Sunday, December 21, 2008

Can you hear me?

I lost hearing in my right ear--the culprit, wearing clay earplugs to bed. After several hours of irrigation, prodding and silent tears I resigned to my fate—my ear was completely blocked. For awhile, my little “condition” was a sweet blessing. It fed my isolationist tendencies. I didn’t have to consciously block people out—I really couldn’t hear them. I retreated into my innermost self. The more contact I lost with the outer world, the more conscious I became of my body—my heartbeat, my breathing, the sound of my voice, for it is my inner voice that I most prefer. My center shifted.

After awhile I started thinking that maybe it wouldn’t be so bad to be deaf in one ear. I mean, look at the great artists of our time—Alice Walker is blind in one eye, Vincent Van Gogh lost his ear, Sylvia Plath was manic depressive. Maybe my physical impairment would give birth to creativity or a new way of thinking.

Unfortunately, acceptance of my partial deafness faded when I walked out into the world. Suddenly, I struggled to monitor my voice and tone—I was afraid of speaking too loudly or softly. I worried that someone would realize my impairment. I was petrified of being different—even more unusual than a black woman writing.

After days of saying “I can’t hear you,” “Speak louder”--I began questioning the strength of my relationships. I mean, would I be loved as quickly, as deeply? Would he, she excuse or accept my impairment if I were to become deaf in one ear? How would I compensate?

Before this incident, I never questioned my physical normalcy. I’ve always believed that beauty is only skin deep—but is that trite? Is it the same as a white man proclaiming to be color blind, all the while enjoying the privileges of his white skin? Am I uttering the words of acceptance and multi-layered conceptions of beauty without acknowledging the benefits that my normalcy and physical appearance confer?

Although I can hear again (my ear cleared suddenly, thank goodness), I don’t have any answers for the questions now burgeoning in me. I do know that I am not special--superficiality has a hold of me too. Somebody save me.