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On Losing My Voice

You may have heard me complaining all over the internet that I had lost my voice. Monday, the day we left Mexico and the world’s most adorable grandchildren, I could only talk in a low whisper. It didn’t bother me that much while we were traveling. I’d had a cold all week and didn’t feel great anyhow, so it was kind of relaxing to not be expected to make conversation.

Tuesday, I went to the nurse practitioner, who gave me antibiotics for a sinus infection, cough medicine, and steroids for my throat. Despite speaking only in a whisper, I was able to challenge her belief that lots of women just suddenly change their mind and decide to have an abortion at 24 weeks.  But that’s a story for a different day.

As the week wore on, I didn’t feel bad, I just couldn’t talk much – or couldn’t be heard. I typed. I was grateful that my job is flexible enough to accomodate not talking.  I learned some things.

I learned that sometimes people don’t actually need me to talk. Twice – not once, but two times – people reached out to me and talked about what was going on with them, and were able to resolve their own issues, without a single word from me.  Just talking through what was going on with them was all they really needed.

I learned that in other conversations, where my input was needed, people were really good about stopping to give me time to think and type. It is not as easy as you might think to carry on an actual conversation via chat box. People were patient and kind.

Of course, I wondered why I had lost my voice. I can’t remember the last time this happened. Dee suggested maybe it was because of the cold medication I had been taking, but I didn’t think so. As a therapist, I wondered if it was symbolic, if there was a psychological reason.

Maybe, I pondered, I haven’t been speaking up enough. Maybe I’ve metaphorically lost my voice, and now it’s manifesting physically. Or maybe this is an experience in empathy, to increase my understanding of what it’s like to be voiceless in some way.

I wasn’t dreadfully upset about it – I could still whisper when I needed to and it was restful in an odd way. It made me listen more attentively and kept me from interrupting or completing other people’s sentences, which I’ve been known to do. And it was kind of interesting.

But Saturday morning – starting day 6 without a voice – it was getting a bit old. As I mentioned it (again) on Facebook, someone suggested a rememdy. “Th***t C**t tea,” he said, “and R***la throat drops.”

Amazingly, I already had the tea in my cabinet. I hadn’t been using it, I’d been doing all kinds of other tea instead. But there it was, just waiting for me. I fixed a cup of tea instead of a second cup of coffee and headed out.

In my car, I was looking for Kleenex under the dashboard and wondering if it would be worth stopping for the throat drops when I pulled out – a bag of R***la throat drops. Seriously. (No, I didn’t find the Kleenex. You can’t have everything.)

So I drank my tea and had a couple of throat drops – and I could talk. Not perfectly. But I could actually talk. If I’d been at 25% of my voice before, I moved up to 60 or 70%. Pretty amazing.

So amazing that of course I decided it must have been psychosomatic in the first place. I mean, really, how can a cup of tea and two throat drops be that kind of miracle? But that’s ok. There’s still a big take-away here.

Here’s what I think the lesson is. We talk about needing to have the right tools to find solutions and solve problems. But it’s not just a matter of having the right tool. We have to know that it’s the right tool. I had lots of remedies – teas and medicine and extracts and even hot toddies. And I had exactly what I needed (apparently) and just didn’t realize it until someone else suggested it.

It makes me wonder how often I have the solution lying around in my “tool kit” neglected and unused.  And will I remember to look at all my tools the next time I need them?