An Rx for Hope

She was smiling when she entered the soundproof booth. “You were right; your hearing is better. But when I reviewed your diagnosis before you came in, I expected to give you bad news. Tell me what you did.”

I’ve fielded that question many times since. My short answer is, “Everything. And then some.”

It was late in the spring of 2021 when I suddenly lost hearing in my right ear. Standing in my kitchen, chatting with a friend, my ear died, as I described it at the time. I assumed it was simply clogged and would clear up. But it didn’t. I casually mentioned it to a friend who told me she knew someone else it happened to and urged me to seek medical attention immediately or the damage would be permanent. Susan texted me, emailed me, and left voicemails. I told her to stop; I was nervous enough without her harping.

An intuitive friend told me my hearing loss was caused by unresolved grief. My 12-year-old golden retriever had died a few months before, compounding my sense of COVID isolation. I wanted to believe she was right: If I just cried more, releasing the trauma of loss, I’d heal.

So, I cried more – over my dog and my ear – but my disability remained. Thanks to Susan’s persistence, I called seven different ENT offices explaining that I believed I had sudden sensorineural hearing loss (SSHL) and must see a specialist immediately. One-by-one, they offered appointments weeks and months off. I begged; they couldn’t get me in sooner. Until one offered an appointment within the week. The right one, I’d soon realize.

By my appointment date, I was a wreck. I couldn’t follow conversations in public places; TV and radio sounded fuzzy. I couldn’t distinguish where sounds were coming from or what they were. My dad had been a teacher of the deaf, and I feared that would be my fate by some cruel coincidence. My online research indicated that my age, hypertension, and delay in getting treatment could all work against a full recovery. Plus, I suddenly knew of three other people who never regained their hearing after a similar episode.

The doctor examined me, then sent me down the hall to an audiologist who confirmed the diagnosis of SSHL (or sudden deafness) caused by damage to the inner ear or the auditory nerve. This mysterious syndrome is not new, but only 10% of cases have an identifiable cause (hence idiopathic). Over 200,000 cases are diagnosed each year in the United States, most common among those 40-60 years of age.

Her report concluded I was a candidate for a hearing aid.

My heart raced as the doctor prescribed low-dose short-term steroids to reduce inflammation – because both the cause and the treatment are speculative. I told him I’d read that as high as 50% of reported cases never fully recover, and he calmly assured me I could regain my hearing; it was definitely possible, he said. While acknowledging the importance of early treatment, he told me about a man who’d waited a year to seek medical attention and still regained some hearing. This busy specialist sat in a chair and talked with me until I ran out of questions and concerns. He told me his colleagues call him “the nervous-patient whisperer”.

What he gave me was a prescription for hope.

Afterward, I thanked Susan for being relentless and told her how reassuring the doctor had been. She repeatedly interjected, “That’s not what Dottie’s doctor told her.” I told her I couldn’t afford to have words of doubt and fear seep into my ear canals. I turned inward, reflecting on what my other friend had said about grief and knew there was some truth to that as well. I committed to a regimen of Western and Eastern healing modalities to restore my hearing.

In addition to the steroids, I enlisted Reiki, craniosacral therapy, holistic chiropractic, essential oils, acupressure, herbal and vitamin supplements, journaling, affirmations, and visioning. I prayed and donned a holy medal. I openly grieved the passing of my dog, even crying in stores if a trigger presented. But the greatest tools I had in my arsenal were hope and gratitude. Hope, first generously bestowed by my ENT doctor, was amplified by my healing circle who offered their encouragement, wisdom, and skills. And new-found gratitude for every sound that was slowly returning; chirping birds filled me with such joy.

Four months later, the audiologist confirmed that my hearing had been restored in all but the high-pitched 8th kHz, which has also improved since. I told her and my doctor how I’d supplemented the prednisone; neither dismissed their possible effect. Friends more scientifically-inclined than I suggest I should have introduced one treatment at a time so I’d know what worked. But why not use every available resource according to what we are intuitively guided to do? They all kept my hope alive – the most powerful of all healers.

# # #

Patricia A. Nugent

January 2023

Follow this blog at http://www.journalartsspress.com.

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Let the Light In…

As published by the Albany Times-Union.

Click the link below. And…share your epiphanies with others.

https://www.timesunion.com/faith/article/Words-have-power-to-help-let-the-light-in-17718470.php

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Dog Feet

We wake to the first snowstorm of the season. Pristine, white, and sparkly, a soft blanket covering my yard.

“Damn! The forecast was right,” I mutter. “And I gotta take this dog out.”

Grumbling, I drag out all my snow gear – hat, hooded scarf, ski jacket (making sure there are treats in the pocket), and tall boots. I put them on, one by one, as Dolly waits patiently, ears primed to hear the words, “Okay. Let’s go, little girl.”

I pull on my mittens and open the door. And then…dog feet. Dog feet go running out of my house, the proverbial dashing through the snow. Leaving dog prints, pounding down the white coverlet.

Dog feet. Everywhere. Running, leaping, playing. Dog feet excited by the opportunity snow offers. It’s crunchy, it hides toys, it gets between toes. Best yet, it’s edible – like everything else!

Her first winter, I begrudged Dolly destroying the smooth glistening appearance of my marshmallow-coated yard. I wasn’t ready for everything a dog can do in the snow. To the snow. But now, I chuckle and join in. Dog feet aren’t the only ones trampling it; I’ve learned that play makes snow better. How else to deal with harsh, unforgiving winters in the Northeast?

Dolly remembers why I took her outside, and then prances and twirls all over again. She looks to me to play, so I throw a tennis ball for which she’ll dig to China if I don’t intervene.

I wouldn’t have gone outside in this fresh snowfall were it not for her. My lungs wouldn’t have filled with fresh cold air. I wouldn’t have witnessed the tall pines with delicate snow-kissed branches. I wouldn’t have playfully chased a ball in my makeshift snowsuit, reminiscent of much younger days. I wouldn’t have laughed with pure delight at my exuberant fur-faced companion. When I tell her it’s time to go in, she reluctantly heads toward the door, ball in her mouth for safe-keeping. I’m grateful to have a dog to force me to experience all four seasons in their rawest moments. She and nature continue to teach me the ways of the world.

Excerpt from Healing with Dolly Lama: Finding God in Dog

© Patricia A. Nugent

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Wouldn’t You Like to Know?

A story about my Grandma Nucchi, as published today in this literary journal.

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My Bipolar Father had a Gun

Recently published on Vox Populi, this story provides a human face to reports of school shootings….and the emotional trauma inflicted by proximity to weapons.

Click below to read:

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That Does It!

First published in Story News, October 2019, I repost my essay here to let Trump supporters know I understand what it feels like to be betrayed by a leader you trust and want to believe in. But we must recognize when they cross the line, violating our own moral compass. When to say, “That does it!”

Sitting on the couch, my nerves splayed, I said a silent prayer that his televised announcement would allow him to clear his name once and for all. I was half-convinced I could will it to be so.

Tell them, Bill. Tell them this is simply not true.

After watching his confession, I turned off the television in silence. I robotically descended the basement stairs, emerged with a putty knife, and went outside.  

Tears streaming down my face on that hot August night, I began to scrape two bumper stickers off my car – stickers that had been there for five years. Ever since Bill Clinton’s first campaign for president in 1993.

My husband knew I was hurting and, after giving me some time alone, followed me out to the driveway.

“Are you angry that he lied to the nation?” he quietly asked.

I hesitated, confused by my shattered illusions.

“No, I’m hurt. Bill apparently has slept with everyone but me!” I retorted, trying to make light of my despair. “That does it!”

But…in truth, I was mad that he’d lied. To me. It felt personal. It was personal.

That night, the truth robbed me of my faultless president. And made me feel like a fool for defending him against all comers, of which there were many. Friends and foes alike queued up to remind me what a sap I’d been, how my blind devotion to a charismatic leader had prevented me from seeing what had apparently been quite obvious to others: He wasn’t worthy of my trust. But I hadn’t believed any of the stories about him until I heard it from his own feckless mouth.

Instead of firing back in Bill’s defense as I’d always done, I had to take their ridicule on the chin. Worse yet, I had to break up with my president.

* * *

William Jefferson Clinton was to me what John Fitzgerald Kennedy was to my mother: a young, charming, sexy, brilliant, passionate leader. My childhood home was graced with JFK’s stunning profile: framed in photos, etched on china and brass, embodied in three-dimensional figurines. When he was killed, my mother deeply mourned him and our nation. After she died, I found files of newspaper clippings she’d kept in memoriam. She’d never believed the stories of his sexual liaisons.

Although his pasty face and Big Mac-engendered physique weren’t exactly sex-symbol material, the sum of Bill’s parts added up to be my heartthrob. He had that certain je ne sais quoi. All the accusations about his illicit affairs over the years only made him more alluring. (They weren’t true, anyway.) Even though I have gay friends, his Don’t-Ask-Don’t-Tell military policies were okay by me. Even though I witnessed low-income parents struggling to comply with his Welfare-to-Work initiative, I didn’t falter in my devotion. Despite my peace movement alliances, if he bombed Serbia, they must have deserved it.

The harder friends tried to dissuade me, the more I dug in. Especially when Bill wailed on that sexy sax. And bit his lower lip. He was welcome to feel MY pain anytime.

In my eyes, Bill had human foibles and was politically expedient, but he was intelligent and his heart was in the right place as he set the course for our nation. He was ever-civil even in the face of unreasonable adversaries. And he was strong enough to partner with a woman who radically upgraded the role of First Lady. (However, that only complicated our relationship because, although I had a mad crush on Bill, I deeply respected Hillary.)

Yes, hypocrisy ruled the day as I harmonized with Marilyn McCoo on Wedding Bell Blues: “Bill, I love you so, I always will. I look at you and see the passion eyes of May…” (My husband was remarkably tolerant of my fantasy.)

I flaunted my illicit affair. Co-workers pasted my photo on copies of The National Enquirer whenever Bill’s latest accuser was featured. Union leaders would bring me token campaign paraphernalia (bribes, really) inscribed with his name – pens, hats, t-shirts, and the like. One friend gave me a life-size cut out of him, which initially graced my office before being featured in my stairwell at home.

I had many enablers, although not all shared my infatuation. In fact, some declared him “totally gross.”

Then that slutty Monica Lewinsky tried to bring him down with her lies. Damn that Newt Gingrich for fabricating charges. Like Hillary said, it WAS a right-wing conspiracy. They could all go to hell. Bill was my guy. Until…

Until…the day he appeared on television and confessed he’d had “inappropriate relations” with THAT woman.

Bill had betrayed me. Me! I was a woman scorned. That’s why I understand what’s happening now.

* * *

Sitting on the couch, a friend and I shake our heads in a synchronized fashion as we watch the latest Trump scandal unfold: Witnesses are confirming that Trump withheld much-needed funding from the Ukraine to defend itself against marauding Russia unless it did opposition research on a potential Democratic candidate. Then publicly invited China to do the same.

“Why do they stick by this criminal?” I rhetorically ask. He responds by asking me the same question with a different inflection and a few well-placed swear words. Because answers are not readily forthcoming when behavior defies logic. The frosting on the (let-them-eat) cake is that Trump’s campaign has raked in 50,000 more small donors since the impeachment inquiry began.

We turn off the television in silence. We reach for our adult beverages, crank up the music, and start stress-eating.

I’ve been hoping that, with the latest breaking news, the Trump 2020 banners will come down, along with the Confederate flags that seem to correlate with the Trump endorsements in my upstate New York town. Hoping my Facebook “friends” who originally supported Trump will read my next post and say, “Oh, wow. That does it! You’re right! He’s gotta go.”

I remain disappointed. But maybe this latest misdeed will do it.

Phew! The madness will be over soon.

WHAT?! The banners are still up, and more are appearing. His supporters continue to accuse me of spreading fake news because “he’s no worse than you Democrats,” and I must be “a sore loser” – which we all should be based, on how the election was “won.”

My head is bloody from banging it against the wall. My tongue is bloody from biting it in certain social circles. I want to shake Trumper friends (especially women) until they come to their senses.

Yet, my long-overdue rejection of Bill back in the day gives me hope. As I watch the current impeachment inquiry coverage, I reflect on my blind allegiance, my unwavering support in the face of significant evidence to the contrary. Granted, his accusers weren’t up against a Clinton News station masquerading as “fair and balanced.” Bill didn’t incite angry mobs in his own defense, polarizing friends and family, adding lies to lies. But Bubba is not The Donald – I couldn’t crush on him if he were. Bill has a foundational believe in democracy. And his “crime” was inconsequential compared to what patriotic whistleblowers are telling Congress today.

In public service cases like this, thanks to investigative journalists in particular, evidence does mount, and the final straw – the one that destroys unwavering devotion – can present itself quite unexpectedly. Because once you know, you can’t not know.

* * *

Ten years after I’d scraped my bumpers clean, I walked into my last cabinet meeting prior to retirement from public education. I was feeling a little melancholy until…I realized all my colleagues were wearing Bill Clinton masks. We joked about my schoolgirl crush and misguided idolatry, but there was part of me that still felt embarrassed by my own naivety. I could still get in touch with my profound disappointment; my disillusionment still stung.

That same year, thanks to a friend of a friend, I was asked to serve as a facilitator at the first Clinton Global Initiative in New York City. In the hotel lobby, I ran into my ex as he exited the elevator. In his inimitable style, Bill sauntered up to me, extended his hand, and thanked me for volunteering. He was taller and thinner than in my dreams, and we’d both aged over the ensuing years. A decade earlier, I would have melted on the spot (and perhaps slipped my room key into his pocket). But that day, I meekly replied, “Thank you for the work you continue to do on behalf of global health and economic justice.”

As they say, the thrill is gone. While I still believe he’d been the right president for the times, integrity did and does matter.

Because this rabid supporter of a president facing impeachment did eventually sever ties with her beloved, I believe it possible that many in Trump’s “base” will start to break up with him, too. They just haven’t felt the weight of the final straw yet. But they will.

Devotees don’t go down easily but, with the right evidence presented in the right way, we can and do (eventually) say, “That does it!”

Until then, I’ll continue to watch broadcast news as if it’s roadkill: I don’t want to see it but can’t resist taking a peek.

I loved that guy….until…..

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Keepers

Ms. Magazine published “Keepers,” a poem I wrote in 2016 under an assumed name so as not to upset family members. But it’s time for all who have suffered from the shame to come out into the light of justice. I share this now to honor my foremothers’ truth. And hope you will honor yours.

Click below to read online.

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Her Wings Not Strong Enough (reprise)

She hangs
Lifeless
Luminous melon-green wings
Immobile

He set his trap
Her crime flying too close
Caught in the web
Of a foe she dwarfs

Helpless against his cunning
She gave up
Her wings not strong enough
Invisible threads stole her freedom

One would not guess
The spider could win
With a weave so delicate
It belies intent

A beautiful creature
Even in death
Did she succumb too soon
Unaware of her power?

Her captor not present
To claim his prey
I cut her loose
Denying him reward

She falls to the ground
And I wonder why it is
I would presume
The insects’ genders.

©2018 Patricia A. Nugent

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A Long Goodbye

Click below to read my recent essay about gun violence, as published in the Albany Times Union.

https://www.timesunion.com/faith/article/Local-educator-wants-action-along-with-thoughts-17243314.php

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Advent

Click below to read what happened in church last Sunday.

https://www.timesunion.com/faith/article/A-disoriented-stranger-walks-into-worship-16708162.php

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