Unspoken: Speaking About Not Speaking

It’s been since October 22 that I have been without a speaking voice. If you are reading this, and we are FB friends, then you know I was sick with a virulent infection that included a bout of what is called “community” pneumonia. Community pneumonia simply means it was not picked up in a hospital and I could have been picked up absolutely anywhere. Crappy luck.

Being without a voice is an interesting kind of liminal space to be in. Of this world 100% but absolutely unable to vocally react or respond to anything and finding myself behind this veil of silence is both liberating and frustrating.

Funny thing: I’m a long-time yogi and practitioner (and teacher) of meditation. I know the world of retreat induced silence and the benefits of withdrawing from speech now and again. But this current, unintended retreat bears a very different kind of fruit from intentional silent retreat. The primary difference being that this time, I’ve got no choice. This silence is foisted upon me and because of that, there is an even deeper surrender that is taking place. There is also the added: “Will my voice return? How? When?” Soon enough an appointment with an ENT specialist should answer those questions but it is a funky, sharp edged unknowing that I am living with. Kinda scary but not full out scary yet.

The liberating part:

No automatic speech means less reactivity. I can witness habits of speech getting weaker and weaker from lack of repetition. There is a cool principal in the field of neuroscience called the Hebb principle: “Neurons that fire together, wire together.” Keep activating the same neural connections and the behaviors associated with those connections keep gaining traction. Now, I get to experiment with how language plays into this undoing of habits.

Loved ones call to chat, I simply listen and offer no responses. I am hearing them with much less self-agenda rising up. Interesting. If I need to share some information with my husband, I write a few choice words on a pad and leave all commentary out. An opinion arises in me, a reaction to a current political or social event and, I can feel, think and experience my reaction but it does not fly out of my mouth. The thing is, I am not missing hearing my own voice. Not yet.

I am not pretending that much of this does not suck but it sucks so much less than I would have thought had you told me I would be without a voice for two weeks and counting. Anticipating not having a voice would have created much more freak out than the reality of having no voice.

Six years ago I encountered voicelessness after surgery for thyroid cancer. Six years ago the experience was so layered with other issues that I was not able to surrender like I am now. I pushed for speech. I croaked and whispered through my recovery and did not fully bow to the experience. Not this time. Now, I am practicing a kind of patience that I was not able to fall back on before. I like this more patient me. Let’s see how much it spills out into all aspects of my life or how long it takes – when my voice returns- for me to get right back into my hyper verbal mode. Maybe there will be some permanent change. Maybe not. All will be revealed.

If you care to communicate with me, I would love it. Communicating via writing (so last century!) is rich so if you want someone to do it with, here I am!


3 thoughts on “Unspoken: Speaking About Not Speaking

  1. This post is really beautiful, Donna. Insight into all the angles / feelings and esp. the rewards of the (post feeling really awful) silence. You make it sound so tempting, but in the absence of enforcement, to be even more mindful of the reactive responses that characterize so much of my day, to just learn to be a better listener.


    Betty Marton Writer & Editor http://www.martoneditorial.com bamarton@mindspring.com 845.309.0502


    In Your Own Words Personal and Organizational Histories http://www.iyowpublishing.com

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