Music, Writing


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.

12 thoughts on “Voice”

  1. Your writing is, as always, beautiful. Even when writing about such loss.
    You may have already looked into treatment. But just in case you’ve been told by a GP “that’s all we can do,” well, there may be hope: I’ve had several singer friends who have had similar vocal injuries from illness or overuse. They’ve benefitted greatly from voice therapy, which is a somewhat new field
    There’s a center only a couple of hours away from you that might be helpful:

  2. And a beautiful voice it is… visiting your blog each day brings a smile to my face and other days, gives me wonderful food for thought. I can hear you loud and clear. :c) Blessings to you Songbird…

  3. I met you through your writing. I see your gifts through the written word. Now that I know you IRL I hear you in your voice and writings.
    I know loss and I know it can dim us but your light shines beautifully without a sound.

  4. Before we had our first phone conversation, I wondered what your voice would sound like, since you were raised in one distinctive part of the country (accent/dialect-wise) and now live in quite another.
    I was pleased to find that it was soft and soothing, much like I hope my own is on most days.
    I can’t imagine what it would be like to lose a singing voice, nor can I say that I know what it is like to have your wonderfully dulcet writing voice. I can only say that knowing you is a gift.

  5. Songbird, I am sure you have gotten your vocal cords checked out – but if you haven’t, please do – have they checked for nodules? A speech therapist can also make some recommendations too, if you haven’t gone that route. There are some therapies available…..
    I ditto what others have said – your written “voice” is beautiful. Bless you.

  6. I love your writing voice. It’s just magic. And I’m so sorry about your physical one. That must be hard. Blessings on all your beautiful voices.

  7. your voice – and that of God’s – comes out loud and clear here on your site and touches many, including me. I thank God for this ministry too – you are one fabulous writer!

  8. I agree with everyone who has commented–and I add my voice to Cathy’s if you have never gotten your vocal chords checked out. I have an idea, being a bird myself, what it would be like to lose the gift of singing.

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