How ironic that it’s now just two months from the release of my new book, all about the significance of having regular and frequent conversations with your kids, and I’m currently forbidden from speaking. I recently underwent a vocal cord procedure which requires complete voice rest and then a slow re-introduction of speech. I’m at day 16 and I’m finding that the thoughts in my head are now as loud as my voice once was. I dream at night of talking and the dreams are so vivid I wake up clasping my mouth, afraid I have interrupted my healing process. And as a result of having to remain mum, I’m practicing conversation with my own kids in an entirely new way.
Living in silence has not meant living without a voice. I can speed-write as though taking dictation from own thoughts, and I gesture frantically in lieu of speaking. I was once fluent in American Sign Language (ASL) and am enjoying signing with my daughter who coincidentally is taking ASL as her second language. It’s interesting to me how my children seem more intuitive at times than even my husband, as if they know what I am about to say next. My son will look at me, at first confused at my gesture and then he’ll get it and utter, “oh, empty the dishwasher.” They’ve made a game of it - who best understands mom, a combination of crazy-eyed stares, ASL and charades.
I’ve had the chance to do a lot of thinking and to reflect on my role in day-to-day and deeper conversations. Writing everything out or gesturing requires that I think before I speak - every time! I often find myself pausing before attempting to communicate, taking a moment to consider, is this important enough to go through the whole process of communicating to someone else? Is this significant enough that I should grab my notebook or type it on my phone? This experience is making me appreciate communications as never before.
Since responding to others takes a new effort and extra time, I often fall behind in conversations, and while that can be extremely frustrating, it also gives me a chance to truly listen. I will often jump for my pen while someone else is mid-sentence or mid-story. But by the time I finish writing, the conversation has moved past the point where my interjection would come appropriately. It’s actually shown me how much I tend toward interruption. I know from my voice therapy that as I begin to talk again I will be expected to take a deep breath and speak slowly. Perhaps this will stop me from jumping in too fast and help me become a better listener. Will I prioritize what to say more meaningfully?
Family and friends have been incredibly supportive, sending beautiful flowers and checking in by text (which feels like an even playing ground to me right now). And my children have been keeping my spirits up and taking very good care of me. This has been an extremely challenging experience, including being without a voice during the yearly exercise of preparing my kids to go back to school. My husband has been bearing the true brunt. I am physically and emotionally exhausted after a day of trying to keep up and not only has he been helping with my communications, he has been a rock of support. A typically introverted man, he has been forced to keep the conversation rolling for two, which I can only imagine has been a learning experience for him as much as it has been for me. My hope is that our family will learn just a little more about our communication styles - but I know we’ve already done enough work to have a leg up at the next game night when it comes to playing charades!