Wednesday, October 11, 2017


In my book, Promise Me Light, the characters talk about fate quite a bit. It was fate that brought Cash and Cat together. It was fate that reunited them in the middle of the war. I believe in it whole heartedly, sometimes spelling fate with a capital F because I picture it as a powerful, Roman god-like woman wielding power over us mere mortals. I’m a sucker for looking for the signs. I believe they’re out there; we only have to pay attention. The universe is trying to tell us something.
But it had to yell for me to hear it.
When I was younger, I lost quite a bit of my hearing. I became trapped in my own muffled world, closed off to the outside. I struggled to hear even the tiniest bit of sound or conversation and when I did, it sounded like it came through a long tunnel. My life was muted. I was a viewer looking in.
Because of my lack of hearing, my speech suffered. Words were suddenly difficult for me to say. Because of that, I became very quiet. I remember going a week (sometimes more) only saying a few words to others outside my family. I couldn’t hear myself or anyone else speak clearly and I struggled to say the simplest words so why should I talk? It seemed logical to me.
By that time in my life, books were already a constant. Little House on the Prairie, Little Women, and Alice in Wonderland – they were some of my favorites. In those pages, I escaped. I lived. I became a part of a world where there was no speech impairment, no lack of hearing. As I read, my imagination went wild, picturing myself living in the harsh conditions of the American plains or following a rabbit down a hole for a crazy adventure. I ran through fields with Laura Ingalls. I sat around a fire with cowboys and listened to their tall tales. I couldn’t get enough. Many, many other books followed, year after year, each leaving an impression on my life that I would never forget.
It wasn’t only impressions and comfort the books left behind. They also give me friendships. For a little girl who could not hear and rarely spoke, making friends didn’t come easily. But reading did. Books became everything to me. They were my friends, filling the quiet that filled my ears. They were my family, accepting me despite my hearing loss. They were my escape from a frustrating reality. The sounds of the real world might have been lost (or when I could hear, overwhelming) but inside the pages of a book, I was normal.
Simple words on simple pieces of paper did that for me.
Books gave me the power to imagine. The power to believe in something more than me. Because I couldn’t hear, when I read my imagination took flight. How else do you spend time when everything else is silent? I pictured cities and characters. I saw adventures and dangers. I heard conversations and saw interactions in my head that I could never have in real life. Simply put, I read what I couldn’t hear.
Losing my hearing gave me something. Something I still depend on to this day. It gave me the ability to be quiet. To watch. To observe. To see things others may not see. I learned a lot about people and their characteristics. (It’s amazing how much you learn about someone just by watching them, not talking.) I learned to be okay with the stillness. You wouldn’t believe what that has done for me.
It gave me a love of books. A desire to read as much and as often as possible. It gave me a different perspective on the world, a viewpoint some may never see. It helped me develop my imagination. Without it, I may not have dreamed up make-believe worlds to keep me entertained or written my first novel as a teenager as a way to escape. I may not have written Promise Me Darkness or imagined any other characters. I may not have an inventory of stories in my head if something had not been taken from me.
Over time, most of my hearing returned but I remain the same. I still find myself observing rather than being in the middle of conversations. I still like getting lost in books and finding friendships in them.
I think back on that girl, who was silent and alone. If I could tell her anything, I would tell her it would be okay. Fate had plans. I might lose my hearing but I would gain so much more.