A number of years ago I had a vocal node. My voice was skipping and I knew something was up. The ENT stuck a camera down my throat. Sure enough there it was. A little bump on my vocal cords. I spent a month walking around the house writing on a white board. This wasn’t fun. I’m a girl who has a lot to say. And I say it. (On the other hand, my husband rather enjoyed the silence.)
Vocal therapy taught me what I could do better: breath, drink (water that is), steam, rest, sleep, raise the tone of my speaking voice and put an ‘H’ in front of any word that starts with a vowel (h-anticpate, h-umbrella), in order to soften the glottal. I did it all.
I wasn’t singing all that regularly back then so the issue subsided. But now, I am. Singing that is. And talking. I’ve created #LivingRoomLive—an hour of storytelling and serenading about my journey as a songwriter. And guess what. The hoarseness is back.
I’ve always been prone to laryngitis. In high school I woke up in the middle of the night before our Fiddler On the Roof debut and couldn’t talk. My mom brought me endless cups of tea with honey, but my voice wasn’t going to return until it was ready and it wasn’t ready when the curtain went up. Hodel squeaked out the faintest version of “Far From The Home I Love” that she could muster. So Sad. I sounded great in rehearsals. :(
Lately, I’ve been thinking about the timing of these episode. They usually coincide with air travel, which I’ve been doing a lot of, and…as it happens, right before a performance.
Now, I’m not one who has a history stage freight. In fact, I have a childish excitement about getting up in front of a crowd. Though I’m not an accomplished performer, which does cause some anxiety—the thought of tuning my guitar while talking, remembering the script, mic technique, moving about the stage in heels—the bottom line is when the lights are on me I’m in the zone.
Luckily day of, some power from within (adrenaline perhaps?) gives me sustenance and I pull it off without a hitch. But I have to wonder: could my nerves play a role in the laryngitis? I’m not discounting improvable vocal technique or germ filled airplane cabins but I must consider that my issue may be more psychosomatic than I think.
Recently I experienced an episode that morphed into a violent case of bronchitis. I coughed my way into oblivion. Concerned, I checked Web M.D. for symptoms of pneumonia but when I saw the word “tumor” I closed the tab and called my doctor.
Typically, I load up on vitamins and herbal remedies. But slippery elm was not curing the acute upper respiratory condition that ailed me. Trust me, it wasn't pretty. Dr. Sue agreed and prescribed an antibiotic, 2 different inhalers and Prednisone. That said, he’s more than a western medicine kinda guy and he asked if I've been particularly stressed out about anything lately. ME? WHAT ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT? WHY WOULD YOU ASK THAT?
But driving home, I reconsidered my surprise. Hmm. I do multitask. I never brush my teeth without doing something else at the same time. I leave my keys on the roof of my car and drive away. I lost three pair of prescription glasses last year. I tried to insert a bottle of nail polish into the ignition of my car (same shape as my key remote) and then aimed the actual remote at the front door of my house to unlock it. And…I’m doing something new in my career—taking it on the road—at an age most of us jump into at 22. Stressed? Maybe. A little.
I’ve been doing yoga and meditating, but maybe I have to slow down and move with even more mindfulness and intention. I keep forgetting—I’m not 20 any more. Or 30. Or 40. Or…I feel young in my heart. But my body is simply not as resilient as it used to be.
I know why this happened. I was just bragging to a cousin that I never get sick. Note to self: don’t brag. God always says "ha"! And, come to think of it, she says "ha" to me every couple of years when my pace gets unmanageable.
Anyway, I’m taking this seriously and adjusting my daily routine. Here’s what I'm doing:
1 - Getting my face in a facial steamer while listening to the relaxing sound of singing bowls.
2 - Frequenting only quiet restaurants and withholding many of my opinions. This is challenging. If you’ve noticed I’m being uncharacteristically reserved, it’s not about you. (I have a girlfriend with whom I can’t get a word in edgewise. She’s been great company. I do a lot of smiling and nodding yes.)
3 - Taking melatonin and wearing a lavender eye-mask to set the stage for a full 8 hours of sleep.
4 - Cutting back on the weekday martinis. Wah :(
5 - Drinking gallons of fluid—so much so that I’m getting up 5 times a night to pee. Not kidding. I might need to buy some Depends®.
6 - Scheduling chill time. Today I bought a pool float ,got on it and fell asleep listening to more singing bowls.
It’s going to be Ok. Certainly not the end of the world. It’s just that this most recent ordeal got me thinking that maybe there is some psychology to voice-gate. I’m sure my life coach Cindy Warden will have an opinion about it. In fact, I know what that opinion will be.
Meanwhile, as I have a community of friends out there (you), many of whom are performers, singers, talkers...I wouldn't mind gearing your thoughts. You never steer me wrong. What say you?
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