Some days the words don’t come out right, the words that fill the pages, when brain and lips and tongue must work together and they just will not. This was one of those days, a slow re-entry to work. But the problem with my voice is not a matter of recovering from vacation. A few years ago I caught a mysterious virus that damaged one of my vocal cords, and changed me forever.
I think of how my voice once sounded, of the way I could control it, of the pretty notes it sang, before. And I wonder why I chose a nickname that had no application to my reality by the time I picked it.
This morning we sang hymns I love, but my voice added nothing.
It’s a reality so stark and sad that I can hardly bring myself to think about it. Inflection is gone. The capacity to imitate is gone. Singing is gone.
I have a hoarseness that is more wispy than whiskey. I sound weak.
When I was in high school, I played Lucy in "You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown," and just in time for presenting a few scenes to a school assembly, I lost my voice. My characterization was all about volume, but I didn’t have any for a day or two. And so I had to learn another way to exhibit Lucy’s bossiness. I was told it made my performance better, more nuanced.
But this hoarseness that doesn’t leave, and is some weeks very bad, doesn’t make me a better preacher or speaker. It makes me even harder to hear for those people who claim that women’s voices don’t sound right in a pulpit.
At the same time my speaking voice has been disappearing, my writing voice has grown. I write more and more, a greater variety of things, and I love both the process and the outcome. Writing pleases me. I love moving the words around with ease on a screen, the way I once did in my mouth.
But I think I would give it back to be able to sing again. Singing was an important spiritual discipline and a great spiritual joy. When I could not pray, I could sing. Singing lifted me. It could be done in community. Writing is solitary. I love blogging for bringing me into a new community, a cyber-city of writers, a new source for friends and rivals and irritants, all sorts of connections.
I sang in the church choir for many years. That choir formed a village within the larger city of the church. We cared for one another, competed with one another, grieved and rejoiced with one another. N took me out to lunch after I lost a baby. J’s wife made a quilt given to me by the choir when The Princess was born three years later. T and I loved to sit next to each other, and E sat on her other side. We shared pencils and hearts. None of us sits in that choir loft now. I left to pastor a church. T became a Catholic, and I’ve heard that E goes to the Friends’ Meeting.
Now I share my cyber-whispers with R and S and M and K and J.
No wonder I love it–I am at no disadvantage when it comes to the written word. Here my voice can be as strong as I wish to make it, as gentle or as playful as it remains in my head.