Sometimes we need to lose something precious to find out who we really are.
A few weeks ago I lost my voice. I’d just finished a long run of workshops, so I was a bit tired, but I also felt pretty good. I was practicing yoga every day, eating well, sleeping well, and getting ready to launch a big project I’d been working on for a few years.
I was feeling focused, energised and excited about the next few months and the creative projects I was launching.
I’d had some client meetings in the city, and was planning to take a long weekend away with one of my besties at her little seaside cottage.
As I was packing my bag for the weekend I started to feel weird. It wasn’t a specific feeling – just a feeling that things weren’t quite right. By the time the ferry docked I knew there was something very wrong.
I spent most of the night in a delirious fever with a horrible cough & crushing headache. I couldn’t breathe and for the first time in a very long time I was really scared. It didn’t help that I was away from home & couldn’t get back until late the next day.
My voice disappeared overnight.
That was 5 weeks ago, and my voice still hasn’t returned.
When you lose something as fundamental as your ability to speak, it’s a big wake up call.
So what have I learnt these past few weeks?
1. Acceptance of what is
Wishing & hoping & getting frustrated, angry & resentful (ok, I admit I’ve felt ALL these emotions recently!) about your reality is not helpful. It doesn’t move you forward or make you feel any better. It just makes you feel powerless and more frustrated. Acceptance is one of the hardest things to practice, and yet once you truly accept what is, without trying to change it, you start to set yourself free.
Acceptance means embracing uncertainty, something we struggle with as human beings. We want to control every outcome, we want certainty that life will meet our terms & conditions. The reality is none of us can predict or control the future. Trying to do so just creates more anxiety. It keeps us trapped in fear.
Once I accepted my reality, which included having to cancel all my upcoming work, I was able to redirect my energies into what I could control, which is my healing. Some days acceptance is hard. On these days I remind myself it is a practice and I’m doing the best I can.
2. Let it Go
A lot of illness is created by emotions & trauma we haven’t processed. Gabor Mate’s wonderful book When the Body Says No explores this subject in detail. As a coach & teacher I’ve spent a lifetime doing the work, and yet the journey never ends. Sometimes though, we just need to let it go. Recognising the blocks that are holding us back, getting honest with ourselves about the stories we have been telling ourselves that are outdated or not true. The resentments & fears, all of it.
Let go of that shit that’s holding you back in life & making you sick. Just Let.It.Go.
(This is not the same as pretending you aren’t feeling angry/frustrated/resentful etc. Feel those feelings – and then let them go.)
3. Sometimes doing nothing is the best thing to do
Many high achievers get fixated on solving problems, taking action, DOING something to change a situation, rather than just BEING in it and doing…nothing at all.
Once I realised I couldn’t actually solve the situation by thinking my way out of it, and accepted that what my body needed was lots of rest (despite the pressing weight of my commitments), I decided to embrace doing nothing at all. It’s a work in progress, but again, kind of liberating. In many ways this has been an expansive, creative experience & helped me gain clarity on what gives my life & work meaning & purpose.
Closely tied to acceptance, I’ve had to become very kind and patient with myself and others. When people can’t hear you and you are unable to communicate using your voice it can be overwhelmingly frustrating. As a coach & teacher, I also need my voice in order to work! Trying to push or force my voice to return before its ready will just delay the process. My body will heal in its own time, and I have to be patient and caring enough to let the process unfold.
5. The hard work of listening
When you can’t engage in conversation, you’re forced to simply listen. This is also a lesson in patience and acceptance. Most people don’t listen to hear, they listen to speak. Although my listening skills are pretty well honed as a coach, I realised that I still talk more than I probably should. Holding space for others to speak is a wonderful gift. So losing my voice has made me a better listener and observer of the world around me. I consider that a gift.
Recommended reading on the art of letting go: