Sunday, March 21, 2010

Singing Lesson (or Healing is a process)

Since my surgery 46 days ago, some things have healed remarkably well.

Take the incision for example.

This was then:

and this is now:

I am fairly confident that at this rate, at some point in the not too distant future it will be little more than a faint white line that hides in the folds of my aging neck. :)
Well . . . most of that thought was really positive.

However . . . not everything has healed quite that well or at least not at that rate.
Exhibit A . . . . Recurrent Laryngeal Nerve
If you are not recognizing it or haven't been in anatomy class lately, it is all that stringy looking stuff and it controls the larynx. During thyroidectomy it can get roughed up because it's in the way--mine did because it was really in the way--and it can recover or . . . not.

What this translates to is NO NOTES. Half of my vocal fold is paralyzed. I can talk -- like I'm auditioning for the Godfather -- but sing . . . Well, we will just say that when I try it I have four baritone notes and the rest sounds like a hound dog with a stomach ache. Besides the sound being painful to listen to it takes a somewhat Herculian effort just to produce. (This is no exaggeration -- not even for the sake of the blog.) Every time I attempt to sing -- just trying it out again -- Barry laughs. This requires explanation. He doesn't laugh at me . . . he laughs because the sound is so ridiculously awful neither of us can believe it. I laugh, too and then we both weep.

I think I started to sing when I started to talk. Song has been the deepest expression of my soul. It's as if my spirit could somehow flow out of me on notes. I could feel things and communicate things with my singing voice that have no other form of expression.

It got turned off 46 days ago.

The first week in church after surgery, I hung my head during the hymns and tried to hold back the tears. I mostly succeeded. The next week I decided to pick up my head and smile at the chorister and think about what we were singing. It was better. But I couldn't let my eyes meet Barry's sitting up in the front or it was all over.

Fast forward to last Sunday. Trying to smile while everyone else was singing was getting old. It was not so much feeling sorry for myself but feeling left out. They were praising God and I wasn't. The thought came to me -- just mouth it. I resisted it. I would feel silly -- conspicuous. Then I thought, only the person next to you will even know that you aren't making any sound. Just try it.

I did. At first it felt a little . . . empty. Well, yeah . . . something was missing. But it felt better. I was doing something. After I got past feeling like I was pantomiming or maybe "hamming," I found myself "singing" (or rather mouthing) like I really meant it. Because even without the sound I really DID mean it.

That's when it happened. Suddenly, I wasn't left out! I was worshiping with everyone else. My heart was singing, my spirit was singing and my lips were singing. No sound, but I WAS singing! And it was oh, so sweet.

Fast forward again to this week. This no longer feels like an irreverent "lipsync" or gospel "karaoke." I am really feeling pretty comfortable with this silent singing. When the young lady sitting next to me offered to share the hymnal, I said, "Thank you. I sing but I don't make any noise." I just wanted to give her a heads up. She seemed perfectly fine with it. :)

One of my coping mechanisms is to pretend I am singing through the voice of someone around me. Today it was the particularly sweet voice of a young mother who is about to deliver her 6th baby. It works pretty well.

Later in Relief Society I got another unexpected lesson. I opened the hymnal and began to silently sing the opening song. Half-way through the first verse I started to hear this amazing sound around me. It was like something tangible and I felt like I could almost see it and touch it.

"Our Savior's love, shines like the sun with perfect light,
As from above It breaks thru clouds of strife.
Lighting our way, It leads us back into his sight,
Where we may stay, To share eternal life."

The voices around me were amazing. Pure and strong like the spirits of the women there. I was surrounded by their harmony and it enveloped me.

"The Spirit, voice Of goodness, whispers to our hearts
A better choice Than evil's anguished cries.
Loud may the sound Of hope ring till all doubt departs,
And we are bound To him by loving ties."

Whoa! Those words, this sound, it was all for me at that moment. And it filled me with joy and hope and gave me renewed strength to be happy and trusting.

Why had I never heard the singing quite like that? Could it be that most of the time in the past I had been so involved in making the sound that I hadn't been really listening? Hmmmm.

So here are some of my conclusions.

The wonderful blessings of group worship (and many other things) come to us as we exert ourselves to participate. They are not diminished by our limitations, perceived or real. When we bring what we have it is accepted, acknowledged and blessed. I offered all I had today and I was filled.

I would never wish this silent singing on anyone, but I am beginning to see that in the silence I am hearing new things. Make no mistake, I have been praying that my voice will heal. But if that is not to be, I have been praying for a joyful spirit. Today while I silently sang my heart was filled with joy and hope.

What an amazing singing lesson! What a tender mercy!

Savior, Redeemer of my soul,
Whose mighty hand hath made me whole,
Whose wondrous pow’r hath raised me up
And filled with sweet my bitter cup!
What tongue my gratitude can tell,
O gracious God of Israel.

Never can I repay thee, Lord,
But I can love thee.Thy pure word,
Hath it not been my one delight,
My joy by day, my dream by night?
Then let my lips proclaim it still,
And all my life reflect thy will.

O’errule mine acts to serve thine ends.
Change frowning foes to smiling friends.
Chasten my soul till I shall be
In perfect harmony with thee.
Make me more worthy of thy love,
And fit me for the life above.

I can honestly say I am looking forward to more singing lessons. And the healing they will bring.

Friday, March 12, 2010

New Year! New Life!

So maybe your New Year started in January but I feel like mine is starting today!

January was full of doctor visits -- two or three a week.

February started with surgery and then recovery. Part of recovery was being "buzzed" on a temporary thyroid replacement.

Wow!! - I could go on less than 6 hours of sleep but I couldn't run a mile in less than 11 minutes because my heart rate was up about 15 beats per minute.

Yesterday my new endocrinologist said I could stop the "buzz" and start getting back to normal with my new life long friend, levothyroxine. This morning I really WORKED out!!! Hurray!!! It's looking like a Happy New Year!

Now if I could just sing . . . Ooops . . . just a little slip there . . . One thing at a time. Patience and gratitude are required for this Happy New Year!