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Lessons Learned from Laryngitis

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On Sunday, I could tell my voice was starting to sound a little scratchy so I popped the appropriate dose of Tylenol Cold and didn’t think any more about it … until Monday when I woke up and tried to greet my husband. Although I felt like I was screaming, I was only able to squeak out a tiny “good morning.” I knew then that I was entering a world where my thoughts would have to remain my own—a very lonely place for any extrovert.

I was sure this little setback would be short lived so I faithfully drank my honey-sweetened tea and waited patiently for my voice to return. Well, this game plan worked for less than twenty-four hours. By the time Tuesday rolled around, I was quite annoyed that I wasn’t able to communicate. As I had no choice but to remain mute, I realized how very frustrated I was with this set of circumstances. Out of boredom, I began to dig deeper into my thoughts and recognized that quite a few little lessons could be learned from my inability to vocalize. Since I rarely bother to psychoanalyze myself, I thought I would take advantage of this forced self-therapy session.

First, I recognized how annoyed and angry I got when my family couldn’t understand what I was saying. I would scream out my request, which they heard only as a whisper and instead of making a valiant attempt to understand me, they would respond, “What? What did you say, Mom?” or make an illogical request by saying, “Could you repeat that?” Well, after a few hours of this warped form of communication, I found myself grumbling, literally under my breath since no one could hear me, and I began to sulk. The main entrée at my pity party was tea and cookies. Midway through a very delicious sugar cookie, it dawned on me that some people go through life being misunderstood or not heard at all. Whether it’s due to people not respecting them, a debilitating handicap, or any number of other unnamed reasons, some people never have the delight of knowing that they are heard and understood and that their opinion counts. My opinion (at least to my family) fortunately only didn’t count for the few days I couldn’t talk; but, for some people, it’s something they face every day of their lives. My laryngitis has been a good reminder that I need to make a concerted effort to listen to others and acknowledge that they want to be heard and understood too.

From this initial psychological revelation, I launched into my next lesson: every thought that enters my head doesn’t have to exit through my mouth. I talk and I like to talk. I have lots of things to say but really, I don’t always have to say them. The last few days have shown me that I actually will live to see another day if I don’t spew forth every last noun, verb and adjective that is clamoring for freedom from my brain. They were held captive during the duration of my laryngitis and with a little discipline, they can be held captive even as my voice returns. I like to think my words are profound and that it would be a disservice if I didn’t relay them to friends and family; however, in reality, my support network probably would be relieved if I learned a little restraint. This was especially poignant during the process of helping my parents downsize in preparation for an upcoming move. I now admit that I caused the purging process to be extra difficult for my mother as I insisted on telling her what she should and should not take with her. In my warped perspective, I saw myself as relaying practical wisdom regarding what she will need as she downsizes and I felt a deep need to relay all of my thoughts. It wasn’t such a good idea. Moving day is this week and I think she may have successfully asked God to shut my mouth until the transition is complete. One of the first tasks once I get my voice back will be to make an apology to my dear mom and ask that she not ask God for anymore favors that involve me and my voice.

Finally, on a more positive note, I learned that my son is truly becoming a little guy with a big heart. As a preschooler, he’s accustomed to me ranting and raving about almost everything he does. Although I do use lots of loving words with him, I think like any parent, my corrections most days outnumber my words of praise. So, while he was getting a reprieve from all the commands and reprimands, he was also showing me that he cared about others. Occasionally he would walk past me, tap me on the leg and say, “It will be okay, sweetheart.” At other times, he would remind me that he understands that having no voice was difficult for me by saying, “I’m so sorry for your voice, Mommy.” As a mother, it’s easy for me to focus on all the work I still have to do to guide this precious boy into adulthood and I forget to look at the progress we’ve already made in a short number of years. While my mouth was shut, I was able to realize that the hard work of mothering does have its own rewards as my son demonstrated to me that empathy is now part of his little world.

While not being able to speak my mind, I never drank so many cups of tea. Whether it was the honey, all the herbs I consumed in the tea or just my own concerted effort to find something thought provoking, this bout with laryngitis certainly opened my eyes to some new lessons. And now I know it’s probably better to always open my eyes than to always open my mouth.


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