“Is this easier or harder?” my audiologist asks. “Raise your hand when you hear a beep. Do you prefer program 1 or program 4? You made great progress in a week, so keep going.”
It feels impossible, but keep sorting. I don’t recognize that sound, but I can stay calm and learn. I wear the audio receiver every waking minute as instructed. It’s OK to be tired.
Life frequently gives us sorting tasks. They often feel endless. I remember organizing my husband’s cancer medicines and sorting out our home after his death. I remember ten years of caregiving tasks before my mother-in-law died in 2018.
In the Roman story of Eros (Love) and Psyche (Soul), Eros visits his lover Psyche, but only in the dark. Who is this midnight lover? One night she lights a candle to take a look. Burned by dripping wax, Eros flees. Psyche is dragged before Eros’s mother, the goddess Venus.
After raging at Psyche, Venus gives the girl Four Labors. The “impossible” tasks are Psyche’s way back to Eros. I don’t think of Eros as only sexual love, but as a broader love for the sensory world, for connection and embodiment. Eros brings sacred as well as sexual pleasure. The heart lifts and opens to receive an angelic choir or celestial symphony or a bird song.
With hearing loss, I lost the joy of music and spoken words. Like Psyche, I fought despair.
A cochlear implant promises to connect me back to the world of sound through a slow sorting process. Knowing Psyche’s story gives me patience.
“Venus leaped upon the face of poor Psyche, and took her by the hair, and dashed her head upon the ground. Then she took a great quantity of wheat, of barley, poppy seeds, peas, lentils, and beans, and mingled them altogether on a heap saying: Thou evil favored girl, thou seemest unable to get the grace of thy lover, by no other means, but only by diligent and painful service, wherefore I will prove what thou canst do: see that thou separate all these grains one from another disposing them orderly in their quantity, and let it be done before night.” Apuleius, The Golden Ass
Apuleius wrote this in 150 AD, but it’s as relevant now as it was almost 2000 years ago. Since I had many years of vertigo, I relate to being thrown to the ground, but think of it symbolically.
Psyche’s sorting job feels impossible, but helpers arrive for Psyche and for me. Before and after surgery, friends and sons offer gifts of healing balms, soup, rides, and loving patience. Six weeks after surgery, my audiologist programs my audio receiver. He opens a backpack plus a cloth bag filled with directions, warranties, audio receivers, chargers for domestic and foreign travel, a dehydrator for humid months, and more. Then he sorts to make sure everything is there.
It’s a mountain of chaos, but somehow I will figure it out.
Ants, those discriminating seed gatherers, come to Psyche’s rescue and sort the seeds into tidy piles. I have a surgeon and audiologist instead. My process is slower, but it’s coming along.
One task won’t be enough to reunite me with embodied pleasure and joyful listening. I want to love music enough to dance. More tasks lie ahead. More steps to unite body and soul with the love of hearing. Like Psyche, I’ll complete one task at a time. I’ll also doubt, before remembering. I don’t have to do this alone.
Last night I heard a chorus of birds singing their joyful evening songs. I felt one step closer to Eros.
I often return to Psyche’s Four Labors when life’s tasks are overwhelming. When have you had a repetitious sorting job like putting together a book or moving to a new home, taking a new job or cleaning out a closet? For a post about Psyche’s last task, see Clutched: An Essential Lesson from Psyche’s Fourth Labor. For more about how I prepared for this life-changing surgery, see A Healing Ritual in a Sweetgrass Bowl: Self-care for Surgery.