“I know I’m often told that there’s a pot of gold, but I don’t see no fucking rainbow and my coffee’s cold. I know I should be grateful, I know I’m good and able, but I don’t have the strength to get up from the kitchen table.” – Watsky, “Hey, Asshole”
It’s always been there, creeping up on me slowly over the years, but with my age, my hearing loss has become significantly more noticeable as I move closer towards marking myself clinically and personally as Deaf. I’m a musician, a mother, an educator, and I adore playing role-playing games in large groups. My struggle with my oncoming Deafness has become so heavy my shoulders hurt.
We were playing Sagas of the Icelanders, a group of five on a Friday night, run by a Germanic GM whose deep, thick accent kept escaping the grasp of my ears. I could see his mouth moving, I knew he was saying something, and I was trying so desperately to hear his words but it kept cutting out like a bad radio connection. The lolls of silence engulfed me like a discomforting darkness, shadowing me and pushing me away from the group.
Managing myself and my hearing, I decided to keep the videos of all of the players on fullscreen and I had to pay attention primarily to the two men I was playing with, reading their lips poorly but doing the best I could. Thankfully, the two women’s voices were more audible and added context for me to be able to stay caught up in the game.
Then we were asked to glance at something on the Roll20 screen. I sighed, pulling up a second monitor to quickly flip the browser over to it. I couldn’t lose sight of them, we were live streaming, I would have felt ashamed if I had to constantly ask them to stop speaking, to repeat themselves continuously, to enunciate. This group, in particular, would be accommodating, I knew they would, but my pride is stronger than my willingness to ask for help.
As my hearing slips through my fingers, something I’ve taken granted of for years, I feel angry with myself for letting it get to me. But the want to hear my favourite musicians clearly again, to be able to hear my lover’s sweet nothings in my ear without asking for repetition, to be able to answer my child’s calls without her yelling at me, to be able to stream without extreme difficulties, is strong. So strong. I’m desperate to hold onto it but the tighter I hold the faster it seems to slip away.
I am privileged. I have lived a life of privilege. Even considering my physical disability (Osteogenesis Imperfecta – Brittle Bone Disorder) I feel incredibly privileged. But now it’s taking something from me I want to fight tooth and nail to keep. And yet there are many out there who have never heard a note in their lives – why can’t I be thankful for what I’ve had so far?
Lately, I’ve been feeling lost in a vast sea that is meeting the opening of an even bigger ocean. My heart races at times when the silence takes me, and I can feel the waves pulling me under. I’m lost between hearing and Deaf. I’m lost between using English and my poor execution of ASL. I’m lost between the two communities who identify as hearing or Deaf. I’m lost in whether or not I need to ask people to make accommodations for me. I’m lost between my future options. I’m lost between listening to music through my hands or watching it with my eyes.
I just want an anchor to hold onto.
I just want to pause life momentarily so that I don’t have to face what’s coming.
The fact that I will soon have to give up streaming, or watching streams (a good reason to caption and provide transcripts of streams, podcasts, and videos, friends), give up playing D&D online – something that will hurt me more than I care to admit. Merlin forbids when the time comes that playing D&D at my local game store is no longer an ability of mine when the voices drown each other out when I see their lips move but nothing coming forward…I don’t want to give up this part of my life. This community, my community, my place, and my comfort. But I know, partially, that I will have to do so.
Recently I was introduced to a concept: play-by-post. I’ve never partaken in it but I’m so glad this exists. My ability to play with all of my favourite people, with this amazing community, will never be taken away so long as I have my words. Giving up hearing them, seeing them, can be a struggle, but at least there’s something. And games run entirely in ASL, sometime in the near future, is something I’m grasping onto as my current anchor to keep my afloat.
Knowing that I’m not alone out here, that there are other’s in our community casting out lines to grab ahold to, makes me find comfort in this sea. I may be losing my hearing, but I’m gaining such a great, new community. It can be so hard to look at the positives of Deaf Gain, but that’s what it is. I’m gaining so much more than what I’m losing.
“But when you take a punch, don’t you ever forget, why you get up and you put one foot in front of the next.” – Watsky, “Hey Asshole”