“How Do You Use Your Voice?”

February 6, 2021

“How Do You Use Your Voice?”

May 29, 2023

If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? Conversely, if you open your mouth to speak and you can’t make a sound, do you still have a voice? For the past week, I’ve been living with the latter, not by choice and not knowing for how long I will exist this way.

I keep referring to this time as a great experiment, but what if this isn’t just true for right now, what if this is part of who I am, and truly my actions will always speak louder than my words from here forward?

Here’s the backstory: For the past eleven years, my auto-immune disease and I have coexisted nicely, however in the past six months it got the best of me, creating issues with my heart and breath, two things it would be hard to live without. Graves’ disease is a thyroid illness and medication was not working so removing the thyroid was the answer. Fortunately I was in great hands, but unfortunately, my thyroid was the biggest one this surgeon had seen and it was very tangled with my vocal chords. It was necessary to cut the left vocal cord away from the thyroid, which left some nerve damage that we hope will recover. That’s the backstory, the rest of the story is yet to be written!

So I sit and ponder so many of the questions we asked at MEA, what do I want? How do I want to be? Are my intentions and actions aligned? Do I know what I stand for? Are my conversations full of appreciative inquiry? Mostly, how do I answer those questions while in this “liminal/in between” place of not knowing?

I think I understand enough to know that I have to be exactly where I am, and I am very grateful for that understanding. So, I am noticing what goes on around me, how people respond to me, how I respond to myself, how I gauge what is important and what I can let pass by.

Here are a few things I’ve noticed: When I am in a crowded place and would like to get past somebody, I cannot come up from behind and say excuse me, instead, I find another way around. I actually found this to feel like the ultimate politeness.

When I am with people at home, or on the screen, it takes time for me to get someone’s attention, anyone’s attention - so “quick wit” is kind of out the window - which leaves me wondering if what I was going to add was really that important or had value, mostly what I’m finding is that the answer is NO - my listening skills are getting so much sharper.

Lastly, living with a disability, makes me so much more aware of all people who are marginalized in one way or another, recently I was out in a store and when the salesperson saw I couldn’t speak she directed her conversation to the person I was with, assuming I couldn’t hear maybe, but she quickly corrected herself. Her action made me realize that there is so much work to be done around judgment, how quick and easy it is to fall into that place.

Do I have expectations that certain values and traits “should” look a certain way? This part of the equation really sends me down the rabbit hole, looking at all the different “isms” and marginalized communities and really wondering if I’m doing my part to recognize humanity! None of us deserve to fit in a box. I’m committed to looking deeper, listening closer and expressing with my soul!

My entire “routine” has changed, I spoke on the phone often, had my adult children over for dinner and games, walked around the beautiful city and wished people a good day, participated in Zooms and other online events where we all would speak - and while my routine has changed, my values have not. My Values - I am kind, loving, respectful, patient, polite, funny and fun, empathetic, communicative, honest and trustworthy. A loving family member and friend, and now I get to discover how to best exhibit all this without the spoken word! For right now this is true, for how long, who knows, but it’s a great experiment! The experiment is to have a voice without making a sound:)

Lisa Carmel lives in San Francisco, where everyday she uses her MEA tools to navigate all that is going on, globally and locally.

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