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Sep 13, 2008

Changing Patterns

My efforts to continue to renovate my life continue onward. It's hard to NOT do the things that you usually do, without effort or without giving any thought to them. It's almost like you operate in an unconscious manner, without ever realizing that what you are doing. Sometime deep in the past, certain choices were made. Maybe they were made when tired, when down, or just because they were easy.

The problems begin when bad choices are made. Maybe they didn't seem bad in the moment, or maybe they are just choices that are only good in moderation. Repeated again and again, becoming part of our unconscious patterns of living life, they can become detrimental. We don't realize why our life is deteriorating, or why we're unhappy. We don't realize that we may be doing something to hurt ourselves.

When I began to work on renovating myself and my life some time ago, I really was doing superficial work in the beginning. I worked on changing how I ate and losing weight. Over time, as the emotional anesthesia that my food addictions had created lessened, I became more and more aware of changes I needed to make. No really huge steps, just small ones. Sometimes a small changes would occur, then as some more time passes and a new awareness dawns, a new change occurs.

Now, however, I find myself going deeper and deeper in making changes over the past few months. Believe it or not, the blogging has helped me, as I've explored ideas and written about them. I feel like a lot of changes have come just from that. My gratitude blog that I keep has also helped me to make changes in how I perceive my life, and helped me to be more positive. I'm at the point in my life now that I'm beginning to see some of my patterns and to understand that my "previously unconscious" behavior can and needs to change. To make changes, I have to make conscious decisions and act on them purposefully.

One such pattern was how I choose to use my free time, when I'm off work. Many of the patterns I've spent my life engaging in started from isolation, living alone, and most certainly from years before my cochlear implant, and before technology came along that allow me to be able to contact people anywhere anytime.

When I moved into my first apartment, living alone, 200 miles from home, I didn't know anyone. I was 18 years old. I couldn't use a phone, due to being profoundly deaf. This was back in 1976. There was no personal computer to send email, no instant messaging, no relay. There was me at 18, alone in an apartment, going to a technical school 3 hours a day, far away from home and anything I knew. Lots of time was left over when my homework was done. I couldn't call someone up and talk. I grew up on a farm in the country. I wouldn't have thought to go window shopping, or find ways to entertain myself. My only entertainment was reading and watching TV. Heck, there weren't even captions on the TV at that time, but such was my boredom, I'd spend hours doing it.

I can remember one particular afternoon watching out the window at an quite elderly woman walking slowly down the street. I remember thinking that I knew how isolated and alone she and other elderly people probably felt. I felt at the young age of 18 that I knew what kind of isolation the elderly probably felt. That's a sobering thought. No 18 year old should be living that kind of life. Many years of isolation continued to occur, even though I ended up having some years of roommates. There were more years alone. More years without the technology that makes the life I live today possible. What were my patterns? Sleeping until noon or later on weekends or during time off work. Sitting in front of the TV or reading. I read more before captions came along. After captions came along, I became very addicted to TV.

Thirty years down the road. How did I use my time when I was off work? Same patterns that developed at an age that I wasn't aware of different choices made back when I didn't have/perceive a lot of options, and in a strange city where I knew very few people. (I did have two sisters here, but they were busy with their lives, were far apart in age and we never really hung out.) So here I was, thirty years later, sleeping through much of the weekend. Eating a storm, addicted to TV, doing nothing else really. When I became a teacher, it got even worse. Over the course of the summer my schedule would evolve to where I slept all day when people were up and about, and was awake all night when no one was around.

I wasn't as isolated though. I knew people, I had a career, I had friends. I had lots! Technology entered my life. TTYs and relay entered my life about 20 years ago, but weren't too widely used. First I had a TTY, and could only talk to people who had one. At the time I bought my first TTY, my sister and my mother were the only people I could talk to, and they were long distance. One of my best friends who was also deaf, eventually got one, and that was nice. However, relay took another few years to come out, or for me to know about it. Even once it was there, it wasn't a habit to use a phone, so I often didn't.

Email pagers entered my life about 10 years ago, computers, and instant messaging entered my home around the same time. Also around that time, I got my first implant. I had/have a huge fear of the phone. I'm getting better and better at getting past that. It's funny that I can listen to tons of audio books, without even reading the book first, listen to the radio, and yet a phone scared/scares me. Eventually I got my second implant and life was even sweeter sound-wise. I'm expected to use the phone a bit in my current job, and my work let me pick out one that is compatible with my cochlear implant. Finally, I'm starting to talk to people on the phone and get past that fear.

Wholesale changes of technology and the possibilities with them would be going on in my life, but through unconscious living of patterns from the past, I'd still revert to patterns of old in the use of my free time by 1) sleeping and 2) watching TV. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to realize that I'm not living life. No wonder I once wanted to be dead by 50. I wasn't living, I was existing.

I've done a lot to change my patterns, just by living with people. Moving in with my niece and her family helped me to not sleep through the summer. This past summer, I did more with my time than I have during any summer since I first became a teacher 15 years ago. I had a great summer.

As readers of my blog may know, I work two jobs, thus I work 7 days a week. I rarely get a day off. However, through a quirk of how the post office works, temporary employees (non-career employees, which I'm not since my career is teaching), get fired periodically every 3 to 6 months. We're fired for 5 days then "hired back" if they like us. We call them our "5 day break". So wonder of wonders, I've got a 5 day break!

I decided that as part of my changing of my life, I was NOT going to spend my time off engaging in the typical patterns of the last 30 some years. I did sleep in about an hour or more than I am used to, but that is ALL! I'm proud to report that I LIVED today, and had a great time. I started off taking my great niece, 3 year old Dalia to the fair. It was enjoyable to spend bonding time with her at the fair. Soon after I took her to the home, I went out with 4 of my deaf cochlear implanted friends. We planned our trip for next March, when we are all going to Anaheim to "Cochlear Celebration". We had a great time chatting up a storm as well. After dinner we went to the mall shopping, window shopping and just hanging out! We stayed until the mall closed. I came home started typing my blog.

I'm grateful that I am starting to be able to see patterns in my life, to realize more and more the things I need to change, in order to grow and continue to renovate my life. I'm so grateful to enjoy living now and be excited about life and all the possibilities ahead. Today is a sweet victory for me I realized my pattern, made sure to find and choose other alternatives to govern my day. A day that at one time I would have spent in bed or in my recliner, was instead spent mostly on my feet and active. I feel such joy to succeed in my efforts to break a self-defeating pattern!
Here's my great niece at the fair today posing as a "carrot head"! See who I was lucky to spend my time with today!


cami said...

Wow Ann, that was great. I have never thought how being deaf could be so isolating...especially before technology. I can't say that I wouldn't have done the same thing. You are pretty amazing, I have noticed that the older I get, the more dificult it is to change...I get stuck in my ways.

Ann said...

I''ve noticed that before too as I've gotten older. It also becomes harder to change our ways, and to even realize we're "stuck in a rut" and need to get out of it. Plus, old habits do die hard!

Ang said...

I agree with Cam, That was truly amazing. I do enjoy getting inside your thoughts, and loosing myself to how you must have felt. What a picture. I too was very surprised to hear how isolating it was being deaf. You have come SO far!! I am so proud to be your niece. You are pretty amazing!

Ann said...

Ahhh, thanks for the positive thoughts and kind words. It means a lot to me. From my perspective, I feel like I have some of the world's best nieces, I get to share life with two of them via blogs, and life with another one and her family. Nieces are VIPs in my life!

Ang said...

Thanks, You are VIP in my life as well!!