Not too long ago a nasty upper respiratory infection presented me with a serious case of laryngitis. Not just a-little-bit-hoarse laryngitis but full blown, not-a-sound-could-squeak-out laryngitis. I'm a teacher and a seminar presenter. Being able to talk is my bread and butter. Plus, I'm a woman and that's just the way we're wired, always with the talking and the explaining and more of the talking. So this whole episode of not being able to make a sound, this was foreign territory for me and it lasted about a week. The thing was I followed my same routine. I even went to the mall to find some luggage which took a couple of hours. People would greet me, I would wave and smile, they would ask me if they could help me, I'd shake my head and smile some more and keep looking at the merchandise. When I found something I liked, I'd pay for it, answering questions with a head nod or shake. I also traveled to the mid-west during this time. It was more of the same. I discovered that I didn't really have to do much talking to get through the day, to say nothing of traveling to the great state of Indiana.
And I had to wonder, was it that I didn't need to talk or it didn't matter because people weren't listening anyway? I sometimes wonder if we are a nation of individual monologues masquerading as conversation. Is conversation a lost art? I think so, and there are times I am part of its demise. I'm guilty way too often of throwing in a funny one-liner for the sake of a laugh in a conversation instead of truly listening. While I had laryngitis for that week, I thought I'd be powerless without a voice, but I found out that listening gave me more strength and there was that humbling revelation that there was precious little I had to say during the day that was actually important.
What about now? My voice slowly came back in odd incarnations. To the marvelous teachers who came to my seminars in Evansville, Indianapolis and Cincinnati, I sounded like the love child of Marge Simpson's sister, Patty and Lee Marvin in Paint Your Wagon. There was a full week after that that I sounded like Debra Winger which wasn't bad. I'm back to sounding like myself again which I've missed, another new experience for this old broad. The thing was that the laryngitis was temporary, but the lessons were permanent. I find myself saying less and listening more in my conversations, trying hard to silence my inner Rodney Dangerfield. What I'm discovering is that the more I listen, the easier it is to find just the right thing to say even if it's nothing at all.