I’ve Lost My Hearing, So It’s Time to Lose the Ego

I have no idea what I’ve agreed to the past few years. If you’ve whispered something to me, or we’ve been somewhere with a lot of background noise, there’s a 97% chance that I didn’t hear you. And while I will say pardon or what was that to clarify; twice is my limit. Then I just nod. It’s embarrassing and isolating. It makes me feel old and broken.

But I finally went to the ear doctor. I’m facing up to the fact that not hearing is impacting my life. I can easily turn on closed captioning on TV. But that doesn’t exist in the real world. And my lip reading skills aren’t great.

So, I took a hearing test. And failed hard. I already knew that I had some hearing damage. But to be told it’s significant in both ears is not the best news. On top of not being able to hear, I have regular ear pain and vertigo. There’s constant popping and ringing as well. My ears rank the lowest of any of my existing organs. The type of hearing loss I have is nerve damage. It’s not reversible and will only continue to worsen.

I go to the doctor quite a bit. So a diagnosis that’s not what I hoped for isn’t new. At least they don’t make you get on the scale.

So, yes I need a hearing aid, or rather two. But I also may have other ear issues. I’ll be having more tests on the inner ear to see if there’s a problem. Because apparently, my ears look excellent. “Best ears I’ve seen today,” the doctor said. But it’s only 10 AM so not sure this will stand. Also, lots of love to all the medical professionals I saw that kept telling me I’m so young.

Then I get the pleasure of discussing hearing aids. I shouldn’t be embarrassed. Not hearing means I’m missing out on life experiences. I’m more concerned about that. Besides, they are so small, they’re very hard to see.

I will just choose to embrace and accept the fact I have hearing loss. I’ve faced much worse diagnoses than this. I’ve been sliced and diced so what can be so bad about a little wire in my ear.

I’ll just consider this another one of my superpowers (if you do didn’t know I have a super palette aka as I’m picky), and I’ll have bionic ears.

Next week, I’ll return to choose the right device. It will depend somewhat on my insurance. Because hearing aids aren’t cheap. The new models even connect to your iPhone. They are just another tiny computer.

Hopefully I’ll be back in the land of the hearing soon. I’ll be sure to keep you posted.

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Why Did You Park There?

Why did you park there-

Thoughts on what it means to be decent

I’d never call myself a rule follower. I’m creative and a dreamer so I don’t care for boundaries. But I do have an unfaltering desire to be decent. I don’t won’t to infringe on the rights of others. You’d think we’d all be in agreement with this. But it’s not so, on either the micro or macro level. Instead, we have a world of people who invade your personal space, tell you what to do with your body, and yes, park wherever they please.

I, like many, live in a community with assigned parking. While I get the occasional inconsiderate driver parked in my spot, I’m left baffled more by those who park in no parking zones. They park in fire lanes or areas where it makes it hard for others to get out. I honestly want to go up to those people, and ask them why they parked there. It’s not that every other space was taken, that’s not the problem. The problem seems to be that they think the rules don’t apply to them. They’ll park where ever they want. Drive how they want. Act like they want. And say what they want. And most of the time, there aren’t any consequences.

How did we as humans, the most advanced of all Earth’s creatures, end up so unaccountable? Every day, I witness adults doing whatever they want, including hurting and disrespecting others, with zero consequences. This is only going to end badly. As the “leaders” of the animal kingdom, aren’t we somehow supposed to be better than this?

So, it’s as good a time as any to start taking responsibility. Own your actions. Stop encroaching on others. Call others out who are making the world a less civil place. Don’t shove your beliefs down others’ throats. Get right with yourself. When you become emotionally healthy, you’ll find you have no desire to tear down others. Because isn’t that the ugly truth about human behavior? Most of those who want to condemn others or believe the rules just don’t apply to them, are just emotionally unavailable and impaired. So while they often present themselves to the world like a proud bird, they’re really sad and broken and insecure.

Do yourself and your fellow humans a favor, and get some therapy. I highly recommend it. Facing your truths, gives you the best shot at some kind of happy.

I’ve been known to say, only slightly in jest, that I don’t like people. I do like some of you (you know who you are). But honestly, I like you all enough to not object to, harm, inconvenience or hurt you. Your life is not my business. And mine isn’t yours. You can count on me, every day of the week, trying to be decent, which means I’ll park where I’m supposed to.

Turbulence Let’s Me Know I’m Alive


And other crazy things we tell ourselves in a modern world 

I would classify myself as a seasoned traveler. I’ve flown probably thousands of miles in my life, including a 15 hour flight to Australia and two trips across the Atlantic to Europe. But that doesn’t mean I don’t have anxiety about turbulence. On a recent cross country trip, we experienced bad turbulence going and returning. I was with one of my besties who hadn’t flown in years, but I didn’t act cool about it. I was scared. All these irrational things run through your head: like have I lived a good life, have I written everything I wanted to write, have I taken chances?

So, with all these questions running through my head and my hands gripping the seat, I realized that turbulence does let me know I’m alive. 

It’s a bit of a crazy conclusion. That doesn’t make it any less true. We tell ourselves all kinds of crazy things in the modern world. Most aren’t truthful. Much of what we tell ourselves is rationale for what we did or didn’t do. Often, in moments or situations where we are scared or see finality, only then are we honest. But why? Why does this act as a catalyst for us to get our shit together. Does almost dying, make us feel more alive?

I’m on a mission to do shit that scares me. I want no part of the comfort zone. As a writer and liver of a believable life, there are still subjects I am afraid to write about. They are very personal and aren’t the kind of things that go down smoothly. Yet, these things are important. They made me who I am. They are part of my story. It doesn’t matter that they are the part of my story’s fabric that are sharp and cut easily. These “sharp” bits of life experience are often what makes us compassionate, empathetic and human. 

While turbulence is terribly uncomfortable and scary, so is life at times. You can either buckle up and expect constant bumps or stand outside, always looking in at the world, as if it were a TV show. I refuse to be a bystander in my own life. 

I won’t let the bad stuff keep me from the good stuff in life. It did for awhile. I made all kinds of mistakes like marrying a man I didn’t love and pushing away people that mattered. But I own them as mistakes. I don’t pretend that they didn’t happen. But back then I didn’t feel turbulence. I didn’t feel anything, happy or sad. 

So, today right now, I’m grateful to say, “Turbulence lets me know I’m alive.”

Monsters

I read this the other day and was saddened by its profound truth. As children, we are scared of what’s under the bed. As adults, we know better. We know it’s other people who commit the greatest transgressions.

As a child, I had fears not unlike many. I was exposed too early, perhaps, to Jason Voorhees and Freddie Krueger. They didn’t really haunt my dreams. I was enthralled by horror. I was drawn to Hitchcock movies and Stephen King novels. But as you know, humans more often than not were the culprits in these stories. It is too often that when unmasking the villain, we find just a person capable of the worst. How often were the monsters really monsters on Scooby Doo?

As much as we’d like to see the good in people, that seems to get harder and harder. We don’t live in a world anymore of unlocked doors and stopping to help someone out on the side of the road. We can’t trust so easily anymore. It’s just not prudent. Being compassionate can actually get you killed.

I try neither to see the good or bad that may be inherent in others. I try to see the truth, whatever that might be. Maybe it’s because I learned from the beginning that monsters weren’t under the bed or in my closet. They were right in front of me. They were people in my life that hurt me in ways that I’m still recovering from. I’m far from the only one who has found monsters among them.

Then I found myself with monsters within me. They were the voices of doubt, fear and disgust. The constant rumbles of not being good enough. The monsters kept me numb and dislocated from reality. These monsters mostly only did harm to myself. But I am not immune to being a terrible person. I’ve hurt others. I’ve lied. I’ve cheated. Hurt begets hurt way too often.

Expelling the monsters, whether internal or external, requires more work than most are willing to put in. It’s easier to let someone keep destroying us or to keep destroying ourselves. It’s beyond comprehension what people do to one another. I’m not just talking about the most egregious evils. It’s the things we say or don’t say. It’s when we leave and don’t return. It’s when we look into another’s eyes and say nothing but the truth.

And right now there are many monsters among us. We are monsters every time we look the other way and just let things stay unchanged. That’s what is truly scary; not the boogie man. I don’t waste too much time on fear. It does little good to be overcome with fear about those things outside of our control. It won’t stop me from experience and opportunity. I will never let the monsters take these from me.

Monsters don’t just appear in fairytales. Those evil characters simply prepare us for the horrors of life. And the real life monsters are much scarier than the ones of fiction. We can’t turn those off. They play in our minds forever. I’m not sure if monsters can ever change. They are too good at it. Many want to be. They are orchestrators of chaos and discord. But we can’t let monsters have all the power. I let them have power over me for too long. Even though they can’t hurt me anymore, I still feel their presence. They still win sometimes.

I want to live in a world where monsters aren’t real; they’re just stories. That’s not really possible or realistic. What I can do and will always do is to realize my own role in the story. And try not to be my own worst enemy. We live a life of so much rejection and suffer a lifetime of being casually spit out by life. There’s no room for monsters. They steal your joy. And at the end of the day that may be what makes us human.

Are We Born Hateful?

Are we born hateful-

My husband, who often likes to buck the consensus, started a conversation with me recently about hate, and if it was learned or if humans are somewhat inclined toward hate at birth. I immediately answered that it’s learned. He rebutted my ease at the answer with thoughts of how animals, and even humans, must fight to survive in many circumstances.  And that even if it’s not hate that spurs us to save ourselves first, there is this innate sense for self preservation

Nelson Mandela had an important opinion on this, stating, “No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion.” We tend to believe that we are born true of heart, and that hatred, whether it be based on race, religion, gender or any other element is learned. However, I don’t think everyone is taught to hate; sometimes it may be a consequence of sameness.

Looking at my own history and experiences, it would have been easy for me to be hateful and fearful of anything different. I grew up in a rural North Carolina town full of white faces. I never went to school with anyone who wasn’t white until college. In my first 18 years of life, I was surrounded by lower to middle class white Christians. I never met a Jewish person or Muslim person until college. It was by all accounts, a sheltered life. The only thing that made it different was my mother, who engrained in me that people aren’t skin colors or genders or religions. People are the product of their choices, their passions, their actions and their words.

This segregated world I grew up in isn’t from the 70s or 89s but actually the 1990s. There were people of other races in my town, black and also a growing Hispanic population, due to the apple orchards, Christmas tree farms and chicken manufacturing plant. My best friend went to another high school where things were more diverse. And on more than one occasion, girls were transferred from her high school to mine by their families because of their romances with young black men.

My mother may have been inclusive; however, my absent father still said the “n word.” My grandmother whispered the term, “black.” She was not in any way racist, but a product of her environment and life. Thus, in my sea of sameness, I did encounter different thought patterns that ultimately led me to discern what the differences were in each of us, and if they really did matter.

I know I wasn’t born hateful. But I’m not so sure there’s not some truth to my husband’s theory. Are we really pure at birth? Don’t we come with some pre-programming? Babies are born with fear, or at least two specific fears, that of falling and loud noises. They are part of our DNA, in response to the need to survive.

Interestingly, hate is often born from fear. Not understanding or not experiencing anything outside of our comfort bubble may make us more inclined to hate. Is it because we are bad people? Or simply the way in which we perceive safety?

There has been substantial research on the subject with no real clarity. Are these studies biased from the start? I’m not a scientist. My understanding of the human condition is based on my experiences. And those experiences took me out of that small town to other states, cities, countries and continents. My perspective is also tempered by loss. When your entire immediate family is gone by the time you are 20, your identity becomes a bit unstable. Differences, especially physical ones, have no real meaning. Maybe my compassion is greater or my tolerance for ignorance lower.

As I look at the world now, there’s so much conversation of them versus us. Who has the right to be here? Who has the right to marry? And will what is happening now change us? Transform our DNA to be born with more fears in order to survive? Time will only tell if the human race chooses to celebrate diversity or uniformity. Let us please find a way to love the differences.

Do Sh** That Scares You

do sh-- that scares you

Wise and revered First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt said, “Do something every day that scares you.” This is good advice even for those who aren’t risk takers. Because doing something that scares you need not be solely concerned with the physical.

Because I’m not a risk taker or an adrenaline junkie. I’m not a thrill seeker. I was never a fearless child. Not that I have many fears. Heights I can deal with except in certain circumstances. While at the top of the CN Tower in Toronto years ago, I could not step foot on the glass section. It’s an area where you can stand and see straight down. It can hold like a herd of buffalo. But my leg wouldn’t stop shaking so I just looked at the view in front of me not below me.

I’m also fine in the dark except that I can’t see. Roller coasters aren’t so much scary as they are nauseating. So I don’t tempt fate on that one. I’m looking out for my fellow riders. I’m also not really scared of death. It’s inevitable so it does little good to waste energy being scared. And that prevalent fear of public speaking doesn’t apply to me. I love it.

But life is scary. It’s scary in that everything can change in an instant. I could walk out my door today and never come back. Accidents, crime, wrong place wrong time and a million things in between can 180 your life in a heartbeat. So why not do some sh** that scares you. If you’re scared of something then you actually do it; you win. More importantly, it takes away the power of fear.

As I’m out there living life with a capital L, I’ve pretty much had fear’s number. I zip lined a few weeks ago. No hesitation, just stepped off and went. It was exhilarating. It’s the closest thing to flying most humans will ever feel. Great experience and would love to do it again.

But I haven’t been really scared in a long time until I went down the Wenatchee River on a raft with four real rafters. I thought it was just going to be a laid back rafting adventure. Then we got there and started getting into wet suits and packing up gear. Then there was the safety review, which I paid attention to like my life depended on it (spoiler alert: it did).

Then we get in the water, and the fun begins. There were multiple occasions where my heart was in my throat, and I was literally shaking. As a city girl, I’m not super outdoorsy. To clarify, I love to be outdoors but I’m just not an outdoor adventurer. My many years of girl scouting or previous rafting experience did not prepare me. I was with people who knew what they were doing so I deferred to them. Even though I did fall in, I received a passing grade from the pros. And more importantly, I did something really damn scary.

So these are examples of scary situations. But I do things every day that scare me just as much, but in a different way. I bare my soul with words that aren’t always easy to write. I’m honest to others and myself. I walk away from circumstances and people that are toxic. I’ve lived every day for 20 plus years without my mom, yeah that’s still scary. I take chances on people and let myself be vulnerable, unimaginably scary. I love people who may disappoint me or leave me. I prepare for professional rejection on the regular because not everyone thinks I’m publication worthy.

So I guess these adventures are small potatoes compared to what I and many of you do every day. Being brave is different for every person and every situation. If you want to feel alive; if you want to feel your pulse, simply do something that scares the sh** out of you. Every. Damn. Day.

What I Learned from My European Vacation – Part One

 

european vacation part one

This is the first in a series of posts about my recent trip to London and Amsterdam. I’ve been obsessed with Europe since I was young. My mom planted this desire in me. I think her trip to Europe in the 80s was probably one of the best times in her life. So I thought of her a lot while I was visiting castles and famous places in London as she had 30 years ago. Traveling with her is just one more thing we didn’t get to share. But I was glad to be there with my favorite person.

For this post, I wanted to talk about logistics and my observations of how Europe just gets it right.

Trains, Planes, Boats and No Automobiles

We were never in a car the entire trip. There’s no need for a car in Europe. Transportation in Europe is really about getting where you need to go quickly and efficiently. In the US, transportation is intertwined with identity. Having a car is not just about getting where you need to go, it’s a symbol of your independence. I, personally, loathe driving and care very little about a car. So Europe is perfect for me.

We took the Underground everywhere in London. Our hotel was a block from a stop. London is a big city and very spread out. It would be impossible to go everywhere on foot. Although we did walk so much and for so long. Even with comfy shoes on, my feet were on fire.

In Amsterdam, we took the bus and trams. Amsterdam doesn’t really have that many cars. It has bikes. This is truly a bike friendly city. Everyone has their lane: pedestrians, bikes, tram and cars. You have to pay attention and stay in your lane. We didn’t see any accidents nor did we see helmets. Justin wondered how safe biking is in Amsterdam so we looked it up. The stats we found stated six to eight people die from head injuries in biking accidents annually. That’s a very small percentage. My take on why there are so few crashes is that respecting bikers and pedestrians is a cultural philosophy. Riders, drivers and walkers understand their responsibilities to each other. Whereas in the US, most drivers don’t have any desire to share the road or yield. They’ll happily run you over, honk at you and flip you off. Such an uncivilized place is the highway.

The Underground was not hard to figure out. The only tricky thing is that some trains go the same path but then split. So make sure to take the right one if your stop is after the split. The trams in Amsterdam were a bit trickier. The basically run in circles parallel to the canals, but it’s not so easy to understand what the stop is. They make announcements but they aren’t always about the next stop. And the trams stop a lot for traffic not just at actual stops. I ended up just standing beside the window where I could physically see the stop name so we didn’t miss our stop.

Getting from London to Amsterdam

We looked at several ways to travel, including by water. I chose a flight because it was quick and reasonably priced. We chose British Airways, as they don’t charge for the first bag. Plus, we were able to fly out of and back into Heathrow, which is where we departed from to get back home. We are lucky to live in a hub city with direct flights to many European cities. That’s what I always say when people ask me what I like about Charlotte. “It’s got a great airport.”

Interestingly, when checking in with American Airlines on our fight back, Justin and I were questioned about our trip. Separately, due the fact we have different surnames. I was asked what we did on our trip, how we would get home and how long we’d been gone. Justin was asked where he works, how he travels to work and where we stayed. But this has become part of the routine in the world we live in so I expect it. We had no issues at immigration or customs throughout the journey.

About the Stairs

Be prepared for stairs. At our hotel in London, we were on the fourth floor. No elevator just for flights of steep stairs. These were “feel the thigh burn” after one set kind of stairs. I only needed to go back up them about a 1,000 times and I’d have some fierce legs. We were on the first floor in Amsterdam so we lucked out.

Being Short is Not a Bad Thing

Europeans make good use of space. Think IKEA. The rooms are small. We upgraded to the double bed. We survived the small quarters. It’s easier to sleep in a smaller bed without three animals. Doorways are small. The subway is compact. So for all my tall friends, you’re going to have to crouch and dunk a lot. Shorties, this is when you’ll be glad to be petite. They make great use of their space.

English – the Universal Language?

English is, of course, the language of the U.K. They do add a u to many words in which the US does not. They also use an s rather than a z. In the Netherlands, you’ll find everything in English (UK not US) as well as Dutch. I feel conflicted about how most any country offers everything in English. It speaks volumes about the US expects everyone to conform to its language (although the US is still own its own with the imperial system). I wish I could speak lots of languages. I took four semesters of German in college and have little to show for it. Dutch is similar to German so I could read some things. But it’s hard to speak. It’s a language with long words difficult sounds. I appreciate Amsterdam catering to its visitors from English speaking countries and in turn apologetic for our ignorance in not knowing multiple languages.

I’ll end by saying I never felt not safe in Europe. We saw a much stronger police and military presence in London. But I was never fearful in any way. Since our return, the U.K. has experienced two tragic terror attacks. It’s hard to know what I can do in these times. I don’t have any solutions to thwart terrorism. I can only say that I love Europe and its people. I’d go back tomorrow and stay if that were an option. These attacks won’t scare me away. There are many more adventures to take! Next up – Italy.