Roger and Me

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. 



Roger and Me — 20 Comments

  1. I remember not being able to talk because I was so sick and on so many drugs. There was a woman that came to visit me one day and just sat there and combed my hair and even did my nails. It was such a beautiful thing to do. I really only had met her a few times. I remember being so upset that i couldn’t thank her. She had travelled so far and I couldn’t even talk or pick up a pencil to write. I learned a lot by just accepting and listening. Thanks for your story.

  2. You have no idea how much I needed to read “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. ”
    thank you.

  3. Great post 🙂 my grandma always pounded in my head “Open your ears, not your mouth you will be a better person ” . I have always done that and learn something new everyday.

  4. I think the world would be a better place full of better people if we all took a minute to actually HEAR what the other people around us were saying. We constantly are waiting for the other person to stop making noise so we can say what we want to say. Stop. Hear. Take in. These are beautful lessons for all to learn.
    Great post. Your blog is a highlight, my dear. Keep teaching us all.

  5. I lost my ability to speak on several occasions as I was trying to get out of the pit of despair I was dumped in.
    I was so down, in so much trouble I knew if I tried to speak I’d just lose it crying again and wind up back in the hospital. I didn’t want that. On more than one occasion I spent an entire therapy session writing notes to my therapist. Thank God she was so patient. Thank God she could even see me that day.
    Over the course of time I taught myself some sign language and the alphabet because my SIL knew some and I got tired of writing everything down.
    So I can really relate. I needed to be heard, but short of my therapist and a few people who could only listen and be supportive, they couldn’t really help me much. It was being so utterly out of control and disposed of like trash that had me so freaked out and was just making me worse.
    I’ve more or less got my voice back. Well yeah, I’ve got it back, and I didn’t lose it damage like you did, but it was gone nonetheless. So I know what that feels like.

  6. When my now thirty-four year old daughter was a junior in high school, she spent a few days in a hospital psych unit for her own safety. She promised me she would not open the car door as I drove her the fifteen minutes to the hospital. Good as her word.
    They didn’t have a separate adolescent unit and she participated in group activities and sessions with adults. I’ll never forget her amazement that this one older woman was there because of grief, the recent loss of her husband. One of many lessons learned while there.
    I’ve visited your site before, but didn’t leave a comment. Your written voice is strong and clear with wonderful pitch.

  7. Ya know soul sista, I am beginning to think you were brought to me to calm my soul tonight. I was vexed, unsettled, sad, and fearful (big problems at the moment but not life threatening) and now I am calmer ’cause I read your lovely words. Thanks. You never stop learning and growing…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge