Tuesday, June 26, 2007

After Convention Thoughts

I didn’t sleep well the last night in OKC. That always seems to be the case when I have to wake myself up in time to catch a flight. I tried to be quiet in the room while Jennifer was sleeping but quickly realized that she can’t hear anything either when she takes her CI off! After we got up, dressed, and packed our suitcases, we went downstairs to the Starbucks lounge to get some coffee and breakfast. It wasn’t long before Dr. Norm came to our table to say hi. We had already said goodbye to him the night before and didn’t think we’d see him again. We ended up taking him to the airport since his flight was leaving about the same time mine was. Dr. Norm was such a sweetheart and we enjoyed his company. We are all married with kids, talked about our families, showed off pictures, and didn’t think twice about getting together for coffee or meals. He has a cochlear implant and is going to see about getting his other ear implanted when he returns home this week. Jennifer hopes to go bilateral soon, too.

This was my first HLAA convention and one of the recurring thoughts I had was, “What took me so long to find this group?” HLAA has been around for a long time and I didn’t know about it. For most of my life, I never “fit” in anywhere and spent many years in denial about my hearing loss. I didn’t know many deaf people because I lived in a hearing world. But, I didn’t fit in a hearing world either because I was hard of hearing and needed help to understand what was going on around me. This weekend, for the first time, I actually felt “normal,” and had the best time ever. The environment was almost stress-free and I didn't have to work so hard to "get the message." Everywhere we went, there were other people just like me. If someone's battery died while we were having a conversation, we stopped and resumed the conversation after the battery change. There was close captioning and interpreters available for all the workshops and events. The sound systems were PERFECT in every single room. Someone really knows how to set up sound systems for the deaf and hard of hearing and deserves a standing ovation. I truly felt like I was in a perfect hearing world because the environment so easy and comfortable. I didn’t miss out on anything. It would be nice if it was like this everywhere for people with varying degrees of disabilities.

Once I got back to the airport, I was "lost" again and couldn't understand the loudspeakers or when it was time to board my flight. I wore a button that I got at the convention that said, "Please, I hear you better when you face me" and actually had people helping me with my surroundings in the airport and on the plane. I plan to wear it everytime I travel. I'm not going to try to hide my hearing loss anymore. Even though I can hear well with my implants, my word comprehension is not perfect and I still need/like to look at people when I communicate.

I also saw a huge change in Jennifer. I know she felt the same way I did. She was so happy and relaxed. She enjoyed the whole weekend and moved with ease, even though she couldn’t hear very well. The best way I can describe it is that she was like a butterfly emerging from a cocoon. And she is ready to fly! One of the Indian dances we saw last night was a Butterfly Dance and it was beautiful. I like to think of all of us with hearing disabilities like butterflies . . . we are all at different stages in our lives. . . some of us are still caterpillars, some of us are still in our cocoons, some of us are emerging and breaking free, and the others are flying high. . . .

My favorite picture of Jennifer - does she look relaxed and happy??!!!
Next year the HLAA convention will be in Reno, Nevada. We will be there! (Doug, you need to come with us!)

I will end this post with some lyrics from a Michael W. Smith song, "This is Your Time." Don't put off until tomorrow when you can do something about your life today. Life is too short to wait for blessings!

This is your time. This is your dance.
Live every moment. Leave nothing to chance.
Swim in the sea. Drink of the deep.
Embrace the mystery of all you can be. . . .

4 comments:

Shari said...

Been there, done that. I used to want to hide my hearing loss in the hearing world. I accepted my hearing loss and didn't care anymore if people knew I was HOH. Now I don't want to let people know I have a vision problem. I feel that it's an even bigger stigma. I am coming out of the closet slowly. It's hard. You don't want pity.

Norman said...

I agree, it was a great time to relax and be around other people and never hearing the phrase, "never mind." Great people and a great way to meet and make new friends.

Heather said...

What a great post Laurie. I am always gaining new viewpoints from reading blogs of deaf adults, it opens my eyes (and heart) to things that Ethan may experience in his life. I am so glad you and your friend went to the convention and had such positive experiences!

Best wishes,
Ethan's Mom

Laurie said...

Yes, we did have a great time and felt a sense of "community." That will be the subject of a future post.