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Wednesday, August 8, 2012

How Being Deaf made me MORE.

I recently went for some training. It was a Visual Certification Course which means I can now teach Yoga to deaf or hard of hearing people. There are of course people who are already teaching it and I applaud their efforts. I wish I had that kind of mastery over sign language in order to go full fledged into it. In order to simulate a class full of deaf students, we had to turn our voices 'off'. I did not expect to learn any more than I already knew about myself by turning my voice off. 

I am fairly open about my feelings but I consider myself very tactful. I don't get offended easily and most often you would probably not know if you hurt my feelings. To my fellow yogis and friends I seem very calm, put together and sure of myself. I know I wear a mask when I'm outside. People don't see the mood swings and the binge eating, but essentially I am a nice person. I knew who I was, yoga, rice, sleep, animals, tiramisu, spicy food, yeah,  I knew who i was.

And then I went for this training and I heard a 'clink'. You know how before a storm hits, the glasses start to clink, lights buzz and then the storm hits. I heard that clink when I arrived at that ashram. I felt that clink inside. Something wasn't right. I loved my instructor, I loved my fellow yogis, but I had an unsettled feeling.

The one thing I am told over and over at the end of a yoga class is how they love my voice. How I should tape it and sell it. My response is always the same, 'I wish my husband felt that way, haha' But I never realized how much of my own communication was through my voice. How the inflections in my tone would playfully tease someone, show my insecurities, my indignation or hide my anger. And then I go to this course and my voice had to be turned OFF. Now people were looking at me, looking into me and I felt so exposed. I felt so lost. All I had was my voice and that was taken away from me. I had no idea how to 'talk'. Even if I sign how do I show my 'tone'. I would have to make exaggerated facial expressions for emphasis but I didn't want them looking at me. Deaf people are of course pros at this. They are comfortable with facial expressions, they are comfortable with touching people, because your touch will tell them how strongly you feel about what you trying to say since they wont be able to hear the passion in your voice.  I know logically I am a good teacher, but how good could I be now?

Have you ever wondered what it is like for deaf people?  How do they ever get through school, the way a deaf person and a hearing person functions is completely diff. Take communication. We are taught 'Jack and Jill went up the hill', in ASL, that would be 'J-a-c-k, J-i-l-l, together - they - go up - hill - they' How does a deaf 5 year old learn English they way we speak it and then learn it the way they speak it? And if learning basic sentence structure seems hard, how do they grasp more complex subjects, algebra, newton's laws, and french? And remember all this is done mostly without interpreters, so imagine you are in a sound proof box, there is a teacher at a board outside this box. This teacher is scribbling on the board and you have no clue what they are saying, they are writing french or calculus, they have their back turned away from you so you can't lip read, how can you be expected to excel in this course? We just expect them to join us and figure it out, how hard can it be? It is no different if you go to a Russian school and they are discussing everything in Russian, how would you get through a class like that? It's mind boggling to me, it truly is. I heard of one lady who wanted to become a yoga teacher and her local studio would not hire an interpreter. They did not realize she was even deaf because she lip read so well. This poor lady had to sit in a class for a whole year studying yoga concepts, all through lip reading. How much do you think she learned and will she be able to be the best teacher she can be? The system makes no sense which is why I want to start teaching Visual Yoga.
And then we had to do an exercise, we had to sit as a teacher and communicate directly with each student. We had to look into their eyes and communicate one emotion, any emotion. I thanked my stars that there were only 2 other people in the course. But the exercise completely shook me. I liked these people, I knew I was a good teacher but I was scared to look into their eyes. I didn't know what they would see in my eyes and even as I write this, my breathing has quickened, my fingers are shaking and I am having to calm myself down. I got through it but the whole day I was upset. I felt exposed and vulnerable and so confused. What was the big deal? Do some sign language and teach yoga, simple right? 

But it was so so hard. I thought I had it all figured out, had my life, my love, my yoga, my peace and my place in the world figured out. And yet I wanted to hide, I kept looking away, scared that they would see something and what scared me was I didn't know what I was ashamed of. And then a thought came into my mind. I am scared to say it, and I am not too concerned about what people might think, but I am petrified of what my family will think. So why am I even putting it out there? out here, where I know my brother is one of my 5 followers. I don't understand it and maybe putting it out there is my way of hoping to make some sense of it.
 I don't know where the thought came from, why I thought it, but for a second, I wished that if I have a child, I want my child to be deaf. Why would I want to deprive my child of something, and I know a Deaf person will be offended, will say, 'Being Deaf is not Being 'Less', I know, I know what you will all say but I cannot help the thought. I have replayed the moment I thought it in my head a million times, why did I think it? am I cruel for thinking it? does it mean I will be a bad mother? how can I wish for something so difficult for my child?

I am still trying to understand it. A part of me feels putting it out here on the web is a stupid idea, but the thought consumes me and I don't know what to do with it. I have no sense of peace and I am not sure of my wants and desires anymore. I never was sure what drew me to learn ASL, I know for sure that I am meant to cross paths with someone with whom I will share something special. If this person will be a fellow yogi, a deaf pet, a senior, or if this person will be my child, my child who I have never met but who I  know I love so much more than I ever loved myself, only God knows.

Update: I wrote this piece in April and could not bring myself to post it because I was still trying to understand it. I have come to the conclusion that I will of course love my child no matter how he or she is born, deaf or hearing, yellow or blue, but if I am able to teach my baby sign language from the start, my child can still grow up knowing what the deaf world is like, know how great tactile communication can be, feel free to look into someones eyes and have no shame or guilt to hide behind.  hopefully my baby will pick up the best of both worlds.


  1. I am just amazed. You brought up a lot of things that I just didn't know - for example, how difference the sentence structure is and how confusing (to those who can hear) a simple rhyming sentence can be.

    1. I know! I had no idea it was like that until I took ASL classes. It really is like learning a different language and its a completely different world. If you are curious about watching this happen in action, look for local Deaf events in your area. They are so welcoming and its an amazing experience.
      Thank you for visiting :)

  2. If I may, I think perhaps you wished to have a deaf child, because you had a moment of realization about deaf people. In my own experience, I noticed something ironic: Deaf people are the best listeners in the world. They have to, by necessity, strive to be the best at reading people, at paying attention, and being interested in the meaning and message of what people say. Most people, I think, never learn the true value of this. And furthermore, deaf people have to publish their feelings on the outside, in ways that modern cultures nowadays would deem impolite or inappropriate for most "normal" people. They need to do this just to be able to communicate to us. I watched a teacher in primary school send a child to special-ed classes because she couldn't handle having a deaf person with a special assistant in the room. It's such a shame. This child tried so hard to reach out to her, already did more than half the work, all the teacher needed to do was get over herself and make even the tiniest bit of effort in return, and they would have made some progress for this child. But she just couldn't do that. I never saw that kid in my classes again, after she was removed from "normal" classes.
    I think, when you wished for your someday-child to be deaf, you weren't REALLY wishing for them to be deaf, per se. I think you were wishing for them to be good listeners. To be enthusiastic learners. To be open and vulnerable about their true emotions to the world, and learning the strength to be comfortable and unafraid in this. I think you were wishing for them to honest in a way most people do not know how to be honest. And above all, I think you were wishing for them to be touched by God in their hearts.

    1. I suppose in the end, we are all singing the same song. ❤️