It has been almost exactly one year since I woke up as a cockroach. At least that's how it felt - while perhaps not quite as discombobulating as Gregor Samsa's morning, waking half-deaf and unable to walk straight certainly blew my world up. One year later, I think it's safe to say my condition is now in the condition it's going to be in.
So here is my new normal, as my friend Marla calls it in her book, In each of my nasty triumvirate, hearing, balance, and tinnitus, I did not end up in the neighborhoods I would have preferred. That's a great big ol' drag, but they are my new addresses, and I have to learn to live there with as much grace as I can muster. A very wise doctor once gave me some advice when I was struggling with limitations, something along the line of: Honor your challenges, but don't embrace them.
I've been thinking about those words lately, as I approached this not-so-welcome anniversary. Judging from the feedback I've gotten from many of you as you've supported me through this most interesting time, I have at least gotten better at this than I was when that doctor wrote those words down on a sticky note to send home with me. (Then again, low bar on that one, as I recall. HA!)
Hearing: Nothing has changed since treatment, where I went from "profound hearing loss" to "severe-to-profound hearing loss." While this was a big win, it doesn't exactly feel like one. Day to day reality continues at nearly deaf in left ear, particularly if there's more than one sound source. Which is hardly anywhere, you know...
This improvement will likely show to much greater advantage if and when I get an assistive hearing device. I remain unexcited about the prospect of having a hole drilled in my head for a connector, so I am picking back up on the research for other options.
My favorite potential solution to at least hearing and improved ability to discern one conversation out of a crowded room is not available in the U.S. Looks like I'll have to go to London, or Singapore. Darn. Hee! What do they call them? Medi-vacations? There are worse fates.
These do not have the same level of assist as the implanted devices, but neither do they require a hole in the head and the surgery attendant with putting said hole in said head. Which again, would be my hard head, and my hard head don't want that. Not yet.
Wobblies: I've certainly had some improvement there from the first weeks and months, which were quite disheartening. That said, I did not end up anywhere close to the recovery I was hoping for, but I can at least walk straight when I concentrate, and rarely need to use a walking stick, though I do keep it handy.
However, if I turn my head while walking, I will tack briskly in that direction. (Or the opposite. I find it bizarre that that is not a constant; seems like it should be. But it is not. Brain wiring is some pretty weird stuff, by golly.)
In terms of daily safety, it is Pretty Darned Important that I stop moving before turning my head, because otherwise things get all whoopsy-doodle. (To use the technical term.) And when I'm tired, all bets are off.
Live performance remains out of the question. Between the problems with little sound in Sad Left Ear and too much in Overzealous Right, and my balance, it's just not going to happen. Which is only a bit like watching a monster tear my heart out of my chest and eat it before my eyes.
Which also means the radio show and video work are a great consolation, as those have been much more doable, and at least keep me in the art and performance world. Let's hear it for consolation prizes!
Tinnitus: While I no longer have to remind myself daily to not pull a Vincent Van Gogh, things are also not where I'd like to be here. Still have a constant soundtrack, ever-changing. But at least now the tracks don't change as often, the volume is usually lower, and most of the worst of them rarely appear now. Good (mostly) riddance to the Banshees for sure!
But when I'm tired, or have been in environments with sound, there is always a price to pay. Given where I started from, however, this is at least something a person can consider living with. First couple of months, I was not so sure. So some improvement of significance there, though I still often miss silence so much it hurts.
Crowded rooms with lots of people and conversations, and background music, and etc., are very, very difficult. I can handle it for about an hour, and then it's home to party with the Banshees, who are always happy to make an appearance. Apparently they miss me more than I miss them. Ha!
So I'm not going to lie: it's been a rough year and this is a rough anniversary. But I've long held, and you've heard me say before: we may not be able to choose what happens to us, but we can choose how we react.
Consequently, I'm trying hard to concentrate on the gifts, the good, and the could-have-been-worse rather than the losses. Some days I do better at it than others. Some days I just want to lie in bed and throw a pity party, but that exercise remains as useful as it's ever been, which is to say not very.
Of course there have been gifts. I think every great loss or challenge comes replete with them, when we can recognize 'em. I've been very fortunate. It could have been so much worse, and the love, support, kindnesses and bon mots everyone in all my circles have given me have been both humbling and inspirational.
And in the beginning, I said that if even one person was helped by my going public and blogging, then it would all be worth it, and I'm happy to report that one person was! Someone who knew a bestie of mine had this happen, and she was able to read this and get some info for her own situation, which was hugely gratifying.
So that's my year-end summary. Not a great review, but given the circumstances, I'll settle for adequate. The path ahead remains murky. I am somewhat lost with so many of my previous loves being unavailable to me, but I am trying hard to concentrate on those that remain and those that may now open to me. Who knows - they could be super-cool things I do not even have on my radar!
So it's onward and upward; damn the torpedoes! And any other aphorism you want to throw at it. Cliches-R-Us. Hopefully I will be more filled with cheer, wisdom, and equanimity at my second anniversary of cockroachdom.
I would also be remiss if I did not close with a huge, huge, huge thank you to all of you, for being such a big part of what's kept me going. You are the wind beneath my wildly flapping arms. Hasta la vista, be-bes.