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Hearing Loss

loss, Hearing Loss, There Are No Words To Describe This

Memorial.

March 19, 2012

It poured on Saturday.

The sky opened up and dumped down in long slow strokes, before it sped up and cracked onto the sidewalk its big fat dirty teardrops of rain.

Of course it felt fitting being that it was the memorial for my dear friend Steve Bridges. Of course that felt fitting.

 

I woke up to a tapping on my ceiling and half-asleep I had thought someone was knocking. The grey sky depressed me which seemed a bit impossible being that I was already depressed in the way Old Jen would have been, ( how I think of the earlier, more screwed up version of me) rather than the new yoga-teacher version of myself ( I write with a wry wink and a tongue in the cheek).

I looked out the window and realized that nobody was knocking but the sky whispered I should crawl back in bed and forget whatever it was I had to do, whatever it was I said I’d be. Including teaching yoga. Including a memorial.

I taught my two classes, of course.

I went to the memorial, of course.

My body was aching tremendously. It was like I had taken this last loss of Steve, and every other loss I have ever suffered and stuck them inside my muscles and shouted “Go!”

I sat in the front.

Not by choice. Because my hearing has been worse than normal lately and I was afraid I would miss a word, a story, an intonation.

I still missed quite a bit but I heard enough.

It was the most beautiful memorial I had ever been to.

In fact, for someone who has suffered so much loss, it was only the second one I have ever been to. The first was my stepfather (my mother’s second husband) who died when I was 18, one week shy of graduating high school. We flew to California from Jersey and I sat on the beach in a long flowered skirt in my 91 pound body and threw a rose into the ocean for him as I wept like I couldn’t for my own dad ten years prior.

Grief unearthed is as inevitable as air.

I sat there last Saturday, in my aching body filled with screaming people trying to come out, and, as I wiggled to try and quiet them up, I started to drift to past lives.

My own past lives.

Like my father’s past life.

He passed in 1983.

I watched and listened to these gorgeous faces as they openly broke their hearts for us on a podium with stories of Steve’s humanity, his humor, his humility. His kindness. (And boy was he kind!)

And, as it went, I drifted to 1983. I was at my father’s memorial.

 

He was the funniest man anyone had ever met and the stories they told! Oh, the stories they told!

Only I hadn’t been there.

My sister and I were not at my father’s memorial or funeral because my mother had thought it was the best thing to do at the time.

Who knows, maybe it was?

If I was 34, and my husband, who I was just about to divorce, dropped dead and left me with two small girls, I would probably think moving to Fiji and selling my kids down the river would be a good idea. Who knows?

Grief is mean and calculating and tricky and gossipy and ugly and stupid.

So, during Steve’s memorial, in the moments when my beloved hearing loss got the best of me and all I saw were moving mouths, I simply went back to 1983 and sat in and listened to them talk about my dad.

I realized how important this ritual is.

I walked up to his larger-than-life photo on the stage, propped next to a surfboard and a Dallas Cowboys jersey (he loved both equally) and I said Goodbye Steve. I loved you. I love you friend.

Do I blame my mom for the fact that I did not get to do that with my dad?


Nope.

It has simply reminded me of why I love connecting with people. Why I love doing what I do.

I have no problem connecting with my father.

Am I insane? No. 

Am I hippy-dippy? Actually, no and I wish I was a little more so.

I realize that my father, and my beloved soul brother Steve, for the brief time they were both in my life, taught me how to be human. They taught me: what it means to connect to someone. To reach over and touch someone’s forearm, to look into their eyes and laugh so hard that I think my insides my fall out of me if I don’t grip my stomach and pray, to be made so alive by their presence that I wonder if I have made them up.

Maybe I have made parts of them up?

Maybe that’s what we do to people to make them fit.

I can make up as much as I want now that they are both gone.

In fact I will.

I am making up that I was at my dad’s memorial and all the stories people told made me laugh so hard I cried, like at Steve’s. And that Steve and my dad are writing comedy sketches up there and when I get there I will have a part in one, maybe two of them.

I didn’t get to say goodbye to my dad Mel at his memorial but I know that other people did. I was there this weekend for Steve and other people who loved him could not make it, so this is for them:

It is ok.

They forgive you and love you.

And it doesn’t matter.

Close your eyes and connect.

They are right here.

 

Forgiveness, Hearing Loss, Inspiration

Love Yourself, Accept Yourself, Forgive Yourself

March 7, 2012

“Love yourself—accept yourself—forgive yourself—and be good to yourself, because without you the rest of us are without a source of many wonderful things.” ~Leo F. Buscaglia 

You mean I am a source of many wonderful things?

Yes. Actually you are. Own up to it.

Leo has it right.

1. Love yourself.

Despite all the things that you think may be terribly wrong with you, love yourselfLove yourself.

Tattoo it on your brain.

I can think of so many reasons why you should love yourself, but here’s just one: It is incredibly dull and uninspiring to be around people who do not love themselves.

I spent many years being anorexic and feeling like I was a monster. I’m sure I was not much fun to be around and I also know that I didn’t book any of the acting jobs I was trying to land. It is very challenging to hire someone or love someone who fights you by holding up a mirror of hatred toward themselves.

Here’s my challenge for you today: Take a picture of your face and remember that in 10 years time you will be amazed at how gorgeous you were. Be amazed now.

Identify something about you that you may not adore and find a way to at least laugh at it or like it, even a little bit.

I have profound hearing loss; in fact, I am almost deaf and wear hearing aids. I have ringing in my ears 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Does it drive me mad most days? Yes. However, it is here to stay, and I have learned that I can make light of it or sit home and feel sorry for myself because I am missing out on what feels like everything.

Either way the choice is mine to make. I have also learned that because of my hearing loss, my other senses are highly attuned. I am more compassionate because of it. I am a healer.

I have turned something I don’t necessarily “love” having into another piece in the puzzle of me, and part of why I love that puzzle.

Instead of thinking “I am an incomplete human being because I can’t hear perfectly,” I think “I am an incredible human being with a profound sense of touch and understanding and a huge capacity for love. I am also awesome at reading lips. So there.”

What can you love about yourself today that you may have struggled with before?

Can you find a way to cultivate the opposite? According to Pantajali’s Yoga Sutra 2.33, “When the mind is disturbed by improper thoughts constant pondering over the opposites is the remedy.”

2. Forgive yourself.

I lead a meditation in my workshops on forgiveness, and every time, without fail, people start crying. Almost everyone in the room will have at least shed a tear. This leads me to believe that we are all indeed connected, a union—which is what the word Yoga means.

The human experience is so similar, and yes, I know the details are vastly different, and that the devil lies in the details, but, we still share the same weight on our shoulders. That weight would be diminished if we chose to forgive instead of harboring guilt or anger.

People cry most in my workshops when we do the meditation on forgiving yourself. Most likely it’s because we are hardest on ourselves.

What can you forgive yourself for today?

I forgive myself for saying “I hate you” to my father right before he died when I was eight years old. I carried it around for many years and let it color my life a dark airless color.

I forgive myself for not being perfect.

This shift occurred was when I was finally able to let go of my eating disorder. We often hold ourselves to impossible standards and end up feeling bad.

Ask yourself honestly, “What can I forgive myself for?” 

Sometimes it takes simply saying it aloud or writing it down to realize that you actually no longer need to bear the brunt of it.

3. Be good to yourself. Do things that you inspire you daily.

Make a list. Grab your iPad or your notepad or even your hand and draw up a list of things you can do today to make you feel good.

Keep adding to the list. Forgive yourself if you skip a couple and love yourself no matter how long or short the list is and how much you accomplish on it.

You will not be graded or tested on this list.

My list involves a lot of laughing.  My “Feel Good” list also has: my yoga practice, teaching yoga classes, writing, a long leisurely dinner with friends, having a great glass of wine, staying up all night reading a book I cannot put down, being with kids who have special needs and teaching them yoga, poetry, Modern Family, skyping with my nephews, and the list goes on.

Do something every single day that makes you feel good, whether it is changing your thought patterns or taking a bath while reading a magazine in the tub.

Maybe it’s getting an extra hour of sleep or staying up late and watching Pretty Woman for the 50th time.

Pleasure and joy are highly underrated and beating ourselves, up highly overrated. Flip it! Cultivate the opposite.

One of my main rules as a yoga teacher is that if you fall, you must laugh and take down your neighbor, which cultivates a sense of humor, and hopefully a little joy. You need at least a little joy daily. Sprinkle it on your cereal, slip it in your downward facing dog, add it to your pinot noir.

Accept that you are indeed the source of many wonderful things. If you need help remembering what they are from time to time, keep making your feel good lists. Keep coming back to the love that is inherently yours. It is your birthright. And so it is.

Whatever it takes. Just do it.

A student told me after she returned from my July Ojai retreat that she wanted to live her life every day as if she was still on the retreat. And why shouldn’t she? What a revelation! What a revolution of the mind. 

Be good to yourself. You will train other people to do the same.

And guess what? If they aren’t good to you, you will still have your old standby who is always good to you: YOU. Pretty much what matters most at the end of the day. You being good to you. The rest will follow.

Remember the 90’s En Vogue song, with the lyrics “Free your mind, the rest will follow”?

It will. So get up and dance.

***This originally appeared on the Tiny Buddha site.

Hearing Loss

The Born Identity.

February 11, 2012

I sleep a lot.

When I was in Philly, I stayed with my friends in Chestnut Hill. Their 5 year old Jack thought something was wrong with me because he had to pry me out of bed in the morning. “Is it because California has a different time zone?” he asked me.

He’s pretty smart.

It’s kind of always made me feel ashamed how much I like to sleep. How much I need sleep. Busy people, successful people, (at least the ones I know), do not take marathon naps like I do.

It dawned on me lately why I require so much. Why I get so tired.

I work hard.

Yea, yea, we all work hard.

I work hard in a different way. I realized in the last few days, as my hearing has gotten much worse for whatever reason, that I have been wanting to hibernate more than usual. I have been avoiding the phone.

The reason?

It’s too much damn work.

I have to struggle to hear and keep up and make sense of what’s going on.

No, I am not fully deaf.

My hearing is distorted and I have tinnitus. I hear sound but I cannot make out what that sound is, for the life of me.

Imagine talking underwater. Imagine someone talking with a sock over their mouth.

I cannot watch tv without subtitles. I cannot hear what you say unless I look at your mouth.

It gets old. It gets boring. I get very tired of having to tell people. I get really over myself at making bad jokes about it.

I get scared that it will get worse and worse.

I try not to get scared that it will get worse and worse.

(The truth is, any worse and I will be 100% deaf.)

So I go to sleep.

It is exhausting putting forth so much energy simply to hear someone tell you their name.

So I sit here and watch The Bourne Identity with the sound turned down because I actually find it soothing, and, like good company, it doesn’t have to say a lot, just knowing it’s here is enough. Plus I have seen it 17 times.

More than anything it frustrates me. I want to hear, I work hard to hear, but frankly, whether I work hard or not, it doesn’t make a difference. It just makes me exhausted.

I am going to work less.

I accept that I cannot hear perfectly and if I miss a thing or two, well, then I miss a thing or two.

The energy I exert to be part of the world is taking it’s toll on me and whether my ears can hear it or not, I am in fact very much part of the world.

It’s taken me quite some time to understand my fatigue.

Why my friends can go and go and teach 4 yoga classes and keep going and why I need to crawl in bed and pass out? What stuff am I made of? Yikes, how am I going to be a mother if I have to rest so often?

Well, the fact of the matter is: I will have to work less in the irony of all ironies.

I must lessen the struggle. Practice radical acceptance that the things I am meant to hear will be revealed to me even if someone has to pass me a note like we are in 8th grade or text me. I have to stop pretending that I can hear and then spend 5 minutes replaying the sounds in my brain so I can make sense of them.

And if I need to sleep a little more to be the best teacher I can be, then so be it.

Now Indiana Jones is on. Still on mute. I have seen this one many times, as well.

I guess the reality is, that my life, much like these films I can watch and enjoy on silent mode, can be enjoyed without so much noise. I can probably sit back and relax a little more because whether I admit or not, I probably know what is going on. I have to trust a little more and maybe just get a really good translator.

My own born identity is that of a healer.

The older I get and the longer I have had to deal with this hearing loss the closer I get to fulfilling my destiny. I am an empath. I am a healer.

I do believe this is largely due to my struggles with hearing. It has allowed me to fine tune my other senses and become highly aware of what it means to be human.

Does it suck sometimes? Yes.

Do I feel really tired a lot because I spend 90% of the time trying to figure out what the f*ck you just said? Yes.

Do I miss jokes? Yes.

Do I miss what the yoga teacher says? Yes.

Am I happy? Yes.

Am I grateful yes?

Am I love? Yes.

That’s what it is. I trade a bit of fatigue and some struggle and some deafness for a pretty awesome life and a heightened sense of compassion.

I’ll deal with it.

Just please don’t whisper, talk to me while upside down or while in another room.

In turn, I will give up the fight and realize that when I really really need to hear you, I will.

I will find a way to hear and the things I don’t, well, my guess is that they weren’t meant for me anyway.

Just a hunch.