Today was back to my master’s program routine, minus any speaking or singing of course. And things proceeded relatively smoothly. By now I’ve acclimated to not having use of my voice. I must concede I feel so much more at ease.
The most remarkable aspect of my day was its normalcy. For instance, I finally allowed myself to focus less on the astonishing tenseness in my jaw (it’s been rather tight since I’ve gone on vocal rest…unconscious energy spent insuring it stays closed methinks). So I could focus on other things, the imperative and the trivial alike. Alternative behaviors include such jaded activities as testing the reflexes of my kneecaps with the side of my hand like a rubber hammer. Yes, that actually happened in today’s Sweeney Todd rehearsal (forgive me, but the chorus was being spaced in the prologue for a while and what’s a Sweeney to do in the meantime). Good news is I passed the reflex portion of the physical examination while sidelining. And yes, I was eventually utilized in that rehearsal too.
When I was on my feet, it was a real trip. Throughout this period of vocal rest, rehearsal is the one time and place I forgive myself for mouthing. It’s been a cool challenge to see how invested I can allow myself to be without actually phonating. Typically, I’ll mouth in these rehearsals and the conductor will lend me his voice. While we were rehearsing the chorus transitions throughout “Poor Thing” and “My Friends,” the conductor soon approached me with a mischievous grin, telling me he would deliver his best interpretation of “at last my right arm is complete agaaaaain!!!” Riveting work if I do say so myself. Meanwhile, Sweeney has but a few spoken interjections between verses of Mrs. Lovett’s “Poor Thing.” Working with her today was a great affirmation of the trust we’ve attained throughout this week. She hung on my every silent word, and I did my best to spit my articulations in her direction. She was right there with me as if I had been speaking the entire thing for real. Needless to say, I’m anxious to provide her my voice the next time we have a go at it.
Maybe I just needed to get Sunday off my chest, because today my spirits were infinitely higher. But I’ve also seen the light at the end of the tunnel. I’ll go to sleep tonight and wake up to the dawn of my final day. Come tomorrow evening, I’ll have permission to speak again!
This has been an incredible journey. It’s been frustrating, and illuminating, and intolerable, and liberating, and humbling all the same. I recommend a pilgrimage of vocal rest to anybody if you can afford to function in the silence long enough without any major disruption to your life. Vocal rest is more than just some trendy juice cleanse. I have found it very meditative. And it’s fascinating to learn what you’re capable of achieving without having to rely on your voice. In so many instances, having a voice is a luxury, and I realize now I’ve been taking it for granted.
It’s equally fascinating to identify those instances in your life when you wish you had your voice most. I have found interacting with strangers toughest, or nigh impossible. I worried I ran the risk of being an insufferable person. So I usually made the decision to forego rituals of introduction. Beyond that, forget confrontation. You either have to remove yourself from a situation, try to ignore it, or sit there stewing. I would never consider myself a confrontational person per se, but I think in comparison to the lifelong denizens of the Deep South, my fuse is remarkably short. Maybe that’s just my Jersey Boy showing. Then there are the little things. Holy crap, how I love Smoothie King, but how is a mute like me supposed to order a drink at a drive through? And anytime I pass somebody on the street, I fondly remember those days when I had permission to do more than just nod. My hallway acknowledgements this week have been a combination of fervent head bobbing and awkward grimacing. “Hello” is so much nicer. I can’t wait to say “hello.”
Nevertheless, apprehension has crept over me. As elated as I am, the thought of reclaiming my voice tomorrow evening frightens me. I feel like I’m about to be granted custody of a child that’s been kept from me for months, along with a very stern admonition to not f@#k it up.
And there is one irrational fear that haunts me – I wonder if it will have all been for naught. Now I’m not expecting immediacy tomorrow evening; I know I won’t be regurgitating sunshine and rainbows from my mouth as soon as I open up to speak. As the doctor explained, I have to be attentive in my first week, careful to sing and speak only when necessary, and very lightly to boot. I am therefore justified in my nervousness. But knowing myself, I would never jeopardize what I have come to think of as a great opportunity.
When those irrational thoughts start to irk me, I seek comfort in your stories. These are the stories of friends and strangers and colleagues and celebrities and role models and acquaintances and readers of this blog. Your candor has been a most excellent consolation to me. I am not waxing poetic when I admit I couldn’t have done this without support like yours.