more kindness, the way I might an ailing animal. And unlike my pets, I don’t need to love it. It only needs to work.

Brotherly Wisdom Part 5: Big Red Umbrella

It’s hard for me to imagine being as young and stupid as I was in college. But at least I had an older brother, Charlie, to help me with the profound as well as the mundane. I went to school in Olympia, Washington, a place well known for near constant drizzle. Before I began my freshman year, Charlie helped me buy a small umbrella. So when I opened his gift for my twentieth birthday, sophomore year, and saw he’d given me a huge red stadium umbrella, I was confused. I thought, doesn’t he remember I already have an umbrella? He was there when I bought it!

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At the time, I didn’t understand that umbrellas are not usually possessions that last a lifetime. They wear out and break easily. Less than two years older than me, Charlie seemed to know this fact. I don’t remember what happened to either of my college umbrellas, but they’re long gone. Thank goodness for my smart big brother, who knew I’d need at least two to see me through my college years.