I am now recently and thankfully over a bout of laryngitis that in all its manifestations lasted 8 weeks. That's a long time for an organizational trainer, public speaker, and professional singer. It was traumatic at times, frightening, and fascinating. Friends would say, "this is going to be a story eventually," and indeed it is and has been.
Have I said that "Unlikely Teachers" are not always welcomed at first? They can seem like annoyances at best and physically or emotionally traumatic at worst. In many cases, the teacher is life-changing in the sense that it shows us something about ourselves and the world that we might not have otherwise seen.
I've written about how default programming and ingrained habits can be changed by noticing them in the moment they occur and making a different choice, and advice-giving is one of my defaults. During the first days of the lovely laryngitis attack, I couldn't speak at all--not even a squeak. How fascinating were those moments when I would start to say something and realize I couldn't. Because it was a struggle to speak and because the doctors had told me NOT to unless absolutely necessary, I became acutely aware of these ki moments--Do I really need to say this? Most of the time I didn't.
A Worthy Opponent
I began to see my laryngitis as a worthy opponent, with whom resistance was futile and counterproductive. By using Aikido principles, I could metaphorically join the opposing energy to see where led. Several possibilities immediately showed themselves; for example, maybe the illness was offering me a needed rest, asking me not to show up in my usual ways, but to be still, quiet, and patient. It was keeping me from:
- Advice giving
- Being perfect
This view was often difficult to embrace. Much of the time I felt stifled. I identify with my voice, and it was cut off. As the days and weeks wore on it gradually came back, but not with the freedom and ease I was used to. It often took effort to speak clearly, and even then the voice was not fully present. This was like me not being fully present. Who was I if I didn't have a voice, in all the ways we think about that concept?
I kept blending, looking for the learning, being patient and doing all the things you do when you're sick, incapacitated and curious. Doctors looked and told me my vocal cords were fine, if a bit swollen. I stayed as quiet as possible, cancelled unnecessary appointments that required talking, while showing up for work that I could do.
Around Week 6, I began to have more voice. I saw a homeopath who helped with a constitutional remedy. And I took a therapeutic lesson with my voice teacher of 30 years. Gradually, the vocal muscles healed and grew stronger. And gradually I found my voice. As I did, my physical and emotional energy shifted, too. The "Judy" I know and missed was returning.
This was the last (or at least most recent) lesson my "unlikely teacher" had to offer. When my voice returned, I found my ki. Clearly, a major channel of my life force had been shut down and as it reopened and began to flow, so did I.
I would not wish for this event ever again, but I'm glad to have had all the ki moments and grateful for all the coaches who helped me find my way. Lessons learned?
- Accept what is. Fighting was only going to make things worse.
- Ask What can I learn here? And wait for the gift.
- Know that this too shall pass. And appreciate the quiet, rest, and ki moments.
Sending good ki to you and yours this beautiful day.