Learning from silenceWednesday, April 24th, 2013
My name is Erika and I am a compulsive and loud talker. It feels weird to write that since I haven’t spoken in 10 days. You read that right. I’m even a little afraid I’ll sound different or nothing will come out when I can talk again this coming Friday. I had a polyp removed from my vocal cords. I know you’re thinking, “How did she know something was wrong to even get that diagnosis?” It has been months since I have been able to sing. I know that sounds like no big deal. But, if you know me, I love to sing with my kids and others too, in the shower, car and karaoke- forget about it! I was also getting to the point where I couldn’t talk without vocal strain past mid-day. To give you an idea of exactly how it felt, imagine a knife scraping away at one side of your throat. This prompted me to finally go in for a consultation which was nerve wrecking and about as comfortable of a procedure to check for vocal trauma as you would expect. I felt overwhelmed, but relieved to be okay, after hearing the diagnosis. I was in complete shock and overwhelmed with anxiety that I would not be able to complete the required recovery treatment. It was inconceivable to me that I could NOT talk or scream at my kids for 10 whole days! In all seriousness, how was I going to do what I do without a voice?
People say sometimes things happen for a reason. Although cliché, this statement resonates with me right now. We have the ability to communicate with non-verbal expressions but we don’t. We live in a loud world people! I considered myself a good listener before this all began. On this silent path I became a great listener and quick writer too. Although my penmanship has been described kindly as terrible and the faults of a lefty.
Lessons learned? Definitely, you can get by with a notepad and a smile! But…
Kids will still fight
My kids have still been fighting but I've noticed they are solving their own problems…ok sometimes with my husband yelling at them and telling me “No wonder you got a polyp on your vocal cords.” But, most of their fights have not been intervention worthy on my part. With a voice I get involved because I don’t like hearing my kids fight. I can see how this has enabled terrible problem solving skills between them. Something I hope I don't do as much once I can talk.
Kids can wait to have questions answered
My kids have shown me I don’t need to address all their questions immediately for them to feel I’m acknowledging them. I can’t write that fast! Before I could answer all questions these last 10 days many were already forgotten.
Kids talking to adults- I’ve realized through this experience my kids need more opportunities to ask adults questions when prompted and answer adults questions in more than 2-3 words. Getting shy in emergency situations is something they need to overcome. I've been in several situations running into people where I've asked my 7 or 10 year old to explain to the kind acquaintance looking concerned at me why I could not speak where they have either ignored my request out of shyness or said my mom can't talk. Well duh they could figure that one out on their own! I've also been lost on a soccer field with no idea where to go and asked my kids to ask the person who looks like they know where they are going which way to the field of 5 in a 2 mile radius. These are questions that I want my kids to feel confident asking adults when they need help god for bid!
Multi-tasking- Most problems can be solved if we only communicated better with each other but most of the time we lack the focus to communicate face to face. Think about all the time we spend texting, emailing, watching tv, multi-tasking. There are a little over 334 billion emails sent and 3 million cellular phones sold according to the Worldometers- in a day! We are so overstimulated by our environment looking down at technology that we don’t look up and listen to the people right in front of us very well. I’ve been communicating in writing to friends, family (kids), and others directly in front of them and they’ve had pity on me as a mute person with a writing tablet. On a side note, I have been using this great Eco friendly writing tablet called a Boogie Board which included a stylus. It looks like the old Etch a Sketch boards. There were comments made the last 10 days. Anyway, everyone who read the board responded to each thought/request/comment the first time- immediately looking into my eyes- usually with a smile. How many times have you said things over and over without a response from a child or your spouse? This part of the journey has been terrific!
Non-verbal communication- Don’t underestimate the power of a smile, hug, or listen or I will self-destruct face. Hand signals really do carry power if you own them. Kids will impress you with their understanding of what you need when you can’t say it. They know your habits. People around you are amazing and there is a community of caring adults all around you when you need them that you don't even realize. I am amazed at those offering to help who barely know me and those who don't offering to help me communicate to others out of pure kindness.
Kids frustration- This experience has helped me deeply understand the frustration kids feel with that which is beyond their control. Daily they learn new skills, ineffectively communicating something to someone which is misunderstood, or just don’t like what they have to do. Life throws punches and we need to fight through them. Perseverance in the face of adversity is a good lesson for everyone to go through now and again.
Thankfulness- You don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone. I took my voice for granted. I am so very thankful and grateful for the ability to speak in the future when there are many that cannot and will not. I will forever be in awe of those who don't have the functionality to do but find a way with grace to do it in their own way. I've also felt like the man who went to the rabbi saying his house was too small and the rabbi told him to add all his animals in one by one each week and then remove them. He had a ton of room once he changed his perspective on what his house could be like and he should be thankful for the house. I've learned to appreciate what I have.
Lastly, my dog has been spoiled these last 10 days by walks instead of taking her out on my front lawn to go to the bathroom on demand. Yes, she does. It’s hard to say, “Sandy go potty,” without a voice. She might not let this new arrangement go. I don’t know how I will sound when I speak on Friday. But, I do know that I have never silently laughed more than last night when my son age 5 sat down and popped back up from the tub as we both saw something floating in the bath. The expression on his face was priceless. He said, “I didn’t wipe well did I?” No, he did not.
Kids make you feel the spectrum of emotions on a daily basis with or without a voice.
I'd love to hear any lessons you've learned the hard way or from you kids?
Thanks for listening.Posted in: Blog