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I have a handicap.

I’ve never really thought about it in those terms, but from a very technical sense it is true.  And, every once in a while my well-rehearsed ballet of habit which has been my means of dealing with it fails and I am reminded.

Now, before you get too fascinated or anything like that, it is nothing serious or even exciting.  I am simply deaf in one ear, hardly anything worth even acknowledging.  In fact, I have been in that particular state since my first week of life and thus don’t even know what I am missing.  The reasons for it are a long and boring story that many of the readers of this blog have probably heard many times (I come from a long line of story repeaters).

The reason I bring this up isn’t for sympathy.  I don’t see anything to feel sympathetic about.  It is more because of the adjustments that are normally automatic things.  It is amazing to me the way that we as humans can adjust our behavior to accommodate things like my deafness.  And, as I said, it is something that is normally an automatic thing for me that goes completely unnoticed.

It is small things.  Making a point of walking, sitting, and positioning myself in situations with as many people to my right as possible so that I can hear everyone and everything.  Choosing seats at concerts, plays, and the like in the center or left of the auditorium when I can.  Simple, right? 

But, every once in a while I get reminded.  Like this morning when I put on my earbud (I usually only wear one of the pair) to listen to some music while I worked, a nice privilege we are allowed in my workplace.  I was happily doing my reporting and answering e-mails as I listened when a song started that most people wouldn’t even notice the difference in.  But, for the average person the song having its music divided between the two sides of a pair of headphones is barely noticed, and certainly isn’t a problem.  For me, I lose half the music.

No biggie.  Just irritating.  Stereo headphones for me:  useless.

But for every irritation, like the headphones or not being able to switch ears during a long telephone conversation, I can also find advantage.  Noisy evening because of weather or other issues?  Put my good ear against the pillow and I get a return to blessed quiet.

The main reason I bring all of this up, is I urge everyone to not take their senses for granted.  As a kid, every ear infection in my good ear was a possible major crisis.  I had tubes in my ears more time than I can count.  Even today, any change in my good ear, especially if it impacts the level of my hearing, can cause me to panic a bit.  I also got a short, but somewhat disconcerting, look at blindness last year when a particularly nasty case of poison ivy swelled my face so badly it closed both my eyes. 

I personally find the thought f being cut off from the world like this to be a frightening concept.  So, please, take care of your sight.  Watch over your hearing.  Treasure all the ways that you experience the world around you.  And take nothing for granted.

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