I remember the first time truly I lost my voice. Really lost it. Could not produce a sound at all.
We had a big yellow lab/husky mix named Saffron. He was a sweet, gentle soul, usually quite obedient, and he knew he was not, under any circumstances, allowed on the bed.
But, when he wandered into the bedroom to check on the very sick me, put one paw on the bed, and didn’t hear the usual “NO,” he got bold.
(That doesn’t mean I didn’t say “NO.” It’s just that when I said “NO” it came out sounding like a baby frog croak followed by a sigh.)
A second paw followed the first. He still didn’t hear the expected “NO,” so he inched his rather large upper body a little closer, cocking his head in puzzlement and hope.
Needless to say, I was soon sharing my sick bed with the 90 pounds of muscle, bone and hair that supported his great doggie heart. Not the worst thing that could have happened, and my voice came back a couple of days later.
But in truth, I’d started losing my voice years before that.
From the time I could hum a tune, singing was one of my favorite ways to occupy time. I sang while riding the horses or riding my bike. I sang with my best friend, swinging our clasped hands, striding down the middle of the little street that ran between our houses, creating crazy harmonies at the top of our lungs. I sang in the shower and in any choral class the school offered. If I was too happy to stand still, I sang. If I was too sad to talk, I sang. I sang old folk songs and hymns, I sang the songs from my treasure trove of old Tin Pan Alley sheet music, and I sang what I heard on the distant AM station that came in to my little transistor radio that I hid under my pillow and listened to when my parents thought I was sound asleep.
Then, when I was in my early twenties, I lost the ability to produce some notes.
More notes disappeared from my range. Then more.
Finally it started affecting my speaking voice, requiring me to adjust my timbre to avoid tiring my voice during even two hour presentations.
Many years later, a specialist who was trying to figure out why I kept developing pneumonia discovered that a splinter of bone blocking one side of my nasal passage was causing the drainage of toxins down my throat. My vocal chords had taken the brunt of it. The clear soprano that had produced the haunting harmonies I so loved was gone. For good.
Singing had been my outlet, a form of expressive release so purely my own that resigning myself to a role of a listener felt like an amputation.
And speaking was part of my livelihood. I designed and delivered custom workshops and trainings for clients, I presented at conferences, I needed my voice!
But I could still talk, although my voice wasn’t as rich and expressive as it once was. And I could still write.
Then, a few weeks ago, I lost that.
My thoughts became like a bottle of champagne with the cork still in. Caged and foiled and bursting with effervescence – but silent.
At first I dismissed it. I’m a prolific thinker, but I’ve never been a prolific writer. I’ve sat with silence before.
Then I became frustrated. I wasn’t silent inside, but every time I asked myself to share the colors and sounds and ideas that swirled through my mind, they went away.
Blank canvas. Paint that would not stick.
Staff after staff of rests. Not even an eighth note among them.
Mocking memories tumbling through the green spaces where ideas usually play.
Then I became afraid.
And I do NOT like to be afraid.
It’s one reason my voice is so important. Because as long as I can say “NO” I have the power of consent. As long as I can say “YES” I have the power of celebration.
With my voice I can choose who climbs into my bed and who is released from my life. So long as I can speak - boldly, eloquently, loudly or just a post on Facebook or here in this space I call mine - I am fully ME and fully in my life!
Without my voice, I cannot live the life of my choosing, because I cannot speak my truth.
Sitting down to write, (this or just SOMETHING, anything that would come) I remembered a song lyric I’d written before my singing voice went away. I called it “Sing the Silence.”
The hook goes “Sing the silence, sing it right out loud.” (If you want to read the rest I’ve posted the lyrics HERE)
I have said that the greatest talent, and the greatest joy, in coaching is the ability to “hear between the lines.”
How, I asked myself, can I sing what cannot be heard and hear what is between the lines of what I am not saying?
And the little voice that is my highest self, the one that speaks to me in silence and between the lines of the noise that is human life, said, “Just begin the story. And see where it takes you.”
So this post is not for you, whoever you are. It’s for me.
This is the beginning of a story that has something to say. The popping of a cork from a bottle that has something to pour. The opening of a door that leads to a world that still holds the power to excite me.
And the power to make me afraid.
But not as afraid as the thought of leaving that story untold, the bottle still corked, and the door forever locked.