On Sunday the great golfer Arnold Palmer passed away and 24 year old Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez died in a boating accident. I can’t begin to explain the senseless tragedies going on in the world today from shootings and terrorism to natural disasters and deaths. But what I can tell you is that we need to remember life is fragile.
Sometimes the bad things in life serve to open our eyes to the good things that we weren’t paying attention to before. We need to remember it’s not about what we don’t have or can’t do, it’s about what we do have and can do. Circumstances don’t define you. You define you. Some days we learn more from our children than we teach. Today is one of those days. I’m sharing a short essay my daughter wrote and some of my own commentary on how it relates to you follows.
When I was born, I did not pass the newborn hearing screen. I was diagnosed with a mild hearing loss in my left ear. My parents new something was wrong when I asked them to turn the lights on so I could hear them. There was no explanation for what had caused it. I wasn’t sick, I didn’t have meningitis and none of the genetic tests could explain it. When I was three, after I lost more hearing and it was now in both ears, I went to Boston to get an MRI and a blood test. No doctor could diagnose it.
I was given my first pair of hearing aids when I was three years old. As soon as I got home I ran around the house touching everything that could possibly make noise except for my tea pot that sang “I’m a Little Teapot” (I touched that 17 times). My hearing was pretty much stable until fourth grade when it dropped ten decibels. That was the year I switched hearing aid brands from Phonak to Oticon because Oticon was better for me. My days were long that year. I had lots of fatigue and I had to work really hard to listen.
This year my hearing dropped from moderate to moderate–severe. I had my hearing aids adjusted this summer and everything sounded louder and clearer.
My hearing is a main problem in my life, but I don’t let it define me or change what I do. My after-school activities consist of lacrosse, swimming and horseback riding. I still draw, play with my dog and text friends just like every other kid. Sometimes I feel really tired and that my hearing effects what I do. But even if it defines what I do, I don’t let it define me.
-by Meredith Brubaker
When she was first diagnosed I worried, wondering how she was going to be successful in life. Almost mourning the loss of her hearing and then something opened my eyes.
When Meredith was just a toddler, and was sitting in her high chair after dinner I took a wash cloth and cleaned off her face and the tray attached to the chair. As I walked away, she started saying daddy and pointing at the tray. I thought she was just being silly but then she became more adamant about me coming back with the wash cloth and pointed down at the tray attached to her high chair. I didn’t understand what she wanted, the tray was clean. Did she want to play with the wash cloth? She kept pointing down at a spot on the tray. I didn’t see it until she picked it up with her finger and showed it to me herself.
Apparently I missed a grain of salt that was sitting on her high chair tray and she noticed. One grain. Singular. A single tiny grain of white salt sitting on a white tray. I could’ve stared at that tray all day and not seen that, but she noticed it right away.
That was the day I stopped worrying about her future. Because it struck me, her adversity is actually her advantage. When you lose one of your five senses the others are heightened. Her acute attention to detail and vision will serve her incredibly well in life. Looking back over the past 12 years, it certainly has. She doesn’t miss a thing and it’s because she realizes she doesn’t let her hearing loss define her. She knows life is not about what we don’t have, it’s about what we do have. She has resilience, perspective and an amazing eye for detail as a result of her hearing loss.
We live in a world which at every turn tells us we aren’t enough. The media, politicians, sales people and commercials all try to convince us we are inferior or insufficient as we are and that we need more of whatever they’re selling. Brands are in the business of creating self-doubt and playing on your insecurities. They try to convince you that you need their product or service to look, feel, sleep and perform better. Ignore them, its nothing but false need artfully constructed by the media. Your success is not about what you don’t have. Your success is intimately tied to what you already possess. You define you.
1. Your adversity, whatever it is, is actually your advantage. Because everything you need to be successful is already inside you.
2. Know that you’re not alone. Everyone is fighting some kind of adversity you may or may not see. My daughter’s is what I call an invisible disability, meaning her hair covers her hearing aids and unless you know her you can’t outwardly see she is “different”.
Enjoy today, hold your kids a little tighter and tell people you love them because tomorrow isn’t promised to anyone.