I lost my voice on Friday night. I'd been battling a cold all week and it finally went after my vocal cords, reducing my voice to squeaks and squawks. By Saturday morning, I could only whisper. The kids thought it was downright hilarious that I was reduced to snapping my fingers, waving my arms or using a hodge-podge of inventive sign language to get their attention.
After a full day of no voice, I had gained some humbling insights into myself:
- Yelling at my children is not half as effective as whispering at them. In fact, I think if I really want to get my children's attention, I'm going to start whispering. It forces them to stop clamoring, look at me and say: "What, Mom? What are you saying?" Once I have their attention, it's really quite easy to issue my mandates in a calm, whispery voice.
- Quiet voices beget quiet voices. It only took about fifteen minutes before the kids started whispering back to me. In other words, I was able to set the standard for acceptable vocal volume simply by being the example of a quiet, whispery voice. By mid-morning, everyone was talking in whispers to each other. It was an unexpected result and showed me that mothers really DO set the mood and atmosphere of their home. If I'm using a quiet, gentle voice--my children will follow suit. However, if I'm using a loud, demanding, abrasive voice--my children will imitate that as well.
- My husband sorta liked my quietness. Now, before anyone screams SEXIST!, let me explain. My husband loves my verbal expressiveness and is highly amused by what he calls my "Greek" antics. He never complains about my loud verbosity. My wordiness is one of the reasons why he married me! And he can't wait for me to get back to my old talky-talky self again. However, once my vocal cords were involuntarily shut down, he jokingly commented about how peaceful it was around the house. All of which leads me to my next revelation...
- I don't need to say everything I want to say. I know, I know. REVELATORY. But seriously, I usually speak whatever is on my mind. I just let it all out. And I have this feeling that if I can't say EVERYTHING I need to say, I'll die. I was sort of shocked to discover that I survived not being able to articulate every single thing I wanted to say. And I also realized how much of what I say is non-essential. I mean, really, do I have to give my opinion about every.single.thing? No. No, I don't.
- "Disasters" seem less disastrous when you're quiet. Not being able to say certain words in the heat of the moment actually made "disasters" seem less disastrous. For example: one of the twins spilled her milk at breakfast. All over the table and onto the floor. Now, usually I jump up and shout: OH NO! EVERYTHING IS GOING WRONG! and start crashing around to clean it up. Instead, I said nothing. Just my silence made everything much better. I even managed to use a facial expression that said something like: "It's-OK-it's-just-an-accident." And oddly enough, it really was OK. It was, after all, just spilt milk. In the end, I was thankful I hadn't been able to say anything because it showed me how often I say unnecessary, anxiety-creating words in the heat of the moment.
- My words speak louder than my actions. I realized how dependent I am upon using my words in order to be understood. I have this deep need for people to understand me. And if I can't use my words, I feel misunderstood. I use my words to shape my ideas about myself, my attitudes and thoughts. But when I was forced to use less words, I realized how often I talk the talk but don't walk the walk. I feel really humiliated, actually. I might even go to Confession this week because I think I've made an idol of my words and my ability (my right! my entitlement!) to use them.
- How am I using my words? This was probably the most convicting realization to emerge from my time of forced silence. Am I using my words to edify, encourage and bring healing to others? Or do my words sow doubt, fear, confusion, cynicism and anxiety? There's nothing like a time of silence to make you re-examine your words.
I use my words. I use them a lot. Now that I've been forced into silence, I'm not super impressed with how I've been using them. Well, maybe being honest about my failures in this blog post is a good way to redeem my words. I can only hope...