As winter comes in around us, and the snow finally comes down, it forms the backdrop for changes in our lives. We slow down. We nest a little more. My rural-living sister always said the winter seasonal fruits of apples and pears are less juicy than summer fruits, like berries and peaches, because we are less active and frankly, perspire less, needing less hydration.
Summer time buzzes. Winter is quiet. The sounds of the world are muffled under the snow-quilt. The whole season is a metaphor: life is seems dormant, held in limbo, until the sun's warmth makes things grow again. The dormancy is an illusion, because much is happening under the surface.
There is a personal silence that is just as powerful, especially if it's imposed upon you. Years ago, I wrote a lyric, "Sometimes I feel like cotton's got me wrapped around….I tiptoe through this world and never make a sound." That lyric came from a time when I was silent. Not just less talkative, but a doctor-imposed total silence. I felt like no one noticed me. Choosing to get off the treadmill can be a great idea. It's a chance to look inward and recharge. When there is no choice, however, silence is an isolating, muffled existence.
I am a singer, and at those times, my vocal cords failed me. Twice in college, I had nodules, and was in forced voice rest for weeks at a time. I didn't know it was my speaking, not my singing, that was doing damage. I had to learn to talk again. It happened again about ten years ago, and for those who know me, make all the jokes you want right now, I've heard them all. Yes, there were amusing parts of the experience. For example, I went out with a guy twice before he ever heard my voice; it wasn't a deal-breaker, we continued to date for a short while after. And remember those plastic Mickey Mouse cardboard things where the writing disappears when you lift the plastic sheet up? I had one , and took it with me wherever I went. During one of these episodes, I was a mom and the kids loved the idea that I couldn't speak to, much less yell at them.
Odd things happen when you're silent. First of all, you become conscious of how loud the world is when you're not adding to the cacophony. When people realize you're not speaking, for some reason, they talk louder to you . My ears worked. My voice didn't. Go figure. Silence focuses your thinking - you thoughts get pretty concise when you have to write down everything you want to communicate.
But silence meant sickness to me. Silence meant I had to heal. Silence meant "she" was back, the sick one, the person who would rather sit alone instead of being with friends. She wasn't me; she was an alien. She had to be endured and then left behind, especially after she kept coming back. Silence meant the one thing I thought I could count on, my voice, was as fickle as the rest of the things I loved in the world. Silence meant disappointment and sadness.
I'm writing this because someone I love very much is going through exactly what I went through, and I understand so deeply, it almost hurts, because it takes me back to that muffled and isolating place. So here's what I learned: I came out the other side, stronger. I can count on my voice again, because I know exactly how to avoid "her", she who doesn't rule me anymore. She hasn't been back since.
Just like winter, good things are happening below the surface. The healing is happening every minute, and soon, we will all be warmed by the sounds you can make again. You don't have to retreat. You don't have to be someone else. You're still you, just on a different setting. And just like a mother waiting for her child's first words, I wait for yours.