Last night I attended my husband’s work Christmas Party. All week I had stressed over it, because I had yet to meet his co-workers. Would they understand my need to lipread, my inability to hear, particularly over loud music and conversation, would they take the time to write anything down if I asked? I didn’t worry about whether they would like me, because in the grand scheme of things that was unimportant. So in preparation, I practiced my AVT, listened to music, and tried not to stress over the event as much as I could. I did however, wanted my husband to feel that I was comfortable, so he could relax and enjoy himself without having to stick by me the whole night. So I resolved, to step out of my element a bit and try to be the Social Butterfly, that I was not.
We arrived at our hotel, and my stomach was in knots, full of butterflies, but I was also excited and in the mood to party. We checked in, and went up to change in our room. On the way we met a co-worker, and he was soft spoken in speech, and my initial thought was that he was somewhat shy. After changing we went down for cocktail hour, and met more of his co-workers, supervisors, and the owners of the company. Names blurred past me, but I didn’t worry about that because I knew I’d be hard pressed to remember all their names. A little wine and I was buzzing, a little too much, but it helped me relax a little. We sat with a couple,whose husband worked with mine often. His wife conversed with me for a while, and then we were all joined by three others.
I won’t bore you with a play by play, but suffice it to say, I was able to talk to the members of our table through dinner, even across the way from me. The lights were dimmed, and there was a little music and lots of chatter. Here’s the thing, I actually HEARD bits and pieces of the others four feet away. I was asked if I was Deaf by one woman, and if I read lips, I heard her clearly. I know with my hearing aids that would not have happened at all. I would have had to move closer. This is a big milestone for me. Emboldened by the success I was having, I continued the effort to talk to others.
Then the band started playing and I flinched. They were loud. And bad. I quickly placed my connect on to try a lower volume setting, and it was still too loud. So, for a couple of hours my processor was off. Everyone around me were flinching too. I showed a diagram of the hearing I have in my left ear, and in doing so it illustrated to them how loud sounds had to be to hear it unaided. They were pretty darn close to the 90db range, and that is where most of my loss hits. I could hear the singer, a woman, over the bass guitar, piano, and drums. That was saying something. The rest of the evening was spent in the hallway outside the room.
Still unaided, I conversed with other people, some who had prior experience with a deaf person. Others who had heard about me through my husband. For the first time in my life, I was the Social Butterfly, truly comfortable, truly confident, and never missed a step. After a couple of hours,I placed the processor back on, and carried on more conversations. I had several glasses of wine, and somehow it didn’t impair my comprehension or lipreading. I was HEARING over the loud music in the room, the people we were talking to.
When we returned to our room I was elated. My husband said that was the most chilled out I’d ever been, the most comfortable he had ever seen me, and clearly the most confident. He knew I’d surpassed my own expectations, and achieved something spectacular last night. He still didn’t understand I still worked at it, that the effort was made because I didn’t want him to stress over my comfort. He was solicitous, but also left me to be independent. He had known that I wasn’t sure how I’d do with his co-workers and made sure when he introduced me that they knew I was Deaf. No one needed further explanation than that. I had spoken to roughly fifteen people through the evening, and didn’t miss a beat.
So for one night, it took a little effort, but also was effortless because THEY understood. This was the ultimate goal, of the AVT, of the cochlear implant, of finally feeling truly independent. Tonight at home I commented how much I liked his co- workers, and how amazing it was that they so easily, did what I needed to understand them. I had pads of paper and pens in my purse, and didn’t use them but for that diagram. He was definitely proud of me last night, and I think he understands a little better the effort I made for him, and for myself.
Last night, I WAS a Social Butterfly, flitting around the room. (Or rather,the hallway where we had all escaped to because of the loudness of the band).
It may be the only time I’ll have that success, but I’ll take it, and run.