Faith, by Andria Alefhi

Disability is like a rerouted flight to a different country. You packed your bags to go to Holland, but your plane went to Italy instead. It’s not a bad vacation, Italy is great but just not what you expected when you chose a vacation. The food is different, the people are different, the language is different. After a while, you are used to Italy and a time comes when you forgot that you had wanted to go to Holland in the first place.

Disability becomes a part of your life and you have to become a new person inside of the old person. 

When someone asks if I wish I were not disabled, this devalues who I currently am. Is there something wrong with not being fully able like the rest of society? It is the wishing for something that you do not have that causes the misfit. the pity and reactions of others cause the most harm, not the loss or the adaptations I must make.

These are comments by people with disabilities I had heard and read about when it was still something that happened to other people, when I could nod my head from a polite distance. Before it happened to me. Now these are statements that personally give me hope and faith.

Disability is a journey and I think that is a clear and neutral way to put it. I have now had hearing impairment for so long that I can’t remember a time that I didn’t. And while this was happening, in real time over the past months and years, like any loss, there is that transition that happens so slowly, at walking speed, at a daily speed. And like most loses, there is no guide, to how you should feel or react or explain yourself to others. No guide for how to go from having normal hearing to not, how to go from feeling embarrassed and sad to being done with feeling embarrassed and sad and realizing that the problem is not yours alone to have to conquer. This took years and years. Partly because I lost hearing over time, not all at once, and as it worsened I had little choice but to come out with it and partly because I learned through my yoga practice that faith is self-care. Self-care is managing your own pain and celebrating your growth while embracing the limitations as they are. It is what it is. 

For example, hearing-impairment is something that affects me daily, when I am in the checkout line at CVS and I can’t understand the cashier. I have learned that if I ask what and the person doesn’t adjust by speaking louder or more clearly, I can just follow the check-out screen and watch for when to put in my credit card. If I really want to have a conversation with someone for more than a few sentences, then I need to move us to somewhere quiet, and, I need to reduce the distance between us. I can do that sometimes without fanfare. Sometimes I need to verbally announce, I can’t hear actually, let’s move. I have learned that I have to be the one to take control, to work out strategies, because no one else is doing to do it for me. Only good friends, who have been with me repeatedly, finally get it and can help make hearing situations better without my asking, which I greatly appreciate.

No one wants to manage their pain because we don’t live in a society that freely permits us to vocalize and share our pain. Disability is still a taboo subject because it challenges our ideas of perfection and ability. Being hearing impaired is a pain in the ass but I have come to understand that I can manage it by communicating my needs, by making good choices, by laughing when I miss something, by setting a leadership example and empowering others to not self-isolate. And these are things that we are all already doing in a quest for a well-lived life anyhow. And disability of one kind of another will happen to everyone during the journey. That is why we need the faith in ourselves because there is beauty in the balance.