Your Voice – What is it trying to tell you?
Your voice… are you really listening to what your voice is trying to tell you?
“It was not their voice that was suffering but their soul.” – Alfred Wolfsohn
This week I traveled to Oregon to be with my mother while she prepared for and went through major heart surgery. Thankfully, the surgery went well and she is on the slow road to recovery.
One particular day following her operation, Mom experienced respiratory challenges. Fluid had gathered in the lower lobes of her lungs and, as her body tried to adapt, she experienced intense diaphragmatic contractions and throat tightness, so much so that her breathing was getting more shallow and she could not get the much needed ease she desperately wanted. You can only imagine how frightening this shortness of breath must have been for her.
As I took her hand in an effort to sooth her, through a hoarse whisper she asked if I would sing. After days of roller-coaster emotions, sleepless nights, and spontaneous tears, I settled in on the edge of her bed hoping some comforting sound would come out of my mouth. I closed my eyes and How Great Thou Art, Be Thou My Vision, Be Still My Soul and other hymns softly filled the corner of her hospital room.
I offered my voice to her as a way to give her comfort, and she unknowingly gave me greater comfort by allowing me to use my most vulnerable instrument to care for her and for me. The beautiful circle of giving and receiving that singing inspires.
“Thank you, Tricia,” she muttered. I silently replied, “Thank you, Mama,”
As a vocal technician, I was aware of my own breathing in comparison to my mother’s, the soft consonants of my lips as she lay there with parted mouth struggling to breathe, the gentle dynamic of the notes as she pained to take in air, and the focus of my smooth transition from vowel to vowel while Mom could only close her eyes to let the familiar words cover her.
And yet there was a similarity… our sounds were at times both “broken” from the emotions we were feeling.
In my helplessness, my sweet Mom brought me “home” and put me to “work,” in a way that both of know so well. We sing.
Through the fear, sadness, hope, and confusion, we sing. When we don’t know where to turn. We sing. We dive into words, intervals and notes that vibrate through us and to others in a way that nothing else can. Mom helped to remind me that in times of challenge, I can always go to my voice, yet I hadn’t been able to sing all week. I had forgotten.
That day I needed her permission to sing. I needed her invitation to share my soul.
My voice had been tugging on me all week. Yet, I put it through all sorts of contortions as I navigated from role to role – daughter, sister, aunt, cousin, mother and wife.
As the surgery drew near, my feelings of responsibility and worry increased. The pressure I placed on myself showed up in my voice manifesting as a lower speaking pitch, laryngeal tension, and pushed consonants. My voice felt heavy.
As I struggled with my emotions of situational irritation, that irritation showed up in my voice. After an exhausting day of emotional ups and downs, I lay in bed and could sense the thickness of my vocal folds and the irritation in my throat; scratchy and uncomfortable.
There were many instances from familial conversations to hospital staff inquires that my voice clearly carried elements my soul’s struggle into the world. I was tired, scared, and hopeful. I was willful, faithful, and playful. I was frantic, trusting, and vulnerable.
Through each quiver or smile, my voice bared all.
I noticed… but I wasn’t really listening.
The pressure, irritations, and expectations all lodged themselves in my voice for me to release, but as if they were a stranger knocking at the door… I choose not to open. I wasn’t ready. I sat, swallowed up by the extremes that surrounded me… life or loss, fight or flight, fear or faith.
And still no singing.
It wasn’t until Mom asked me to sing did I dare turn my mayhem into melody. Only then did I have the courage to dig deep into my breath, open my throat and be in the sacred space where “impalpable air becomes tangible sound,” (Linda Wise) to consciously share my soul’s suffering in song.
My question is why did I wait? Why do I need permission? What was I afraid of?
As vocal instructor, Linda Wise shares, “If you are what you sing. If your soulful dimension, or definition of your personality as soulful can be measured by your voice, then what you cannot voice could be named as unrealized soulful potential.”
Why is there still a resistance to deeply connect with my voice / my soul in song?
Uncovering those answers will be my journey.
Thankfully, I know my voice will guide me.
As we are on this journey together… my question to you is… what is your voice trying to tell you?
Are you really listening to your voice? To your soul?
What feelings may be manifesting in your voice?
What is the crackle, nasality, whisper, or hoarseness trying to guide you to see?
Are you bringing gentle awareness to your unique, sensitive, and vulnerable instrument?
What key is your voice offering to you that will unlock the next door to self discovery?
My week with Mom is over. Now, I receive text updates from my sister about her progress and, if I am lucky, Mom can talk to me on her hospital room phone. I am hearing her voice and I am listening to mine. And remembering through today the emotions of the day, I will sing.
I would love to hear from you. What do you feel your voice is trying to tell you?
P.S. Would you like to take voice lessons?
Email me today for your free 30-minute singing lesson in-studio or via skype – my email: firstname.lastname@example.org
I look forward to hearing from you!