Tag Archives: communication

Invigorated by YouTube

For so many years I mostly ignored YouTube. I hated the name, which sounded rude! I would check out music or a Simon’s Cat animation, but mostly internet videos were an irritation. I hate going onto a news page and finding it slowed down with embedded video clips that take up space and don’t even have captions, and you have to carefully scroll past the wretched things in the hope of finding actual text… a commodity that becomes rarer and rarer, especially in the news world. When friends post video links, even to Simon’s Cat, I follow with great reluctance. From past experience I know I would enjoy the video, yet am still reluctant to be drawn in.

Then I realized I can follow videos (to a limited degree) provided they have automatic captions. I gain access to things I would otherwise have no access to at all, such as some radio shows. Unfortunately, BBC trailers on YouTube never seem to have captions. Somebody consciously removed autocaptions and hasn’t replaced them with edited ones? Oh well, I won’t watch them.

The majority of videos on YouTube have autocaptions, however, and I’m grateful, even though they are garbled in places. You find yourself mentally changing words or glueing a selection of them together to transform into the word that’s intended. Breakfast means Brexit. Barney means Barnier. Mr Young Kerr is Mr Juncker. Jumani chairs might have been Jean Monnet chairs. Large Parrot is Nigel Farage. I will have to look for other examples. What does ‘rather eat a mockery knee’ mean? (Approximately 38.20 mark on LBC’s EU Army video).

I don’t just watch political videos… I was surprised to discover how therapeutic some of the other offerings are, with repeated mantras and soothing delivery. Seeing someone sitting down and looking you in the eye; their humorous expressions, quiet confidence and polite acceptance of you (though of course they can’t see you)… it has an amazing effect.

Up till now, articles and blog posts are all I’ve ever looked at. I enjoy those that take you on a journey of some kind, even if a bit rambling sometimes. I hate shallow, repetitive ‘sound-bite’ dribbets that don’t tell you what you really want to know. Instead they repeat bare facts you might be having doubts about… people parroting each other without appearing to question the information. You think “but is that really true? How do they know?” and search for something more. It’s frustrating when nobody really goes into it… you wish they would look deeper, or wider (at different situations). Like when you want advice how to repair a friendship and instead keep finding stuff about married couples when that’s not the dynamic you were interested in. It almost makes you question your own validity… like “I’m not the important person here; I’m not married… none of my issues are relevant.” That’s not a good example, as there’s actually plenty of stuff that addresses platonic friendships, but you get the drift.

Then I ‘discovered’ YouTube videos; or, should I say, discovered I can make much more use of them than I realized, provided they have captions.

Videos can be short or long; they can amuse, tell you something you never read anywhere else, or merely repeat the same tired points and — guiltily — you find your attention wandering. Sometimes you watch to the bitter end while distracting yourself scanning the comments underneath, but other times you realize it really wasn’t what you were looking for, so you move on. Small blame to the speaker, whose video will make all the difference to somebody, somewhere; no doubt setting that person on a new voyage of discovery.

Last night I felt anxiety like a growing block of ice that threatened to keep me from sleeping, so lulled myself with watching YouTube videos. It worked amazingly well. The speaker in question was a great story-teller, and when she recounted a dialogue I could really empathize with, complete with expressions of remembered shock and confusion, I found myself weeping with laughter. My mother was sleeping in another room so I was trying to keep it quiet, but became so hysterical I had to muffle myself with handfuls of cloth.

I don’t know if I would have reacted that way if I’d read the relayed conversation in an article. I might had chuckled to myself, even laughed out loud, and probably nodded a lot as though to say, “yeah, I know that feeling!” but I’m not sure I would have had the uproarious reaction that I did.

Unnerving but therapeutic. “Wow, I’m not the only one who feels at times as though nothing makes any sense! And all the time, it was because of something going on with the other person.”

The anxiety in my chest suddenly melted, washed away in a surge of positive emotion. After that I was able to sleep, waking in good humour. Several hours later, I’m still feeling shaky but relieved. The video was expressive in a completely different way from written articles. It was not just the message that came across in bold technicolour, but the person herself.

Nevertheless… the underlying reasons for my current bout of anxiety are still there, and I’ve not yet done anything with those. I must try, over and over, if that’s what it takes. Only then can I sleep properly, though these videos are a good reminder that you’re not alone and other people have similar experiences.

This morning I found myself watching something I thought tremendously relevant on all kinds of levels….

What Happens With Unprocessed Emotions by Richard Grannon

It turns into something you don’t entirely expect, but speaks a lot of truth. If videos were always predictable, we would soon give up watching… a tip for YouTube in their quest to keep our eyeballs in thrall. Not that Richard Grannon was really endorsing our addiction to social media.

It is true… I’ve been sucked into this alternative reality — this other place that feeds on itself and grows and becomes more real with every passing moment. Even after watching the video I’ve just linked to, you absolutely know you’re going to check your news feed, write a blog post, and occasionally check your emails, then maybe try another video. You are not stopped by the realization that it’s unhealthy and you’re only frittering away your time because you can’t be bothered to think or do anything else, partly because you do get things from it that you wouldn’t find in your own environment… and you meet people you would never have talked to normally.

Oh… as Richard says, that’s not necessarily a good thing, especially if you have a picture in your head of a person, and that person is very different in real life. Which can be good, because maybe you wouldn’t have known how decent, kind, intelligent or witty that person was if going by visual impressions. Then again, you do get caught out the other way as well, so we really need to take our time getting to know people, both online and in the real world.

Richard made a real case for not distracting ourselves from the way we feel. Ultimately, we need to put our devices aside and get to the bottom of why we feel the way we do, and what we can do to improve ourselves and our lives.

Talking of anxiety, I could feel it mounting again when I read this news article by The Guardian: Stares, Glares, and Internet Dating: The Harsh Reality of Life with a Disability. It was the bit about managing life as a deaf person. Things get worse instead of better… it’s as though people (government agencies, public services, businesses and organizations) have less and less time and space to worry about you, even while expectations increase, pressure mounts, queues lengthen and people are summarily punished for not conforming as expected. I could tell you stories of my own about the difficulties of getting through and making my concerns heard, but I don’t really want to at this point in time. I’d rather forget…

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Instagram: Tiger by the Tail?

A few days ago I set up an Instagram account for the first time ever. Everybody else seemed to be using it, I thought, so why not me?

I haven’t been happy so far. I’m so focused on settings and problems that I haven’t looked around much to see what other people are posting.

1. There’s no official Instagram app in the iPad App Store. Eventually I discovered they didn’t make one! We can only use the iPhone app with no way of forcing it to work in landscape view. Viewing it in portrait mode is unnatural and uncomfortable, so I don’t spend long doing that.

2. I can use Instagram from the mobile browser, but it’s spartan. There are things I can’t do unless I switch to the uncomfortable sideways app.

3. Nobody seems to like the way the feed works any more. People complain that the same posts they’ve already seen and commented on hang around for days on end. There’s no logic to it and you can’t target your viewing unless you visit each Instagram friend individually.

4. You can’t hide your follower lists from anyone following you.

The real kicker, though — the most mind-bendingly crass thing — is the way it notifies people you know (mainly Facebook friends) that you have just opened an Instagram account. This happens to some degree even if you didn’t use your Facebook sign-in. As soon as I created mine, it suggested I follow various Facebook friends. I’m quite sure they could see me too, even if they happened not to receive a direct notification.

This isn’t what I want. Even if I jump through hoops trying to keep my Instagram account anonymous, I wouldn’t be able to fully trust it, because who really knows how these social media sites work? Are you sure you understand all the ins and outs, who-can-sees, and who-can’ts?

I feel like a fly floating on the surface of a big pond with very little understanding of how things work and almost no say over my visibility. I’m simply not a fan of this idea!

It’s not that I really care if family and acquaintances can see the uninspiring photos and pictures I come up with, but I feel held back. If I was in a mood and ‘liked’ a grumpy quotation, those who have closer ties to me would wonder if I was grumping at them and what the issue was!

Socializing would be a lot less fun if you had to worry all the time about who was privy to what. Your rabid SNP cousin might blow his top if he knew your political views, which is exactly why you don’t talk politics to him but might to someone else.

Or perhaps this is the idea… we all have to have very bland, politically-correct conversations that don’t move too far from the weather?

I made my Instagram account private but am considering closing it altogether because I can’t see myself using it. I felt confused from the start… “what do I post here? Family stuff or arty, self-expressive stuff?” I considered setting up a second, more private account, then realized anonymity isn’t guaranteed anyway.

These big companies may say, even believe, that they have opened up the internet, simplified it, made it easier, automated everything and connected everybody, but in fact they are closing down the ways you can productively, safely, freely and confidently use it. Everything’s so automated and ‘smart’ and omniscent that it’s out of each user’s control exactly who can see what you’ve posted and where, and I’m sure this has already led to problems for many people.

You wonder what’s the point of having these different forums anyway, if they’re all interlinked to the degree that you can follow one person from Facebook to Instagram to Pinterest to…? It seems like too much bother; just amalgamate the lot into one single interface! One App to Rule Them All.

Instagram might have been fun on its own. I could have got used to the square format and would enjoy creating the right kind of images. Unfortunately social media communicates *too* much on our behalf, and we no longer know what we’re doing. That’s a recipe for disaster.

On Communicating

Was wandering the internet and finding so many interesting things that I got confused. Which direction do I go in?

This is the lesson I take from housework: don’t think about the fact that you’ve got all these things to do before the visitors get here. Just focus on hoovering the landing! Put the kettle on, hoover the other rooms, one by one. Then have a cup of tea! You get less tired and irritable if you stay in that relaxed frame of mind, and will be able to accomplish more.

The same thing should work when your attention is going different ways and trying to get its teeth into different things. Any lion could tell you that — you can’t chase down two zebras at once.

First blog post follows. Others might take a few days or weeks, depending on how far they have dispersed into the bush.

— — — — —

So, let us say… I was thinking about how it might be possible for a severely or profoundly deaf person to get more involved in conversation with groups of normally hearing people. I don’t pretend to have found an answer to that, but the hunt goes on.

As I mentioned to a friend, groups are tricky. People can be genuinely keen to include you and they’ll say something like “I’ll write you notes,” but that’s not how conversations work. They need to fill any potentially awkward silences, even if that means talking while someone else is trying to write or read a note. I’ve seen my mother trying to keep me in the loop by writing something while all the time a friend is blethering away… it’s hard for her to keep both of us happy!

People might start with good intentions of including me, but soon slip back to their usual way of communicating.

Things might be better for future generations at a time when everybody is learning sign language at school — surely then people will be more included (and more easily included) than not. That’s all the hope I have.

When searching around for ideas and inspiration, I found a Vimeo video on lip-reading along with its connected essay, Seeing at the Speed of Sound by Rachel Kolb.

In her essay, Rachel mentions how she sometimes feels guilt about going along with hearing conventions. You know it’s not simple, barely even possible, yet we go along with it, or try to. That sense of disquiet puts you at war with yourself. I wonder if I’d be happier if I rocked the boat more? On the other hand, you can’t engage with people or change anything by pitting yourself against them.

I know what she means when she speaks of complete communication breakdown hanging in the air — gosh, that feels bad. I had a dose of that a couple of days ago, which is what sparked off this entire blog post and my discovery of these links.

There’s a bit in the essay where someone starts typing on a cellphone and she feels like hugging him — it made me smile, remembering when the audiologist typed everything down on his computer monitor. The relief was amazing! You understand everything and it puts you at ease — you are more likely to laugh and engage, because the tension and awkwardness has been lifted and you feel more equal.

Anyway, I’d just got to that bit in the essay then caught the most fragile of squeaks at the edge of my hearing. Uncertain there’d been anything, I looked up and saw my mother’s grey cat staring at me.
“Yes?”
She squeaked again — this time there was no doubt.
“Just a minute,” I said. “I’ll get it.”
When I returned with her box, she looked at it, unfurled her tail, and went unhurriedly to take possession. I left to give her privacy, and couldn’t help thinking it was ironic that I was reading about the difficulties of communicating with people, but had no problems with a single rusty squeak. It does help if you know what the topic of conversation is likely to be!

Another post I came across today was A Tear or a Smile.

Both topics in that — white lies and responsibility — have been engaging my thoughts a lot.

When important, white lies don’t solve anything — simply causing confusion and allowing problems to steadily get worse… much like somebody regularly buying a brand of beer you detest because she thinks you like it. When she discovers the truth, months or years down the line, she feels like a stupid klutz. I know this from personal experience!

You can build on honesty and respect, even if slowly, but anything else is a shaky foundation or a total waste ground… yes, perhaps like ‘communication breakdowns’ where I escape to my lair rather than try to find a way. Sometimes, I guess, we have to start from rock bottom.

As for responsibility — I’ve been reading how it all rests with us. When something needs to be fixed or changed, we must ‘man up’ and get on with it. No question. I think, however, that we are responsible not just for ourselves but each other, and it would be dangerous to lose sight of that. People can go through a huge amount of difficulty that you might never be made aware of. What are we learning if we sit silently, each side of a chasm, and smile? I don’t yet know.

Profound Deafness: Social Interlude

I was sitting downstairs with our visitors over coffee, thinking “this could be quite nice,” but got bored because I didn’t have the slightest idea what anyone was talking about. It’s not really something you can bear for very long… the next time you look in the mirror your eyelids are heavy with sleep!

I found myself remembering what my audiologist said only a couple of months ago — “you will not be able to take part in normal conversation, but might be able to pick up some environmental sounds.”

People are odd when conversing politely; they look briefly when someone starts talking, then stare at the corners of the ceiling in a laid-back, thoughtful way. There isn’t a whole lot of eye contact going on, and that’s how I communicate, really. I wondered if I was breaking some social rule by looking round at everyone.

In the end I had to potter off… pretended I was just going to the kitchen, then disappeared upstairs! They said I didn’t have to go to lunch with them, so here I am.

I won’t say I’m relieved and cheerful that I’ve been let off the hook… it’s not that at all. You feel depressed for a time because you know you’re missing out. It’s not today’s lunch or conversation you regret so much as all the lunches and conversations in your life — the extra friendships you could have had. You still have friends, but there would have been more.

I will cheer up eventually, but you end up back at this place from time to time.

Keeping Perspective

I never posted my last blog post…. that’s two or three I wrote that never got online! Well, I hope this one is luckier.

A day or two ago, this writing prompt from WordPress arrived in my inbox:

I Can’t Stay Mad at You
“Do you hold grudges or do you believe in forgive and forget?”

Topical. πŸ™‚

Several weeks ago I searched for ‘forgiveness’ and discovered it’s defined in a way that doesn’t match my understanding of it.

It seems if you forgive someone, that doesn’t necessarily mean you will continue to have anything to do with that person. It merely means you won’t be acting on ‘it’, whatever it was.

It makes a certain sense if you see forgiveness as a form of self-regulation. If someone damaged something of yours, you might choose not to chase them for reparation. In such a situation, perhaps other things would be of more value to you — community goodwill, for instance, or family ties.

Whether you continue to deal with that person is another issue entirely, and has nothing to do with forgiveness. Well, that’s the impression I formed after reading around.

I always saw forgiveness as continuing to see and speak to the person without changing towards them. If you cut him or her out of your life, that doesn’t seem like true forgiveness. How can you forgive someone without letting them feel it?

I don’t know what to think now. I don’t know enough to know the truth of it, and maybe none of us do.

I enjoyed the following:

Forgive (The Word Detective)

Still on topic, and looking back at the blog prompt… do I bear grudges?

Most of us do, I imagine. First I wrote, “we wouldn’t be human if we didn’t,” then realized cats, dogs, horses and birds in trees most likely bear grudges. Yes, birds sitting on rooftops do; also those flying over your washing. That line of thought was tying me in knots, so the best way of releasing myself was to cut the entire phrase loose…

Yes, I bear grudges over plenty of stuff that has happened to me over the years, and though I don’t act on these things, think, or even talk about most of them, I can still get grumpy when I remember any. Like the time the janitor rapped my knuckles with his keys when a few children were taking refuge in the hallway for some warmth. That really hurt… and I wasn’t shouting, swearing or doing anything wrong… I just didn’t want to be out in the icy playground. How old was I? Six? Seven? How long can we bear a grudge? Oh, as long as we live!

‘Grudge’ is an odd word, but less of a mystery than ‘forgive’. It’s to feel bitter about a wrong done to you. I guess it doesn’t even have to be a wrong that a human, cat or dog has committed, but something more abstract such as… life circumstances, perhaps. You can bear a grudge against the world. The phrase ‘done me wrong’ is interesting, though — very sure of itself.

Perhaps when someone wrongs you, it’s not always something intended to hurt you in any way or to any degree — just a fallout of how things actually are. In that case, what is it we grudge or forgive?

I was interested in the suggestion that ‘forgiving’ means not taking offence at all. Most of us will feel hurt by something, and need a way to move on from that, but what if we can bring ourselves to realize “it’s just how it is” and that no one was being actively malignant?

Can we realize in a comfortable fashion that something is not worth taking offence over? Or does it always take a bit of ‘processing’ to reach that point? Sometimes you have to work out the dynamics of the situation. If they are not clear, then nor are your feelings.

At any rate, there’s often a bit of a battle in our minds when feeling wronged or hurt. The way old grudges fade is when you see them as a curiosity, a bit of social history — something that happened to someone else a long, long time ago. We can’t possibly remember all the ins and outs after all this time, and sometimes we wrong ourselves as well as others if we judge an isolated experience without having all of the facts. Then again, when you find something similar happening all over again, and the same negative feelings surfacing (the ones you’ve long lambasted yourself for giving way to), you suddenly remember why you reacted the way you did all those years ago and appreciate afresh the rollercoaster of emotions you were dealing with back then. You are also faced with the unsettling realization that you’re not really a wiser, mellower being! You haven’t even shown more understanding of your younger self, and (it turns out) you still have those fierce internal battles to deal with. They were only dormant because no one was stirring the magma.

So, forgiveness… what does it mean? I always thought I knew, but life is messy. You can’t say “I forgive” and literally never think of it again, unless you really understand everything and know there’s nothing to forgive.

One way or another, it works best when you are still actively engaging with the other person. It’s a live, warm connection. Your experience of the person continues to update (and isn’t frozen at some point in the past). That’s a healthy situation. Less healthy is thinking you know someone based on something they did years ago, while more recent information is lacking.

These are general thoughts only, and wouldn’t fit all cases. At times we are wise to ‘cut all ties’, but it’s not a decision to be taken lightly and without considering one’s own part in it. We are a community for a reason — there has to be communication. Forgiveness should be about allowing that communication to continue.

Have just noticed I’ve blogged on this topic before, and my perspective does not seem to have changed. (The Point of a Grudge). Having gone through some kind of recent upheaval, I’m glad I can say that. πŸ™‚ A tried and tested viewpoint! I prefer my older post to the newer one, especially as I forgot about Mme Ramotswe’s take on forgiveness.

Close to the Bone

Computer room is still gathering dust. But my personal journal is having a little bit of boom time to itself!

Five days ago I noted a dream in which two little boys of 11 were hanging around in our driveway, up to no good. Livid, I seized them by their collars and frogmarched them halfway up the road, saying I’d call the police if they did the same thing again. But I could tell from their unimpressed expressions that they’d be even more likely to be bad on our property instead of someone else’s. Then Mum came home in her car and started taking bags of food out of the boot. She saw the two boys lingering nearby, and greeted them like old friends. Soon they were chatting away as though nothing had happened.

I had mixed feelings: relief that things had been smoothed over, understanding that Mum’s way was the best way (and that she genuinely liked the boys anyway), but also a feeling of frustration — because I wanted to approach things from her more relaxed angle, but couldn’t. I couldn’t relate to people the way she did — their ways, words and impulses were behind a thick veil. Despite best intentions, all I could express was my frustration (as a stranger rather than a friend and neighbour) and that only made things worse.

Keeping Friends (and knowing when to let go)

After falling out (not for the first time) with a friend who lives far away in a place I’ve never seen, I was pondering the mysteries of friendship. Some people are easier to get along with than others, and it helps when they’re not busy and stressed… but I often wonder if I’m communicating the right things in the right way to the right people, and if my expectations are reasonable or the reverse.

I suppose communication styles and friendships are as individual as people are, and all you can really do is communicate in a way that feels right to you, and hope to connect with someone who has a similar outlook.

I decided to search Google for ‘maintaining friendships’, and the following were the most common tips and cautions:

(1) Be a good listener — prove you have heard by responding thoughtfully and in detail.

(2) There should be some give and take — we don’t want a situation where one friend makes all the plans, starts all the conversations and does all the listening.

(3) Communicate frequently (short but regular emails etc).

(4) Be supportive of your friend’s stance unless he/she is really about to land in trouble; avoid judging and moralizing.

(5) Be honest and genuine — preferably in a pleasant and tactful way!

I never understood people who request ‘brutal honesty’ about their cooking, artwork or whatever… I like honesty, but never brutal. Perhaps such a request is just a polite way of making people feel they don’t need to worry about commenting less than positively… but actually, we do need to do that tactfully.

Being ‘genuine’ includes feeling relaxed and ‘yourself’ in someone else’s company… if you feel you’re constantly on your guard and having to maintain a persona, then that’s not a good friendship to be in.

(6) If someone has a tendency to be hurtful, explosive and unpredictable (to your damage), or leaves most of the effort to you, it is most likely time to move on. But consider whether you’ve given the other person enough of a chance, and whether he/she might be going through a bad time just now — perhaps a bad time that you haven’t been told about. Not everyone communicates the same way, and it can be particularly tricky by email. Some people communicate naturally and well by email, but others don’t see it as a valid way to talk.

(7) Humour is good, and can save a situation from spiralling out of control.

Actually it was me who added Tip 7! Humour as a resource doesn’t seem to surface much in the other lists I’ve read, except (a) as a defensive barrier — it can be frustrating if you feel you’re not seeing the real person, or that you’re not being taken seriously… or (b) as something potentially destructive (sarcasm, thoughtless teasing etc).

This is already on the list, but is important enough to explore: real friends feel ‘at home’ with each other. The other day I found myself emailing a friend I always felt comfortable with… not the one I fell out with, but one I’ve not seen for years as we don’t live in the same country any more. I took it into my head to describe the room I was sitting in, just as it was… saggy curtains, CDs sitting around, an old and out-of-date TV that isn’t used much, computers still on the desk that aren’t even operating. The wallpaper came from a time when I was younger and more enthusiastic; those feelings are all locked up in it. It was something to giggle over or relate to… better than trying to come across as perfect and organized when we both knew that wasn’t me.

There were some singular pieces of advice here and there on the internet. I particularly liked one about how people on the edge of the crowd are likely to be the most loyal, down-to-earth and constant friends. They will have more time for you than someone who is very popular and busy. I’ve generally found that to be true.

Arguments, also, are not to be feared (unless someone is constantly browbeating you). I never sought out arguments, but at the same time never felt that a friend was here to stay until we’d rowed about something and survived it! If the friends we’re with tend to see a row as a reason for them to give their side of it but not hear yours, and especially if they see an argument as an automatic end to the relationship… well, we can find better friends; ones who don’t keep us walking on eggshells.

Do any of you have ‘do’s and ‘don’t’s you would add to that list? How do you keep your friends, even if they live far away, and in what circumstances do you decide to move on?

Deaf Anxieties

BADD logoI unintentionally missed ‘Blogging Against Disablism’ Day (BADD) 2009 as well as BADD 2008 (May 1). Last year everyone said that BADD 2008 was the best yet, and I couldn’t help thinking, “I drop out, then everybody remarks on the rise in quality!”

You won’t get rid of me that easily, though. I have various ideas rattling around in my head like peas in a drum but never seem to have time to capture them. Also it becomes harder to talk about personal experiences (apart from light, everyday accounts). In any case, I hadn’t forgotten about BADD. My thoughts this year concern anxiety and depression issues amongst the deaf.

I was born deaf (to hearing parents) at a time when children (certainly in the UK) were discouraged from signing. Thus I was brought up orally, wearing hearing aids from around the age of 6. My first hearing aid was a box that clipped to my clothes. If you accidentally caught the wire with your hand, your earpiece would be yanked out of your ear β€” made you feel awkward.

Of fairly dominant personality as a young child, I tended to be the ringleader in my primary class at deaf school. I wasn’t afraid to voice my thoughts concerning whatever we were discussing or watching, and the rest of the class would say “yes, we agree with Diddums!” It was a sweet class, now that I remember…

At home I regularly challenged my sister (also deaf) even though she was older and stronger. We fought like cat and dog. As time went by, I became quieter and less inclined to argue. I saw that as a positive, more peaceable quality, but took it so far the other way that I began to wonder! I was losing confidence in my own understanding of what was going on, and it’s hard to take a stance and support it when you worry that you missed something important.

Anxiety surfaced quite early, though not enough for panic attacks at school β€” thankfully, I was free of that particular problem till I was 19. One day, when I was old enough to go shopping without adult supervision, there was a particular album I was after. I went into a store and handed the assistant a note of the record I wanted, and fidgeted while waiting for her to check. They didn’t have the record in stock. I thought I had disguised my nervousness, but at home my friend surprised me by saying to my older sister “she was so flustered!” and waited for laughter. She didn’t get the reaction she hoped for, as my sister said nothing β€” but I felt bad about being flustered and being caught out in it.

For a while I was convinced the real anxiety started when I was 19, which was when the panic attacks began β€” but when you look back far enough, you realize the seeds of it were always there.

Take my first day at the local High School… the babble of children in those echoing corridors and gym hall! When my sister introduced me to the deputy head, he asked me a question and I didn’t answer β€” too transfixed by the seething mass around us. “She’s overwhelmed!” he said.

While still in high school, I remember telling a visitor from the deaf school that I wasn’t happy in groups of people, and she did not seem surprised at all. I was afraid she would tell me to get on with it and not be a silly… but she didn’t. She filled in the blanks for me where I stopped talking, and I went home thinking how maybe she had seen this happen before.

People would advise me, “just ask for a repeat” or “tell people if you didn’t hear,” and I blamed myself for not doing that… but it was hard to interrupt a conversation without being rude, and the conversation would go on and on until someone stopped it to ask me something. ‘Just asking for a repeat’ wasn’t easy either, because sometimes you wouldn’t understand no matter how often it was repeated, and the person doing the repeating would start to go pink with frustration and embarrassment. So you would bow out by pretending that you got it. In the end you didn’t ask for repeats at all unless it was unavoidable… you already knew what would happen, and that you would be asking people to repeat everything all the time.

In the end, being in such a group meant being bored, embarrassed, and thinking a great deal less of myself. It made me feel different because people observing the group would look at you as being the only one not talking and laughing. I would long to be on my own or with a close friend, doing something I wanted to do where I would feel competent and at ease.

The quality of the sounds I heard also seemed to play a part. At university I loathed the dining hall… people shuffled about and scraped their chairs, clattered cutlery, clashed trays and dinner plates; laughed and chattered. It was all too loud; too echoing. I ‘froze’ a few times and was unable to finish my food. Soon my friend began to recognize the signs; I remember her saying, “oh, I know that look! Let’s go.” We worked out the quietest times to eat, which were usually after everybody else had finished.

In my late 20s, waiting outside a cinema in a long queue, I was fine because I was with friends. Then I got tense. The anxiety rose, and rose, and there seemed no reason for it… till a car waiting nearby roared away and left us in peace. That was when I realized it had spent the past five minutes vrooming and revving loudly. It was a busy street and I hadn’t really been paying attention at first, but it seems the noise got to me anyway.

Perhaps the hearing aids have played a part in my anxiety… amplified noise: formless and unhelpful. It seems to me that I’m more relaxed when I don’t wear them at all. Everything’s silent and people float past as though in a dream. Once I was in a long queue in the bank when my batteries quit; I normally hate queues and banks, but this one time I was almost euphoric. If I can’t understand someone, they have to write it down β€” the pressure to make reasonable (and correct!) sense of what I hear is somehow not so great.

Where Mum is concerned, it’s amazing how much I absorb of what she is trying to say even when I can’t hear her voice at all. Recently I’ve not been wearing my new digital hearing aids because both filters gradually got damp (stopping them from working) and my clinic hasn’t laid in any spare parts at all. They said they didn’t think they would be needed ‘this soon’. The old analogue hearing aids didn’t have these wretched filters… it was easier to dry them out ourselves. These ones will NOT dry out at all, so I have a bit of a bone to pick with modern hearing aid designers! They may be better hearing aids, but they’re also less usable.

Without hearing aids this past while, I have communicated with my family by writing, lip-reading and gesturing. As we are learning the British Sign Language alphabet, I decided to try it out on Mum, signing the name of her fat cat…. MOLLY. She got it right away, and said “Molly”, pointing at the corner of the house where Molly normally hangs out. “Fatso,” she added affectionately (without writing, signing or repeating it), and went upstairs! I didn’t hear her voice but I knew perfectly well what she said.

Sometimes her message eludes me entirely, but other times I know when she’s said something I wasn’t necessarily expecting. That doesn’t make it a perfect or relaxing way to communicate, and I wish that we had been allowed to learn sign language at school. And not just us…. everybody! I still haven’t learned, partly because my growing anxiety and discomfort in group situations has stopped me from attending courses. That is a vicious circle in itself. I have always felt that communication is more important than how we communicate, though I can’t offer myself as a good example. Doubtless it’s because I don’t have that extra resource that I feel it so strongly.

We borrowed two British Sign Language books and a video from the library. One of them is quite an old book from 1988 β€” British Sign Language: A Beginner’s Guide by Dorothy Miles. It received two reviews on Amazon UK; neither of the reviewers seem impressed. Personally I enjoyed the potted world history of deaf people in education and society. I had a rough idea of some of it, but didn’t know everything described there. It was a shocker, and I found myself growing angry. Perhaps I shouldn’t have, as I haven’t read around a lot on the subject yet, and most people have been doing their best by their own lights, but it hit home anyway. I have been affected by some of the policies described in the book, and not in a positive way.

It brings to mind a Dean Koontz book (Seize the Night). My favourite, laid-back, surf-loving character, Bobby

“… didn’t trust those he called ‘people with a plan’, those who believed they knew how to make a better world, which seemed always to involve telling other people what they should do and how they should think.” [1999 paperback, p192].

In our history and present there have been plenty of people with a plan for the deaf, and it doesn’t seem to have a lot to do with acceptance. It’s no wonder that many of us end up with problems, emotional and otherwise.

Searching the internet for articles connecting deafness and social anxiety, I came across this piece in The Rebuttal: Deaf Phobias. I was pleased because it says much that I’ve been thinking for years, and up till now I haven’t found all that much on the subject. Mum said, “misery loves company” β€” but I prefer the line that popped up in a film about C.S. Lewis: ‘We read to know that we are not alone.’ I hadn’t thought about it as such… I think of reading as an escape. But it’s true, isn’t it? It’s why I go on the internet and scratch around to see if others are thinking and experiencing the same. There aren’t always answers for our problems; at least, not immediate answers… so it helps simply to know there are others, and that I’m no different from anybody else.

Simple Harmony

For Elizabeth’s writing challenge A Feeling of Harmony.

This is what I think… harmony comes when things are simple.

I had this thought lurking around yesterday when I was looking at the dA site for the first time in months. I had over 970 deviations waiting for me to view them… and this was after I had gone in and tweaked the settings to allow only some to get through to me.

There were comments, notifications, news articles, polls, journal posts (dA blog posts), notices of contests and contest winners. It’s often pleasant to feel surrounded by so much activity and life, but yesterday I couldn’t pause very long on anything. I glanced at about 80 of the deviations, scanned the news, skimmed 50 journals out of 250. Checked off all the notifications and messages. Two of my ‘colourings’ seem to be gaining a little more attention, even ending up in ‘glamour’ collections. Someone said she liked the colours of my last post. I like my last post too, but was impressed she had even looked, as the thumbnail is very dark and contrasty. What’s one dark thumbnail amongst thousands of bright and crisp ones?

I stopped long enough to comment on a fractal I really liked.

The profile pages have had some extensive tweaking by dA — I’ve not figured out the options yet, though there was a long news article explaining. I sort of ricochetted down it like a stone across water… trying to pay attention but not terribly involved. I figured I would come to each new thing gradually, and could come back to that page later.

Yes, there was so much there.

There was a journal entry from a fractal artist. She was expressing disappointment, disillusionment and a form of burn-out. She was not giving up or going away entirely, but she was withdrawing. She had to deal with too much and too many people, and hadn’t (she believed) made much headway in her own art, so she was going to disable comments and just upload the occasional item while she focused on her own attempts to improve.

One of her respondents said she’d taken time off herself, and had come back to such a backlog she felt she couldn’t post any work herself till she’s looked at everybody else’s.

Yes, that crossed my mind too. Everywhere, I saw words asking for some form of attention and involvement… do this; try that; view her photographs and his etchings; go to the chat room; join the club; nominate people; submit entries.

I felt sapped of all energy. You want to be involved in all this and to talk to everybody, and one person’s picture deserves as much attention as the next person’s, but it’s physically and mentally impossible. You realize you are at your best when you can pick out a few things and really concentrate on them. That’s when things hum along sweetly, and that, to my mind, is harmony. Peace, focus, natural communication and going with the flow. That will be the environment in which fractal artists don’t end up writing fractious posts about feeling split a thousand ways….

We can’t order this, though… people are like the tide. If we don’t want to be swamped, we have to organize our own boundaries, dams, sandbags etc. We have to choose our own paths. We don’t have to invite all of the water in, which we probably did to start with.

Harmony comes with simplicity… more is less… all that jazz. I’m sorry this post is so disjointed. The irony of it. πŸ™‚

Sympathy and Snoopery

I enjoyed Andrea’s blog post You just don’t get it. I seem to respond that way to people’s stories… recently a friend was talking about a parent who died, and so I talked about my parent who died. I remembered the darkness of those days and could share that with her, even though I didn’t know her father. In any case, it seemed better to express myself as “I’m with you” rather than “I’m looking at you from a distance and I’m sorry for you.”

My friend (who has always been chatty) seemed OK with it, but not everyone would want such a response, perhaps.

I realize (from reading around) that people sometimes wonder why a friend always brings the conversation back to him/herself. In some cases that friend is more interested in talking than listening, but in other cases that friend has listened and is using this method to say “I’ve been in your boat and have felt that same muddy water swirling round my ankles. You’re not alone.”

Sometimes I have a problem not unrelated; if I’m telling someone about my day, I’m happy if they reciprocate and tell me about theirs. I feel awkward sometimes about saying “well, what about you?” in case they don’t really want to discuss it. Someone I know gets irritated when one of her friends starts a phonecall with “well, did you have a nice day? Why not? What went wrong?” Her reaction is “I only want to tell you about it if I decide that myself.”

I like to be told about friends’ experiences… but I don’t want to come across as nosy or irritating, so I tell my own stories. Some of my friends seem to understand that my story is just half of the exchange, but others haven’t a clue about it. Some even take it as a request for advice, which can be infuriating!

Just a few days ago, I was reading Intensity by Dean Koontz. In the first few pages are two close friends (female students) chatting, and when one asked a personal question, the other laughingly called it ‘snoopery’. The first friend said she was dodging the question, and the second friend finally answered. I found myself thinking that the first friend, by insisting on a reply, had more courage than I have these days, but then I used to have that kind of friendship with Honey… I would say we were more like sisters, only I don’t know how many sisters have a relationship so relaxed.

It left me wondering what friendship means; if it means different things to different people; how much we are allowed to ask questions or be involved in another person’s life, and which questions we are allowed to ask? If email is seen as a ‘non’ way to talk, just as internet friends aren’t viewed as real? And why one person might be quite secretive about nothing at all, and another person is open about all sorts of things.

I suppose I’ve wandered away from the starting topic, but I enjoyed Andrea’s post because she put into words this thing… how people try to connect in different ways, and don’t always recognize those differences.