Cognoscente, Aficionado, and Cutting the Crap

The bunny is currently resting...
The bunny is currently resting…

It may or may not be news to you that I am in grad school. Part of the program I am in requires academic residencies. I just completed another one on Dec. 27-30th and there are few things I despise more.

It isn’t because I don’t enjoy the workshops and expert speakers. I do.

It isn’t because I hate the schedule. It’s hard, but I can do it.

It isn’t because I am not learning anything. I am.

Academic residencies are very tough for me because a lot of blow-hards attend and I consider myself lucky to exit the residencies having met one or two people who ARE NOT.

I’ll admit it. I am a bit of a loner. It isn’t that I don’t LIKE people. I do. As a matter of fact, I love people. However, if I have 30 minutes to eat lunch, I’m not going to go to a crowded restaurant, nor stand in line for a turkey sandwich that costs $11.00 plus tax. I’m going to pack my own lunch, sit in a nearly deserted room at the next location of a required workshop, and work on my homework while I regenerate. (Did I explain I was part Borg?)

On Sunday, a longer residency day for me, I was holed up in a large room eating my lunch and tossing Chloe’s pink bunny while completing an essay on boolean phrases (aren’t I talented?) Unfortunately, by day two, other people are also figuring out these empty workshop rooms are great places to eat lunch. Some of these people are talkers. *grimace*

I suppose an “off vest” service dog playing with her toy, wagging her tail like crazy,  and huffing quietly to me so I’ll throw it again, invites spectators and conversationalists. Sometimes I really want to PLAY DEAF. I cannot, however, for I feel a certain responsibility to be a good testimony and example of a “hearing again” person. So darn it. I am pulled into conversations.

“Oh this is great that you allow your service dog an opportunity to unwind. That is a great stress diversion instrument!” said a very well-meaning (I’m sure) observer.

I know I looked at her funny. I’m pretty sure an eyebrow went up. Unfortunately, funny looks and raised eyebrows invite further conversation.

“Will your dissertation be about the place of service animals in the lives of persons with disabilities since you are a cognoscente in this area? I know many of us who are scholar-practitioners are aficionados in our area of interest”, said the now expectant observer.

I may love people, but sometimes? Sometimes I’m not very good with people.

I snorted.

That’s right. It’s a good thing my sinus were clear because lord knows what would have flown out.

I pointed to Chloe who was currently rolling around “scenting” her pink bunny and said, “You know that is a slobbery toy? It’s not an INSTRUMENT. I am doing my dissertation on something I believe in and yes, know well because I live it. But let’s cut the crap on the big talk. It’s lunchtime and I’m relaxing so you don’t have to impress me. Heck. I hardly even know what you are saying!”

Are you as horrified as I was? I wanted to slap my hand over my mouth and then immediately apologize. What happened next had me exchanging emails and finding a new friend.

“Oh thank God. My partner tells me to cut the crap all the time. Don’t you hate feeling like you have to ‘play doctoral program’ when you are here? I mean we are all just trying to get done, doing our best to reach goals. Holy realist, Batman. Can I eat lunch with you tomorrow?”

(In case you are wondering if that is her quote, I can’t make this stuff up. I even emailed her later and asked to “quote her” in an upcoming post).

I howled with laughter. I mean, I had tears rolling out of the corners of my eyes. Chloe was a bit concerned but continued to take advantage of her off-vest playtime.

Stop Trying So Hard

In the years I have chosen to identify as a person who is “differently abled”, I have met two kinds of kin.

One group of folks I feel a certain amount of kinship with since they, too, live with a chronic condition, disability, or invisible illness, are commitment-aholics. They choose to be involved in everything – just to prove they can. (A friend wrote an excellent post about this – click here to read it). They work so hard at making sure they are independent, they smack the back of the helping hand reaching towards them.

They work so hard at proving themselves at work, they are over-committed to volunteer committees and focus groups. They strive so hard to show the world (and themselves) that they CAN, they do very little well. They bust their butts to impress us. The reality is they walk around with – erm… – busted butts.

My other “cousins” are people who refuse to participate in much of anything for fear of letting others down. Instead of learning what their own physical, emotional, and mental limitations are and living an abundant life within those boundaries, they isolate themselves and refuse to put themselves in a position that they may blow it. They get around making poor choices by choosing not to make any choices at all. Their souls are withering and they don’t even know it.

Use Your Talents and Skills. Just STAY REAL

We all have talents. These are gifts we are born with while a skill, on the other hand, is something we are good at because we’ve worked hard at being good at it. We can even take natural born talents, work hard, become skilled, and use these abilities in our personal and professional lives.

It is very important to use what is available (talents) and work hard (become skilled) so that each of us can make a difference (with our abilities). Yet, too many times we get side-tracked by making sure folks recognize what we are good at doing. Cut the crap. Be real, but be nice. Be who you are – which means at times you are wearing a cape, and other times you are asking for assistance. Share who you are (why keep abilities to yourself?) but be a humble expert in who you are. Don’t be an over-achiever. Don’t be an under-achiever. Just be real!

Denise Portis

© 2015 Personal Hearing Loss Journal

 

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Accepting Help ≠ Dependence

This service dog took full advantage of a holiday vacation in Florida.
This service dog took full advantage of a holiday vacation in Florida.

My Christmas holiday was a blur. They can be that way sometimes. I flew to Florida with my husband to be with my parents for Christmas, but I had a TON of homework. Chloe, faithful service dog, at least got the opportunity to really chill out. When I got home, I headed to an academic residency for 4 days.

Even being super busy, I still learned a few things. I learned some things about myself, about other people, and about acceptance. I began to lose my hearing and balance at the age of 25. Now that I am 48-years-old, you would think I have learned all that one can learn after living with hearing loss and a vestibular disorder for 2+ decades!

Ungracious Acceptance

Acceptance of my life as it is, seems to be an ever-evolving concept. Sometimes I take things in stride. Progression of the toll my diagnoses have, a new “timber – down goes Denise – fall”, having to switch out cochlear implant batteries mid-conversation, taking the elevator instead of escalator or stairs, and having to wait for an empty handicap stall in public bathrooms so that my dog and I BOTH fit, is really second nature for me now.

But sometimes? Sometimes I am WITCHY about it. (Feel free to put another first letter there as it probably fits from time to time). Maybe it’s hormones? Perhaps it is a lack of sleep? It may be I just had an unpleasant encounter with someone who was condescending towards me when my being differently-abled became apparent. For whatever reason, at times when someone asks if they can assist I must look…

S c A r Y

I assume this because their eyes get big, they throw up their hands in an “I surrender!” pose, and they take two full steps back. I don’t MEAN to put off that vibe, but I know there are times I must do so. I work SO hard at being independent. I love the color purple, but that isn’t why I carry a bright purple cane. I love dogs, but that isn’t why my 24/7 partner is a service dog from Fidos For Freedom, Inc. I love dangly earrings, but I don’t wear “bling-bling” on my cochlear implant because I’m a drama queen.

(OK, OKAY! I’m a drama queen, but in THIS instance it is not why I have bling-bling on my cochlear implant! Yeesh!)

I do all of these things to be independent. I yearn for independence and inner strength. I forget sometimes that the latter is the result of a “thinker” and “feeler” in sync in the body of a person who is differently-abled. Part of it, I actually HAVE caught the exasperated looks on faces when I do ask for help with something. It can be fleeting, but it’s there. I’m deaf, not blind. (We can debate if differently-abled people are far too sensitive about this and see things that are not there later).

Yeah, so? Let’s Go!

While in Florida, amidst homework and research, I did insist on going out to eat every day. I did a little bit of shopping at a place we don’t have in Maryland. Bealls was a very cool place! We also do not have a Belk. So yup. I did a little shopping.

When we went out on the town to do these things, we had to borrow my parent’s car. It is a big ol’ SUV and Chloe had to sit in the back compartment. It gave her plenty of room to stretch out and seemed like a great option for four people plus one service dog. The problem was that my parent’s SUV sits very high. Chloe is 10+ years old. She is retiring in May of 2015 (unless she lets me know it needs to be before then). The first couple of times I gave the “Chloe… OUT” command, she jumped from the back, only to have her front legs collapse and do a hound face plant in the parking lot. The first time it happened, I gasped. The second time it happened, I’m pretty sure I yelled. OK, yeah. I don’t yell. I have a hearing loss. I SCREECH. Ask me to demonstrate sometime, but bring the ear plugs.

Because my husband, Terry, didn’t want to see what a third time would trigger, he suggested, “Let me lift her out of the back and set her on the ground!

I said, “Ok, but do it in a way you don’t embarrass her. Make it quick and don’t make a big deal about it.

Perhaps I should explain that I disagree with those who say that dogs don’t exhibit or feel some of the same things humans do. I have seen dogs excited. I have seen them pissed. I have seen dogs pouting (do I have some stories about my grand-dog, Pegasus, or what?). I have seen dogs embarrassed. Point & laugh and dogs will duck their heads in shame/embarrassment.

Chloe’s weight ranges from 59-62 pounds. Needless to say, we don’t carry her around. I wasn’t sure how she would respond to being lifted from the back and set on all fours on the pavement; nor, did I know how she would respond to being lifted up into the back of the SUV.

The first time we opted to lift the service hound out, I held my breath. Terry reached into the back, hooked his arms under her and locked his hands over her spine, and carefully picked her up and set her on all fours.

PUH.

I exhaled rather noisily, and watched as she wagged her tail and moved to heel position, looking up at me as if, “Yeah, so? Let’s go!

I was stunned. I had a treat in my hand to cajole her back into a good mood. Instead I went into the store as if nothing out of the ordinary had happened. I watched Chloe from the corner of my eye. (Ummm… explain to me how oval shaped things like eyeballs have corners?) I digress…

I fully expected Chloe to act, I don’t know… WEIRD for awhile. However, she took it all in stride. She needed the help, being rather fond of her own face, and didn’t even miss a step in going on about her job after accepting assistance.

Do you know where I’m going with this?

WHY???????

Why do we act so weird when we need help? Maybe it is just a little help.

… like picking up the dropped blue tooth device I spotted in a hallway that I could not bend to get, and didn’t want Chloe to destroy by enthusiastic fetching.

Maybe it was a lot of help.

… like helping me dislodge my wedged rolling briefcase from the elevator door as it was stuck solid. I struggled with my butt holding the door, cane braced, and dog freaking out as I tugged on a very STUCK wheel.

Sometimes? Sometimes, we just need a little help to continue doing our thing. We need a helping hand. We aren’t signing an I.O.U. If we truly want the world to be a kinder place, then why are we prickly when someone asks if they can help? By accepting help we are not sticking a “I’m WEAK” note on our forehead. We can accept help and still be independent. We aren’t waving all rights to an independent life should we accept help once in awhile. For most people, helping another is done so with no strings attached. They don’t even think twice about it. They may never think about it again, while WE sit there perseverating on it and making a huge deal about it. Why can’t we just say, “thank you!” and our attitude be, “Yeah, so? Let’s go!

PRIDE.

Pride can be a good thing. There are good types of pride, and crippling types of pride. Learn the difference. Learn to accept help. It doesn’t mean you are signing on to a life of dependence. It means that you are SMART. You know your limitations and are making wise choices to do what is best for YOU. Face plants on the pavement aren’t fun. All you will have for that type of stubbornness is a skinned chin. (Ask Chloe…)

Denise Portis

© 2015 Personal Hearing Loss Journal