Wednesday, February 15, 2012

What is Hard (Versus What is Easy)

So easy sometimes to make some amount of progress and then realize how far you have to go. What is more, so thought-provoking sometimes to reflect on progress itself in terms of what is hard and what is easy.

Things are easy now that weren't before. In auditory therapy this past week, I got several strings of words as long as 11 or 12. And got them perfectly. My auditory memory was working overload and could barely regurgitate them before the whole string vanished entirely, but... 12 words?! That's a really big deal. The other day while riding I heard (and, more importantly, understood) my coach yell directions across the arena to another rider. I grasp full sentences over the PA more and more often at horse shows. It's easier to relax in daily situations with noise; no longer is it so jarring and strange.

Still, the moments of clarity notwithstanding, much of listening is still a matter of fighting for every scrap of information I get. It's pulling myself up a sheer rock face by my fingertips. It's teasing something small and slippery out of a hole it doesn't want to leave. And then I get my prize and, tired and a bit proud of myself, look around at the world around me and feel abashed. What I have just accomplished is nothing, absolutely nothing, compared with what's possible with sound.

Really, the thing about hearing that makes me marvel is how, when it's working properly and all circuits are firing, it's all rather easy. This never struck me too much before the CI; listening and hearing was just something I didn't do, something I relegated to the realms of hearing people. I never considered how it works. Think about it. Sound waves compress, travel through the air, enter your head through two small holes, make a series of bones shift and membranes vibrate and nerve cells pulse - and then the brain calculates the frequencies and combines them and evaluates what they mean. And then you understand and respond within an instant. It's astounding. I watch my hearing peers and marvel at how easy everything is. How thoughtless. It feels beautiful, in a way. Picking up the phone while driving, or otherwise multitasking, and having a rapid-fire conversation with your mother. Navigating through overlapping voices, engaging in high-speed banter. Sitting in a noisy, dimly lit restaurant at a large table and speaking across to someone five seats away and somehow - I have no idea how - picking up on their voice shooting at you amidst the din. Isolating that voice and recognizing it and holding on to its coherence. There's a peculiar kind of intimacy about those kinds of daily exchanges. I've been watching such things lately and wondering, now that I have some vague sense of that facility of auditory access, what they would feel like for me. Honestly, it fills me with an unexpected feeling of wonder.

And then I think of myself, inching up my rock face. That sense of difficulty versus ease: the moments that it occurs to me are the moments that I feel farthest away from hearing-world immersion, because what is most arduous for me is most thoughtless for them. I want it to be easy, as easy as fitting together words and writing them on the page, and I know that it will never be. I want to know what easy feels like. Gliding in and out of sound and, most importantly, meaning. Dancing with the facility of words. This may be what I'm thinking of - and then I remind myself how many other things in my life are wonderfully, unbelievably, laughably easy. And then I stop and, indeed, have to laugh a little.

But because something is hard doesn't mean that it is less worthy of joy. It was hard, but I did it, versus It was easy, but I did it. In both cases, I'm left with simply, I did it. And that doing is enough, at whatever level it takes place. Here's to not taking our skills and actions for granted. And here's to "it" - listening, hearing, understanding, communicating - becoming easier and easier. :)

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