Last week, I lost my voice. The cold that was in my sinuses took a sudden trip south, and I went from Tom Waits, to Linda Blair in “The Exorcist”, to Marcel Marceau. My family listened to me honk and squeak my way through rudimentary sentences with a mixture of amusement and discomfort. I couldn’t sing in the car and I couldn’t answer the phone. I became a human whisper.
When I could manage a little more sound, I went back out into the world, and immediately had three different people smile knowingly and ask what I was afraid to say, or what I’d been prevented from saying. Never one to ignore a serendipitous mind-body connection, I started thinking about the whole idea of losing one’s voice, literally and metaphorically. If you haven’t already gathered from my choice of career, I have a hard time with silence, especially my own. Being mute sucked, but it wasn’t just about the failure of my pipes, but rather a larger fear of going unheard.
Someone in the medical profession once told me that they saw an inordinate number of people with throat-related ailments who are employed in writing or communications. They also told me that these malfunctions seem to happen during times of professional stress, like when a manuscript gets rejected, or writer’s block strikes. In eighth grade, when I landed a major part in our school musical, I spent opening night squeezing my lines through a gravel-lined throat. In truth, I’ve always been a bit on the squeaky side, even when in good health. I’ve also always been a writer.
Writing through social media probably adds sandpaper to an already-sensitive condition. It’s the most horrible, fickle source of validation, but I admit I’m tickled when something I’ve posted gets retweeted, liked or shared. Those little alerts on my phone are like candy to me. Even an irrational, screwball comment means someone out there is listening, right (look at me, trying to pretend that I don’t get irritated by these)? I also confess to feeling a little horse just thinking about the millions of other little voices in the great mix, and of the very slim chance that anything I send out into the interweb will fall upon the right pair of willing ears.
The source of my swollen larynx and subsequent hush was most likely microbial (pesky rational explanation). It does, however, seem strange that it happened when I’m right on the verge of hitting “publish” on one of the biggest projects I’ve ever worked on (stay tuned). More than ever before, I need my voice to be heard, and it scares me that it might be perceived as a whimper, as opposed to the grand aria that I planned. Fear or not, I’m taking deep breaths and having hot tea with lemon, because the only thing worse than not being heard is not saying anything in the first place.
Wish me luck….or just volume.