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.

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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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.

SWITCH IT UP

I’d eaten the same salad for lunch for years. Suddenly the thought of eating it made me gag. I loved its taste but hated the preparation. After some internal debate, I decided to abandon my super healthy, colon-friendly salad, at least for a while. I’ve switched to turkey sandwiches for lunch during the week and am enjoying my new lunch routine.

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Sometimes things that worked stop working, either for medical, practical, or emotional reasons. Change is good if it won’t hurt our health. I now need to be mindful to eat enough vegetables, something I didn’t have to think about when I ate a lunchtime salad. But I needed a break from my routine, and this is an adjustment I can live with.

ANOTHER GOOD DECISION

I’d planned to catch a movie immediately after work and had been looking forward to it all week. The film’s run was ending the next day; it wasn’t showing anywhere else near me, so that evening was my last chance to see it in a theater, which I always prefer to watching movies on Pay Per View. decisions-2709671_1280

But I’d had a busy week and was worn out. After much internal debate, I realized I needed to go straight home to rest. Shortly after I got home, I began to have heart palpitations, something that happens occasionally when my body is stressed. I’m still sorry I missed the movie, but I’m proud of myself for making a good decision.

When we live with illness, we must constantly evaluate what is good for our health and what will make us worse. The process never ends. I’m always proud of myself when I’ve made the decision to prioritize my health.

 

 

CLOUDS DID NOT GET IN THE WAY

For Unlce Jon, with much love.

My uncle Jon moved to Spain in 2016 and asked me to visit him there. At the top of the list of sights he planned to show me was the Alhambra in Grenada. It rarely rains there, but on the day of our visit to this historic fortress, it poured. We never considered canceling our plans. Nor did we complain about the rain. Jon held a huge umbrella over us, and we trekked through the ruins, the palace, and the gardens as if we were experiencing a lovely spring day. Even after I fell on a slippery step, we continued to enjoy our visit. We could have skipped the adventure or abbreviated it, only seeing the indoor portions of the Alhambra, but neither of us considered those options.e-grx1_motril_the-alhambra-palace_alhambra_2500x1250

Not everything in life goes as planned. We can either whine about things or carry on in the best way possible. Although I didn’t enjoy being soaked to the skin, the light had a magical quality that day, no doubt caused by the downpour.

When we live with illness, things go wrong all the time. We simply cannot be in the world and control all the circumstances with which we’re faced. Sometimes we have to make changes to our plans, and other times the best option is to carry on. I focus on being flexible and open. That’s how I was able to see the wonders of the Alhambra on a wet but enchanting day.

NORMAN MAILER IS DEAD

I try to be a nice person. I do. But sometimes I just can’t help being snarky. I attended a small dinner party in the early 2010s where I failed completely at civility. The other guests droned on and on about the wines they tasted, the travels they enjoyed, and the other parties they’d gone to. They seemed superficial and snobbish.

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1987: Novelist Norman Mailer 1987 in New York.

Someone mentioned Norman Mailer. “He hasn’t published in several years,” one dinner guests observed. “Yes, because he’s dead,” I quipped. The other guest didn’t seem to hear me and commented again about the writer’s lack of new releases. “He hasn’t published because he died,” I replied. Maybe she had been off tasting wine in a foreign locale, I thought, and missed all the news about his passing as well as the annual memorials in the media. The woman looked taken aback. I knew I’d been rude, but I could no longer stand those people trying so hard to appear cultured yet being completely unaware that one of the greatest post-war writers of the twentiethcentury had died. 12467

What can I say? I’m not perfect, and it’s okay.