As many of you know, I had very minor surgery on June 24th to remove a benign cyst from my left vocal cord. My recovery involves one week of complete voice rest followed by a second week of voice restrictions (5 min per hour of low, calm voice only). It’s a huge pain to spend a chunk of my summer having to stay quiet when I’d rather be catching up with friends, taking my kids to various summer activities, enjoying dinners with Brian, taking long walks and talking about our future, etc., etc. It’s only temporary and I’m excited to finally get my voice back by mid-July.
Having this time of voice rest has really prompted me to think about a lot of things. It has made me really think about what my voice means to me. Why do I say the things that I do? Do I talk too much? Do I yell at my kids that much? Do I use a loud voice more than most people? Why can’t I be one of those soft-spoken moms whose children seem to wait with baited breath for her next important statement? Does the fact that I use my voice inappropriately (thereby causing this condition) mean that I’m also a really bad listener? If I had to, could I live without the ability to speak?
Yes, I’ve had lots of time to think about all of these questions. I don’t know that I have the answers, but these same observations keep coming back to me.
Observation #1: 90% of what you say is unimportant
I hereby commit myself to work harder to cut back on talking just to hear myself talk. My focus will be on saving my voice for those things that really need to be said. It’s amazing how little you really, really need to say when it comes down to it. Less is more.
Observation #2: When you can’t talk, you don’t talk about other people.
I learned that I apparently gossip way too much. There were multiple times this past week when I wanted to make a comment or share something with someone, but couldn’t. I have learned that I can and should live without this nasty vice.
Observation #3: Taking an evening walk with the husband in silence gives HIM a chance to tell you all of the things that are on his mind.
A change in routine can put a spark in any marriage.
Observation #4: Listening is a lost art
When you really stop to hear what people around you and people in front of you are saying, you can really learn a lot. You can hear the emotions in their conversations which can help you to understand the dynamics of the relationships around you. I really enjoyed listening to my kids talk to each other this week rather than involving me in their conversations.
Observation #5: Gestures are a powerful and mostly positive way to communicate
While most of my communication with my kids this week has been on a need-to-know basis, I have indeed communicated with them. In some ways, I have communicated better with them this week than when I do have a voice. This has been mainly through gestures. As they have shared with me their needs, their complaints, their worries, their likes and dislikes, I have responded using various gestures. These gestures include the thumbs up or down, a smile, the shrugged shoulders, a clap, a hug, a kiss and a high five. When I think about each gesture, it occurs to me that they are by and large very positive gestures. I don’t have the voice to criticize, make snide comments or judgments this week. I think we are all happier about that. I will admit to a few eye rolls, though!
Observation #6: Silence is golden
Last week at Mass, we were encouraged to find at least 15 minutes of silence per day. During this time of voice rest, I have found myself in way more than 15 minutes of silence per day. At first, I had planned on staying home a lot, reading a lot and avoiding situations where I would normally have to have conversations. I had huge plans to check a few books off my summer reading list, to complete some lesson planning, exercise, to do some web browsing, yoga and yes, some Netflix binging. What I found is I just wanted to sit and listen to the world around me. I heard birds this week that I don’t remember hearing this time of year in Ohio. The wind chimes on my back porch are a frequent reminder of cool summer breezes that make hot days much more bearable. I am hearing the conversations between my kids and absorbing the preciousness of their sibling connections. I am turning inward to try and hear what my heart is telling me about myself, my goals and my hopes for the future. I will admit to just listening to hear if God is telling me anything I should know.
Which brings me to my last observation during this time of silence…
Observation #7: Even if you can use your voice, sometimes there are no words
It really is more than just a pithy little saying that people post in their status update (i.e. “Another mass shooting? There are no words.”) During my week of silence, many people around me were dealt hard, fatal and devastating blows. A mother’s death after a hard-fought battle with cancer, a young boy’s death from the same type of aneurysm that took my brother, a friend’s father’s home destroyed by flooding, the complete loss of a home due to fire of my daughter’s classmate, a lost job and a leukemia relapse for our dear young friend that has taken our breath away. While some of these tragedies are only being felt remotely, others are being felt first hand by me and my family. At a time when people want to talk about their fears, their pain, their sadness and their faith (or lack thereof), I can only nod my head to express that I understand. I can hug to say I care and I can mobilize the troops using my 21st century skills in social media networking, but that’s about it. There truly are no words that can lessen the pain of these families or assuage their fears of a future unknown. I’ve learned to be okay with not having anything to say. There is a time for words and there is a time for love and action. I am forced to choose the latter and I’m okay with that.
If I had to choose which of my five senses to give up permanently, I honestly think I could lose my voice. Modern technology made things a little easier and I mostly learned that I really DON’T have that much to say! I’m glad that I’m slowly starting to talk again, but these lessons I learned during my week of voice rest will hopefully serve me as I plow forward into the next phase of my journey.