The Cone of Silence

You might remember Maxwell Smart and the Cone of Silence.  Whenever Max and the Chief had to talk about something top secret, the Cone of Silence would descend over them.  For some unnerving periods over the last few months, I’ve felt like I’m in the Cone of Silence, except I’ve been in it by myself.

I’ve had some kind of ear infection, which among other things created a lot of debris that stuck in my ears, despite various attempts by various doctors to unstick it.  I had to wait to see a specialist who prescribed an unpleasant softening up process before another clean-up attempt.

That process, in the meantime, made the symptoms worse.  Eventually I ended up with about 10% of my normal hearing.  Now that was an interesting time.  I was eventually rescued by a fortuitous intervention from a very senior medico, who was adept enough to stick a vacuum cleaner thing in my ears and suck all the crap out.

I have to say that I am mildly ashamed of the way in which I handled the whole thing, for someone who reckons he can respond with a reasonable degree of equanimity.

Here’s what I noticed:

  • I really wanted to find someone to blame.  The GP who didn’t have a magic wand; the specialist who had his whole day allotted in a series of 10 minute appointments and barely spent that with me – anyone to blame would do.
  • There were various degrees of frustration all around.  Along with the hearing, I lost the ability to modulate my voice volume, and ended up speaking softly. Result  – I couldn’t hear other people and they couldn’t hear me.
  • I missed a whole range of auditory cues whose importance I had never realised:  the sizzle in a frying pan signifying it was ready to cook; the little bubbly squelch of a contact lens in my eye saying it had seated properly; the fact that the car had actually started and I could release the key.

In short, I was welcomed into the world of living with a disability.

But while there were downsides, I found some positives out of it:

  • First-hand lessons in empathy can be powerful learning mechanisms  – I get disability from a whole different perspective now, which I hope I can apply frequently.
  • I had to take a reasonable degree of personal responsibility for the frustration which my limited ability to communicate caused others.
  • If I let go a bit, there was a really peaceful place inside the Cone, for reflection and contemplation.
  • Patience is always a useful attribute, but particularly so when the best results for any problem will inevitably take time.  Submit to the process; smile; do what the professionals tell you; don’t waste time and emotional energy second-guessing.

If I should end up in similar circumstances again, I hope I’ll be able to face it a bit more constructively, and remember that this, too, can serve awakening.

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