Based on my title, you may think I’m about to write a meaningful, deep blog on those in the world who don’t have a voice due to where they live, their gender, the colour of their skin, their economic status or their religion. While that is a huge topic that does not get nearly enough attention, it is not what I am writing about today.
Today is about my current experience with being voiceless. Literally voiceless.
Last week I developed a nasty cold. I should have taken a few days to rest and stay in bed, but I took lots of medication, still went to work every day and carried on with my normal activities. I thought I was starting to get better by the end of the week.
Then Sunday I spent most of the day in bed, exhausted and nursing a horrible sore throat, fever and headache. On Monday I woke up with a hoarse voice and a ridiculous cough that would act up suddenly and take minutes to calm down.
By Wednesday my voice was gone, my throat still sore and the cough worse, so I finally went to get checked out.
I learned that I have laryngitis, and the only treatment for it is to rest my vocal cords. This means I can’t talk. For 7 days.
That’s pretty extreme. Not talking for an entire week – is that even possible? It’s definitely difficult given that I lead a team of people at work who depend on me for direction, and I work with customers. It’s hard to help a customer when I can’t speak.
Even if I wanted to ignore the doctor’s advice and talk, not much sound would come out anyway. My current voice is hoarse, raspy and so quiet that most can’t hear me. As one of my team members said, I’d be perfect for an anti-smoking PSA right now.
I don’t want this to linger any longer than necessary, so I am listening to the doctor and I will be talking as little as possible for the next week.
It’s weird to not be able to talk. Someone says hello and I can only respond with a smile and a wave. The clerk at Shoppers asks if I want a bag and I can only nod. Someone on my team asks what needs to be done next and I explain through gestures and pointing.
It’s interesting to try and communicate without words and sound. It’s a brand new experience, and it’s made me think about those who are permanently unable to use their voices, as well as those who don’t have things the rest of us take for granted, like sight, hearing and the ability to walk.
My admiration for those who deal with these disabilities daily has skyrocketed. The rest of us run through our days never giving a second thought to how difficult it must often be for those who can’t talk or hear or see.
Not only do we take these amazing abilities for granted, we often use them for the negative. Our voices speak complaints, gossip, anger, and harsh things about others. Our eyes judge and condemn those around us. Our ears take in the gossip, criticism and judgement of others.
I’m not saying this is all we do, but I am saying we do it too much. Myself included.
Not having my voice has made me think about how I use it.
Do I use it to build others up or knock them down?
Do I use it to express love or anger?
Do I use to spread joy or sorrow?
Is what I’m saying worth saying?
Are my words positive or negative?
Although I do use my voice for mostly positive, I can’t deny that it’s been used for the negative as well. I’ve used my voice to complain, to criticize, to judge, to hurt, to lie, and to shout in anger.
And I don’t want to anymore.
When my voice comes back to me, I want to remember what it was like to not be able to speak. I want to think before I speak and be aware of how what I am going to say may affect others.
I want my voice to encourage, to care, to love, to inspire, to compliment, to celebrate, to stand up for what I believe in, to stand up for others, and most importantly, to spread joy.
I am very lucky.
My voice may be gone now, but it will come back. I plan to be more careful about how I use it.
A voice is an incredibly powerful thing.
Use it wisely.