It starts with the tickle in your throat. You know what I’m talking about.
For me, last week, it started with less of a tickle and more of a stabbing pain. Over the weekend the nodes in my neck started to expand, my temperature rose and the fog in my brain worsened. The work week began and a cough set in, so here I am fever down, lungs tight, and hoarse.
Hoarseness is fun, right? You get a sexy new voice for a few days and everyone pays attention to you! Except it’s a little less fun if you get paid to sing, because now you’re in a panic, doing some complicated math that involves dividing number of days until your next gig or audition by the amount of tea you expect to drink and increasing that exponentially by the number of days you were sick, then dividing by the total minutes you need to talk over the next few days.
Time for vocal rest, which unless one lives a completely solitary life is never truly possible.
Not talking: for many of us an unthinkable proposal. Extroverts tend to process information by talking. We relate by talking, we give direction by talking, we show who we are to the world by talking.
If I don’t talk, does it mean I don’t matter? I have built up a life out of words: words of love and depth, and also words of cleverness and facade. How else can I remind people I’m here, how can I convince myself that I exist without drawing attention to myself by the volume of my words?
What is the silence going to tell me? I may hear the voices of others which up until now it has been easier to ignore. I might hear God’s whisper in my heart telling me something that could derail my plans. I might hear the ringing nothingness of my own insignificance, the sound of a coin dropped into a bottomless well.
Who am I without my voice? Most singers live in terror of permanent vocal damage, not just because of the financial trauma it would cause, but because there is serious psychological trauma that goes with it. My whole life I have been known as someone who could sing. What do I do when I cant?
As a coping mechanism, I have found this silent way to guard myself with words. With luck and rest, in a few days I’ll be up and at them again, staving off the silence and the existential angst through speech and song.