This is My Fight Song

On “match day”, 2015.

The first time I heard Rachel Platten’s “Fight Song“, it was actually sung by a different  young woman who had faced a life threatening illness and “won”. You can find Calysta Bevier’s audition for “America’s Got Talent” HERE.

Yesterday, Fidos For Freedom, Inc. held its annual certification day. Service dog and hearing dog teams re-certify their skills and clients take a written exam. Milo and I passed with flying colors. While there, I was able to catch up with other teams. I overheard various teams refer to their service dog as their “partner in crime”, “wing man”, “partner”, “side kick”, “best friend”, and “best buddy”.

I’m a believer in the power of the human spirit. I have also seen many people who are differently-abled, dig deep and find the wherewithal to “just keep swimming” (as our friend Dory from Disney’s “Finding Nemo” taught us). At certification day, there is understandably some waiting in line. In an “all volunteer” organization, it takes a village of caring and committed volunteers to make certification day happen. However, clients do have to spend some time waiting for the next station to open up so that they can be tested on those skills. While waiting, I people watch. I’m easily caught up in emotion and found myself getting choked up looking around at various teams performing like super heroes. Can these individuals FIGHT without a service dog at their sides? Yes. I have no doubt. However, having a service dog makes each and every day a little easier.

It’s more than the skilled tasks they do, y’all! Milo retrieves dozen of items I drop each day. He is my alarm clock. He opens and closes the dishwasher, refrigerator, and gets clothes out of the dryer for me. He braces when I stand from a sitting position. He walks along side me and is only a touch away. Yet, the biggest benefit Milo brings to my life is psychological and emotional strength. Can I fight alone? Yes.

But I don’t have to do so.

Milo is with me 24/7. If I’m having a bad balance day, I go to work anyway knowing he’s got my back. If I’m dreading a large meeting, knowing in advance I will have trouble hearing, he provides the courage I need to do what needs to be done. I consider myself an advocate and “assumption destroyer”. However, Milo makes me a super hero. I think service dog partners forget those “under the radar” strengths our service dogs provide for us. On annual certification days, I am often reminded. Observing these teams and the trainers who coach/love them, brings these hidden benefits into startling clarity for me. We can count on other caring human beings to help and support us as needed. However, it is only a service dog partner that can be there ALWAYS.

I want to leave you with the lyrics and original video of “Fight Song”. I also am not ashamed to acknowledge that I found my own fight song with the support of a service dog. For me… it made the difference.

Like a small boat
On the ocean
Sending big waves
Into motion
Like how a single word
Can make a heart open
I might only have one match
But I can make an explosion
And all those things I didn’t say
Wrecking balls inside my brain
I will scream them loud tonight
Can you hear my voice this time?
This is my fight song
Take back my life song
Prove I’m alright song
My power’s turned on
Starting right now I’ll be strong
I’ll play my fight song
And I don’t really care if nobody else believes
‘Cause I’ve still got a lot of fight left in me
Losing friends and I’m chasing sleep
Everybody’s worried about me
In too deep
Say I’m in too deep (in too deep)
And it’s been two years I miss my home
But there’s a fire burning in my bones
Still believe
Yeah, I still believe
And all those things I didn’t say
Wrecking balls inside my brain
I will scream them loud tonight
Can you hear my voice this time?
This is my fight song
Take back my life song
Prove I’m alright song
My power’s turned on
Starting right now I’ll be strong
I’ll play my fight song
And I don’t really care if nobody else believes
‘Cause I’ve still got a lot of fight left in me
A lot of fight left in me

ORIGINAL VIDEO

L. Denise Portis

© 2017 Personal Hearing Loss Journal

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Sometimes? All You Can do is LAUGH

chloe hug

You’d think by now hound dog was accustomed to me bustin’ out into peals of laughter. I’ve done it often enough, after all! But I still take her by surprise sometimes!

I had a “Murphy’s Law” kind of day just recently. One of those days where if something COULD go wrong, it WOULD. Some interesting facts about Murphy’s Law and where it all began, visit this link. “Whatever can go wrong will go wrong”.

Chloe and I were walking one evening and the weather was DIVINE. Hardly any clouds, low humidity, and I had a “pep in my step”. For once, my Meniere’s disease was allowing me to walk at a pretty good clip with very little weaving. When I walk, I talk to my dog. Chloe would probably freak if I took a walk and was totally silent. It helps her pay attention to me, and I throw her name in there from time to time. However, sometimes I’m just…

Yackin’

Yup. Just talkin’ about anything and everything. It helps me to think out loud and I tend to go on and On and ON. I actually said out loud, “Wow, Chloe. Look at how easily I’m walking this evening! No wobbles! Moving along at a good rate! I’m smokin’!

Chloe gave me this LOOK. Almost as if she anticipated something going wrong after that lofty observation. Within 30 seconds (I kid you NOT), I stumbled on an ornery piece of elevated sidewalk and opened my mouth to shriek (for I do precious little QUIETLY) only to have a bee swoop in my open mouth as I began to fall into a nearby bush. So here I am choking on a bee, trying like crazy to spit it out while being impaled on various twigs and branches of a bush… a ROSE bush – wouldn’t ya know? So thorns grabbing me everywhere. Worse, it was damp earth under the bush thanks to recent rains so when I connected with the ground there was a obvious squishy sound and splat as my hip, knee and foot connected. So there I lay in the mud INSIDE a bush, choking on a bee, covered in thorns, desperately trying to hang on to my leash because Chloe was …

OUT THERE

SOMEWHERE

outside the BUSH.

I laid there a minute trying to go through my Meniere’s “play list” that automatically begins playing after I fall.

It’s a cute little jingle.

I’d share the wonderful lyrics with you so that you can sing along… but frankly I can’t carry a tune in a bucket and it’s one of those songs one whines and sings to oneself. So anyway… I run through the steps.

1. Am I dead?

2. Is anything broken?

3. Where is Chloe?

4. Can I move?

5. Do I need help?

So I was able to answer, No, No, *POINTS – somewhere outside the bush*, Barely, Yes.

I tried to turn to see if I could reach my bag. You know… the one with my cell phone in it that I carry in case of emergency? I can see it just out of reach out *there* near Chloe’s legs.

So… I asked Chloe to fetch the bag for me. She grabbed it up and ducked down to look under the bush at me. What she saw, made her drop her jaw and the bag tumbled back to the ground. Crap. Now my phone is laying outside the bag. So I tell Chloe to “fetch phone” – which is actually easier for her to do as it is something  she does several times a day. She grabs the phone, looks down under the branches again to where I lay and squirmed to reach my outstretched hand to give me the phone. Success!

Only… the phone is dead. That’s right, I carry around a phone with a dead battery on walks because it is SO helpful to do that. *rolls eyes*

So I decided that I needed to get out from under the bush. Easier said than done. I’m hung up, slightly injured, dizzy, muddy and on the verge of crying. Not a good combination. I thought, “Oh my gosh. I’m going to have to lay here until somebody walks by to help. How embarrassing! How will I explain this?” I didn’t have to lay there very long before I noticed that Chloe was now snuffling at my hung up hoodie sweatshirt.

TUG. YANK. R…I….P! Unbelievable! She tugged me free!

I rolled to one side to get out from under the bush and was wise enough to sit there a minute. Chloe plopped down and waited for me to “collect myself”. I fall SO OFTEN, if I am able to just go down without hitting my head I consider that a coup. So I checked out all my scratches and now torn clothing and thought that – heck. It could’ve been worse. It HAS been worse. So I started to laugh. Sometimes? All you can do is laugh. Chloe looked at me and just panted and “grinned”. It’s not the first time I’ve sat laughing covered in mud and trying to find the wherewithal to get up and keep going! (Likely won’t be the last time either!)

Can You Laugh at Yourself? Should You?

If you live with an invisible illness, have a disability, or a chronic condition, it can be helpful to learn to laugh at yourself. A great little article about the benefits of laughter can be found HERE.

But if you don’t believe in the power of endorphins or social connectedness, you still should learn to laugh at yourself. At least… that is my opinion. Here are some reasons I have learned to laugh at myself:

1. If I am laughing, it can reduce anxiety that others may feel when my disability pops up and causes me to do something like fall, mishear something, or other “Denise blooper”. Does it matter if someone else’s anxiety is lessened? Well… I don’t want people to feel uncomfortable around me. If I can laugh at myself, hopefully they will learn that I take who I am and my new “life parameters” in stride and am fine with it.

2. It reduces MY anxiety. Endorphins are real. It’s not some kind of borg nanotechnology that only re-routes and fixes sci-fy actresses. I FEEL BETTER after laughing.

3. If I laugh, it really helps me accept myself – just the way I am. You can’t change the unchangeable. I’m a klutz. I’m going to fall. As long as I’m in one piece and don’t have any odd bits of bone poking out anywhere, (Yeah, I know. Right?) laughing at myself helps me just accept what happened. It is MY WAY of embracing my flaws. This is who I am.

3. It helps me put things in perspective. While cackling like a hyena, I can take stock too. My little “jingle” may re-play. Some deep breaths – a mirthful hiccough or two, and I’m good as new!

4. Laughing helps me de-stress. Likely I’m laughing because I just did something that COULD cause me stress. (What if someone saw? Bet this mud will NOT come out of my jeans! Chloe tore my hoodie! I’m never walking again! As a matter of fact I’m just going to sit here on the sidewalk and feel sorry for myself! I’m going to stomp on my phone – when I finally get up. I hate my life! I want my mother… ) Laughing… de-stresses me. I can feel the tension roll off of my shoulders.

So I do believe “laughter is good medicine”. But…

There are perfectly good reasons to take the time to CRY too.

Or Scream.

… but those are best left for another writer to touch on! 😉

Denise Portis

© 2014 Personal Hearing Loss Journal

 

Purposeful Down Time

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I’m back in school. I never thought I’d return to school to be honest. All that changed when I realized that I may not ever land a full-time faculty position if I am constantly going to be applying for the same jobs as those with doctorates. Here I am – back in school.

I manage my time very effectively, almost obsessively. I am a very organized and detailed person. Something I have learned to do, however is to be very purposeful in my down time. For some reason, even though I found that it was fairly easy for me to be organized and to schedule my day, I was unable to enjoy any free time I might have. When I was “off”, I wasn’t really enjoying the time. I even recall telling my mother that if I didn’t have plenty to do, I was convinced it would contribute to my feeling depressed. “Be so busy you don’t have time to feel blue” was my motto, I guess.

The truth of the matter, this is dangerous. Some folks think their time is too valuable to be spent in frivolous activities. Some believe that there is too much to do to waste time doing nothing at all. I argue that not taking the time to simply “be” is deadly. You don’t have to search very long to find reports of Americans who are stressed. We seem to be over-worked, over-scheduled, and over-committed. I have family members who don’t take vacation time because their company will pay them back for it at the end of the year if they don’t use it. My response is, “Whaaaa…?”

(I’m very eloquent).

I’ve been reading “Essential Guide to Online Learning” as many of the classes I am taking to finish up my doctorate are in an asynchronous classroom. The author of the book explained that we need to “be present in your downtime” (Laureate Education, Inc., 2013, p. 27). In order to make time for school, work, family, errands, and all the “other stuff” we squeeze into our schedules, I employ the use of Google calendar. Every task has a specific color. As detailed as I am, however, every day has blank time slots open. FREE TIME!

“Let’s Par-teeeeeey!” Or not.

I try to be purposeful with my free time. If I choose to use my free time to read a good book, groom my dog, or take a walk, I mindfully do those things. So often, folks spend their free time worrying about what they have to do next in their schedule! How is that enjoying your free time? How does one reap any benefit from having some time to yourself?

The first time I realized I had trouble with this was when I realized I couldn’t even go to sleep at night. Here I was, drop-dead tired and weary, exhausted from having to “hear” all day and needing a good eight hours of sleep. Instead, I would lay in bed worrying about what I had to do tomorrow – often things that I had little control over. I was losing sleep over losing sleep. Oh the irony…

I realized that I was going to have to get serious about fun and relaxation. There are things I do each week for just me. There are things I do each DAY – although some days I have more time than others. If I have the time every single day to walk my service dog, Chloe, then by gosh when I’m walking her I will do nothing but walk her and enjoy the moment. I run into folks who are walking their dogs too. By run into, I mean that quite literally. Their attention is on their cell phone instead of the dog at the end of the leash. They are not looking up and around, which means they may not be aware of their surroundings, who is in their vicinity, or what *blech* they are getting ready to step in with their brand new walking shoes. I breathe deeply, look around, talk to my dog, and intentionally notice the world around me.

If I have 30-45 minutes to read before bed in order to decompress and unwind, you can be sure I am not reading a required text. I will be reading something for me… something that “feeds my soul” or “fires my imagination”.

This morning I had two hours to put up my family’s Christmas tree. The house was quiet, with hubby already gone to work and kiddos sleeping in since their work schedules were later. I mindfully put up my Christmas tree. I didn’t think about the assignment I had due by 3 PM. I reminisced as I hung old ornaments and strung lights. I arranged and re-arranged. I asked the dogs if things looked “purtee”. Then I turned off all the lights in the room, pulled the blinds down, and turned on the twinkle lights. I listened to Christmas music. I rubbed my dogs’ bellies. At 11 AM, however, I had research that I had scheduled to do in advance. However, I deliberately refused to think about it prior to my free time being “up”.

Do you need to be more purposeful with your down time? Do you need to reduce stress and schedule “me time”? Please feel free to share tips and favorite “purposeful me time” moments in the comments.

Denise Portis

©2013 Personal Hearing Loss Journal

Laureate Education, Inc. (2013). Essential guide to online learning. Baltimore: Laureate International Universities Publishing, Inc.

The Road to Rescue

Hunter with service dog, Raven.

A young woman I have come to admire, Hunter Lia Zager, received her service dog from Fidos For Freedom, Inc. where I train with Chloe. Hunter has a rare and unusual disease that even leaves her doctors stumped at times. She desperately needs the funds to get her vehicle modified for accessibility. The state is helping with a big chunk, but she still needs to raise over $12,000 herself. Hunter is only 25 years old and currently relies on (often unreliable) public transportation to go to work, doctor appointments, and much more. Imagine being limited to your home many times, simply because you lack a vehicle that can carry wheelchair, service dog, etc. Minimum donations are only $1.00 and you can donate using PayPal, or debit or credit card. If you would do two things?
1) Share this need with others on your own BLOGS.
2) Consider donating – even SMALL amounts add up.

I know times are hard for many people. However, I want to help this courageous, wonderful young woman reach her goal so that she can have reliable, accessible transportation. Please help. Please share! Thank you!

TO DONATE

Hunter’s story:

My name is Hunter Lia and for the first time in never I’m asking for help. At 25 years old I am terminal, but I have never held my arms up and said I was willing to stop my fight. 5.5 years ago I became ill with a very rare neurological disease, Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS), the most excruciating disease known to modern medicine. The road has been hard, but I am so terribly blessed to have such wonderful people and a wonderful service dog in my life who have helped carry me through the toughest of times.

This disease has consumed my entire body and caused me to reach deep stage 4. CRPS didn’t stop there, it turned my body into melting pot of other diseases. It has paralyzed areas of my body such as my intestines, which are incapable of processing food (Gastroparesis), created a neuro-cardio disease, Postural Orthostatic Tachycardic Syndrome, a neuro-pulmonary disease, Respiratory Dystonia of the Chest Wall, Spinal Stenosis, and countless other conditions and diseases. It is also now believed that on top of all this, Multiple Sclerosis (MS) might be one of my latest additions. Having every aspect of your body fail you is a tremendous burden for one to carry, especially when you’re just 25. Most 25 year olds are able to go out at night, travel, make plans for the future…for me, just the thought of that takes up all my energy. I wear devices for low hearing and low vision, but outside of attempting to take my wheelchair and service dog everywhere, it’s difficult to make my life easier and manage with a disintegrating spine, excruciating pain, and countless other symptoms and challenges.

One reason I’ve struggled so much is that my vehicle is not accessible. I traded in a SUV for a minivan in the hopes I could outfit it to all my body’s needs. I never realized the costs would be over $45,000 to adapt the vehicle. I am getting state assistance, but the last 25% is my responsibility. With all the other medical expenses I’ve had to incur, I don’t have even a fraction of the money to pay the company responsible for outfitting the car. I need your help. I am trying to raise over $12,000 to make my vehicle accessible. If I could do this, I would no longer have to worry I wouldn’t be able to keep my job and health insurance due to transportation challenges, worry about not having a vehicle in an emergency, reach doctors and specialists, and really just live life to the fullest. I know this economy is difficult, but every penny will help me reach my goal. And if that’s too difficult, passing this on would mean the world to me. Thank you for taking a moment to ready my story.

TO DONATE

How Important is it to Prepare?

With family in Colorado dealing with the fires, and our own area’s recent experience with widespread power outages after a “land hurricane”, disaster preparedness has been on my mind lately.

Isn’t it crazy that we don’t think to plan for something until it actually happens? Then we get some things together for the next time, only for a decade to go by before it repeats itself. By that time batteries are dead, water is stale and evaporated, and extra dog food has turned to powder.

Preparing can be expensive too; something most of us have difficulty budgeting for should a disaster occur. Yet, little by little we CAN get together some essentials. Purchased over time, these items may be less of a punch to our weekly budget for food and other essentials. If you dislike gathering things together for a price, disaster preparedness kits can be purchased at stores or online.

What to Put in a “Kit”

You can find numerous resources online with information about what to put in a disaster preparedness kit. You may have to prepare with numerous people in mind, or even numerous pets. According to the experts it is best to have a kit on hand that can be picked up and taken with you in the event of an emergency – fire, hurricane, or flooding… things that can be predicted to some degree as the result of early warning systems in the area.

With power outages, however, you may need a bigger “kit” for numerous days. Power outages can be planned as the result of city construction or tree removal. Most of the time though? Power outages are an unpleasant surprise. Causes can range from results of mother nature at work, or a hubby at work with a shovel and a poor attention span.

72Hours.org has some terrific ideas in what to put in a disaster kit. You can access the site HERE. FEMA and Ready.Gov has some additional plans and ideas at their site. These include how to let friends and loved ones know where you are and how you are doing. You can access these plans HERE. The ASPCA has some wonderful ideas and plans for those of us who may have service animals and other family pets. You can access that information HERE.  The Red Cross has some additional ideas for pet owners HERE.

The key is to BE PREPARED. When my family and I experienced 36 hours of no power in 95 degree heat, it isn’t something we decided to do for FUN. It was an unexpected and unpleasant surprise. We had plenty of water and gas in our cars, but could not even leave the house at night in sweltering heat because of numerous pets that needed attention, supervision, and assurance. We holed up in the basement and did our best to keep everyone calm and as cool as possible. Because I shop at Costco, when I buy batteries, I buy A LOT. But I wasn’t keeping close tabs on what sizes we had, and our flashlights and lanterns were scattered all over the place. (The power outage began late at night after the sun had gone down). I discovered after doing a little investigating after the power returned, that generators are expensive. They can also be dangerous to operate if you do not know what you are doing. Yet after our experience, I started a “generator piggy bank”. It may take us YEARS to have enough to actually buy one, but imagine being able to run some fans and keep the refrigerator running during a long-term power outage?

I welcome additional ideas our websites that may help folks prepare.

Disabilities or Health Issues?

As a person with disabilities I was prepared BY ACCIDENT. I purchase cochlear implant batteries in bulk once or twice a year. Thankfully, my cochlear implant is NOT the type that uses rechargeable batteries or I may have been deaf as well as sweaty! I noticed that because of the excessive heat, my balance was worse than usual. I was unprepared for a SUNNY day to be staggering around as if it were a rainy, overcast day. My husband who only has one kidney, was especially fatigued and weak because of the heat. I had friends that were unable to power their scooters that they use for mobility purposes, but their manual wheelchairs were in storage! These kinds of things can make a difficult situation much worse.

If you have special needs of ANY kind, be sure to take these into consideration when you do your planning. Because we are all aware of how important that planning is, right? (GRIN)

Denise Portis

© 2012 Personal Hearing Loss Journal

Attracting More Flies

Photo by Deborah Marcus, February 22, 2012, North Carolina

I just purchased a book through Amazon, Benjamin Franklin’s “Poor Richard’s Almanack”. I’ve always enjoyed books like these and have seen a number of quotes from this book over the years.

One American proverb from this book that many people have heard has to do with honey.

and vinegar.

and flies.

 Benjamin Franklin, “Tart words make no friends; a spoonful of honey will catch more flies than a gallon of vinegar” (Franklin, 1980).

When I first heard this quote I remember thinking, “Well who in the heck wants to attract FLIES”? Having grown up on a farm in SE Colorado, I can tell you that flies were a problem. The animals hated them, farmers hated them, and children relegated to policing the house with fly swatter and tissue in hand hated them!

However, like many quotes, you have to look past the surface to get at the true meaning. Gee, had I known vinegar would have kept them away I may have started sprinkling it around and dabbing it behind my ears.

Ok. Maybe not.

We don’t need to go raid our friend’s hives for honey, either. This quote has to do with being tactful – on purpose.

You know what I’ve discovered? To be tactful, I DO have to be purposeful about it. It is super simple to be tactless. Especially when angry! I’ve learned that if I’m to be tactful, thereby attracting more attention with my “honey”, I have to set out with very real purpose ahead of time. It seems we were created to have a lot of excess vinegar on hand.

Tart Words

I think a lot of folks do not realize that the quote begins with, “Tart words make no friends”. Last week I received a lot of private responses about the post “A Special Kind of Stupid“. Some things people with disabilities shared with me made me very upset. You just would not believe some of the things that “normal” people say to folks with invisible illnesses or disabilities. Then again, if you follow “Hearing Elmo”, perhaps you would believe it as you likely have some connection to the disability or chronic illness communities.

Though it may be difficult, we really have to remember to put a cap on our – erm – vinegar when responding to some of the stupid things we hear in our day-to-day lives.

No, She Is Really Unhappy

Take an example from last week in “A Day in the Life with a Service Dog”. At Walmart, as per my usual mid-week major errand, Chloe and I ended up attracting some attention. As I outlined in an article for Gale Hannan at “Hearing Health Mattters“, if you don’t like attention then do not mitigate your disability with an assistance dog. You are going to attract attention. It becomes easy to ignore and if you are deaf like I am, you don’t even hear all the exclamations of surprise. However, sometimes I’m stopped. Dog-lovers like Walmart… or so it would seem. Most of the time I am very glad to stop and answer questions. I carry information about hearing dogs and balance-assist dogs with me for opportunities just like these. I’ve discovered, however, that if I stand around TOO LONG, folks begin to unplug their brains before asking questions. There is this “fine line” of how much time is “long enough”, prompting me to move on with my shopping. I evidently have not discovered that important timeframe yet. As I answered this lady’s reasonable questions, a lull occured in our conversation. That should have waved the red flags for me. Heck I’d take explosions in my underclothes if I could learn to pick up these cues.

But nope.

I stuck around too long.

“So does your beautiful service dog ever get to just be a dog? Does she ever get to play?”

Vinegar began pooling under my tongue. Chalk it up to living with a house full of very sarcastic people. I wanted to say, “You know? As a service dog she needs to earn her keep. The vest comes off at night and she is allowed to finally rest. She’s a working dog – not a playing dog. It wouldn’t do me any good for her to go around thinking she could ever play, right?” (said with saccharin sweetness).

Tactful Responses Ultimately Educate

Instead I swallowed the vinegar (grimace) and plastered on my best “WHAT A TERRIFIC QUESTION” face and replied, “Well she is a dog! She is a beloved member of our family. She gets play breaks at work and doesn’t actually wear her vest at home. She still does alerts and helps while at home, but she is off duty more than she is “on”. A healthy service dog is allowed to just be a dog. That is why she loves working for me. I set very realistic boundaries and expectations”.

Being tactful and pleasant is important if I’m to hope that I play even some small part in helping to educate others about hearing loss, balance disorders, and service dogs. If I’m angry and belligerent, I’m not going to “win friends nor influence people”.

And neither will you.

However…

Is It Ever OK to “Let ‘er Rip”?

I have lived with hearing loss and balance issues more than half of my life now. That means I have some experience. That does not mean that I do everything right. Folks ask me from time to time when it is OK to put others in their place.

We can’t exactly take out a megaphone and announce to everyone within earshot, “This person just said something STUPID”.

To demean others is never the right way to go. For one thing, it only makes US look bad. You certainly won’t promote education, compassion, or understanding in others if you deliberately embarrass or fuss at them. Having said that, I do believe that there are times that responding with sweetness and “honey” may not be the right answer. After all, it may be that you no longer WANT to attract that particular person who simply cannot and WILL not treat you like a normal human being. I believe the right time to load your water pistol with vinegar occurs when:

1. You’ve responded the right way over, and OVER again.

Maybe it is a family member that thinks their comments are funny. Maybe it is a co-worker whose remarks border on the unkind. At some point you may discover that the only way to educate someone is to be a little more FRANK – pardon the pun Benjamin Franklin!

Tired of the eye rolls and deliberate condescending response at a dinner table of “I’ll tell you later” after asking for a second repeat of what someone said? Perhaps it is time you gently laid your hand on their arm and said in a normal tone (for they likely do NOT have a hearing loss), “You know? It hurts my feelings when you say that and sigh and roll your eyes. I only want to hear what you said. You never actually remember to tell me later what it was. Don’t blow me off. What was funny? I want to participate in your life. I care about these moments and we will never re-live them or have them as “do overs”. I want to know what you said because I love you”. Others at the table may have grown quiet at this calm announcement. But that can work in your favor too. Sometimes educating others occurs by observing someone else getting educated. You may have let a little vinegar taint what you said. A little “sting” may be necessary to get through to calloused hearts.

2. You respond in defense of others.

Sometimes you may need to put up the honey aside and gear up with vinegar in order to stick up for someone else. I’m much quicker to speak up to a bully when the person being picked on is NOT ME. This has to be done carefully, however, as you do not want to take away an opportunity for someone else to stand up for themselves. When you live with disability, chronic illness, or invisible differences, you need to learn to be as independent as you can. It is healthy. You may need assistance in technology, puppy power, or by swallowing your pride and learning to ask for help.

However, there are times I believe, that we should step up and even figuratively lock arms with another who is being misunderstood to let them know they are not alone, and let a bully know they are being irrational – or STUPID.

We Won’t Always Do it Right

I can be a sour puss. Vinegar is more likely to run through my veins than honey. I’m allergic to bee stings.

Sometimes I blow it. I respond as if I don’t care if someone better understands disability and hearing loss. As a person of faith, I know this dishonors not only me, but also God. I have learned to say “I’m sorry” – and really mean it. Acknowledging that you aren’t feeling well today and mis-spoke or are feeling belligerent and should have kept your mouth shut shows maturity. Did you blow it? Well make it right. You know what to do.

Franklin, B. (2007). “Poor Richard’s Almanack”. Skyhorse Publishing, Inc. New York : New York, p. 44.

Denise Portis

© 2012 Personal Hearing Loss Journal

Walk a Mile in My Shoes

Gonna change directions here today as the death of Whitney Houston coincides with something I am seeing more and more in the disability community.

It doesn’t matter whether or not you like Whitney Houston. What I am disappointed to see is some of the comments and “hatin’ on” this artist since her death. I actually saw on one person’s Facebook that drug addicts and alcoholics get what they deserve. “Someone with so much talent shouldn’t have wasted it”

Wow. I mean REALLY?

Unless you were thrust into fame and fortune at a relatively young age…

Unless you had to deal with the media on a daily basis, giving up any hope of privacy…

Unless you married for love and were crushed by disappointment…

Unless you raised a child as best you could in the backdrop of an industry that can be unforgiving…

Unless you developed an addiction because of life’s crushing problems and entered rehab while the whole world knew it…

Unless you made mistakes and fell back into bad habits – all while the whole world watched…

… then keep your mouth shut about Whitney Houston.

Why Does This Upset Me? Why Should it Upset YOU?

Anytime people begin to criticize and judge someone else a change takes place. Amnesia.

I rarely hear someone criticize and judge someone who is just like THEM. It usually happens when someone is different than you are. Criticizing is easy when we don’t walk in that person’s shoes. Judging is a simple task when we cannot hope to understand what really caused someone to do something when they are different than we are. We forget all the times we have been hurt for being judged and criticized by people who do not understand our own choices in life.

Wanna get me ticked off? Criticize and judge someone who chose to mitigate their disability with a service dog when you don’t live with a disability. Sometimes even others within the disability community may scratch their head and wonder why a person would choose a service dog when “they have the same disability you do”. What they may not know is that there ARE various differences between your disabilities. Your lives may be different. They may have 24/7 help that you do not have access to in your own life. Why don’t we celebrate “whatever works”?

In the hearing loss community, I know people who criticize people who don’t allow “nature to take its course” and embrace their deafness. To some, if you do not learn ASL then you are shunning a community that could be your family. For others who have accepted technology and/or surgery to stay connected to the hearing world, they may criticize those who have learned ASL for various reasons – personal reasons! I know people who criticize other people’s choices about hearing aids or cochlear implants. Why are we prone to criticize anyone who makes a different choice than what we have made for ourselves?

I think perhaps it is a form of self-protection. We may somehow feel that if someone who is very similar to us chose another path, that their choice may mean that our own path was a wrong one. It may be a form of defensiveness. If we see someone successful at living life with a disability, we may feel the need to criticize because we still have some problems with our own disability. If we see someone floundering at living life with a disability – and they chose another path? Many point and say, “I told you so”.

We could all learn to be more compassionate. We could all learn to listen more and keep our mouths shut.

When you judge another, you do not define them, you define yourself.” –
Wayne Dyer

If you judge people, you have no time to love them.” –
Mother Teresa

What May Happen if You Reserve Judgment

If you can keep your opinions to yourself, you may just make some discoveries:

You didn’t understand why they did what they did until you got to know them better.

You misunderstood their choice

After learning more about the person, you actually agree with their choice.

After time you find that you still would have done it differently yourself, but it seems to work for them.

If you can keep your negative opinions to yourself and instead pray for and encourage that person, you may discover a…

FRIEND who has the same taste in shoes!

Denise Portis

© 2012 Personal Hearing Loss Journal