Rare is the time that I find myself at an actual loss for words. For as long as I can remember, every report card I brought home had the word “talkative” in the side bar. My own father even referred to me from time to time as “The Mouth.” Spoken words have always been my first choice of communication. When I am concerned, I share it. When I am angry, I express it. When I am joyful, I shout it. Talking is simply my M-O.
For the past twelve years my “gift of gab” has served me well as an educator. When I lack a physical audience, I turn to the page and allow my words to impact there. Words are utterly bound to the person I am.
After thirty two years of near constant vocal stream, the last of which was spent hoarse and sore, my ENT discovered two pesty nodules on either side of my vocal chords and prescribed vocal therapy and four solid days of vocal rest—essentially rendering me speechless for the better part of a week.
I saw it as an adventure, a challenge. My kids got really into it and came running every time I clapped. During this time, I even taught a powerful class about “tapping into our essence” to a group of fifteen students, using only cue cards and theatrics as tools. I sailed through those four days with bravado, and I felt like a champ at the end of it.
Five weeks later—weeks of slow progress peppered with several life affirming bouts of sore throat—my drill sergeant, eh hem, my speech therapist upped the ante and put me on a solid month of vocal rest, in an effort to reverse the damage I have inflicted on my pipes after years of overuse and misuse. Although my physical pain prompts me to follow her prescription, right now this feels like one strong dose of impossible.
In general, I see myself on a perpetual journey to find the dimmer switch in my head. I tend to vacillate between two polarities: filling my time with the energy and productivity of a senior executive, and crashing like a junkie. The thought of sitting still for extended hours of “quiet time” and meditation actually stresses me out. Although I often fantasize about long days with nothing on my “to-do” list, I more often burn myself out chasing that very dream.
This disquiet in my life—this thinking, running, and doing—generally finds its way into speech of some kind. “Avigayil, I’m so stressed; listen to what happened.” “Mom, I have to tell you this amazing connection I made.” “Chezi, put the knife down!” How else am I to sort through the thousands of streaming thoughts if I cannot process them verbally?
Having always been a high-voltage kind of woman, this extended pass into the Halls of Quiet feels downright clumsy. And here is the, quite literal, bottleneck that I find myself in: These throbbing, swollen nodules are, in essence, screaming for more stillness of being, more quiet; and I don’t even have a dimmer. If I could work on turning down some of my internal noise, I might have a shot at keeping my mouth shut for the next month.
My experience confirms the truth of the age-old adage that “G‑d doesn’t give us more than we can manage.” I accept that a) this is an experience I am designed to handle, and b) this whole situation is being orchestrated by G‑d Himself—His way of saying, “Turn down the volume, sweetheart; it is time to unplug and try an acoustic version.”
Be that as it may, right now I’m hating this version.
I hate this because I was under the comfortable illusion that I was in control, but G‑d just pulled rank. As easy as it may be to talk about accepting G‑d’s will in my life, practicing that faith is a whole different story.
I do recognize the growth potential here… I’m banking on a lot of personal growth. But, at the same time, I fear the demands of that growth, and the change that it may bring. I worry that my loudness of spirit is the bulk of what makes me who I am.
I fear that without my voice, and the buzz in my brain that fuels it, I will fade away. I have come to like who I am, and I am anxious about turning down my volume, lest I lose the best parts of me.
It is these unchartered areas of self that I resist. Afraid of what I may find hidden under all of my noise.
I remember seeing an amazing documentary film called “Stormchasers” when I was younger. The film featured a team of scientists who literally flew into the eye of a hurricane to learn about the nature of the storm and predict its pattern. I remember watching the team strap themselves into their seats, then seeing a few minutes of supreme quaking and jolting, followed by absolute stillness. Once they made it into the eye of the storm, all was quiet. The ride in and out was a bear, but inside, it was relatively calm and peaceful.
I am getting ready for “take off” towards this lesson in quiet, about to fly head on into the eye of my inner hurricane. My challenge is to find my voice without using my voice. I don’t know where this next month will ultimately take me, what patterns I will notice, or discoveries I will make along the way. Wherever they are or will be, I pray for the strength to go where He wants me to go with this, and to be brave enough to find stillness in the storm, even as I grow.