I’m always reading and have at least two books going at the same time. Right now, one of those books is The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey. I’ve read it once already but started again last week because I could always use a little more ‘effective’ in my life. While reading it this time around, my mind applied his talk of interdependence to hearing loss.
Wikipedia defines interdependence as, “a relationship in which each member is mutually dependent on the others. This concept differs from a dependence relationship, where some members are dependent and some are not. An interdependent relationship can arise between two or more cooperative autonomous participants (e.g. co-op). Some people advocate freedom or independence as the ultimate good; others do the same with devotion to one’s family, community or society. Interdependence can be a common ground between these aspirations.”
When I first lost my hearing, my ego went to work trying to maintain independence by faking my way through conversations or bluffing so I wouldn’t have to depend on anyone else to get through my day. Pretending to be hearing equaled being normal which equaled being independent. The idea was to be liberated, self-contained, self-reliant and self-ruling. I operated in this mode far too long missing some great connections, many conversations and agreeing to things I never would have if I heard it right. Other synonyms to independence are loner, nonconformist and contrarian. So what did I achieve through this method? Being independently lost.
Then I swung the other way. My then husband kicked me out of the closet telling me right up front I was hard of hearing. It wasn’t the end of the world and it felt better being honest. He helped me to hear making life a little easier by making difficult phone calls, translating the people I couldn’t understand. He made sure people looked at me when talking, he ordered for me in restaurants and encouraged me to accept my handicap. About this time, I also started looking to my kids, 10 years old and younger, to help me out in public. I didn’t depend on them solely but I used their ears as well.
After getting comfy with the routine, the husband and I wound up getting a divorce. It wasn’t a nice divorce and we had words. One of his parting shots at me was, “You’ll never find a job with your hearing loss!” There’s nothing to motivate me like a challenge, though he didn’t mean it that way. Less than a week later, I started working.
This is when I started taking all that I learned and using it. Instead of waiting for the issue to come up, I told people right away I couldn’t hear well, starting at that job interview. Once they hired me, I became braver about it all to get people to work with me, using interdependence even though I didn’t know I was doing it. (Most people are willing to help but every once in a while I run into someone who won’t. I try not to let them dominate my opinion of the majority.)
Captions keep me independent but captions fail sometimes. It’s okay to ask whoever I’m with what was said. Being dependent would be asking them to narrate the whole movie.
If I’m going to a banquet or workshop without the benefit of CART, I go early with my FM system and explain it the presenters who have never turned down using it. Both of us working together create a sort of win-win situation. Being dependent would be insisting my boyfriend narrate the entire evening.
Using the phone is not easy but my bluetooth device which connects my hearing aids to my phone keeps me independent. I still need cooperation from the person on the other end, getting them to slow down and repeat when necessary. Captioned telephone services also help me a great deal but that often requires an operator typing the call for me. I need captions, this gives him/her a job. We are helping each other out.
On the same Wikipedia web page mentioned above, I found this quote from Mahatma Gandhi; “Interdependence is and ought to be as much the ideal of man as self-sufficiency. Man is a social being. Without interrelation with society he cannot realize his oneness with the universe or suppress his egotism. His social interdependence enables him to test his faith and to prove himself on the touchstone of reality.”
Reading that blew my mind because he wasn’t referring to hearing loss but it does apply. We are social beings, though our hearing loss makes that aspect of life a little harder. We can get around it with the right coping strategies and frame of mind (not always easy to keep I admit). My ego used bluffing and faking it keeping me seemingly ‘independent’ but it also placed a barrier between me and others. Dependence put a wall of another kind around me. The middle ground of interdependence is the path of least resistance but it takes a while to recognize it. I’m still learning that path.
Oneness in the universe doesn’t mean we are all the same. We have our various burdens but we can help each other out with unique talents we have to offer and then begins the feeling of oneness. We all need a little help from friends, family and those we run across. I’m not embarrassed by hearing loss anymore. It’s a fact in my life and I get around fairly well in spite of it. Looking back and having a name for it now, interdependence made a difference in my life.