When I was in high school, a teacher introduced me and a friend to the family of a boy with Down’s Syndrome. We were talking about things people don’t necessarily realize impact those with a handicap like Down’s.
As part of an exercise, we were asked to do simple tasks while wearing wool mittens, like buttoning a coat, zipping a zipper, using a fok and knife, etc. It was extraordinarily difficult to function this way, which realistically taught us what living with Down’s was like.
Living with unrefined motor skills is one thing. But this month I Iearned there are other skills one can lose that can be similarly humbling.
For a little over two weeks now, I have been suffering the worst and most bizzare case of laryngitis I have ever experienced. One day, my voice just went. It’s returning, very slowly. But I’m surprised at what a difference my relative silence has made in my daily life.
Now most people who know me well know I’m something of a trained communicator. I use my “voice” in many ways, and even spent a number of years as a spokesperson for government and various industries. So the thought of me not being able to talk will give some a chuckle.
I am finding out that it’s not all that funny. God has again found a subtle way to humble me, and make me realize the little things I take for granted everyday.
The hardest thing so far has been being “Mom.” My girls you probably know by now are 9 and 10. Prime age for bickering, moaning, fighting and the like. I can not currently raise my voice to speak above them, to let either or both know they’ve got it coming if they don’t shape up. And they know they can take advantage of this. They have been pretending they can’t hear me. It’s lead to me perfecting “the look.” I may not be able to yell my unhappiness, but I can still share it with them, if they are looking at me.
God at work again. It’s hard for me to admit, but when it comes to discipline, I’ve always been a bit of a yeller. I can frighten my children with the tone and level of my voice. It is something of an art form. I don’t think this is what God wants me to do when they act up. Maybe he’s leading me to another tactic? Either way, it’s hard to parent with no voice.
I also cannot manage my two rather noisy dogs. The other day, one ran off. I was late picking the girls up at school because I had to find and retrieve her on foot, as I wasn’t able to call her with any authority. When visitors have come to the door, I cannot sush their barking in order to be heard.
I’ve had a number of appointments cancelled due to cold and snow days. I haven’t been able to phone any of my medical providers to reschedule, as I can’t be heard by parties on the other end of the phone line. I have to whisper in the waitresses ear to order in a restaurant, or have someone else order from me. I have to be careful about eating, as my throat, raw from trying to talk, is not tolerating spices well.
God is teaching me two lessons from this that I have been refusing to learn throughout my life.
The first is, keep it brief. I have a terrible way of saying too much at the wrong time. My stories are too long, my explainations over-bearing. I’ve realized every comment doesn’t need wordsmithed and nuanced. But it is a hard habit for me to break. At dinner the other night, my sister-in-law remarked that something didn’t seem right. We all got a good laugh when she realized that the meal was unusually quiet because I wasn’t running my mouth!
The second is, don’t be afraid to ask for help. He’s been working on this with me for a long time now. I can’t do it. Ask for help that is. For more reasons than not being able to talk. Yet in His patient way, God’s been showing me that even the strongest people need help sometimes with the easiest things. My 10-year-old has been speaking for me in various places, and learning to refine her phone skills. Funny, God is using my affliction to help her grow. My husband has been speaking in my stead as well, and learning to listen more carefully to what I say to him. And we’ve all been learning to communicate without words.
I guess it is true that every coin has two sides. In the most simple of ways, God reminds us how fortunate we really are, and provides the humility we need to exist in he world with others whose struggles are greater than our own. Apparently all we have to do is shut up and listen.