Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Restoring our Voices

About a week ago, I read an article called, Why do stars like Adele keep losing their voice? It was very nearly my Friday Feature but, in the end, I chose something else instead so that I could mull over this particular piece.

Because this piece was personal. I've lost my singing voice -- or a major aspect of it -- twice. The first time, there was a sort of hole in my range -- a place where nothing would come out except air. The cause was not a nodule, as mentioned in the article with respect to the stars who lose their voices, but a polyp on my vocal cord. It was removed, I recovered in silence (the prescription for allowing the area to heal) and slowly, I regained my voice.

A couple of years ago, I started having vocal issues again. It was as though my range was shrinking. Was it age? Another polyp? Stress? Long story (and long slog from doctor to doctor) short, this time, reflux was the issue. Another procedure -- this one diagnostic, rather than reparative -- some meds and a prescription for foods I should avoid and, slowly, my voice returned.

Or, in this case, is returning. The second loss, in addition to impacting my range, took some of my confidence with it. Fortunately, a fabulous, well-trained voice teacher -- one who knows when to joke with me, when to commiserate and when to tell me to stop feeling sorry for myself -- is also a part of my recovery. I'm still tentative at times, measuring the sounds that emerge, which is precisely the wrong thing to do if I want to sing well, and precisely the times when the sounds I fear I will produce emerge.

Pexels via Pixabay
But this morning, in revisiting this article, I got to thinking that there are many ways we can lose our voices. As writers, we lose our voices when life keeps us away from the keyboard or when the words won't come -- or when the words that do come are as displeasing to our eyes as the hole in my vocal range was to my ears. As humans, we run the risk of losing our voices when someone else overpowers or devalues us, making us too afraid to speak.

In these moments, we question ourselves. Is that it? Has my talent run its course? Do I have the energy to fight the battle necessary to restore my voice, whether on the page or in some other fashion?

The news is full of stories of those who've been labeled as less than -- whether by a thoughtless remark, a hateful tweet, or legislation intended to disenfranchise. Without the strength and confidence to press forward in spite of others' opinions -- not to mention the internal obstacles that cause us to question ourselves -- it's easy to remain voiceless. To believe that this is it. The end of the road. A door has closed and, weary, we lock it and lean against it, too exhausted to realize that we have the key.

One of my favorite quotes is this one, attributed to Eleanor Roosevelt:
"No one can make you feel inferior without your consent."
The initial loss of our voices may be beyond our control, but often, continued silence is a choice we make. We can deign to speak again, but doing so requires us to take a risk -- one that may make it easier to sit in silence. Losing my voice -- especially for the second time -- took a piece of my confidence with it. Consequently, rebuilding my confidence is an important part of the work I need to do to restore my voice.

In some ways, restoring confidence is even harder. Every attempted vocalization requires me to don my shield to protect the fragile, scattered pieces that, when properly connected, make up an important part of my identity. A label, an idle comment, or, heaven forbid, a sharp-edged criticism, can be enough to disconnect the pieces that have been painstakingly put back into place.

rucsandrams via Pixabay
But restoring our confidence along with our voices is what gives us the desire to keep speaking. To keep taking risks, whether words on the page or notes in a song.

And so we take a deep breath and we unlock the door. We use our voices because, to be voiceless is even worse than being afraid. We write, we speak out, we sing out because it's only in using the power we already possess that we can strengthen what is weak and forge ahead, speaking -- or singing -- our truth to the world.

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