I was writing an article for MamaPop last night (you can read it here) about Roger Ebert, the movie critic who lost his lower jaw to cancer, and now cannot eat, drink, or speak. It might seem unimaginable, but Ebert doesn't want any pity. He's learned to cope and thrive, and is an AMAZING writer still, finding his voice mainly on the internet.
It really got me thinking about the time in my life when I couldn't speak. It was actually two years ago right at this time, when I was intubated for almost two weeks, and then had so much damage to my throat from ripping out the tubes *TWICE* (I was a delight in the hospital, they LOVED me there) that for almost the entirety of the next month I could not speak. I was also in rehab at the time, where Sharing is Caring, so it was doubly agonizing to be silent.
What I remember the most, the most visceral of emotions regarding my forced silence, was the anger. I was SO ANGRY. Ripshit! The frustration was so palpable that I was rude (quietly) in the hospital, I was sullen in rehab, and I was seething inside at all times. Being that I was locked up in the 'hab, I didn't have internet access, so my beloved blogging was out of the question, and I yearned for an outlet. I wanted, no, I NEEDED someone to hear me.
What I got were people who were SO patient with me in the 'hab, who carefully watched me mouth words or scribble on a notebook. I'm a talker (Jersey girl here) so I always have a lot to SAY, and having that taken away from me made me miserable.
After the anger came the listening. I really learned to listen during that time. In rehab, all you do is listen to other people tell their stories, and work out their problems, and bitch and moan and groan and laugh (it's true, there was a lot of laughing in rehab) and my forced silence really made me sit back and take in what everyone else was saying. I couldn't interrupt, obviously, so I might as well listen.
I learned so much from that silent month. I learned the life stories of people I will remember for the rest of my life. I learned to listen to my own thoughts, and reflect on them instead of finding excuses for them. I learned that silence IS golden, because it forced me to concentrate, on others, and myself.
I learned a lot from rehab, and I've got great stories to now tell. I can speak now, but I run out of breath easily, my voice is lower in pitch than it was before, and my once-gifted ability to sing is completely gone. But I think that ever since my silence, I've taken a breath and listened before speaking up more times than not. It's a valuable lesson, a hard one, that took events I wouldn't wish on anyone, but it made me a better person, a better friend, a better listener. And I treasure that.
So don't pity Roger Ebert, and don't pity me from this story. Take the time to listen to another person, sit quietly with your thoughts. Write them down. You'll be amazed at what you'll find out about yourself.