I’m a reader. Perhaps it has something to do with having a mother who was an English teacher. Maybe it is because both my parents are readers. All I know, is that I can’t remember not having books. I lived in a rural, farming community and as it was before the “age of the Internet”, much of what we did in our free time was reading. Thanks to my mom, I have read all the “great classics”. I also grew up reading series such as “Trixie Belden”, “The Bobbsey Twins”, “Nancy Drew”, “Hardy Boys”, “Sugar-Creek Gang”, “Agatha Christie”, and “Little House on the Prairie”. I remember being SO BORED one summer that I started reading my dad’s favorite series, “Louis L’Amour” and discovered they were actually OK too!
I always felt a little melancholy when coming to the end of a good book. If it was a series, I fretfully waited for the sequel to come out. It was especially hard when the author ended a book with a “cliff-hanger”. I think that is when I started biting my nails.
I’ve had an emotional roller-coaster kind of 2015. I have been slowly easing my service dog, Chloe, into part-time work. I have already started training for a successor dog at Fidos For Freedom, Inc. In the past week, Chloe has gone from part-time working dog to “when hound dog feels like it”. I always ask her if she wants to “get dressed” and more often than not she flops her tail at me and gives me a sweet hound-dog look. “See you later, mom! I’ll be here when you get back!”
Her vest is more often hanging on its hook, than it is being worn by faithful service dog. It has been a harder transition on me than it has been on her, and frankly? That’s the way I want it.
People notice that Chloe isn’t with me now. I suppose when you are thought of as a team, when the “cute red head” is missing, people notice. I’ve answered these questions dozens of times:
“You get to keep her, don’t you?”
“What will she do all day?”
“How will a new partner and Chloe get along?”
At first, it made me really sad to see her vest hanging on it’s hook as I walked out the door. I had an overwhelming feeling of finality. I know I’m making the right decision, but for awhile I felt like I was facing the end of a book–“The End“.
However, I realized that just like in OUR lives, finishing one chapter in life doesn’t mean the book is over. We plan to ease Chloe into therapy dog work if it is something both my husband and I can work into our schedules. If she doesn’t transition that direction, she will continue to be a beloved furry member of our family.
When the Life You Had Is Over…
One of the most disconcerting things about acquired disabilities or invisible, chronic illnesses, is that at some point you may not be able to do everything that you once were able to do. I’ve heard some people say, “Don’t ever say you CAN’T. Just find a new way of doing it!” But friends? That isn’t always realistic.
Take roller-skating for example. I love to roller-skate. I was actually pretty good at it, too. I could skate backwards, do a single axle, speed race, limbo on skates, and much more. Post balance/vestibular disorder, I can no longer skate. Sure, I could probably find various devices to prop myself up, or skate with a walker on wheels. But, I won’t be skating like I was. This doesn’t mean that I stop doing ALL extra-curricular activities. There ARE some things I can still do and do so safely. I simply started a new chapter in my book, “This is My Life“.
Some people find that after acquired disability or diagnosis, they can no longer work. Their “new normal” includes chronic pain, debilitating fatigue, or other symptoms that make it impossible for them to work “9 to 5”. However, they may find they there are some things they can do to continue earning a paycheck. There are a variety of things one can do to earn money while working at home.
Some people become volunteers and do a number of things that yield personal satisfaction and allow them to “give back”; however, the activities are not dependent on a set schedule. I know some people who no longer work due to a diagnosis, and likely do TOO MUCH as volunteers. There are so many opportunities! There are so many ways people of various abilities can do to benefit others.
If your life took an unexpected turn after a diagnosis or acquired disability, your book isn’t finished. You are just starting a new chapter.
BUT… YOU DON’T UNDERSTAND. Everything in my life has changed! I cannot successfully reach goals I made a long time ago before this diagnosis. My friends have changed. My relationship status has changed. My book really is approaching “The End”.
Perhaps your life really did experience a 180 change in direction. Some of my favorite books are part of a SERIES. The book may have ended, but there is a sequel. Set new goals. Make new friends. Do new things. I have found that some of the most rewarding experiences I have had were the direct result of my embracing my own “new normal”. I stopped trying to be the Denise I was before hearing loss and Meniere’s disease. The people I have met, the job that I have, and the organizations in which I am involved would have never been a part of my life if I hadn’t been forced to start a new chapter, or even a new book in a part of a series.
Hanging your vest up? Have major changes happened in your life? Your story isn’t finished. The chapter may be done. The book may even be finished. Your story is NOT complete.
Writer’s block? Network with others who have similar diagnosis as you do. See what they do to volunteer, serve, or even jobs and careers they may have. It’s never too late to go back to school! Many older adults sit in my classrooms taking classes to earn a degree and prepare them for something new. Gone are the days where all my students were 18 and 19 years old.
From an editorial review of “The Story of My Life” by Helen Keller: “Many of her later works were largely autobiographical, but there was always an emphasis on the inherent power of the individual to journey through life with hope. The Story of My Life is the first chapter in such a journey.”
If your life has significantly changed, it is simply the end of a chapter. Your story – your journey continues.
© 2015 Personal Hearing Loss Journal