“Life is difficult. Once we truly know that life is difficult – once we truly understand and accept it – then life is no longer difficult. Because once it is accepted, the fact that life is difficult no longer matters.” – The Road Less Traveled, M. Scott Peck, M.D.
A few weeks ago I lost my ability to hear. I woke up in the morning, fixed an ordinary breakfast, and noticed a strange, low pitched buzzing sound. I could see the mouths moving on the television, but couldn’t really make out what was being said. I spoke out loud, but my voice seemed to be emanating from an internal tunnel. I asked my partner to say something and became terrified when all I could distinguish were sounds similar to the rolling ocean. What madness! When had this happened? How had this happened? Panic propelled a call to my Ear, Nose & Throat physician, who informed me that although I could not see my regular doctor (nothing available) I must be seen that same day by the doctor on-call. Relieved that I’d be receiving treatment, I was also frightened by the apparent urgency.
So, what did I do in the hours that loomed prior to my appointment? I fretted. My mind repeatedly reported that I was going to lose my hearing forever. I began bargaining with myself: if I had to give up one of my senses, which would I choose? Smell, maybe? Definitely not taste and definitely not vision. Never mind that these are things over which I’d have no control.
After a lengthy exam that included extensive hearing tests, I was told that I had a virus in my ears, and the cause was not specific. I had lessened the gravity of the prognosis by addressing the problem promptly. Steroids were assigned. A medical crisis averted. Thank goodness.
As I quietly recovered, (about twelve days) a close friend touched base to check in on me. She listened as I relayed the terror of my hearing loss. “What do you think you were avoiding listening to?” she asked. Frankly, I found this line of questioning annoying! “What are you even talking about?” I countered. “Well,” she said, “sometimes our bodies are wanting us to pay attention and they intervene in peculiar ways.”
I began to percolate. What was going on in my life that had possibly triggered a shut-down? If truth be told, I had of late become pretty judgmental and cranky. I’d grown tired of putting up with anything remotely adverse and spent a lot of time spitting out expletives and complaining. My perspective was narrow and you could say that I’d become fairly sour. I simply expected the worst – of everything. It had slowly become a habit, a way of digesting events. My world had grown smaller and unpleasant. There were just too many frustrating problems to tackle.
Indeed, I had stopped paying attention to the promises and joys. I’d overlooked, that though life surely can be difficult, it provides balance by offering encouragement and healing. I experienced absolute elation as my hearing was restored. I was filled, once again, with hope, and encouragement, and the ability to be generous and forgiving, not only of life, for all its difficulties, but of myself.
_Cindy Davis is a retired Licensed Professional Counselor.
She was an advice columnist for the Times-News, and is also a PFLAG Board Member.
Watch for Cindy's column each month on our Newsletter