Loosing your voice: you can’t express yourself, people can’t hear you, you are stuck in your thoughts, and after a time you may doubt you have anything to offer.
I was on vacation with friends recently and caught a cold; the second one within a month. For a brief time it took both my hearing and my voice away. For a full day I watched peoples’ faces closely to gain information about to whom they were talking and trying to figure out if my participation was requested. If I was being addressed I had to measure my response carefully to mete out a loud whisper with the briefest of replies. It was a pain for all.
Aside from the aural and oral challenges I felt mostly fine; slow thoughts and low energy, but otherwise OK.
The next day my hearing improved somewhat but my voice was still limited. This became a less of an amusement as time went on. It was unpleasant for others as they had to speak louder and more directly and they had to listen to my croaky whispery voice.
I learned several things as the laryngitis continued.
1) I contribute a lot to the chatter in my life, I could tell that from the stillness among my friends. There was a lot of gazing and silence when we walked and at meals.
2) When my hearing was limited as well I had to listen and watch people with ferocious and unwavering attention if I was to be included. Adding to conversations was not a spontaneous event, but planned and measured.
3) I lost track of my connection with others and began to feel isolated.
4) I found that meditation and being in silence as a choice is far different than experiencing the quiet through dullness of hearing and inability to communicate at will. This was a different quiet than that of a silent retreat – here a lot was going on and I was unable to include myself easily.
5) My connection to my higher power was impacted due to my thoughts turning inward and sour. I was not as hopeful, not as filled with good humor as I conventionally am. My mind is not the sweetest of partners at times.
6) I even lost my ability or desire to write. The isolation and struggle to remain included got me to a place where I felt I had nothing to offer; my creative voice was stilled as well.
As happens I got better, the fuzzy thinking dissipated and I was included easily once again. I did notice that my attending to thoughts during the days of silence and non-speaking made me more aware of them now that I was jumping into conversations with more ease. Are my thoughts useful? Is expressing them helpful? What are the vocalizations of social interaction and how do I add in a positive way? Before, during the cold imposed silences, if conversations veered to the negative, I could throttle back my attention and cease my participation. Was that honest? If the talk was about subjects I had little interest in I could let my mind wander without seeming to be rude. There were benefits of this experience, yes, I but had to work for them. I really DID have to listen hard to see if this was an opt in or opt out type of discussion. I had time to watch my thinking, and hear, inside my head, what was kind, harmful, useful, or detrimental. I could see where I was being judgmental rather than discerning, and be supportive rather than slanderous.
I also learned a lot about gratitude, about assumptions, and expectations. I am glad it is just a virus and that I will get back to full voice and complete hearing. I realize that when I listen to people I make assumptions about what they are going to say and if I listen, listen just a little longer, they may surprise me. Or at least I will have listened to them rather than run them over with my words. And I had expectations about what life would be like with a hearing deficit or the inability to speak freely. It is not as romantic or unfettered or as carefree as I had thought. Yes, I walked around with a small smile on my lips: I would rather be thought dim than angry. I would look at people with an expectant gaze rather than stare away in disregard. But all and all I am grateful to have “all my faculties intact”.
Until last night; when the cold came back, I have again lost my voice and I have to say: I am not best pleased.
Kyczy Hawk E-RYT200 is the author of “Yoga and the Twelve Step Path” and the creator of SOAR (Success Over Addiction and Relapse) a teacher certification training she holds with her good friend Kent Bond E-RYT500. Find out more about her and the training at www.yogarecovery.com