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Lost My Voice, Found Myself, Again

Difficulties come when you don’t pay attention to life’s whisper. Life always whispers to you first, but if you ignore the whisper, sooner or later you’ll get a scream

—Oprah Winfrey

Have you noticed how familiar challenges continue to cycle through your life which present opportunities to do the deeper dive of healing from a place of greater safety, understanding, and compassion?

During this past Thanksgiving holiday weekend of 2019, I lost my voice. Laryngitis wrapped its red swollen, cracked fingers around my vocal cords. Talking creates discomfort. I have muted myself to heal. As someone who loves to express herself with spoken words, I’m finding gratitude and rich lessons inside the silence, once again.

I often take advantage of body ailments as a time to be curious about the mental, emotional, relational, and contextual conditions of my life. I broaden my view to all these areas because I’ve learned that repeated, familiar body ailments often connect to limiting beliefs that linger like that last bit of dog poo that I cannot scrape off my shoe after stepping, again, in a pile. The ailment almost always connects to unresolved feelings that haven’t fully processed through my heart.

I look at “pay attention to me!” body issues as a window to the rest of my life, a process I have been doing for years to great benefit.

This holistic perspective honors the mind/body/emotion connection because I know I’m not an isolated clump of symptoms. I’m an entire human being connected to the people I care about, the thoughts I think, the feelings that flow, and the past I lived. I also know that I can watch all of this from my ever quiet, internal witness.

A couple of weeks ago the man I hired to create Cherish Your World videos had set up all his equipment outside on his driveway. As the temperature rapidly dropped here in the mountains, the winds picked up ferociously creating a biting wind chill. I had texted him earlier to request that “Maybe we tape inside today.” However, he believed that shooting outside would stay consistent with the other footage of excerpts from Let Go Courageously. A handful of chapters remained to be read.

Thinking he would honor my request to remain inside, I arrived in skinny jeans, hiking boots, a fleece jacket over a cotton sweater with no hat, scarf, or gloves. A metal stool awaited my bony bottom. Speaking up did not even occur to me. A life-long pattern of automatically acquiescing to what seems like an authority figure, a person who appears to “know better than I do” took over my whole way of being. Days later, I revisited this moment over and over again wanting to understand and dismantle an unhealthy, habituated reaction.

I climbed up on the cold metal stool, followed his cues, and began reading the last chapters of my book. The icy wind gusts began to take my breath away as my body shivered with cold. We took breaks to warm up inside his house. He noted that the wind chill has plummeted into the teens. He offered me gloves, a hat, a thicker coat that I layered on top of my fleece which did little to warm my already bone-chilled body. We powered forward. I could no longer bear sitting on the icy metal stool. I stood shivering as I read the final two chapters. How did my voice not quiver?

I drove away in full-body shakes, teeth chattering, the heat blasting from my car, my hands like icy tentacles attempting to grip the steering wheel. I couldn’t remember ever feeling this cold. The brilliant sunshine could not warm anything. All I could focus on was getting home to a hot shower and sipping hot cups of tea.

Have you ever powered through a situation without even thinking about the harm you were doing to your body, your psyche, your heart, or your relationships?

I don’t know about you, but I own that I got trained from a very young age to step into grown-up shoes, to take on more than I was designed to endure, and to “suck it up.” A mantra delivered loudly and clearly during my childhood came through: “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.” I wanted to be a “tough” one even though so much of who I am at my core remains tender and sensitive. The demand for the yang of masculine energy in an unbalanced, unhealthy expression became and still becomes a way to cope, to survive, to produce results in a world that seemed to demand that I earn my right to exist.

The act of sitting on a metal stool in the freezing cold didn’t seem like a big deal given my past training. And yet, wow, really?

How many times have you not spoken up to authority figures? How many times when you did speak up to authority figures were you not heard or believed? How many times did your speaking the truth or pushing back create a ripple of backlashes that robbed you of your freedom, dignity, or sense of self-empowerment?

I acknowledge that a healthy, centered response to the videographer could have been to say, “I honor that you’d like the footage to be outside and consistent because you have an excellent eye for what creates an inviting video. I also appreciate that you’ve got everything set up. However, I am not willing to sit in the freezing cold. I don’t have that bandwidth or the proper clothing. Let’s reschedule for when the weather is warmer.”

As I live with the natural consequences of not taking care of my body like I could have, I’m grateful for another opportunity to shred limiting beliefs and those feelings of powerlessness that a young child or even a grown adult can experience. As I listen first to my body’s wisdom, to my freezing self after that shoot, to my currently inflamed vocal cords and my heart’s compassion, I can retrain my mind.

Before the laryngitis fully set in, I called the videographer. I created a temporary pause in our work together as I know I need to allow these learnings to settle in and the holidays have him very busy. I took full responsibility for silencing my voice that day and regretted doing so. He apologized when he realized he could have been more patient in waiting for another warm day. We realized there was rich learning for both of us.

As Maya Angelou says, “When you know better, you do better.”

Some of us might get to hike round and around the mountain, living and reliving certain pieces and parts of experiences until the layers of lessons finally titrate all the way down to our chilled to the bone, bones. Maybe next time we’ll advocate powerfully and confidently for ourselves without hesitation. At the very least we could pause to listen for our body’s truth, for what yearns to be expressed. Or maybe we’ll simply show up in the proper gear.

What lessons has life been teaching you lately? Do you cycle through similar challenges that remind you of previous ones as you deepen your learning? What have you realized about both powering through and choosing a gentler or different pathway?

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Laura Staley
Laura Staleyhttp://www.cherishyourworld.com
The founder of Cherish Your World, Laura Staley passionately helps people thrive by guiding them to a holistic transformation of space, heart, mind, body, and soul. Laura knows that there’s a relationship between the conditions of our homes or workplaces and the quality of our lives. Trained and certified with the Western School of Feng Shui and seasoned by almost two decades of working with a variety of clients, Laura uses her intuition and expertise to empower her clients to produce remarkable results in their lives. Her trifecta of serving people includes speaking, writing, and compassionate listening. As a columnist, Laura writes personal essays focused on self-discovery, feng shui, emotional health, and transformations from the inside out. Laura is the published author of three books: Live Inspired, Let Go Courageously and Live with Love: Transform Your Life with Feng Shui, and the Cherish Your World Gift Book of 100 Tips to Enhance Your Home and Life. Prior to creating her company, Laura worked as a fulltime parent and an assistant professor at Ohio Wesleyan University. She earned a Ph.D. in political science from The Ohio State University. Her joys in life include laughing with loved ones, dancing, reading, meditating, running, being in nature, and listening to music she loves. She resides in Black Mountain, NC with lovable dog, Layla. Laura is a contributing author to the inspiring book Crappy to Happy: Sacred Stories of Transformational Joy

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17 CONVERSATIONS

  1. Laura — I have an expression that I often use with clients in my coaching: “Where are you sitting on your voice?” And it’s always a reminder that I, too, can succumb to silence, and like Laura, I can stew for days about whatever “it” was that held my voice in check. I know where I learned that behavior, and it’s only been recently that I’ve made strides to overcome it. I’m now able to explain that because of how my mind works – really because of how unpracticed I am in expressing myself – that I need a few minutes before “we” continue the conversation. And truth be told, my silence was really a fear that I would hurt the other person by what I was about to say. What I wound up doing was hurting myself. Expressing oneself is a matter of when and how, and doing it effectively is a matter of practice.

    Thank you, Laura, as always, for a great message – one that is beautifully written and expressed.

    • Thank you so much, Jeff, for your honest reflections on this topic of self-expression-when to speak, when to be silent, and breaking free of patterns that limit our contribution. Again, I’m grateful I’m not alone inside this journey, this practice. “What’s yearning to be expressed?” is a question I have chosen to mull over-continue to ask myself-for two years. Asking this seems to tap into what I’ve silenced over a lifetime. And I know my first answer won’t be “right” or “wrong”-but one of multiple answers to this question. What a freedom to realize there isn’t a “right answer” to what yearns to be expressed. Breaking the silence can become a freedom unto itself. To discover there are ways to express ourselves-our truths or lived experiences- and still respect the dignity of another person, other people, their perspectives, beliefs, values… That feels like grace.

      I appreciate your kind words of support for my writing, this piece. Grateful for you.

  2. Laura, I indeed feel you have found your voice again in after reading about the gleanings of your writing today. Just an incredible share. I can relate to aspects of what you are saying with authority figures and still work on the cycles of that learning – pulling things out in my life for examination from time to time now. I believe when I was younger I was paralyzed in fear to ask for my needs, fears, and wants to be addressed in the moment. Often in the situation, I would tense up and shut up until later on when I recoup and can go back and unpack the situation. I catch myself much faster now and often in the moment I can do it – but not always. I so appreciate how you shared your communication that you had with your videographer and what you both received from being able to authentically speak your about the situation together. What a gift for both of you. And Maya Angelou would have been thrilled that you are taking her quote in and living it out in your world. Big hugs and hoping you feel wonderful over the holidays and if you need me to send you a sweater from the West coast – I will get on that.

    • Thank you so much for all your honest and kind reflections and support here, Maureen. I continue to be grateful that I’m not the only one who muddles around in these challenges/difficulties in repeated patterns-
      I totally feel you in that Freeze of childhood to your needs, fears, wants. I, too, received very tiny bandwidth from the significant adults in my life. Much of my adult life, especially in recent years, continues to be about uncoiling, unraveling all those layers of challenge and implementing new, sometimes uncomfortable-stretchy practices that are getting more comfortable. I imagine that feeling of catching yourself faster and more frequently must feel good—and such a demonstration of the beneficial self-awareness. transformation, healing work you are doing for your life. I’m right with you-may I get faster and more frequent (in some situation I’m better-others-still a bit of a challenge-that authority figure thing-especially not seeing myself as an authority on what’s healthy for me- getting better at strengthening these muscles)
      I, too, am grateful for the healing conversation with the videographer-that we really were very respectful, honest, remorseful without any shame or blame-all 100 percent responsible for our own words/no words/deeds/choices-which was deliciously refreshing. It helped that I wasn’t angry with him or myself. (That’s a shift from my old ways…)
      Big hugs to you too, my friend! I’m feeling better-still on mute till I fully heal, taking gentle actions to love my body back to health and not running 6 miles around the lake for now. (And that’s a shift from the my past patterns…) Love your offer of a sweater-I have plenty-I just must remember to put them on— the warm, thick ones– when the weather is kinda frightful! :) Enjoy the upcoming holidays, Maureen!

  3. Laura, you are amazing as you somehow cloak your illness and the apparent genesis in majestic language. I love your metaphors as you describe your laryngitis as well as inward exploration as you begin the healing process. Perhaps, your inability to give voice in a more timely and protected fashion resulted in losing your voice. Although I can be feisty, I am also a pleaser and initially try to be accommodating to others. Lately, I have been reminded of the importance of saying no. Thank you for this reminder, and I hope your voice is in full recovery so you can continue to grace us with your beautiful voice on paper.💖

    • Darlene—First-thank you for your kind words about my writing. And second –Yes! Oh, you saw that too!! That the silencing of my voice with the videographer-without even blinking an eye or thinking a thought-my body just got up on that metal stool —lead to my laryngitis. Oh, absolutely!! Body never lies. My body walked me right to that connection along with some deeper learnings and awakenings -when I’m actually paying attention-my body does this all the time-like a GPS of hotter/colder/just right. I’m actually thrilled you teased this out of the essay!
      How helpful that you know your own feistiness and pleaser from the inside out-that your first instinct is to accommodate. It’s taken me years to find that part of me that feels safe enough to be “feisty” and also to say, “No, thank you.” I’m grateful to know I’m not alone in these coming to awarenesses. I appreciate your contribution and reflections very much for this piece. I am feeling better, though I’m still on mute-speaking voice/laughing voice-till vocal cords/body heal fully. Grateful to be able to communicate with fingers tapping on keys, open heart, ideas flowing from those places-oh, and my mind-I guess…although I think my mind may be taking a nap right now-so who really knows where these words are really coming from?!?!? LOL!!

  4. I enjoyed reading your post, Laura. Hopefully, you are starting to feel better. Isn’t it funny how our bodies react to certain things and situations?

    Last year at this time, the Shingles sidelined me. It was a sign to me that I needed to slow down – a divine intervention if you will. Work was stressful, and I was going at mock speed. Then, the next thing I knew, I had this terrible burning rash on my back. While I was upset that it happened, I also knew it was the nudge I needed to slow down and reassess. And a few days of forced rest, certainly helped me realign.

    To your point about speaking up, it resonates. I’ve found myself in that situation also. Then, I brew about it for days afterward, replaying it in my head. I believe what is essential and what you demonstrate here is the ability to reflect and rectify. Each situation is different, but learning why we did or didn’t speak up, is a helpful step forward for the next time.
    Thanks for sharing this story and experience.

    • Laura-yes, I’m feeling better. I’m noticing I’m being really patient and gentle this time in my healing. I’m not still running 6 miles around the lake (in the past I would have done that-which would have prolonged the ailment-landed me full-time in bed…) And yes, it fascinates me how our bodies react to certain situations, people, experiences…Yes, indeed.

      Such a reframe to see your shingles sideline of a year ago as a divine intervention. How empowering to stop and listen to what the burning on your back was telling you about how you were living your life-how you need to rest. Unrelenting life stress often registers eventually as illness in the body. And it’s so good you stopped to rest-you listened to what your body needed for realigning.

      I’m grateful I’m not the only one to replay “mistakes” or “why did I do that?” in my mind-as it does become a place of actually listening for the answer. If we didn’t ask ourselves, then we wouldn’t realize and rectify. Maybe this could be the three r’s to practice-Reflect, Realize, Rectify… And you are completely correct that each situation is different in our lives-the who, what, when, where, and why.

      Thank you so much for your thoughtful reflections, for hoping that I was feeling better.

  5. Great article, Laura! Speaking only for me I do not believe in holistic medicine or that a correlation can routinely be found between illness and thoughts or feelings. My being a diabetic was due in no small part to my mother(of blessed memory), my father (of blessed memory), and one of my uncles on my mother’s side of the family were all diabetic. Eating a chocolate rich diet helped things along as well. My depression is no doubt due in part to feelings but there is also a chemical in the brain that when the level goes low depression sets in. On your side of the coin, you are one thousand and one percent correct about the mental playing a part in certain illnesses.

    • Oh, I completely honor your challenges with diabetes and that for you-in your beliefs- there are no correlations with thoughts or feelings as you have stated. I honor your path and cannot imagine what you navigate everyday with depression and diabetes.

      I found a place of empowerment inside the holistic perspective especially for viruses that come and go-return again like “friends” showing up to tell me things about my larger life. I totally own this has been my path and does not have to be anyone else’s. I truly honor everyone else’s path-what they are learning about their bodies, thoughts, feelings, spaces, clutter, etc.

      I’ve discovered that happenings in my life are opportunities to be curious, to look with fresh eyes at all that’s happening, to peel away layers to find some treasures.

      Thank you for sharing your perspective as I honor you and your path. I appreciate you taking the time to read about a point of view different from your own and for your kind words. I appreciate you.

  6. Wow, Laura. Your post is showing up right on time. LS: “A life-long pattern of automatically acquiescing to what seems like an authority figure, a person who appears to “know better than I do” took over my whole way of being. ” I can relate to “automatically acquiescing” and only later realizing that I didn’t even question the situation. Today I am faced with yet another. I am not acquiescing, but am finding I still need to remind myself I know what is best for me, and what a “healthy, centered response” would be.

    And then there are times when there is no hesitation on my part in asking for what I need, or renegotiating. I find it fascinating to note the differences in the situations.

    Getting back to today’s situations, as you said, “another opportunity to shed limiting beliefs…” THANK YOU for the insight and reinforcement I needed today.

    • You are so welcome, Mary! I’m so grateful some of these ideas resonated with you-especially noticing when we are “automatically acquiescing” and to your point, when we know we are safe enough to speak up for ourselves… What are those situations? Who are the people with whom we are interacting? (in each situation!) Great contribution to this discussion as I believe paying attention-asking ourselves these questions can be really useful-empowering as we drill down to what is behind our reactions or responses to others, to ourselves.

      I think shredding through the paper shredder limiting beliefs has become a very important life mission for me! When one more goes, I discover that much more freedom.

      I appreciate your thoughtful comments, insights, and contribution. Go for your very own “healthy, centered response”!! I will too!! Practicing new ways of responding, of being with others!

      • Following up… so today was my day to offer a healthy, centered response. It was well-received and the agreement we reached was better than I expected. I love the synchronicity of your post showing up at just the right time, Laura. Cheers🎉

        • Wonderful! I’m very happy for you-that you chose your “healthy, centered response” and created a better than expected outcome, Mary. I learned at a workshop that the R in this equation is KEY. Events + Reaction/Response=Outcomes I also now know that all I ever have control over is the “R”!! E+R=O If we desire different outcomes, we can shift our response!! Yey!!! :)

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