Worrying for nothing
I have a tendency to worry about things, especially events where I have no idea what’s going to happen. I’m sure part of this is just my personality, but I think part of it comes from growing up with a hearing loss. I learned the hard way that arriving in a situation unprepared for what might happen was twice as difficult for me to navigate as it would be for a hearing person. If I wasn’t sure where I was supposed to go or what I was supposed to do, I would have to ask somebody. If I was lucky, I would actually be able to hear and understand the instructions I was given. What usually happened was that I’d ask, be given an answer that either I couldn’t hear at all or heard part of, and then one of two things would happen: I’d go off in the wrong direction, looking like an idiot, or I’d ask for the information to be repeated, and not hear it again the second time. THEN I’d go off in the wrong direction, too embarrassed to ask for a third repeat.
So I started planning things as much as possible. I’d try to find out as much information as I could to eliminate as much of the unknown as possible. This works fine for certain situations, especially now that the internet is here with so much information at our fingertips. For other things, there’s no possible way to know how things are going to go, so I just worry…usually for no good reason.
One of the things I was really worrying about was this surprise birthday party for my mom, which was held the last Saturday of June. My brother came up with the idea and my first reaction was one of total dread. I really dislike parties, partly because it’s so hard to hear but also because I have a hard time with small talk. I’m fine if I get into a long conversation with one person but flitting from person to person, making small talk for 10 minutes or so each time? Can’t do it. I sit in a corner and people-watch instead.
Usually I just avoid parties, and now that I don’t work outside the home it’s much easier to be a hermit. I don’t get invited to work events (company Christmas parties, picnics, wedding and baby showers for co-workers, meeting after work at a bar, etc.) so I don’t need to constantly come up with excuses. Now that I’m older, the family events are fewer and fewer, as all of my cousins got married and the required showers and weddings are now far in the past. Small get togethers are fine and I enjoy those, but it’s rare for me to be invited to a party these days.
Well, I couldn’t very well bow out of this party, so instead I worried. This would be the first major event I’d be attending as a completely deaf person. I didn’t know for sure who knew about my recent deafness, although I assumed it would be everyone in attendance since my mom keeps in touch with all our extended family members by phone. To give myself an emergency exit, I warned my brother ahead of time that lipreading for an extended period really wore me out, so I might only stay for an hour or so.
I knew my reaction was really silly – of all the things to worry about! The worst that could happen would be that I’d sit by myself for a few hours, which isn’t a big deal. By the time the actual party day rolled around, I had kind of calmed myself down – playing the “What’s the worst that could happen?” game usually has that effect on me and helps me to see that some things just aren’t worth the time it takes to worry about them.
I’m happy to report that this event was one of those “not worth worrying about” things. The party started very small, just me, my brother, his wife and her family. This was actually great for me because I wasn’t plunged into a sea of people and faces, trying to lipread everyone at once. People came by gradually throughout the afternoon, and I worked out a good system of sitting near the front door so that I could welcome people right away. It gave me a chance to see them on their own, not surrounded by a bunch of other people, and lipreading was easy since it was the usual “Hi, how are you” kind of thing you say when you first see someone.
I was able to focus on and lipread people pretty well. Much of the time I wasn’t involved in one-on-one conversations but rather observing a conversation between people I was sitting or standing near. This took the weight off me because if I didn’t catch everything, there was no embarrassment. But if I did catch a few things being said, I could interject and join the conversation briefly.
As more and more people arrived, I pretty much stayed in one place, sitting with Dave. People would get up and leave and new people would join us, so we weren’t isolated but we also weren’t in the main group of people. One thing that was hard to judge was how loud I should talk. I had no idea if there was music or sound from the TV, or how loud the background noise of people talking really was. Since Dave has trouble hearing in those situations, I tried to talk louder for him.
I noticed that I didn’t have any extra trouble understanding my brother’s in-laws, which was a nice surprise. They’re from Poland and his wife’s parents have accents; his wife and her older sister have slight accents but I never had trouble understanding them. I always feel terrible when I can’t understand people who speak with an accent – it’s more related to my hearing loss than their inability to speak clearly, but I feel like they think it’s because of the way they speak. I have total admiration for them, learning a new language and becoming fluent in it…I certainly couldn’t do it! So I really do feel badly when they talk to me and I struggle to understand them. Well, for whatever reason, lipreading them was not a problem. I think I actually understood them better at this party than I ever have!
We ended up staying for 4-1/2 hours, and really having a nice time. I’m glad I force myself to do things that make me nervous – they don’t always work out well, but when they do it just gives me more proof that some things are just not worth worrying about. Maybe someday I’ll be totally calm and worry-free! 😀