I missed the memo about being quiet.
I’ve got a son in pre-school, which means I get about a gazillion colds a year. And with almost every minor sniffle, comes a bout of laryngitis. For the first five minutes or so, it’s kinda cute. I get that deep, raspy voice that comes with lots of whiskey and cigarettes and we all know how sexy that is. But then the rasp segues to a horrible croak, then fades to a pitiful squeak, and then…nothing. If I have any hope of recovery, I can only whisper.
Anyone who has ever heard me attempt to sing knows that my laryngitis is no great tragedy. But struggling to be heard and not being able to talk always makes me a little disenfranchised from my own life. It’s hard not being able to chime in effortlessly in a conversation. If my husband and I are more than a couple of feet apart and if he is not looking directly at me, I have to throw something at him to get his attention. And my son is special challenge…I can say with all honesty that I don’t yell at him much, at least not in anger. (I am, however, perfecting that scary-mad-talking-quietly-through-your-teeth-thing that all moms seem to have in their discipline arsenal.) But I do need my voice to manage my son’s safety and behavior. In the last few days, he responds to my whispers and croaks with, “Whadyousay?” It’s getting tiresome for both of us.
As I try to rest my voice, it’s been interesting how I’ve prioritized what I need to say. A nice side effect of my laryngitis is that I have no vocal energy for petty criticisms. It literally hurts to speak in a harsh tone, so I don’t. This brings new significance to the old adage, “If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”
Another thing about being quiet is that it’s only a peaceful experience when it’s self-imposed. There are religious orders who take vows of silence, and I suppose for them, being quiet is a form of meditation. But when silence is forced upon you, it’s a whole different ball game. In my humble estimation, “shut up” is one of the most hurtful and dismissive thing you can ever say to anyone. In my case, I’ve been forced to shut up because of a minor medical condition and I’ve suffered just a bit inconvenience, but it’s troubling to see how people who are speaking out as part of the various protest movements going on around the country are being silenced by rough treatment by police. Talk is cheap, but it’s clearly not free. Apparently the price of protest at UC Davis is a dose of pepper spray in the face.
If I have one, I suppose my point is this: Our ability to speak is a gift, and last I checked, the freedom to speak is also a right. I’ll probably lose my voice a bunch more times before this rodeo is over, but I’ll be damned if anyone is going to take it away, know what I mean? Whispering loudly and memo received.