I can't talk.
It's not that I can't actually force sounds out of my throat; it's that I've been medically advised not to do so. For someone who has spent their entire life living by sounds, this is the strangest trial I've ever experienced. It's Christmastime, and I can't sing. As a child singer, one of my favorite Christmas hymns was Silent Night, Holy Night...now as an adult, I'm acting a parody that could be called Silent Month, Holy Month. You see, in my world, I don't just listen to sounds--I live them. I mimic them, I mock them, I make them. What am I now? What are we, when our identity is taken away?
You know how people sometimes play the game "If you had to choose..."? I've played it with friends before. Especially when it comes to which of your five senses you might have to do without as age steals away youth. But I didn't just choose; I begged God never to take away my hearing. I could live without sight, but to live trapped in a world without sound seemed unbearable. The one possibility I never considered, however, was losing my own ability to make sound. Sounds. Noise. Melody. Music...even simple, ordinary words.
Of course, writing that string of one-word sentences above made me just ache to have sound burst through my wearied, rebelling vocal cords. Sheer discipline and the knowledge that religiously observing this self-denial is what might spare my voice for the rest of my life are the only things keeping me in check. As of this writing, I've been silent for almost 4 days. (Think of all of the verbal sins I won't have to account for!) And those four days have revealed things I'd never have noticed as my usual, admittedly verbose self. Here's a run-down of what I've been learning thus far:
1. I think too much of my own opinions.
To have to sit silently through days of conversations swirling around me has convinced me that I value my own opinion far too much. When I constantly have to suppress the urge to insert an opinion, I realize just how often I must give them in the normal course of a week. This is probably the only time in my life I will get to observe how interactions play out when my input is not given...whad'ya know! People can find the right answers without my help! Earthshattering realization.
2. I am too hasty with my words.
It's easy to try to cover up an off-the-cuff comment when you can insert a teasing, playful comment immediately afterward. But when you're communicating via the written word, sometimes the cold hard force of the sentence strongly outweighs any intent of jest. And written apologies are much, much more difficult than verbal ones to get right!
3. Communication is a gift.
The most beautiful thing about not being able to speak is learning to listen. Truly listen. To see the kindness of other people as they try to interpret my gestures; to hear the way that other people view life. As friends and co-workers kindly (or sometimes mischievously) try to speak on my behalf, I hear into their viewpoints in a way I never would've been able to do, speaking for myself. I'm given a glimpse into what they think about others, and what they would say if they were me, in a way that changes my perspective of the relational world. For this, I'm truly grateful.
All of that to say, that our identities are not all we crack them up to be. Shakespeare's often-abused quote is very apropos here: To be, or not to be: that is the question. Indeed; but so many people choose not to be, when circumstances don't go their way. In Ann Voskamp's words, choose joy*.
Who am I? What is my identity? It's one that can't be defined by the sounds and silences of a tangible world. I'm a child of God. I'm a daughter of the King. I'm a princess of Heaven merely travelling this world...and that can't be taken away from me.
I am Christ's. And He is my song.
-Americana M. Vignette
December 5, 2013
*The below article I located half-way through the writing of my own, above...and this lady's work in words brought tears to my eyes. Choose joy!