I was at a workshop recently, for which i was quite excited. I’d get to meet new peers from other companies and industries who shared a love for telling stories. I was looking forward to swapping ideas, asking questions, voicing thoughts on which I had been ruminating for some time. I imagined the nervous excitement of walking into a room of strangers and finding conversations that pulled me in. I saw the cocktails and the appetizers, the glittering intellect dispersed across the ballroom.
And then I lost my voice.
The day before the workshop, sound deserted me, refusing to release from my throat. Instead, air whooshed through, and if I forced it, a sound that was the hybrid of a donkey’s bray and a mouse’s squeak. There was no denying, laryngitis had struck.
It was disorienting. At breakfast, I couldn’t introduce myself. Then it got awkward. Folks didn’t know what to do with me, since there was no talking. One of the women who stuck around started feeling like my unofficial translator, a burden I did not want to put on her. During the sessions, I sat in silence and quelled the surge of thoughts that wanted to be converted into spoken words.
Slowly, I entered a stilled world. Talk continued around me. I noticed the voices that repeated; they had a lot to say and were drowning out other entrants. Some sat quietly, opening their mouths just once, as if to record their presence. A neighbour fidgeted quite a bit. Another watched intensely across the room, a fierceness emanating from her eyes. What is she so passionate about, I wondered? Since I could not ask, I let it be, and the searing gazes continued.
I picked up on kindnesses everywhere. The friend from the morning checked in on me to see if I had a lunch partner since I was incapacitated to make lunch dates. Cups of warm water appeared magically, at regular intervals, out of empathy for my need to soothe my throat.
Things unfolded at their will, without my nudging and hurrying and controlling. In the absence of noise cluttering the space, emptiness filled it. And then, all kinds of life entered. New bonds sprouted, friendships budded, connections became forged.
Disconcerting at first, losing my voice turned out to be the gift of accidental mindfulness. I hope to lose it again real soon.