So here's what happened.
A week ago last Thursday night, I ended a Q&A call (for Hip Sobriety School) and immediately noticed a ringing in my right ear. I ignored it, watched Black-ish, and during the show credits twenty minutes later, realized that I couldn't hear very well. I am not a WebMD kind of woman, but it was an odd thing to happen; the internet confirmed it was indeed an odd thing, but also common. Apparently, people all over the world lose half their hearing in the blink of an eye on the regular.
By Friday morning it was worse (but not terrible!), and an audio test and check up revealed something called SSHL, which is basically spontaneous hearing loss. I could still hear words in my right ear and I thought I was adjusted to this new life by Saturday. It was annoying and tragic but also, it could have been worse. I was impressed by my equanimity and quick adjustment and patted myself on the back for being so fucking level headed and ready for the chaos that is life.
On Monday, the ringing intensified and on Tuesday morning I realized I could not hear words at all; and on Tuesday afternoon a new hearing test confirmed that I was now deaf in my right ear (if you speak to me at the level of a jet engine plane taking off, I will hear 20% of your words). The possibilities are cut into perfect thirds: There is a one-third chance the hearing will never return; a one-third chance it will come back a little; a one-third chance it will return to exactly how it was. On Tuesday night I joined one last work call and took a few days off to rest. It’s now almost a week later, and nothing has changed in terms of my hearing (as in: I still can't), but everything else has changed, and that's what I want to talk about.
The first thing I want to do is: apologize all over this post, tell you that I'm not a complainer, that I'm afraid I'm going to wear out my welcome of talking about deafness and hearing loss, that I feel embarrassed for thinking about it or letting it affect me the way it has. Reacting, at all, feels like I’m betraying some wiser part of me that should be kicking in. Also: I don’t apologize for any of this.
The second thing I want to do is: to tell you about how much I wish I could go back to that moment in my apartment on January 2nd, 2013, when I (once again, for the thousandth time) pulled myself out of my hangover and mess and crevasse of depression, and cleaned myself up, and walked myself to yoga, and then to a massage, and into a different life.
I wish, and often, that I could witness what it took in that moment to start again from there, to put one foot in front of the other. I wish I could go back to her that night and see where she started, so I could drink it in and remember it and commit it to memory and sear it all into my flesh exactly as it happened. I want to pack up everything in that moment and vacuum seal it; suspend it all in time, and have it forever. Because the thing about pain, and the worst moments of your life, is that you don't want to be there, so sometimes you really aren’t. And the thing about time is that it erases even what little you grabbed of those moments, so I am left to construct what that all felt like from some distant land with different meanings retro-fitted all over it. I guess what I'm saying is I wish I had that moment in a bottle, if anything, so I could appreciate it; so I could know it fully. Because I don't. It’s a blink; a rip; a minute; a guess.
The thing that's been most remarkable about this last week is that, if we're being real, I've been preparing for something like this since that day six years ago. Training to lean into my discomfort, to allow patience and faith; to measure not in results but in resilience and to live not in fear but in faith. The last five years, I've been writing about this process of just being where we are and allowing ourselves to be where we are and—ffs—how to trust the evolution of our lives. I built a platform and a business on this mad idea of allowing—even welcoming chaos and unfortunate things—and burning down all that we think defines us and a normal, good life, in order to find what's true. As part of the school I've run, for the last four years I've sent over eight hundred daily emails encouraging people facing the thing they think they cannot face, cannot endure, cannot overcome, that they, in fact, can.
Here are the facts.
I don't want to be here. I don't want this. I hate this. It feels like my life broke and that it broke too fast and at the most spectacularly inconvenient time; while Hip Sobriety grows, while my book looms due, while my exhausted, cranky spirit is wondering when it just fucking stops if even for a minute. I'm questioning everything; I can't remember the purpose of purpose or why I care about certain things; complaining about singleness or celibacy seems like a distant luxury afforded to some silly ghost of a person that was here just a week ago. I can’t stop reading Pema Chodron and the endless frequency of shriek that now fills the space where words used to go has become a training ground for concentration and mindfulness. I am doing nothing, and I am doing all the things.
Last night, on a ride home with a friend, I told her I couldn't imagine ever being happy again, though I know that’s not true. But there is the one life I wasn't ready to give up; there is a new one I hadn't planned for; and here I am, treading back and forth between the shores of both, answering emails and making coffee and negotiating the subtitle of my book while trying to—as casually as possible—convey an air of unalarmed stoicism. Nothing to see here folks.
Here I sit watching something fall away, and here I sit watching what rises, and here I sit with patience and impatience, wonder, awe, fury, and confusion. Here I sit with as much detachment as I can muster, while simultaneously scheming how to fix it. I want the lessons and I want to grow and I want to be tested and stretched and made in the fire and also, I don't want any of that at all; I want comfort and certainty. I want 2015: gelato and a hot cobblestone street and my thirty-six-year-old pair of tanned calves with a pair of matching, working ears. I want it to be the part of my life where I am not thinking, What will it be like now with this part of me gone?
Here I am recording it all. I want to know, the same way I've wanted to know since I got sober: Can I lose something, and then lose more, and then lose more, and still become more? I think yes. In fact, I know yes. I also know: this is the point of it all.
When we talk of the beginning of recovery, we are talking, often, of very dark times. We confront something we don't want to have, don't want to deal with, that we are certain will consume us and end us. We start from the ground, always, even if we didn't yet fall to it or through it. We don't know anything, we just know this isn't working, that something has to change.
So we start, and we put one foot down in a different direction; and oh, my God, how it hurts to start. We want to be anywhere but where we are; thick in depression, soaked in shame, almost entirely unable to stand in the space we occupy simply because it physically aches to exist; that day in January 2013, my skin actually hurt. At the beginning of recovery, I wanted to be so far past those parts of pain, to the sweet part where it was all behind me, where I'd maybe finally be good. I wanted so badly to not be so broken, or hollow, or terrified. So I held my breath, and I sprinted.
These are interesting times. If I've longed to return and observe who I was, and how I was, and truly be present in those first moments of waking up, if only just to truly grasp how big it all is—the pain and the emptiness and the hope and the unknown and the entire depth of me—then I've gotten my wish. My practice right now is to stay, to explore, to live into it instead of holding my breath and sprinting past it all to some firmer ground with better answers. This time I want to remember.