Thursday, March 24, 2011

3 Life Lessons from Having No Voice

Thanks to WebMD, I self-diagnosed my case of laryngitis.** The human voice basically consists of sound made by using the vocal folds for talking, singing, laughing, crying or even screaming. When these folds become irritated, laryngitis may occur. In my case, the most likely cause is a combination of the secondhand smoke and car fumes I inhaled during my trip to Spain last week, straining my voice teaching fitness classes the day after I returned and breathing in the heavy pollen blanketing the south right now. Whatever the reason, I sound like a cross between Harvey Fierstein and a bad impression of a drag queen. Whenever something like this happens to me, I tend to lean toward finding greater meaning in it.

So what happens to a person when their voice is reduced to a raspy whisper or at times uncontrollable, random squeaks that should be words? For me, it has highlighted three life lessons:

Lesson #1: Find new ways to get routine things done.
While I look healthy on the outside, if I try to speak my voice is raspy and barely audible. When I tried to order a cup of Starbucks coffee at the drive-thru window this morning, the barista could not hear or understand me. As I whispered, "tall,non-fat, 5-pump, caramel latte" with all my might, the girl keep saying what? what? is this some kind of joke? It wasn't. So I had to park my car, get out of my car and go in to order my morning cuppa java. Flexibility in life is always key and two days of having no voice clearly reminds me that sometimes you have to move outside your comfort zone to get things done. That includes your job search, your workout and managing your career.

Lesson #2: Be patient for good results.
This is one of my greatest challenges whether I have laryngitis or not. I have Googled and researched every possible home remedy or quick fix for laryngitis. From singers to great orators, no one really has a quick fix . The best thing is to rest the voice, drink warm liquids, gargle with salt water, be silent and wait it out. Wow. That's hard for me. I like results and I like answers. Yesterday. But I with this one, I just have to do my part and wait. This patience thing with proper action also works for a few other things in life too. Just think about it, weight loss, career satisfaction or spiritual growth are never easy to acheive but always worth the wait when you do your part.SOmetimes your part is to be still.

Lesson #3: Know who you are.
When you have no voice, it affects your inner feelings and confidence too. Today for the first time, I spoke by phone to the person organizing an event for which I will serve as the keynote speaker. I kept apologizing and reassuring her that I was a capable, confident speaker despite the sound of my voice. Even though I had been highly referred by someone who heard me speak, having this new raspy, soft-spoken voice made me feel less than capable. Inwardly I was concerned she would think I would not be able to deliver an interesting, powerful, motivational speech. But I realized, it's not the loudness of your voice that matters, its the passion in your heart that counts. What are you passionate about? Is it reflected in your life without you having to say a word? Each day I pray that is the case for me. So I rest in knowing who I am.

While a simple case of laryngitis may be nothing to most people, it has been poetically meaningful to me. I am reminded to be thankful for every working part of my body and to always treat it with care. I am reminded how many times God uses a still, small voice to speak to our hearts in times of trouble or great joy. I am reminded that life lessons can pop up at any time and in any situation. Take inventory of your career, relationships, fitness and spiritual condition. The messages are there but may be quiet reminders from the least likely places. Find new ways to get routine things done, be patient (but not lazy) and know who you are. Yep. That's what laryngitis taught me.

Have you ever lost your voice literally or figuratively? How did it make you feel? Leave a comment or check a box below. Your voice matters to me.

**Since writing this post and upon the urging of my dear big sister in Chicago, I have actually visited a live medical doctor and been officially diagnosed: Allergy induced laryngitis and sinusitis.