The Empathy App…

Change is inevitable. Virtually impossible to cruise through life and not be affected by what happens to us, around us, or to those we love. How we respond to the good, the bad and ugly in life can help or hinder who we eventually become. Still, the older I get, the more I resist change. I tend to like things the way they are or used to be. 

3 year old Neese, busy making mud pies…

Even after I hit 40, I never gave a passing thought about the actual physical changes my body would experience as I aged. I watched my parents age, but their physical limitations never smacked me upside the head. Wearing blinders to avoid the inevitable. When I style my wet hair (using the word ‘style’ loosely as I really don’t have a style) my raised arm resembles a flag waving gently in the breeze. Or that my right hand would turn into some kind of gargoyle since the first of 2018. Stop growing extra bone, hand. Just stop. My younger Neese never realized age spots, wrinkly skin, and thinning gray hair (yeah, unable to face that one yet) would make an entrance and stay (uninvited) forever. While these minor changes are unsightly, even more disconcerting are actual changes which test my perseverance. My muscles are weaker, my vision’s fuzzy, my wrists, knees and shoulders snap, crackle and pop with any movement. And I certainly didn’t realize most of my hearing would disappear, only to be left with more noise than when I could hear. 

Graduation with Joshua, my early 40’s, no glasses or hearing aid-yet…

I wasn’t always like this. I remember how I used to be. Not trying to recapture my youth, I’m happy where I’m at. It’s only been 2 decades since I’ve become an introvert. No denying how drastic that change feels at times. When I remember the young Neese, I recall being quite social. Never the ‘belle of the ball’ but occasionally quick witted, rather outgoing, certainly outspoken, sometimes kinda funny, often smug and always sarcastic (ok, tiny pieces of old Neese remain-my sarcasm button is in relatively good shape and still under warranty) who wasn’t afraid of being front and center to get attention or a laugh. I was rarely subdued. Or quiet.

Never coy about being front and center then…

Maybe my slow conversion to aloneness started much earlier. Perhaps being a stay at a home mom (which I wouldn’t trade) for 20 years, (without a car) changed me. Lived in a variety of small towns, rarely staying long enough to get established. Spent everyday-all day with my kids. Since I’ve been such an advocate on spacing children (I’m a firm believer in spacing children at least 3 years apart. Goodness you already have a baby/toddler who’s now learning to walk, talk, pick out weird outfits, use the potty and move to a big bed. Why would you want to set him back a year by bringing another baby into his world)? However, maybe this is the single disadvantage of spacing. Geez, I had a baby/toddler/preschooler in our house for 15 years. Just get one kid ready for kindergarten and pop out another newborn. No, I wouldn’t change that either, though I strongly believe being alone all those years may have stymied my social skills. 

This is a spaced family, Shannon 10, Joshua 4-1/2, Adam 3 months, 1979…

No, I began morphing into a loner soon after I started losing my hearing. At least with me, my hearing loss and isolation went hand in hand. Firmly entrenched. The more hearing I lose, the smaller my world becomes. The isolation part is sneaky, subtle and somewhat depressing. It took me years to realize I was now a whole new Neese. Forever different. Not looking for pity. Compared to every other disease or chronic illness, my profound hearing loss doesn’t register a blip on the radar screen. Plus, look at all the folks my age or younger who are no longer with us. Kids (like my brother Larry) who never got the chance to grow up. Young people robbed of discovering true love or the incredible joy of a newborn baby. Nope, my hearing loss is nothing but a major annoyance in my life. A royal pain in the ass. Nothing more. 

This hearing aid is 8 years old. Time to replace, hoping for new technology…

One thing I believe is sorely lacking in the world today is empathy. Empathy is the ability to put yourself in someone else’s shoes. It’s how we understand what others are experiencing-as if we were feeling it ourselves. Wow. Not sympathy, which is feeling sorrow for the hardships someone is going through. Wouldn’t an empathy app make lives better? It would be a roller coaster ride for sure. Emotionally draining, leaving us physically exhausted. So we’ll fix that part by limiting the length of our empathy app to 30 seconds. The knowledge of what others are feeling would linger indefinitely. But my amped empathy app would go one step further. For a few seconds we would literally ‘feel’ what they feel. Physically. 

Wouldn’t this be a godsend when you’ve got appointment with your doctor? “Doc, I hurt my leg 2 weeks ago. This is what I feel with every step.” Or, “I’ve been feeling this unbelievable fatigue for months. It takes everything I have just to get out of bed.”  Doc would literally experience a torn muscle or fibromyalgia coursing through his body. Might help with diagnosing and decisions for treatment and medications. Empathy-the app everyone needs.

Not me, but pretty much my life, yakking on the phone-before deafness…

While I wouldn’t wish my deafness on anyone, I’d like everyone to experience 30 seconds inside my head. Now that’s a scary thought isn’t it? Not the what I’m thinking part of my head, geez you guys are friends. Friends don’t do that to friends. Just briefly visit the noise department on the 5th floor. That’s all. I guarantee you would not go crazy because of time limits. You’ve all watched an old movie where an alien takeover forces everyone to fall to the ground while grabbing their head and covering their ears to help block out the screeching/sonic boom/loud sirens. That’s me. Deaf, but noise filled. This is my world. Welcome to it. 

Niagara Falls. Rushing water sounds fill my head even when I’m not there, too bad…

Little did I know, losing my ability to hear birds sing, crickets chirping and “listen to the rhythm of falling rain, telling me just what a fool I’ve been” would not make my world silent. I got the exact opposite. How is that even possible? When one goes deaf, shouldn’t the silence be deafening? Au contraire. I’ve got more noise in my head than U of M’s Big House-on game day vs. Ohio State. Filled with 100,000 rabid fans sporting maize & blue and scarlet & gray. Ugh. Nasty teams.

This is what TV looked like on every (3) station after midnight…

I can’t determine what you’re saying because of all the noise in my head. Reading your lips works, but I’m still a rookie. And it only works if you’re facing me. This major grievance began the same time I started losing my hearing in my left ear. Subtle and sneaky. The noise is similar to an old time TV station that went off the air. There was this circle sign with an Indian that came on TV when that particular network was done programming for the day, usually midnight. I called it snow. Kind of a loud, static noise. Which now rested comfortably on the top left side of my head. This was still OK because the hearing in my right ear was phenomenal. As long as I could keep this 20 mile an hour wind gust sound/static/snow/water waves on just one side of my head, I was good. 

Niagara Falls Rapids are one of my favorites-except I hear them constantly…

A couple years later the hearing in my right ear started going. Oh hell’s bells. Soon I had dueling banjos in my head. A wind tunnel/waves of water on one side and a revved up chain saw on the other. Awake and trying to function like a normal human during the day seemed to keep the noise decibels within the ‘I’m still sane on the range.’ But oh boy, watch out for nighttime. I was done working, done thinking, bone weary and sleepy. Until my head hit the pillow. 

The more quiet the room, the louder the noise. The noise is actually my brain trying to help me for the sounds my ears no longer hear or recognize. So this wacko brain of mine makes its own noise. Thanks. Loads. Which at times has come temptingly close to driving me over the edge. Because there are no distractions at night, only your thoughts. White noise (fan) helped for a few years when something odd occurred to me. I could no longer hear if the fan was on or off, so that strategy no longer helped keep the monster noises at bay. The irony is Hubs can no longer fall asleep without the fan. Ha-ha, it’s just a laugh a minute here. 

I begged my ENT, (ear, nose, throat doc) if he could eliminate the 24/7 noise in my head? Surgery, cut the nerve or something? Anything? Please, I’m begging you here. No can do, my deaf patient. The noise is constant, though not always the same sounds, loudness or frequency. Varies at times from a dentist drill, to an engine whine, but usually sticks with a noisy gust of wind/water. If I were using my 30 second time limit empathy app, my ENT could accompany me with the duo noise blast inside my head. Hopefully finding a solution to why this deaf person still hears way too much-but not much of substance or value…

2 thoughts on “The Empathy App…

  1. Thanks Paul. It’s not always easy to describe my lack of hearing issues besides rolling into a ball of mush. This noise is so distracting at times. But I’m lucky it’s not my sight and grateful because it could be something really serious…

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