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I used to hide in the corner because I was shy and awkward. I wanted to be a wallflower.

Years ago I got over that and became very gregarious. 

Now, because of my voice, I’m forced into awkwardness again. 

My improv troupe opened for an amazing Houston sketch duo on Saturday night. We had a great show. I was feeling great. The other troupe knocked it out of the park as well, which is tough for sketch to do.

After the show everyone was so excited about how well everything went. Audience members and friends were all talking about it together. Then I was brought back down to earth when my friend reminded me of the one thing that has made my life so frustrating the past 5 months: I shouldn’t be talking. 

Determined to have fun and be involved, I grabbed my whiteboard like a shield and chisel-tip dry-erase Expo as a sword and went to town.

I spent the rest of that night dividing my friends into two categories: people who will listen to me even though I’m not speaking, and people who ain’t got time fa dat shit.

Our show started at 9. By 10:30 I was on a high. When 12:30 rolled around, I was begging my date to leave. Of course, I was doing it with body language and poutiness, not actually saying anything.

Why? Because part of me still wanted to have fun. Part of me wanted to show that I could do it all. I could be a verbal dynamo onstage and a silent social butterfly offstage. 

And I can. I can do both any time I want. I’m getting fucking fantastic at it. So many people couldn’t run the social obstacle course that I make my bitch every time I interact with someone new. 

However, even though I can, sometimes I don’t. Sometimes I get sad. Sometimes the condescending comments, and worse, the total and utter ignoring of the fact that I’m a human in their presence, really get to me. And I break a little. And I find a corner or some space outside a few feet out of view from everyone and I just sit, and think, and try not to feel too sorry for myself. 

This weekend was especially rough because I was more social than I’ve been in some time, and I saw more people who don’t know what’s happening with me than ever. Lately I’ve been very good about surrounding myself with those who understand what I’m going through and hugging them like security blankets. Sometimes that might be unfair to them, but they seem to understand that it’s temporary and it really, really helps me find the comfort level I need to be social right now.

The night before the show, I was pantomiming with one of my good friends and she was doing really well at figuring out what I was saying. Our other friend, whom I hadn’t seen in over a month, said one of the dumbest things I’ve heard so far with regards to this condition. He said, “I’m so glad this is happening right now!”

My nonverbal training kicked in and my anger manifested in the display of one strong middle finger in the air aimed directly at him. He didn’t get it, trying to explain, “I don’t mean it as an insult to you. I just think it’s cool how she understands you.”

I get what he was aiming at. But it’s like telling someone who can’t see that you’re so glad you get to watch them read braille.

I would never be glad that any of this shit was happening. I have learned so, so much in a few short months. It is humbling and painful and beautiful. But if I could choose to not have gone through this, or not have to question whether this is a life sentence you bet your bananas that’s the choice I’d make!

How insensitive can you be?!

After that happened I had to go. There was no maintaining positivity at that point. 

On my way back to the car, my attitude changed. A stranger approached me and asked me where Big Top was. I gave him directions without saying a word. I so proud of myself in that moment.

Who else can do that? So many people would fall back on their disability. I almost did, but I’m really glad I didn’t. That simple moment showed me that I am strong, and I can communicate well, even without words.

Don’t get me wrong, I want my words back. But it’s good to know that if I have to, I can live without them.

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