This past week I haven't been able to keep that image out of my head. No - I haven't undergone plastic surgery, but I have been on complete vocal rest due to a bruised vocal cord. Today was the day we removed the metaphorical bandages and I was able to slowly start to speak. When I woke up this morning, I must confess, I was afraid to say anything. What if I didn't have a voice anymore? What if I never could speak or sing again?
The good news is, I do have a voice, but after a week of silence it’s raspy, rusty and frail. I'm told that's to be expected, and, if I follow my doctor's advice, I’ll slowly but surely be good as new. And yet, the experience of not being able to speak or sing has been very humbling and frightening. There are no guarantees for what the future may bring.
I've learned a lot this past week - and I'm still learning. I've learned how much I take my voice for granted. I’ve learned how it feels to be vulnerable. I’ve learned how hard it can be when I’m not fully engaged in a conversation. I’ve had to move from the center of attention to the sidelines. Anyone who knows me well understands how I might find that somewhat frustrating and difficult.
At the same time, however, after the first few days of fear and frustration, I eventually gave in to the silence.
I found myself listening a lot more than I had in the past. I started to see my vocal rest as a method of purification – a cleansing of sorts. I’ve learned how communication is not only the words we say – but how we approach the people around us.
I’ve also been much more aware of how our words can shape the world.
God created with words. In Genesis1:3 we find:
וַיֹּאמֶר אֱלֹהִים יְהִי־אוֹר וַֽיְהִי־אֽוֹר
Vayomer Elohim: Y’hi or – vay’hi or.
And God said: Let there be light! And there was light.
Words can also destroy.
In the book of Proverbs 18:21 we find the following:
מָוֶת וְחַיִּים בְּיַד־לָשׁוֹן
“Mavet v’chayim b’yad ha lashon
Death and Life are in the power of the Tongue.”
Rabbi Joseph Tulushkin, in his book, Words That Hurt, Words That Heal: How to Choose Words Wisely and Well writes about the impact that our words have on those around us and our own spiritual wellness. The way that we chose our words can lift up or destroy relationships – even entire worlds.
Over the next few days, my doctor has instructed me that I should strive to only speak 6-7 sentences an hour…. It’s not going to be easy, but I welcome the challenge. Each sentence I choose will have to be carefully weighed and savored. There can be no wasted words.
Maybe we all should take some time and think about the words we use every day?