I woke up thinking, well, this is gonna get old quick. And as I begin to compose this post, I’m struck with an oppressive writer’s block. Vocal rest is swiftly becoming mundane to me, and how to keep that fresh?
What makes this experiment trickiest is that, theoretically, I could start vocalizing at any time. I mean, it’s not like I am physically unable to speak. My voice wasn’t stolen from me by Ursula the sea witch (dammit Little Mermaid references). My voice is very much intact – I was just counseled to give it a rest for a while.
Being diligent with myself is harder than anything else. I can’t cheat, because otherwise what would be the point in reversion? Still, I miss my indiscriminate yowling in the mornings. I just want to hear my voice again and confirm that it’s “okay” even though I have more than a hunch it ought to be by now. Singers thrive on their capabilities to self-assess. Singers also have a profound desire to express – probably why I’m also writing so feverishly during my vocal famine, even when it’s becoming increasingly difficult to parse out the meaningful episodes of my now taciturn life on the daily. Why can’t I just sing a liiiiittle bit?! This was my crisis in the shower. Then I remembered my roommates were still home, which would stop me from singing anyway.
So instead of cheating and checking-in, I chose to continue my vow of silence for the greater good. I returned to Highland Coffees confident in my phone memo strategy. I wouldn’t normally go to Highland Coffees every morning, but I’d rather not take my meds without a little bit of food. And in an effort to get as much sleep as possible, I haven’t been waking up with enough time to drum up a home-cooked anything. I nonchalantly displayed my memo to the barista. But this barista interacted with me as if I was the strangest person she’s encountered in the shop, like, ever. Let me assure you that a lot of…unique characters make their way through Highland Coffees. So was my muteness really so odd? Okay, I’ll come clean, I also made the rookie mistake of asking for a type of bagel that wasn’t on the menu, forcing more awkward interaction between us. She explained to me very slowly that asiago bagels weren’t available today because they’re one of the daily specials. Well whatever. I pointed to “plain” on the tiny bagel sign instead. She sauntered away to toast it or something. I eventually got my bagel (and I emphasize “eventually” here because I am both extremely impatient and endlessly fascinated by how Highland Coffees refuses to acknowledge the existence of morning rushes for caffeine). I got the bagel to take with me, but I noticed she forgot to give me a plastic knife (they can’t be bothered to spread the cream cheese for you there…not that that’s a thing that usually happens anywhere else…I just like disparaging my favorite local coffee shop). Okay, no knives anywhere else. Shit. Think, Brad, think! Don’t compromise your silent vow for the sake of a plastic knife! I waved at her instantly. I may have even snapped at her with my fingers, I don’t remember, it was all a blur! I had her attention, disinterested as it was. I made a sawing motion at the counter. She didn’t say anything back, rather, turned around coolly and got me that frickin’ knife I wanted so much – I worked hard for that knife! And in this instance, my silence was met with more silence in return.
The rest of the day was largely uneventful. The initial shock of my voluntary condition wore off on most people rather quickly, which contributes to the now staleness of my voluntary condition. It’s a bit freaky when your friends start to regard your inability to talk as somewhat normal, but it’s also a comfort. It’s fun to joke around about it. One person calls me “gimpy” and I genuinely find it hysterical and laugh about it (albeit silently). There’s another guy I enjoy mouthing things to that are deliberately impossible to interpret. It’s all in good fun, and I’m flattered to be toured around. Within my circle of friends there’s no longer a sense of anything unusual, but they all find it increasingly entertaining when I have to communicate with somebody on the outside. This happens most frequently on lunch and dinner breaks, when I always have my phone at the ready to type out my order.
I’ve been using my phone’s memo feature in lieu of that miniature white board everyone else told me to invest in. I’m on my phone constantly. It’s a necessity. My friend jested “geez, Brad, you’re just always on your phone these days!!!” And it’s true! It’s another mode on top of so many others that makes my phone a hyperextension of my being. It also makes me never want to text again if I have the option of face-to-face conversation. Texting and messaging are dodging mechanisms that give us excuses to avoid human interaction, but the grass is always greener. As it is my only option right now, I’ve a grocery list of phone calls I’m itching to make and people I can’t wait to see.
Had I not had my incident on Monday, this would have been a moderate day of singing. I would have performed some Brahms in Song Literature class at 10:30 am, and then both an afternoon dress rehearsal and evening performance with the chamber choir, not to mention staging for Sweeney Todd.
That was the most curious part of my day. It was an unusually productive staging rehearsal, blocking and running everything from “No Place Like London” through the end of “My Friends” in just about three hours with two separate casts of performers. I mostly hung back, shadowing and letting my double do most of the work, mouthing along as gently as I could upstage. But even silently in the shadows, it’s extraordinary what you are capable of doing as an actor. It’s an exercise I’d recommend to anybody. Do even less than mark your voice. Not even the tiniest sound. Perhaps don’t even move your lips. Just exist in the moment, walking from mark to mark, wraithlike yet invested. Let yourself be convinced it’s not the sound of your own voice that can move you or somebody else to tears. Discover how to communicate and compel an audience as a singer in the absence of singing. Those were really the only devices available to me in this rehearsal. It was a fascinating experience.
For me, that’s what these last two days have boiled down to. It’s learning to walk all over again. How do I communicate with this person? Or that person? Some people have confessed to me that I express myself more clearly than before. I’d chalk that up to all of us trying a little harder; I’m overextending myself to make even my most farcical gesturing sensible and in so doing my listeners attend to me with more than just passivity. Think about your closest friends and how many casual interactions you’ve shared during which your minds kept wandering elsewhere. When you speak the same language, listening gets lazy.
Conversely, just as many people find me terribly difficult to understand at present. My arms and face can only betray so much of my feelings. I don’t know how to make it much easier for everyone else, short of being a savant at picking up sign language. Or maybe I could just get that damn white board already.
A big group of us migrated to The Chimes for dinner after rehearsal. At between 12 and 15 people, they could seat us immediately but had to split us up. I felt remarkably selfish, and it had nothing to do with what side of the split I might fall on. I was conversational dead weight! Was it fair of me to take a spot at any of the tables? That’s what I told myself and my friends, met with an “oh please, Brad” or two. I rarely seek out chairs at the head of the table. I’m always more of a middler at big dinners. This may surprise you (not), but I typically love to talk. In any event, it was a good time and I did my best to keep up with the conversation, utilizing a few comments memo-ed into my phone here and there. However, the time it took for me to type out my comments would cause me to fall instantly behind the conversation. So I tried to anticipate the conversations my friends were having instead. On more than one occasion, a note or two of mine was worth passing around the table in an almost ritualistic fashion. It’s very perplexing to see all your friends digest something you’ve said one-by-one instead of all at once. And because of this, I gave more thought to what was worth contributing to conversation or not. You pick your words more carefully when you can’t just blurt them out for no good reason. But even when you can, what’s the point in saying all the things that don’t really need to be said? You can be so much more than the things you say, especially when you consider and reflect back on some of the dumbest shit you’ve ever said.
Afterwards, my friends asked if I wanted to go to Radio Bar, one remarking how “funny a blog post that would make.” I completely agree; I have no doubt it would make for an amusing account. Not to mention I’m flattered for the invite, in spite of my vocal rest. But something about inserting myself into a loud, smoky bar in Baton Rouge sounds like the opposite of a great idea. At least right now. We parted ways for the evening and I returned to my apartment.
I’ve been skipping out on the gym largely out of fear and apprehension in my current state, but I got back to my apartment feeling like I had to do something. I needed to forearm plank that brownie sundae out of my system. But I had to do MORE. I’ve been antsy being out of the gym even just a few days. I was breathing through push-up after push-up as noiselessly as I could...
But I’m saving more of my thoughts on the intersection of fitness and vocal rest for a later post. I’m hoping to attempt that big scary LSU fitness center tomorrow…
Speaking of tomorrow, now I sleep. Thanks for sticking with me this long.