After my surgery in November, I was warned there could be some impact on my vocal chords. I knew this might be temporary or permanent, serious or mild, or none at all. Given the tumour they were removing from my thyroid was wrapped around the nerve supplying the vocal chords, and considering the tumour was tennis ball in size, and pressing right up against the trachea and forcing it well off course, it might have been too big an ask to think my poor vocal chords would survive unscathed.
The first week after surgery I had plenty of hoarseness, but this was an expected outcome for any throat surgery. Now, however, after a few months, the picture is coming into sharper focus. I’ve been lucky. My speaking voice is pretty good. I can carry on an easy conversation with no difficulty. However, my voice doesn’t have any strength. I couldn’t, for instance, hope to address a large group, like I often did, and hope to do again post-pandemic. Even more unsettling to me, (since I know there are microphones that might make up for my speaking voice shortfall), is my singing voice has been reduced to a range of very few notes. Very few.
The good news is, this won’t affect my paycheck. I haven’t ever fancied myself to be a professional singer. That doesn’t give me much solace. It just means I will continue to not sing professionally as I have always not sung professionally. No change. The thing that does bother me is this; I love to sing. I love it. I love to sing in the car where I have my favourite playlist at the ready. I love to sing while I’m doing mundane tasks. I love to sing with my sisters and brothers. I love my memories of singing from my past, around campfires, in choirs, in our living room, with our cousins, at Christmas time, at Betty’s Kitchen Party and on and on. There is something about music, and about singing good lyrics and tunes, that sooth my soul. I feel like I’ve gone home when I sing.
Needless to say, I miss it. I also fully realize that in the larger scheme of things, this ranks very, very low. I understand this. Yet it feels like a great loss to me.
I have a suspicion this is not permanent. I’m hopeful because while in the first month I might have had a total of about four notes I could reach, last month I’d say I had a solid 6, and sometimes, if I sang very, very quietly, I could even reach more. Like all of do-re-mi more.
My first lesson with Carey was on Tuesday via Zoom. I knew I had made the exact right decision the moment her beautiful face appeared on the screen. My eyes filled, as did hers. To simply lay eyes on such a dear friend was wonderful.
I amazed absolutely no one at my lesson. I know I have months of practice and exercise ahead. I’m perfectly fine with this. I’m thrilled to be strengthening my voice and to be working with Carey.
More than finding my singing voice, it is just as truthful to say I was also finding my voice when I sent my very first email to Carey, inquiring about the lessons.
Sometimes when people think about finding their voice, their thoughts run to the idea of firmly, sometimes loudly, stating their opinion. This can sometimes feel like they are defending themselves, or challenging someone or taking a defiant stance. There is a different version of voice-finding worth considering.
We each have a little voice inside ourselves that is always calling to us. Sometimes it is a whisper, one we hear but push to the background as we get on with the busyness of our lives. Sometimes it is stronger, and is accompanied by a potential opportunity. Sometimes it is a feeling, a knowing that acting on it will bring us much closer to our true self. These little voices are reminding us what makes us who we are. The voice reminds us how to find our ‘home’, our truest self.
Over the years I have thought of calling Carey about singing lessons many times. For a while I convinced myself I was too busy. The truth was, I was busy, but I was also concerned about judgement by others. For another while I believed it was too late, but I still felt the nudge. This time, when I recognized I could lose this part of my life I love so much, I followed the whisper.
I have found so many voices over the years that have called me to be in alignment with who I want to be. I’ve been lucky to be able to discard some of the things holding me back. I love to create through my quilting and knitting, I love to be in nature and I have found incredible ways of satisfying this through biking and hiking, I love to move my body through dance and yoga, and I love to experience the feelings that I can’t seem to reach any other way except through music.
Each of us has voices inside us, begging to be heard. Luckily for us, they are persistent, they are wise and they help us become the best versions of ourselves.
I am full of gratitude for the gift of Carey, for the six little notes I can sing, and the hope for more to come.
My inquiry for you this week is, ‘What voice is calling to me?’
Elizabeth is a certified professional Leadership Coach, and the owner of Critchley Coaching. She is the founder and president of the Canadian charity, RDL Building Hope Society. She works with corporations, non-profits and the public sector, providing leadership coaching. She creates and facilitates custom workshops for all sizes of groups. She has particular expertise in facilitating Strategic Plans for organizations. Contact Elizabeth to learn how find your voice.