Involuntary Silence

Drawing of a normal larynx. Inflammation from infection, overuse, abuse, etc. can cause laryngitis.

I woke up without my voice today.  After a week of a cold that finally seemed on its way out, and evening coughing spell last night seemed a bit too much for my vocal chords.  What was raspy last night (certainly beyond Hollywood’s rough and low sexy female voice) was just a whisper this morning.  At 6:30, my younger woke me requesting another chapter of Eragon, which I’ve been reading aloud the past few weeks.  Alas, the spirit was willing but my flesh was weak.  No morning story.  Also, no morning lessons more than the briefest

explaination of a math problem or brief instruction. My heart sank.  How could I captain this ship without a voice audible from more than 1 foot away?

I’m a talker. I’m a voracious talker (and generally good listener) in a family that talks from a few minutes before waking until a few minutes after falling asleep.  At least it seems that way.  Often, everyone around here seems to be talking at once.  On top of that, my younger is a LOUD talker.  So loud, his father and I took him for hearing tests when he was 4, since a loud voice can be a sign of poor hearing.  Alas, the tests revealed normal hearing but a loud child.   So loud my mother, upon receiving my call to announce my younger’s birth, exclaimed, “That doesn’t sound like a newborn!”  I’m surprised I didn’t hear him from the womb.  This dear child with no hearing impairment but just an amazing set of lungs has been in the throes of tantrums for the past month:  long (up to 3 hour), ear-splitting tantrums, generally demanding responses to his anxiety-ridden questions.  There is much talking during these episodes, far too much on my end, I’m sure.  And it’s loud talking with punctuated by yelling.  He yells just as a matter of course during tantrums.  I yell when he can’t hear me because he’s yelling (yes, I see the problem there) and when I just can’t take it anymore.  Even if I can refrain from those unsuccessful approaches to his loss of control, I don’t know how I’d manage a tantrum without a voice.

But my younger woke in a cooperative mood.  He listened to my croak and suggested I stay in bed while he practiced the piano and practiced his typing.  He’d even get his breakfast, he announced.   He trotted down the stairs and began his day as planned as I wondered, “What child is this?” 

Tea, a steamy shower, a throat lozenge, and much wishful thinking did nothing to change my lot.  My children marveled at my voiceless self, and I wondered at the quiet.  Was I the driving force of the cacophony of our house?  Hmm.  My younger took charge, announcing his intentions for completing his work the rest of the morning, while my older plopped into a chair, fatigued by his turn at the second cold our house has seen this month.  He’s the last in this virus’s rotation, and he’s by far the most dramatic when ill or uncomfortable.  I prodded him toward breakfast and wondered what to do next, given my lack of voice.  I texted a few friends, checked in on Facebook, commenting more than usual on friends’ statuses, and finally sat still with my discomfort. 

I watched the edgy feeling in me wax then wane a bit.  I noticed my discomfort at being silenced.  Not just because I couldn’t verbally run the show today but because I felt a bit trapped.  I’m a wordy person, attached to verbal expression either aloud or written, and only one channel was open to me today:  writing.  I’d like to say I took the day to work on an article for publication, my recently conceived yet barely begun book,  or even a blog post with a bit more of a point.  However, this week has left me depleted of more than just my voice.  My initiative, creativity, and drive are all at a nadir.  I’ve used my voice attempting to calm my younger from his heights of distress, often aimed at me but really about his own concerns about self-worth.  I’ve talked to my older, again and again, about his worries as well, wondering all the time if anything I say can help this young man feel more confident and doubting myself as I speak.  I’ve felt so many words this week have been without purpose, not reassuring or offering assistance but simply vanishing into the aether.  Some, I’m certain, have wounded the listener, when my frustration with a topic from either child surfaces for the umpteenth time in a day, no closer to the answer the child wants and yet no closer to what I desire either.  And I wonder if I’ve wasted breath or worse.

So perhaps this voice loss is a blessing of sorts.  Certainly my children were more settled today,  my younger being remarkably responsible with his tasks and peaceful all the way through, my older not recounting the anxieties we’ve covered so many times already this week.  Perhaps my silence gave them a pause, not simply because I wasn’t reminding them of responsibilities and giving unwanted feedback but because one less voice allowed them some room to find their own answers.  Unable to rely on my (voluminous) replies and commentary, they had to cope in their own hearts and minds.  If so (and I prefer that to the scenario that I’m the CAUSE of all the drama around here), then maybe losing my voice has a sweet side as well.  Perhaps.  But I want my voice back.

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