Hard to believe how quickly this week has passed by. I have been struck by the most interesting illness that I’ve had in a number of years. When I last wrote, I had suffered through three days of excruciating sore throat and lethargy, with no other symptoms. Then on the fourth day, I felt well enough to get up and about. By the fifth day, I actually thought I was starting to get better. Then when I woke up on the sixth day, I had no voice at all. But since the fifth day, I have otherwise FELT fine. And my throat hasn’t been hurting since then, either – except now, because the effort I have taken to communicate today has taken a toll on me. When I said it was an interesting illness, I meant in the sense that it’s had specifically differentiated stages, and unlike most sicknesses that I have experienced, I haven’t needed a single tissue.
Not having a voice is much more problematic than I remembered. The last time I remember being unable to talk was when I had my wisdom teeth removed in high school, and that was only for an afternoon. I have been struggling to speak all week; even when I was feeling better and able to talk, my voice was quite hoarse. And today has been a whole new level of trouble.
Do you know all the things you can’t do when you have no voice? You can’t talk on the phone – which includes being unable to answer incoming calls. You can’t order things at a drive-thru. You can barely order things at a restaurant. You come off as standoffish when you’re meeting new people at a group setting*. You can’t keep up a conversation. You can’t sing 😦
Years after my childhood, I finally realize the gravity of what Ariel was going through in The Little Mermaid. But clearly, she didn’t play enough charades as a child, because I have found it relatively straightforward to communicate simple things in person, to people I know. But I guess she didn’t know Prince Erik that well, and she was trying to communicate a much more complicated concept: true love’s kiss. Still, I feel like she could have done better. But I realize how FRUSTRATING it is to be without a voice. I feel helpless.
The good news is that with so many verbal outlets online, I don’t feel completely cut off from the rest of the world. I honestly feel more isolated when I’m in a face-to-face group, because speaking is the only way they’re communicating. If we ever reach a dystopian future where we only communicate via computers (for instance, the recent movie, Surrogates), it won’t matter if we’re all mute! But until then, speech is such an important part of my life. And so, I’m trying my best to give my voice a rest so that I don’t cause any permanent damage.
It’s actually a little more scary than I’m making it sound. It’s easy to make a joke about it, or coldly analyze my predicament. But I have no guarantee that this loss of voice isn’t permanent. What would life be like if I became mute? I think a big part of my soul would die if I lost the ability to sing. And I would need to learn sign language or carry around pen and paper to communicate in person. I would also need to buy one of those text-to-speech programs for communicating on the phone. It would make all verbal communication seem impersonal and stilted. In short, it would be a drastic, negative change in my life.
It’s amazing how much I take my voice for granted. I feel crippled without the ability to verbally communicate. I hope this, too, will pass, and that I come out of it unscathed.
*Tonight I attended an alumni event with some friends, where we all met to paint pottery. I met a few new people, but mostly I couldn’t participate in the socializing aspect event. And it kills me, because I am usually so outgoing! But when a smaller group of us did go out to dinner later, I amused all by my miming, text-talking, and communicating with the server.