I'm the kind of person who realizes what she's thinking when the words come out of her mouth. My insights surprise me as much as they surprise my listeners.

Today I said: "I've usually had to choose between having emotions and being able to communicate them."

This comes from the middle of a chat between myself and Sara about communication mediums -- text chat, ASL, and spoken conversations. Of the three, text chat takes the least effort for me to engage in... but it's not my preference. Spoken conversation seems much more "alive" to me than text chat; when the dialogue is accessible, I feel much more connected to the other person. Conversations have things like emotions, pauses, timing, excitement, energy... things I can respond to.

That's a lot harder to get across in text. Text is... bad at feelings.

I also grew up... bad at feelings, relatively unskilled at allowing myself to have them and express them. I grew up getting most of my input from text -- written English, because spoken English was so inaccessible to me. I don't think these are unrelated.

With spoken language, I can also connect even if my thoughts are incoherent. I'm able to express the state I'm in by flailing around, making noises ("wheeeeeeee!"), facial expressions, body language... I can just be. I can become verbally incoherent, and it translates as "Mel is excited! This is huge! She hasn't figured it out yet, but it's awesome!" (Or "Mel is tired." Or "Mel is sad." Or "Mel is in a complex emotional state, but you can kinda get the gist of it because she's moving around in a particular evocative way.")

In contrast, when I write, I have to at least make sentence clauses and find words for things. I have to pull back far enough to type sentences like "I am excited," which means I have to make myself less-excited. I have to step away from my feelings long enough to find words and structures for them. So I've usually had to choose between having emotions, and being able to communicate them.

One of the exciting things about learning ASL is that I might no longer need to. It's the strangest feeling to be able to get both the affect and the content of a communications medium without having to laser-focus all the time. I recently had my first extended voice-off conversation with a native signer. We went on for nearly 5 hours, constantly communicating, and my brain was not tired at all; I wanted to keep socializing, even with my language-learning awkwardness. I didn't want to go home and lie on the couch with my eyes closed. I wanted more people. More. People.

This... this doesn't happen. I don't like meeting new people and talking with them for extended periods of time. I just... I'm not supposed to do that. But I did. And it felt fantastic. Weirdly awesome. I was later introduced to the phrase "Met Deaf Wow," which is an appropriate description.

This doesn't mean I'm going to switch to signing all the time. I still live and work and socialize in the hearing world, and I probably always will. But the more I can take a break from the cognitive load -- the more relief I get -- the more wherewithal I have to be Mel (rather than exhausted-Mel) in the hearing world. I can use my energy wisely, where it matters, instead of having to expend max effort all the time.

It's something that's helping me learn how to be here. And I like... being here, and I like being Mel. (It's so much better than being exhausted-Mel. Exhausted-Mel is not a great default state to be in, but for the longest time, I didn't have another.)