onbruisedknees

"Tell your story. Tell it on your bruised knees if you must, tell it at the risk of madness, scream it at the top of your lungs." –Andrew Lam

Category: Meniere’s disease

106-140

106. kid drawings–that creative determination, the grip on pencil, the furrowed brow.
107. little kid malapropisms. ❤
108. jazz. it stirs my soul. i must move. must dance or i will burst
109. falling asleep on the living room floor. a lover’s fort, a camp out of sorts.
110. transparency of beautiful people sharing with me (thank you so much for showing your hearts on the la family page. next article should come out saturday).
111. the way he pauses often to check on me in life. to sweetly caress. to let the truth of his words fill me and sink in.
112. four-year-old birthday parties and Rapunzel ice cream cake. especially when adorable four-year-old wears adorable cupcake headpiece sporting four candles. count them: one, two, three, four.
113. great neighbors who are “the more the merrier” types. kind. welcoming. generous. sweet and genuine “all are welcome” vibe.
114. church.
115. treats. random hubby lunch date. a chocolate shake.
116. making up for so much lost time.
117. our mutual joy and admiration for kids.
118. noticing talent and making people feel good about it, feel possibilities.
119. the way he makes the perfect pot of coffee.
120. he always shares with me.
121. strengthening and establishing my heart while waiting. the work that happens in the waiting. the healing. the finding. the becoming.
122. casting anxieties upon Him. He accomplishes all things for me.
123. bonds. soul-sister bonds. ❤
124. blanket in a patch of sunlight, Bloom by Kelle Hampton, banana boat
125. limes. and lemons.
126. this: Job 42:12 “and the Lord blessed the latter days of Job more than his beginning.”
127. pink cheeks from sun
128. “will you come play with us?”
129. trampoline in the rain, tennis, softball
130. puppies
131. the way it feels to deep clean a kitchen. and to deeply pray. and deeply play.
132. crock pot aromas (and easy dinners!)
133. the chance to be a more-present wife for a time. even sometimes rejoicing in errands and chores.
134. lipo-flavonoid plus (a vitamin supplement that is amazingly helping my meniere’s. majorly. i feel better than i have in ten years.
135. watching josh attempt to train jovie.
136. blooming peonies.
137. blooming where i’m planted.
138. stretches and full body breaths. on top of a hill. with view of nineteen beautiful horses. and sky. that perfect-shade-of-bright-blue sky.
139. my memorial loves are graduating. i’m still remembering. still cherishing. still such a proud mama.
140.  bare.feet. ❤

Letter to my sixteen-year-old self

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I see you writing poems in Algebra class. You’re scared. You feel trapped. You’re so immobilized by your fear, so hesitant to speak, so unconfident, so self-absorbed in pain and worries and doubts. You are so inexperienced in every way. You assume no one feels the way you do. You want to know the secret, the rules of this game of high school, the secret rules of girls—the password, the handshake. And you never ask anything because you are so afraid of the answer. “How do you feel about me?” you want to ask a particular senior. But you never do, so you always wonder, analyze, second-guess.

You don’t understand why no one makes eye contact with you in the hallways. You wonder why you’ll never be just one of the girls. You wonder why they intimidate you so much. You wonder why girls—and guys—make up rumors and constantly change the rules of their own stupid game.  You wonder when these high school boys will grow up.  You wonder why you feel too much and think too much.  Take heart. You are feeling all of these emotions so that when you become a teacher, you’ll be able to tell your students that you understand. And you’ll be able to mean it. You’ll be drawn to the rebels, the outcasts, the underdogs, and the ones who have extraordinary talent but no confidence. You will make them feel important, seen, worthy, understood.  You’ll tell your classes to never, ever make a person feel invisible.  Thank your English teacher. Thank your choir teacher. They were the diamonds in that dungeon. You’ll want to teach most like them.

  It is okay that you don’t care about what is trending, what is popular. It all changes. Like what you like and be proud of it. You don’t have to be in every activity.  Pick a few you are passionate about, and throw yourself into those only. There’s already too much noise in your head. Stop worrying about trying to impress people.  You won’t talk to very many of those lunch table girls after graduation. You should go off on them and tell a few of them that they are bitches and you’re tired of their gossip.  You are sick of their cold stares, their biting laughter, and their screaming silence when you sit down.  Go ahead. Say it. You were thinking it. In fact, speak up more about everything—the wrong you see, the good you see, the things you need, the things that others need. Slap them with some truth. Tell them they are hurting themselves by making others feel small. One day they will grow up and realize it. And strangely, you’ll become dear friends with a few classmates that you didn’t talk to and thought you had nothing in common with at all. Why could you not see them then? How dare you miss those opportunities? If you just would have opened your eyes, life would have been easier, more bearable, and more real.  

Your parents convince you that your sixteen-year-old emotions, the ones you tell them about, anyway, are normal. It is indeed true that the world does not end because nothing looks good on you that morning and your hair is being especially funky, but you still should have had some therapy.  You’ll feel a lot better knowing that you aren’t crazy, that many people suffer from panic and anxiety. You’re not a freak because you want to drown yourself in the bathtub or drive off the bridge because you can’t breathe and you’re so cold and the weight and the pressure is too much because you have a biology project due and because you know he’s slipping away and because in her fakeness, she makes seemingly innocent remarks pointed straight to you. Every day. And she knows it. And there’s no one to sit with on the cheerleading bus. And this town is So. Very. Flat. 

You’ll meet friends in college, and you’ll feel so surprised they invite you to events and speak to you and want advice and want you around. There are no rules.  You’ll bloom in college. People will tell you that it was ridiculous to go to your beloved university and your student loans will be outrageous, but you meet professors and people who aid in your becoming. You feel at home for the first time. You’ll feel curious, wide eyed, and important. People here are original and have their own thoughts and views. They are not apathetic. You needed to surround yourself with creative people who Were. Not. Apathetic.

You’ll adore the women in the lives of Josh’s friends (Yes, Josh, the guy who winks at you; the one with that voice you sang with at church). They will become your own friends, your own sisterhood. You are connected by the men you love, the babies you dream of, the simplicity and complexity of what it means to be woman, wife, sister, mother, friend—to sacrifice and want, to need even when the needs contradict.  You’ll feel so loved, so light. You’ll meet a friend at work. She’ll hate you at first, but then she’ll become the only friend who truly gets you. Oh, how you learn from her. Oh, how she saves you. She’s the best you have.  Having a person—people like these angels—is worth waiting for. I promise.

There are lots of things that are bothering you right now, my misunderstood teenage girl-self: Your under bite. The bumps on your arms. Your nerves. Your annoying voice. Your expressions. Your flaws.  your sweat and your stupid face. The thoughts in your head.  The way your lips twitch when you’re nervous. The fact that the only thing people do in this town is drive around and sit on the square. You feel like you’re missing something. Everyone is growing up without you. You feel too young and too old for high school. Yes, you’ll always look this young. You want to look mature and sophisticated and older like the other girls, but you’ll always have a pure look about you no matter how much you tan or how much makeup you apply or what kind of haircut you ask for or what style of clothes you wear.  It’s okay that everyone thinks you are too much, too much and yet you feel not enough. Not pretty enough. Not liked enough. Not talented enough. Not good enough. Every day feels like defeat. Some of the things you pray for do not happen in ten years. Some do. Many prayers surpass your sixteen-year-old dreams. Be thankful you and God talked a lot when you were sixteen. You built a solid friendship that carries you. Praise him for the fact that in order to see twenty-five, you had to survive and learn from sixteen.

You’ll meet a man so soon—you know him already, actually– and you’ll never have to wonder about his feelings for you. He thinks you’re everything that drives a man crazy (in all the good ways and in all the bad ones). And he told you so. There is no better person who knows how to take care of you or wants to so fiercely. And when you lose more of your hearing, he cups your ears and kisses your forehead, your nose, your cheeks, your chin. And you can feel him praying silently, asking God to fill you so that you don’t feel that hearing is another flaw or thing you lack. Yes, you lose even more of your hearing and you feel frustrated and forsaken. But, you gain more than you lose. Trust me that you gain more than you lose. You had to lose in order to connect with special people and connect with future favorite students. You had to lose in order to write about it.     
 Josh loves all that you hate about yourself. He’ll be the only one you are ever fully comfortable around. He’ll continue to be your unconditional love. Don’t break up with him just because the world tells you that you are supposed to. You don’t have to date other guys when you know their kisses won’t feel the same. If anything doesn’t feel right, you don’t have to do it. If it does feel right, you don’t have to let it go.  

Commit everything to memory—every sensation, every mistake, every glorious risk. People, memories, moments collide.  Remember the scent of Hollister cologne still clinging to you after he’s left. The white and red tube top with tiny cherries you wore on the Fourth of July resting your head on his lap in order to see the sky and receive tingling upside-down kisses and watch the most colorful fireworks display you’d ever seen. Remember the dizzy hopeful chance encounters at the grocery store. The music–the soundtrack of freshman year and summer.  The titles so fitting of the time—the songs I still play sometimes. Remember the farmer-boy and the undeniable flavor of his cinnamon altoids and your Watermelon Bonne Bell. The undeniable smell of a southern summer.  Remember your young future husband–kissing him the entire length of the train while it rushes by fueling our intensity when we’re stopped at the tracks.  Night swims. Sandy bank on your back. Your rainbow-stained hands that make his favorite cherry snow cone while you watch him walk that way he walks. Towards you. In muddy jeans and baseball cap, sun-streaked from work. The brilliant canopy above us and the sound of leaves crunching while we walked—your only romance that lasts into fall and into the rest of your life. Smile at the way you pretended you were on Broadway when you put on those eyelashes and ruby lipstick and dance shoes. You knew you belonged to the dinner theater lights, the curtain, the audience you wanted to please and create magic for, the show choir where you felt joy and felt like you fit—but got shoved, purposely knocked right between the shoulder blades because you were in front and they wanted you off of that stage.  The way you played “Insensitive” over and over again, feeling the vagueness in his eyes and his casual goodbyes and the chill in his embrace. Remember everything, won’t you?  You are collecting material. Perhaps the unexplainable things happen so that you can grow up and explain them, expose them, understand while simultaneously helping others feel understood.

He’ll apologize to you, the one who broke your heart, at the most peculiar and perfect time. It is the way God’s divine plan for your life always works. You get the apology, the acceptance letter, the proposal, the publisher at the very moment God knows you’ve honestly released your fist of bitterness. You don’t need that grip in order to be okay. Perhaps this is why you continue to write the words in your bones. You don’t have to be published. At sixteen you were filling up spiral poetry notebooks in algebra class to simply write—to be your truest self, to connect to God, to counsel yourself in inexpensive therapy. You are writing purely in honor of the beautiful act of creating. 

You’ll never believe it, but you do get out of there. It was always too flat for you. You’ll get a rush, a reminder of being sixteen and wanting to speed away while blaring Dixie Chicks’ “Wide Open Spaces” when you pass the square and drive seven hours north. You’ll feel peace as soon as you see those hills. You grow into your dreams. You grow into your thoughts and your depth that no one understood and other teenagers felt so off-putting.  You learn to own your awkwardness—sort of. You may still not physically be able to hear, but somehow—you learn to speak.  
Keep your hunger and your thirst, but don’t lose yourself so much. Have hope—the future is more beautiful than you thought it would be. Spend more time with Kathy, your grandma, and especially your sister while you can. Trust this almost other-worldly intuition and instinct that you possess in your heart. You are brave. You are enough.  Now go get that blond out of your hair. Then go force people to look you in the eye. Go burn bright. You have a lot of helping to do. So go. You have a lot of living, a lot of moving on, a lot of people to meet, and a lot of becoming to do. 
Love (Because people finally taught me how to love you),
Me

What happens to a dream deferred?

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When a woman cooks in a kitchen full of mice and on a stove with only one consistently working burner and she looks at floors that stubbornly refuse to come clean, she no longer wants to cook. She starts believing she doesn’t deserve food. She starts believing she deserves nothing shiny, nothing working, nothing clean, and nothing new. She starts feeling like the women characters from A Raisin in the Sun. Her dreams sag like a heavy load, fester and run.

I had a “hope” plant, too, just as Mama did in the windowsill of Ruth and Walter’s hovel. But even my hope plant died. My plant was a condolence gift from my grandma’s funeral. I have my grandma’s best qualities and her worst. I am gentle. I love Psalms and Proverbs. I see beauty. I can beat you at Chinese checkers.  I also don’t listen to my body. I don’t feel like I am enough. I don’t (verbally) complain. I don’t ask. I don’t speak. I pretend my grandma in heaven is sitting at the right hand of God as an ambassador for the rights of earthly women. In her new kingdom she not only received a new body she can dance in, she also earned a loud and sassy tell-it-like-it-is voice. She points out to God and Jesus that they are men, and sometimes it takes a woman to understand what another woman needs.
My grandma told God and Jesus that I needed to get the fuck out of that house. (I pretend she cusses occasionally now because this was the prim and proper woman who couldn’t even laugh when someone farted). She also told them that it was about damn time her granddaughter had some new kitchen appliances — ones that work and hadn’t belonged to someone else first. I now live in a lovely home worthy of keeping clean, worthy of hanging up our wedding pictures on its walls, worthy of art and photography, candle altars, and anything I find useful or beautiful. Now I have a home worthy of relaxing, of enjoying, of “tonight, let’s stay in.” And my grandma understands that my bright white Whirlpool oven and refrigerator are more than tools used for keeping the milk cold and baking cinnamon rolls. They are symbols of hope and confidence and contentedness.
I am not obsessed with all things new. The house is as old as it is beautiful.  My bathroom is retro mint green and black tile. I like to pretend I’m a pin-up girl wearing fish net stockings and pink sponge curlers and red lipstick while I’m getting ready.  The bathtub is old-fashioned and deep–perfect for my half-mermaid self. As bubbles tickle my chin, I appreciate daily the fact that my cold butt, boobs, feet, and knees can all stay warm under the water at the same time without squirming and adjusting positions. I’m trying not to water-stain the binding at the bottom of all my books. I take time for more books and baths now.
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I take time for pie at Stella’s Café. I take the time to subscribe to Glamour magazine and Poets and Writers because I’ve always wanted to and it is fun to get mail in a new place. I take time to talk to people, to say “I’m new,” to explain that my accent is not from Tennessee or Georgia, and to realize that “God’s country” is everywhere and good people are everywhere, too. I go on dates with my husband. In our future, I see fishing lines and sly crooked boyish grins and “wanna make out?” and “let’s take a drive.” And I think, “Yes. Let’s go. Let’s take these years while we are here to become these hills, to splash in Apple Canyon River, to drink in peace and the view and one another.” I take time to slather on chamomile-lavender lotion and massage my feet, do yoga stretches, wander into the library and antique shops and the Ink and Paper. I simply take the time to be good to myself and love this stranger-me.

Still, I feel in between lives. I wake from dreams in which I stand in the middle of bridges with faces and careers and expectations on both sides. They wave at me; my dear ones wave at me. This darling house has a randomly placed old-fashioned pencil sharpener mounted on the wall in my closet reminding me of the broken one in my old classroom. Each time I pull the cord to light up my closet and grab my warmest coat, I see the pencil sharpener, and I am flooded with overwhelming love and goodbyes and gifts and words and “celebrate good times.” I am filled with the emotion of my final mass, the grandest moment in my life. I experienced the applause, the gratitude and shock of kindness, the floating feeling of Proverbs 31. They clothed me in strength and dignity, laughed and cried with me, taught me wisdom; I watched my children {my students} rise up—the whole auditorium—rise up and call me blessed, and I finally felt like I had done enough. And God and Jesus and Grandma thought so too.      
                As I joyfully clean and organize my home and smell the hearty aroma of dinner, I realize that I am once again trying to prove to myself I am enough. I realize that I can be a “good” wife, though I know Josh loves me anyway, I have nothing to prove to him, and he in no way has ever measured my worth by the fact that laundry is put away, supper’s on the table, and dishes are in the cupboards and out of the sink. I needed to know for myself that I could do something well in an area in which I felt like I was failing. “But honey, you’re not meant to be a housewife,” Josh says, and I know he is right. I feel a heartbeat in my ears constantly, and I know it is more than my Meniere’s, more than my inner ear adjusting to a new atmosphere. The rhythm says, “Hear this? You have a wildly passionate heart. I designed it to love people, to pump passion and energy into others.” “No,” I mutter back, sick at the idea of teaching again, beginning again, and loving different students. But my heart continues to pump reviving blood and faith and balance and slowly brings me back to life. And I am brought back to life in order to do…what? In order to again somehow inspire others to live.  

Listen

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                   A doctor once told me I should not be a teacher. My condition would hinder me tremendously. I won’t always be able to hear my students. I could have a vertigo attack in the middle of the lesson. I might go completely deaf. I might fall over. The sheer stress of all the simple teaching tasks would leave no room to make the deep connections I long to make. I want to show this doctor Elle, my student who is also hearing impaired, who writes me a post-it note of encouragement every afternoon at 2:45 and who will someday save lives as a missionary doctor.  I want to show him Megan, a student on my speech team who wrote a speech about her struggle with Bell ’s palsy. I want to show him the ceramic plaque she made for me with the Eleanor Roosevelt quote, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” I want to march a parade of students into his facility, a parade of students who could technically always speak but now have a voice with confidence behind it. I want to show him my Zac and the scars where his tumors once were. I want to let him see Josie, my student with one arm who volunteers to pass out papers and jumps to help when a classmate drops the basket of markers.  I want to show him the cartoons and essays and art and perfect grade point average of Sam, my student fighting and beating cancer.

                  Secondary teachers are brave enough or stupid enough to relive their middle school or high school experiences every day. After four years in the profession, I’ve observed that kids are still mean. Labels still exist. Senior boys still break freshmen girls’ hearts and girls still put other girls through hell. Different is still unacceptable. Caring too much is still uncool. And having an illness that no one understands is still isolating, frustrating, and awkward. “Be kind,” I stress, “Everyone you meet is facing some sort of battle.” I was around their age when I woke up and the numbers on my digital clock were blurry. My dad documented in careful print: “November 1, 2000 Initial Symptoms: ringing in ears, dizziness, vomiting, no fever.” But I mostly remember the clock and how the numbers made me confused and nauseous.  I remember leaning over my bed to throw up .The slightest movement of my head caused me to vomit. I remember the night before I was attempting algebra homework at the kitchen table and was frustrated because I couldn’t figure out what “x” equaled. I still hate math but ever since then, I wish the value of x was still my biggest frustration, my most prevalent question; I wish merely math kept me up at night.
                “November 2, 2000 Observances: Slept most of day. Continued dizziness and vomiting. Couldn’t hear beep of battery operated thermometer.” When you stay home from school, you are supposed to watch trashy television all day, read teen magazines, and eat soup. I didn’t watch television. I didn’t read because the words were scrambled on the page. I certainly did not eat anything. I vaguely remember not hearing the beeping thermometer. I mostly remember sensing my parents were scared.
                On November 3, 2000 an appointment was made to see my pediatrician. I tried to get up to walk to the car. My body did not move the way I wanted it to move and everything else around me moved when I didn’t want it to. I was carried into the clinic and placed on an examination table. I remember the pediatrician’s icy hands and gentle voice, a picture of Big Bird floating in a hot air balloon on the ceiling, a table with Bible picture books, and a poster with laughing cartoon people and a caption that read, “God can’t do what?”
                Dr. Benson, a kind old man I wished was my grandpa, could not diagnose me but ordered several tests and admitted me into the hospital. The nurses did not have soothing voices and were not skilled at sticking the IV into my tiny rolling veins. After several tests, they said I had mononucleosis. Later, my parents were told the mono spot test was a false positive. Perhaps I had viral labyrinthitis instead; perhaps I did not. My parents slept in plastic chairs. The town was infested with white squirrels. Nothing was good there, not even the lime Jell-O.
                Nine days later, I went back to eighth grade. My mom thought it was too soon, but I begged her to let me go half a day. I wanted to know what we were reading in language arts. I didn’t want to get even more behind in algebra. I didn’t want the popular table to give my seat to someone else at lunch. It had taken time and effort to worm my way into their world of boy-girl parties, highlighted hair, and Hollister clothes, and I knew they could shut me out of that exciting new world in an instant. I was still weak and pale, and my size zero pants hung off of my body without a belt. I couldn’t hear the bells that signaled the end of each period. I just got up from my desk when I saw everyone else start to walk towards the door. I made my best friend walk beside me to prevent me from running into walls. I felt unsteady on my feet, like I was a toddler or an idiot who rode the scrambler ride at the fair six times in a row or how I imagined a drunk must feel.
                November 17, 2000, according to the log, was the day I took a hearing test at Barnes Hospital in Saint Louis. I was put in a large box that resembled a spaceship. The test did not merely consist of raising my hand when I heard a high beep or low tone but of pushing a button and repeating words back into a microphone. I showed no speech discrimination in my left ear and tested badly in my right ear as well. I was a bright girl and became frustrated when I could not tell the difference between side-walk and truck-stop, doll-house, and bird-bath. I randomly repeated “ball, ba-lloon, and bath-tub” when I had no idea what words the recorded voice spoke.  It didn’t hurt to guess. I hated failing a test, no matter what type of test.
                My mom told me countless times to pray. My mom, dad, and sister asked God to fix me every night at the dinner table as we held hands around the table. “You’ve been praying, haven’t you?” “Don’t give up” was her favorite phrase. “God can do anything. Just keep praying,” Dad reassured. I didn’t have the heart to tell them I’d forgotten how. I hated my life and I hated God and wasn’t sure He even existed because once doubts start, they don’t stop. I did not feel “fearfully and wonderfully made.” No way was I taking part in the Elders praying over me with their hands on my head, ears, and shoulders with other arms reaching out to me. I had visions of speaking in tongues and foot washing and bread breaking and communion drinking, and I cringed. “Ha! God can’t do what?” Well He couldn’t, or wouldn’t, make me well. He couldn’t even allow the doctors to figure out what was wrong with me.
                We received the results of the MRI. The log states: “There was no evidence of acoustic neuroma. The ventricular system is unremarkable and there is no evidence of mass lesion, mass effect, or abnormal enhancement.” So I didn’t have cancer, a tumor, or a neurological disorder according to my scans, but my hearing still fluctuated and I still staggered when I walked. Although the results were normal, my mom was noticeably nervous and emotional before that first MRI. She wanted to go into the room with me. The test was administered with gadolinium (blue dye used for contrast), and the nurses injected the dye into my arm through an IV. My blood vessels constricted, blue dye seeped into my tissue, my skin bubbled up, blood and dye rushed back into the IV tube, and my mother dropped my hand she was holding and fainted right there in the room. Still confined in the machine, I heard the doctors trying to revive her. When my mom was conscious, the tests were over, and I was finally free, I wheeled her out of the hospital room. During the months after the occurrence, I bet we told that story fifteen times to friends and relatives. It got funnier each time we told it: “I wheeled her in; she wheeled me out.”
                The next place I wheeled into was Shea Clinic in Memphis Tennessee. After Dr. Ehlrich referred me to Dr. Neely, the head of otology at the Washington School of Medicine, we decided to get a second opinion. Dr. Neely, with his unruly gray eyebrows and cocky attitude, called my condition “probably permanent.” What exactly my condition was, however, he never could say. On some visits, he told us the condition was auto immune inner ear disease, other days he decided to go with Meniere’s disease. He used unnecessarily large words. He was supposed to be the third best ENT in the nation, but I just sat trying to answer his confusing questions and feeling sorry for my parents who vigorously scribbled misspelled medical terms and waited patiently with their carefully recorded questions and my log of symptoms. Back and forth to St. Louis meant a six hour car ride for us. Dr. Neely always seemed to be in a hurry. Then he was gone, leaving his nice nurses to schedule an appointment in another two weeks so I could miss school again, read People Magazine in the waiting room, and go home with no answers.
                Dr. John J. Shea III did several interesting tests on me in Memphis. He inflated a tiny water balloon inside my ear. He spun me upside down. He put me in a dark room and made my eyes follow the lights. Still, our second opinion didn’t produce any valuable results. He put me on a low salt diet and told me to avoid all forms of caffeine. “You’re on a diet?” I remember my lunch table asking, “Why? You already look anorexic.” I was diagnosed with idiopathic sudden sensorineural hearing loss. Dr. Shea said I was a candidate for Dexamathasone profusion (a procedure which involved shooting steroids into my eardrums) but at the time, the procedure was very risky and very expensive.  “Idiopathic hearing loss,” I kept repeating to myself. As far as I remember, I liked this doctor better than Unruly Gray Eyebrows, but he couldn’t give me a real answer, so in my fourteen-year-old opinion, “idiopathic” meant he was just another idiot.
                On April 21, 2004 my hearing went down completely. I went to bed one night excited for the busy week ahead. I was ready to enjoy the annual choir trip, attend my junior prom, and score highly on my ACT test. When I woke up the next morning, I was deaf. My ears were buzzing, ringing, and roaring. I felt schizophrenic, and I panicked. I didn’t know sign language.  I stared at the ceiling for a few hours then slept the rest of the day because I wasn’t sure what else to do. My parents called Dr. Neely who prescribed oral steroids. I gained weight. My moods shifted. I was depressed. The steroids did, however, somewhat ease the ringing and brought back most of the hearing in my good ear. I went to prom, but reading lips and straining to hear what people were saying was exhausting. I couldn’t hear other people talking and therefore did not feel like talking to people. I also didn’t feel like dancing. With all of the extra noise in my head, I didn’t do so well on the ACT test a few days later. I had other questions on my mind. I wanted answers and not the kind that could be found on a scantron sheet.
                I remain deaf in my left ear. The hearing in my right ear comes and goes, and when it goes or I have a vertigo attack, I feel like a scared teenager who just wants life to get back to normal. I want a life that is more predictable and a body that is less of a nuisance. The tinnitus is constant and worse on days that I am stressed out, I don’t eat right, or I don’t get enough sleep. I find it fitting that Vincent Van Gogh and Emily Dickinson were thought to have had Meniere’s disease (the condition I most likely have). While I have never seriously considered cutting off my own ear, on bad days I feel like becoming a recluse and writing obscure poetry instead of facing the world.

                I’m more observant now. Other senses do compensate when another is damaged. God must have wired the human body that way. I also know God heals—the heart—if not always the body. I’ve learned there is much more to listening than merely hearing.  I can hear the sound of hope rising. I can hear the sound of a heart knitting itself back together again. I can taste tears before they splash. I can see a soul’s dance. I can feel a Godwink. I can understand a shaken, upside-down world where image and others’ opinions seem to matter so much. Through these students, I relive the hurt and the wisdom that comes from the hurt. I simply remember what matters and what does not. The Holy Spirit draws me to them, pulls and attracts me like a magnet to those students who are fighting a battle, who remind me of myself. God gives and takes away—but sometimes, through the taking, He gives.  
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