What it’s like to be marginalized

Or, Why I’m not offended by #TakeAKnee

Disclaimer: Being hard of hearing is not the same as being black in America. I’ve never feared for my life when being pulled over by the cop (though maybe I should be?). If anyone’s ever called me an unkind name because of my hearing loss, well, I didn’t hear it. And it’s entirely possible that I’ve been hired at a few places because of my hearing loss and the company’s commitment to inclusion. That said, when I read about the black experience and the emotional toll it takes on an individual and a community, I think, “This sounds familiar. This sounds like what hearing loss has been for me.” I don’t fully understand all the nuance surrounding Colin Kaepernick taking a knee, or not standing for the national anthem. Mostly because unless the Royals or Chiefs are winning, I don’t know much about the sportsballs. But I do understand that #TakeAKnee, in the minds of the protestors, is taking a stand against racism. Those who disagree with the protest are speaking out in defense of the flag. “How dare they disrespect our soldiers?” You can google elsewhere for an analysis of either argument, but over here, I want to talk about the lack of a common American experience. Whites and blacks have lived in vastly different Americas. Some of us have had it easier than others, and we ought to be “quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry” (James 1:19) with those whose experiences have been for the worse. I do not know what it is like to be black in America, but I do know what it feels like to be marginalized. Here’s a small sampling:

  1. Being marginalized means other people and/or institutions make decisions for you. I am considering going to seminary next fall. I looked at several different institutions inside (and even slightly outside) my faith tradition. I originally considered moving, but my parents aren’t getting any younger, and my nieces and nephews are getting older. I don’t want to miss out on either, so I asked these institutions about the format of their online courses. Were they delivered via video? Did the videos have captions and/or come with a transcript? Are students required to participate in conference calls? Two of my top prospects said, “No” to videos being captioned. That’s it. Just “no.” They weren’t sorry to lose me as a prospective student. They didn’t offer to look into it, or suggest any alternative solutions. Just straight-up “no.” They’re no longer on my list, and the one currently sitting at the top is the one who said, “Yes, we have captions, and if those don’t work, we’ll work with you to figure something out.” Bless them, but note that both the “no”s and the “yes” ultimately make my choice for me.
  2. Being marginalized means that your experience and feelings often go unacknowledged. I posted something about Deaf Anxiety on my Facebook page the other day. I shared some personal thoughts before linking to a video from Ai-Media, featuring Artie Mack. I wanted my hearing friends in particular to understand a little better why I act the way I do in certain situations, and I hoped to spark further conversation about hearing loss with people who may not know much about it. My post to date has 25 reactions (likes and loves), and all but five, or 80 percent, were from family, Deaf/hard of hearing friends, or friends in the Deaf/hard of hearing community (like sign language interpreters). I heard NOTHING from my hearing peers—people who go to church with me, who grew up with me, who have worked with me, who live in my community. Now, Facebook has some weird algorithms, so it’s entirely possible that due to the nature of the video, more of my Deaf/hard of hearing friends and community members saw the video than my hearing friends did. The slight may or may not be personal, but if Facebook is to blame, the slight is then institutional. Facebook thinks only my Deaf/hard of hearing friends—aka, people who more or less already know about Deaf Anxiety—would care to know about my experience, rather than assuming the topic was of interest to a broader audience.
  3. Being marginalized means always observing, rarely participating. I have lost count of the number of times when I’ve been in a group setting and said something out loud, only to be totally ignored. No one looked at me when I spoke, or responded to my question. This may not be anyone’s fault—I suspect I lack sufficient hearing to determine whether my voice was loud enough to be heard. It’s very possible that no one heard me, literally, but it also means that I feel powerless to ensure they do. I may be able to follow some of the conversation, fake a smile when everyone laughs, or nod in agreement now and then, but my voice is not there. My opinions and feelings aren’t brought to light. My passions and interests gather dust. I feel unknown and unseen. James K.A. Smith recently tweeted a quote by William James detailing what happens to a person who remains unknown:
    The depths of despair can be a real place for the marginalized. If I, a white woman with all the privileges that affords, feel this way regarding my hearing loss, how much more must my black brothers and sisters feel, who testify to tangible threats against their lives and dignity? So no, I’m not offended when someone takes a knee. After a while, you run out of energy to muster the fake smile necessary to stand for a symbol of an America that has been unkind to you.

They call me Loocee

As it turns out, time flies when you’re:

Babysitting
Small-group-ing Gospel Community-ing
HLAA-ing
Transcriptioning (which is totally not a word but I do what I want)
Working
Going to the audiologist (which really just happened that one time today but whatevs)
Buying wedding and baby shower gifts (please don’t unfriend me on Facebook if I just give you a gift card. It’s a nerves-are-frayed issue on my end. xoxo)
Les Miz-ing (yes, I’m still on that. Hey, future husband, I hope you like musicals or at least come with a lifetime supply of earplugs)
And a lot of other random things in between, including eating out and NOT working out which, if we’re being honest, is kind of wonderful but also awful (sorry, future husband. I hope your love language includes Snickers bars). Can I get an amen, sista?

Oh hey, can we just talk about all the babies for a minute? I mean, there are so many of them. Big ones, small ones, some as big as your head (and for those of you planning a smart aleck-y comment, none of them are mine). Mostly, they’re at church. I spend a lot of Sunday mornings helping corral them all. It’s fun. And exhausting. And sometimes lalala and sometimes OHMYGAWSH. Then I have a few friends who have delightful offspring who think it’s wonderful when Loocee (they call me this, it’s true) comes over to toss them in the air help watch the kids. There are many small children in my life and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

But friends, since this is my blog and I tend to overshare, here we go. I get that I kind of painted myself in a corner here with the lovely bunch of kiddos, and I really have only myself to blame for this but sometimes I feel like The Babysitter, you know? Not a Person or a Lady or even That Girl Who is Way Too Obsessed With Lost. No… just The Babysitter. Even better, The Single Babysitter – because we all know that single people have noooooooooooo life (she said, tongue firmly in cheek). 😉

It’s hard to find the balance. I do want to serve my church family well on Sunday mornings and I do want to be a good friends and help out during the week and I do genuinely enjoy watching the kids. But I also want to feel like a grown-up. I do have a life and priorities and bills and friends and work and need my own downtime from it all as well. It can be disheartening to feel people only want to know when you can babysit and not when you can come over for coffee. It’s tricky, this balance thing.

So also, I went to the audiologist today (I know, right? Smooth segues are obviously my spiritual gift, not really) because over the last few months, I’ve noticed that I’ve had to ask people to repeat themselves more and I’ve been turning the volume up on the TV and CD player (Whaaaaat, CD player? I am so old school) more than usual. I mean, hello, yes I know I am hard of hearing and that happens, but it was outside of what I’d come to know as “normal.” So I scheduled a hearing test and what-iffed my week away… silly, really. What if I was losing more hearing or needed a cochlear implant or new hearing aids? Meh. What, indeed? It wouldn’t be the end of the world, not in this day and age of technological advancement.

Of course, all my what-iffing was for naught, as it was really more of a “Srsly, you need to come in every six months so we can check on your hearing aid filters” issue than an “Oh snap how did you lose so much hearing in a short amount of time” kind of deal. In fact, the word he used to describe the hearing test was “stable.” So psh and eye-rolls to me… especially when I got back in the car and I had to turn the volume down for a change!

Also, today, I was reading The Internet – the story was about the Army Corps blowing up a levee in a Midwestern state. The headline got cut off, however, and instead implied that the Army plans to blow up Missouri. I just felt I should probably tell someone about that because I bet that’s the kind of thing that gets lost in the shuffle of royal weddings and dead terrorists.

(Graceful exits are also my spiritual gift, not really.)

Return

Would you indulge me as I make a return to the blogging world, cold turkey, word vomit, say whatever’s been on my mind lately style?

Please and thank you.

1) On being content: When my birthday and Christmas roll around and various relatives ask what I want, I’m slow to respond. I don’t really know, I’ll answer. I don’t really need anything. I thought I was content. Happy with what I have. Not jealous for material things. A gold star for me dodging one of the seven deadly sins. But lately, I’ve been convicted of all the ways that I’m really not content. I’m constantly comparing my circumstances to everyone else’s. Oh, I have a tiny apartment and they’re buying a house. They’re more social than I am. She’s prettier. He’s smarter. They’re married. They’re pregnant… again. And the list goes on. And on. And onnnn… and I realize how very discontent I am. There are a lot of things I am learning, though the lessons aren’t fully fleshed out. The value of a grateful heart. Trusting in God’s sovereignty. Evaluating idols and becoming more and more aware that at the root of my discontentment is a longing to be liked. I’m more concerned about fitting in than about embracing the story God has written for my little earthly life. I’ve been mulling over a Tweet from he-whose-last-name-I-can’t-pronounce I read a while ago – “The gospel frees you from your addiction to being liked.”

2) On addictions: My church is going through a series on suffering. We only just started, but so far the theme has basically been along the lines of, “Even if you lost everything, Jesus would still be enough?” I always thought my answer would be yes. I thought I knew all about suffering. Hearing loss, while not on the same level as, I don’t know, starvation or cancer, has been lonely and I know the Lord has definitely used that in my life to bring me closer to Him. But when I think about really suffering, like being given over to the ravages of cancer or losing a child or having a hole in the ground for a bathroom, I’m less sure of my answer. I often think of the verses that say that discipleship means hating your family, means dropping what you’re doing and following Jesus. I’ll probably be going back to this sermon by Mark Driscoll (linked to a transcript, but you can also watch a subtitled video of the same sermon here.)

3) On emotions. A few posts ago, I lamented my propensity to be emotional, to let my feelings make decisions for me. Since then, it’s not that I’ve become less emotional, but more aware of a God who never changes despite my feelings to the contrary. You know what I am talking about. One day, you have the Jesus warm fuzzies and you’re delighted in the Savior and oh look, bunnies!!! The next day, you can’t stop growling and snapping at everything that crosses your path and you wonder if maybe the Holy Spirit has come down with a bad case of PMS. Or maybe that’s just me… anyway, my other natural tendency in those kinds of situations is to berate myself for letting my emotions get the better of me. “Silly girl, shame on you for not being more in control of your faculties. I mean, you are going to be 28 this year… grow up… manage yourself better, woman!” But that gets me nowhere. Instead, the Lord has been gracious in bringing to mind more of Him – how even when my feelings change, He does not. Our changing moods and emotions are really enslaving, so God being immutable is really freeing.

Okay, people, that was like three posts in one. I’m out. Leave comments. Please and thanks.

Let’s play a little one-on-one

I was googling “psychological effects of hearing loss” for another writing project when I came across this. It’s an open letter than an audiologist drafted for deaf and hard of hearing people to share with their hearing friends and family. Sometimes it helps me to read things like that because for whatever reason, it’s hard to ask for help and reading someone else’s words makes it seem more reasonable.

I like the last point in the letter about conversing one-on-one as much as possible.

Because of my hearing loss, my ears cannot separate people’s voices like your ears can. That is why in most group situations, I hear people talking, but cannot understand much of what they say. Also, in a group, I find it difficult to follow several people at once. By the time I have figured out who is speaking next, I have lost most of what was said. It is much easier for me to understand you face-to-face in a quiet corner of the room than as a member of a group.

That’s something that I’ve been too shy to ask for, but it really is helpful. I don’t expect people to talk to me and only me for the duration of the group event, but I do feel more included if a few people just take a few minutes to chat quietly.

The only thing I would add to that is that generally, I prefer to do things one-on-one with people instead of in groups. Like I would rather get together with one friend for lunch than make a dinner party out of it. Or go to the movies with one person and not a whole group. But I have the hardest time making that happen. Sometimes I feel people are reluctant to do things one-on-one. I know that schedules conflict and especially with the young parents that make up my age group, plans can change at the last minute when there are kids involved. People are busy. But one of the downsides to our social media is that I know people have time for parties and other group activities. 😉 Just not for lunch or coffee.

I know I could do a better job of asking people to join me for those one-on-one times, but the road goes both ways as well. Sometimes I give up asking because people say “no” so often. Maybe it’s just me then, but does anyone else have a hard time setting up one-on-one time?

Watch this movie and write this letter

I just finished a documentary about cochlear implants. Well, I use the term “finished” loosely. The DVD wouldn’t work on the last scene (thanks, corrupted library materials) so I don’t know how it ended. Gr. BUT I would highly recommend Sound and Fury. I’m still on the fence about a cochlear implant for myself but I didn’t watch the documentary because I needed help making a decision. I wanted to see how the film dealt with Deaf and hearing perspectives on the issue. Because I think that the real discussion wasn’t over the cochlear implant itself but a dialogue about hearing culture and Deaf culture. I often feel the tension of both and it’s hard to explain to people who aren’t Deaf culture-savvy. So I think the video is a great resource, especially for hearing people who are friends with or related to someone with hearing loss (cough*this.means.most.of.you.*hint*cough) to learn a little bit more about what their hard of hearing friend/relative has experienced (wink wink nudge nudge).

Speaking of not-so-subtle hints, the Hearing Loss Association of America has issued an urgent action alert on movie captions. You can find more information about it on HLAA’s website but basically, the Department of Justice is considering changes on a regulation that requires movie theaters to show captions and has invited comments from the general public. I’m working on a letter to send to the DOJ and I hope you will, too! I plan on sharing some of my experiences on watching (or rather, not being able to watch) movies with captions and I will emphasize the need for theaters to offer open captions and not rear window captions. Open captions are basically subtitles and I’m not really a fan of rear window captioning. You can read more about RWC here.

Anyway, there are something like a bajillion questions that the DOJ is seeking answers to (you can see all of them here); HLAA is encouraging people to answer question #1. I plan on answering questions 1 and 9:

#1 – DOJ is proposing that the percentage of movie screens offering closed captioning be set at 10 percent after one year and increased 10 percent a year until 50 percent is reached. Does this approach provide a proper balance between providing accessibility to consumers, on one hand, and giving owners and operators time to acquire the necessary equipment, on the other hand?

#9 – While the Department is not considering requiring the use of open captioning, should movie theater owners and operators be given the discretion to exhibit movies with open captioning, should they so desire, as an alternate method of achieving compliance with the captioning requirements of any Department regulation? If theaters opt to use open captioning, should they be required to exhibit movies with such captioning at peak times so that people with disabilities can have the option of going to the movies on days and times when other
moviegoers see movies?

The deadline for sending in comments is Monday, January 24, so open up those Word documents and go to town, people!

Why I do what I do

I feel like a pretty aimless blogger these days. I suddenly find myself unsure what to write about. Mostly because I care way too much about what people think. If I blog about hearing loss too much, will people get bored? Will words like “Jesus” and “faith” and “Reformed” and “pray” and “conservative” and “Scripture” scare off the readers who don’t use those words much? If I share my opinion on Modern Family or cuss here and there, will my more church-y friends flee the scene (and return with pitchforks)? I wish I had the spine to say psh, who cares, I am who I am and I’ll write what I write and not worry about making other people happy. To that, I say, “Bwahahahahaha, do you not know me at all?!”

Ahem. I’m working on it.

Anyway, Jami writes one of my very favorite blogs. She’s HUH-larious, crafty and HISSS-terical. I know I pretty much said that already, but trust me on this one. It bears repeating. She wrote an awesome post about why she blogs and even though I have no offspring, I found it inspiring and even a little convicting. Basically, Jami blogs because as a mother, it’s her job to preserve her family’s memories and blogging helps her do that. She’s so noble and holy, y’all.

So I started asking myself why I blogged. I’m clearly not preserving memories for the fruit of my loins (that’s an awkward phrase. It just came to me. Go with it). I don’t have a niche blog centered around one subject. A lot of what I say is more along the lines of blah blah blah than wow! deep! funny! good! So what exactly am I doing here?

Psh. I wish I knew, that I had some pure and selfless reason for logging on to Blogger every day and word vomiting all over the screen. But really, my motivations tend toward the ordinary.

I like words. I like putting them together and taking them apart and experimenting with fragments, punctuation and structure. My idea of a good time includes thinking of creative ways to say regular things. Blogging helps keep me accountable. I write more intentionally and carefully if I know people are reading than if I’m just having a heart-to-heart with a Word document.

And I’ve said it before, but writers write to be read. Artists paint for people to enjoy their work. Composers and musicians want people to come to their concerts. We were born to create. Some of us create complex computer code, some of us pottery, theories, stories, rockets, clothes, etc. We all do something for other people to enjoy or use. It seems pointless – to me, anyway – to write without an audience. Is that narcissistic? I’m always trying to decide is blogging is an exercise in narcissism or not.

Another theme I’ve noticed lately is one of loneliness. I read a few posts this week where the blogger confessed feeling lonely. I wonder how many people blog out of a desire for connection. Something seems missing in our “real” lives, so we seek a virtual connection instead. I know that’s one thing that’s spurred me to share my thoughts – hoping somebody, somewhere in the big, vast internets would get it.

And finally, I think I’m just looking for a voice. Sometimes with my hearing loss, I feel overshadowed. It’s hard to speak up in a group because I’m not sure when to speak up. Plus I’m just an introvert. I tend to sit back and observe and think (and think and think and think) before sharing my two cents. So I guess blogging is just a way for me to communicate with a very loud world and a way for me to share my thoughts after all of the hullabaloo has died down.

I don’t know, it feels a little narcissistic now. Someone get me some babies so I can enter the ranks of holy mommy bloggers, stat!

How about you, my friends? What motivates you to publish posts?

Differences

So I was watching Mad Men last night. I don’t have cable and I don’t do the Netflix thing (I have my principles, you know), so I do it old school. I get them on DVD. Which means I am about a season or two behind. So I hope I’m not ruining anything for anyone, buuuuuuuuuuuuuuut…

Getting your foot run over by a lawn mower is disgusting.

You Mad Men-ites know what I am saying. If you aren’t a fan of the show, just trust me on this one.

So this young hotshot from London gets his foot run over by a lawn mower (while partying at an advertising agency. Those ’60s… such a crazy time), goes to the hospital and we find out that they had to amputate. Then we eavesdrop on a conversation among his bosses and someone from the New York office. They London bigwigs keep talking about him in the past tense and lament that, “The doctor said he won’t be able to play golf anymore!” Oh, the horror.

But they make it clear that he no longer has a place in the company. After all, how can he work if – wait for it – he can’t walk?! Oh, my lands. Whatever will he do without a foot to help him dial a phone, meet with clients or make decisions?!

Ree-donk.

I was all set to sing the praises of living in the 21st century where we don’t have to deal with such foolhardy thoughts like that. We know now, of course, that people without feet, or hands, or ears, or eyes, are certainly able to do things like, you know, earn a living. Technology has come a long way. Overall understanding and attitudes have adjusted accordingly.

And I am thankful for that. But I also know that while we’ve made leaps and bounds, we still have a long way to go. I know some intelligent, caring, solid and driven people who are having a hard time finding a job just because they can’t use the phone. I’m still touchy about Netflix and don’t even get me started on movie captioning. There are still a thousand little misunderstandings to correct and myths to explode. Division and exclusion still apply. It’s just that instead of a few big, obvious issues like, “Are people with hearing loss (or any other disability) able to work?” or “Can someone in a wheelchair still live a fulfilling life?” we have a million smaller ones.

For instance, I’m not sure what to do when I do see someone in a wheelchair. Do they need help? Would it be rude for me to offer to open the door or grab something from a shelf? What kind of questions are appropriate to ask someone who is blind? What do I say to a couple whose child was born with Down’s Syndrome? And I know, I know, people are wondering the same things about me. So we’ve come a long way, but at the same time, we haven’t. I don’t know what it is that keeps us from each other. What are we so afraid of? The unknown? Offending someone? Stepping outside our comfort zones?

Probably all of the above and more. Are we really that different than we were 40 years ago? What do you think?