Okay despite the title of this update, I am going to start back to front with the “Other Deaf Things”. Here goes. I received some great news last week from Hearing House: I’ve been formally accepted onto the surgery list for a cochlear implant in the public health system and am now awaiting my surgery date. I felt pretty emotional on receiving the news. It’s also a little nerve wracking on a few fronts. It is, also I realize a huge responsibility (even more so given the present impoverished funding levels for adult CIs here in Aotearoa) to commit to having the implant and keeping my end of the bargain up – i.e., to put in the hard work and practice I am told it takes to learn to hear all over again post implant. As the New Zealand public health system here funds one implant per adult and I need two, I have been told to keep fundraising for the other implant. So that’s pretty much the “Other Deaf things” covered.
Now onto ‘Getting to Can’t’. I realize it’s been a quiet month as far as my The Silence is Deafening campaign updates go. My own personal hearing journey however has not been idle. ‘Getting to Can’t’ has been a significant part of my reality in the last while. Perhaps not the sort of thing I should be writing in an ‘upbeat’ campaign update! However, from the start I have wanted to keep these updates ‘real’.
So ‘Getting to Can’t’ has been about fully facing into the things that my deafness prevents me from doing. In the weeks leading up to the cochlear implant program assessment, you might remember I wrote an advocacy research letter to the Chief Human Rights Commissioner voicing not only the impacts on my own life of untreated severe to profound deafness, but how this is also affecting the lives of 100s of others throughout this country. Both writing this letter and the cochlear implant program assessment in May required me to compile a detailed inventory of the loss and changes to my life through the deafness. The reality of the inventory was stark, overwhelming and powerful, all wrapped into one! ‘Can’t’ is not a place I like to be in for long- it’s frustrating and painful. However, fully naming the experience, planted my feet firmly on the ground in a different sort of way.
Since then, for my own wellbeing, during this waiting period, I have made a deliberate decision to focus on the ‘I Cans’. Why? Because I need the hope and the connection with life that that the ‘I Cans’ bring me. For example, recently a good colleague and friend from Canada, knowing of my current hearing situation put the following invitation to me: “If you feel up to it, we would love it if you participated in our panel at the North American Indigenous Studies Association conference”. Of course, hearing wise I am no more ‘up to it’ than I was a month ago. And I am certainly less up to it than I was a year ago! However, I said ‘yes please’ because even though there would be plenty of awkward ‘deaf moments’ at the conference, I knew how much being a bit more a part of things would give me. So I went. Albeit, with a few apprehensions, but also excited at the thought of seeing many of my friends and colleagues again. We people with deafness often have conflicted relationships with ‘connection’ you see. On one hand I long to connect with others, on the other hand, attempts at this sometimes cause embarrassment or a greater sense of confusion, inadequacy and isolation. So it often becomes a kind of oscillation between connection and isolation to maintain a sense of being comfortable ‘enough’ with the process of life.
So I went and had a blast with old friends and new friends on our Transnational Indigenous Feminisms Panel at the conference. True I couldn’t hear a lot of my friend’s presentations, which meant my responses were awkward at times. But, it was ‘enough’….to express my ideas and have the feeling of once again flying, soaring amongst possibilities in the world of ideas, and having the sense of flying alongside birds of the same flock. It was so uplifting and good for my spirits.
Even so, between times, I was careful at the conference to give myself plenty of ‘’hearing breaks” – times when I give myself permission to get away from the people and the reality of struggling, and straining to hear. Despite the significant energy it took, the conference was absolutely worth it. So big thanks to my friends for the invite and reaching out to me – it meant a huge amount to me to be a part of this. By the way, I am the person in the middle of the picture taken at our panel presentation.
So that’s a little bit about the reality of getting to ‘I can’t’ and playing with ‘I can’ as I continue this hearing journey. Heartfelt thanks to all of you for your continued support. Arohanui,