Thursday, February 28, 2008

Do what?

I'm hearing right and wrong so clearly
there must be more than this
it's only in uncertaintythat we're naked and alive

Anyone who has spent any amount of time with me knows that I'm practically deaf. At least, I'm sure it seems that way. During any given conversation, my friends generally hear me say the words, "I'm sorry?", "Do what?", "What was that?", "What, What?!" or some variation at least three times. At the very least. Corey kind of likes it because he says he usually has a chance to change his wording. :^p Cheeky man.

When I was about 19, I had my tonsils cut out. The ENT who did the tonsillectomy ran a number of tests on me including a hearing test. He discovered that I'm way below average at certain pitches (mostly high pitches, and a few of the really low pitches), and he even ran a few additional tests for some sort of hearing disorder that tends to strike 19-year-old women, but that came out negative. I barely even noticed the problem until I was about 26 or 27, and since then it's just gotten worse.

Anytime I tell my mom about some event in which I had to ask someone to repeat him or herself, she understands. She has the same problem. Both of us have an especially hard time in noisy surroundings. Sounds combine and become distorted and we either don't hear what's being said or we hear things that aren't there. This happens to me CONSTANTLY. Most often, it happens when I'm in the bathroom and either the water's running or the heater or air conditioner is running. I can't tell you how many times I've gotten out of the shower to see if I'd left a radio on because I often think I hear music. I embarassed myself in front of a lot of the men in our noisy shop at work a couple weeks ago. I was standing in one of the dock doors about halfway outside, and I swore I heard my office manager call somebody on the intercom. When I asked the men what she said, they looked at me like I was nuts and then laughed their asses off at me.

I don't know that it's bad enough yet to go back to the ENT with the problem. I guess I'm partially afraid he'll have me in a hearing aid before you can say "feedback." All I know is that it is highly obnoxious. I feel horrible when I have to ask folks on the phone at work to repeat themselves, and I feel really horrible when Corey says something I don't hear and he says "nevermind" when I ask him to repeat himself. I'm afraid I look horribly rude when I get tired of asking folks to repeat and end up filling in the blanks or only half-listening. It gets exhausting sometimes.

Luckily, I don't seem to have much of a problem with the medical transcription. I suppose it helps that the sound is right there in my ear and the earphones obstruct a little bit of ambiant noise. I have noticed a marked difference between my right and left ears thought. My right is much worse, and I think my mom's right ear is worse too. We laugh together when one of us sees the other turn her head to put the "good ear" in better range of the person who's speaking. Clearly this is a hereditary thing.

The strangest thing of all, though, is that sometimes - after a yawn usually - I seem to have super hearing. Either that or regular hearing sounds super to me. This used to lead me to believe all my problems would be solved with a bit of a professional ear cleaning, but anytime I've had that done, it fixed the problem long enough for me to leave the doctor's office.

I also used to think that the size of my ears contributed (I have really small ears). But I've since taken a class in which I was subjected to the obnoxious instructor's questioning about what she called my "hearing loss." I suppose she thought I was a kindred soul since she had hearing problems as well. In any case, she raised the point about a disorder in which two of the middle ear bones become fused or stuck and therefore don't efficiently carry the sound to your ear drum - which leads to (you guessed it) distortion in middle ranges.

Anyway, now that I've rambled, I come to the point. The next time you're annoyed by someone asking you to repeat something or by their habit of turning their head when you speak to them, just remember that they're every bit as annoyed (if not moreso) as you are.

I couldn't find a video of "That Voice Again" by Peter Gabriel (from whence my opening quote came), but I love this song and this video - "Red Rain." Gotta give the man serious props.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Literature of the Vapid

If dreams are like movies
then memories are films about ghosts

At the risk of sounding too "wah wah, poor me *sniff* *sniff*", I typed this up last night. I just want to note that I don't consider myself to be all that liberal or "damn the man". If you know me personally, you know I don't tolerate slack-asses and I have no respect for those who just sit on their asses, smoke weed, complain about the world/society, and do nothing (whatsoever) about it.

I’m taking a document processing class online as many of you know. In this class, we have to do a lot of timed writings (which I absolutely hate, by the way) and a lot of typing out of “office” documents. While I was plugging away in the usual fashion tonight, I noticed a disturbing trend. Of course I’ve noticed it before, but it had never gotten to me as much as it did tonight.

It’s absolutely horrible to type words like “effective” and “procedure” and “analyzing” and “productive” and “benefit” over and over again. You just want to yell at the copy, “TRY SOME DIFFERENT FRIGGIN’ WORDS, FOR THE LOVE OF GOD!”

I got to thinking about business English and newspaper English and “teacher” English and the dreadful entity that is Word Grammar Check. I realized that these vapid, irritatingly PC uses of English are becoming the norm. Why? Because the beauty of the written word has been replaced by the easiest way to write and understand the written word. Long, heart-felt, beautifully penned letters have been replaced by staccato e-mails. Thought-provoking stories have been replaced by flash fiction. What happened, English speakers?

Granted, I do it too – I send those choppy e-mails and have made attempts (poor ones) at flash fiction. It all comes down to time. Nobody has the time to spend on eloquent turns of phrase. Even those of us who really WANT to spend the time aren’t able to because we have become obsolete. We’re forced to work at jobs we hate and to move with the folks in the fast lane – because it’s the only way to survive these days. We know we could do so much more with this time spent keeping up, but we never seem to get it, so we end up just like everyone else. Is this the reason for a recent lack of true classics?

How many would-be novelists, painters, musicians, playwrights, dancers and actors are too busy keeping their heads above water to work on their true calling? How many creative children aren’t allowed to create in favor of classes that only help them pass standardized tests (and don’t truly teach them anything)?

I don’t have a solution to offer on this subject. All I know is that I don’t mind staying up until 2 a.m. and being a little late for work for the sake of my art. And I know that it disturbs me that I’m forced to do that.

This is not to say that I don’t believe in hard work or that I’m lazy. I do believe in hard work – very much so. And I’m only lazy when I feel the strain of all this “keeping up.” I just feel like a lot of folks would be better off (and the world would be better off) if our society had a little more respect for those of us of the right-brained persuasion.

"Mrs. Potter's Lullaby" Probably the best Counting Crows song post-August and Everything After

Friday, February 1, 2008

"'s the family?"

i've never been one for too much conversation
but now i choose my words so carefully

"Hey Jennifer"
"Oh, Hey Maya! How're you?"

And that's where my conversation skills end.

The above (beginning of a) conversation took place at the Wal-Mart last weekend. I ran into an old friend from high school who I actually see fairly often when I'm out and about. It seems like I would know how to talk to her since I've known her pretty much my entire life. But when I started updating her on things, I realized that I had absolutely no idea of what I was saying. Still, I did pretty well when she updated me. I told her I was proud of a new project she was starting and I offered to volunteer when her non-profit takes off. But then I didn't know what to add - so I kind of repeated myself. And I said goodbye feeling like I had shown up at a black tie party wearing flannel and hiking boots.

I have NEVER been very good at talking to people. I HATE crowded parties and I HATE trying to come up with pleasantries when I unexpectedly run into a person. It's not that I don't enjoy seeing these folks or people-watching at the party. It's just that you're always expected to make small talk at these things. I have no idea of how to do it - or rather, I have no natural gift for it. If I try, I usually end up making a complete fool of myself and I reflect back on the attempt and feel every bit as embarassed and mortified as I did at the time when it happened.

On the other hand, I'm very good just one on one, talking "non" small talk, and people are always coming to me for advice on their problems - probably because I listen more than I talk. And of course, I have no problem with my friends. That, and for some reason, there are some strangers I can just talk to. I have no idea of what the difference is. Maybe my intuition is telling me, "Hey, here's your chance to prove that you're not a social leper." I'm brilliant with these people.

It's just the other 99.9% of the population I need to work on.

I've been making attempts to improve my social skills the past few years since I realized exactly how snooty I must appear if I don't talk to people. In the past, I didn't need to talk to people because my mother usually took the burdon of small talk. But now that I'm an adult and (for all intents and purposes) a key representative of my family, I have to step up.

In addition to the family need to learn how to make small talk, there's a horribly unfair pressure for Southern female office workers to gossip and know everything that's going on with coworkers, their kids, and their families. I really really try, but they can sense that I'm not really interested in their mother's horrible case of gout. Yes, I'm sorry that your mother is suffering, but I don't know how to have a whole conversation about it. And yes, it's wonderful that your kid is doing well in Math, but I don't have any kids to trade stories about. Same thing goes for husbands and in-laws. And all this makes me look anti-social, snooty, selfish, or just plain mean.

But that's never the case. I love people. I love to people-watch. I'm a novelist, and I get ideas from people - characters even. I'm constantly amazed (but never shocked) by the things that people can come up with and the things they do. I'm fascinated by any new personality type or idiosyncracy that I haven't encountered before. I love it when people surprise me. I can even forgive and understand people I don't like, and I appreciate the experience in dealing with difficult people.

I just don't quite know how to show it.

So this is one of my "self-improvement" topics for the coming year. I'll practice a little, and maybe learn how don't to be so nervous-talky when I see people.

So if you see me out and about somewhere, and you leave the conversation thinking, "Is she okay?" - just remember: I'm learning.

And you can learn about Cory Branan doing "Miss Ferguson"

What would you most like to see on my new website for unpublished writers?