The Difficulties of Change

I met an old friend yesterday who is finally about to retire from a job she’s worked almost three decades. She’s not simply retiring, she’s freeing herself to be a full-time artist rather than a part-timer, to throw her energy and talent into the universe and see what emerges. The job itself is less than perfect, which makes it easy to leave. Yet she finds herself unwilling to give up the project she was working on, her baby.

My cochlear implant was activated September 13. At the time of my implant, people spoke into a microphone that went to an amplifier and then a neckloop which I wore on the hearing aid itself, to get a stronger signal. I could talk with one person at a time. Immediately after the implant was activated, everyone pretty much sounded like Darth Vader’s rendition of a woman’s artificial voice speaking Xhosa. Most of the information was the harsh whoosh with everyone sounding high-pitched with hardly any sound content, and gobs of clicks. Except for Dan Rather, who sounded normal. Now two out of three people sound normal; unfortunately, I’m not one of them. The largest changes in my hearing have occurred, but my hearing will improve for years. Others with cochlear implants describe changes at three years that can only be caused by changes in the nerves themselves. More people’s voices will sound normal, because of nerve improvements, increasing ability to decode the information sent my brain, and a greater ability to override what I hear with what I know I’m hearing.

People with implants sleep less than those who depend on lip reading and straining to eke out messages from highly distorted sound signals received with or without the help of an amplifier. I’ve negated that benefit by putting myself in situations where I use my hearing more.

I find that I sleep more since the implant was activated. I am in transition from disabled to almost able (I will likely never hear normally, and only have the one ear). Almost every night, I dream of changing dwellings, and difficulties in transportation from the old to the new. Now those of you have done deaf and regained hearing know there is little to miss about the old situation. But no matter how miraculous, how life-giving, how desired, transition is difficult.

In one of my interest groups on the environment, I asked people to talk about the process of making big changes. Several told stories of once having made a decision, opting for a new situation with no downsides, it took years to follow through. I personally have always felt sympathy for Pharaoh and how many times he absolutely decided to let Moses and his people go before he was able to follow through.

Most of us want to be people who can be proud of how well and how quickly we responded to concerns about the environment. Yet most of us are ambivalent; perhaps we will live a diminished life if we live with less.

When we sum up our lives we will want to be able to say, we heard what was important, and we responded. If we do not find ways to have dialogues, local, national, and world, about our ambivalence, about the difficulties of making change, change will be all that much harder.

2 Responses to “The Difficulties of Change”

  1. michael says:

    Good analogy. In many ways we have lost our ability to hear the rest of life and to astutely detect the non-life rhythms of the earth. Some have received an implant and are committed to hear. How fast will our meager brains be able to grow new neuron pathways? How willingly will be able to incorporate this new knowledge in our daily living? There is no doubt about the necessity and the urgency.

  2. Susanne Ratcliffe Wilson says:

    I found your comments fascinating and you increased my awareness of what you are going through. I would like to encourage you to submit this writing for publication to a wider audience. With admiration, Susanne