Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Singing

It's been over ten months since I last went to New York for the injections that let my vocal cords work. The best part is that I've been able to sing during most of that time.  I'm going back in a couple of weeks because the spasms are slowly starting to return, but amazingly, I can still sing some harmony.  I think this would be a good time to repost what I wrote almost two years ago:  
 
When I asked my voice doctor in Atlanta if I would ever sing again, he guaranteed with the treatments I would be speaking almost normally again.  And he was right.  A few weeks after the muscles on either side of my vocal cords were injected with botox, I was speaking again.  If someone didn't know that I have spasmodic dysphonia, they wouldn't have realized that I have a voice disorder.  But he offered me no hope where my singing was concerned.  The vocal cords work harder to sing than to talk, and it was highly unlikely that I would ever sing again.  And as grateful as I was to finally speak without forcing almost every word, I missed the singing terribly.

I remember reading the story of Dave Dravecky, a professional baseball player who lost his pitching arm to cancer.  He wrote in his autobiography about the deep grief he experienced during that time.  And though this thing in my brain that makes my vocal cords go spastic is not life threatening, the grief was just as real as if I had lost a limb.  I used to wonder what it would be like if I could no longer play the piano or hear music.  But to think hypothetically of losing my voice, the thought was just never there.  So when it happened, I was completely unprepared.

I imagine there are times when Dave dreams that he's playing ball again, throwing the fast ones.  I know, because I have the occasional dream where I am singing again.  I used to dream as a kid about flying down the deep, narrow staircase of our home.  Even in my sleep I could feel the freedom of no longer being restricted by gravity.  I was always a bit disappointed to awaken and find that I couldn't fly after all.  When I dream now, the words I speak and sing come out flawlessly with no catch in my throat.  It's liberating.  Then I awaken to reality, always vaguely disappointed.

It took me almost two years to work through the grieving process.  It was during that period of time I lost my dad and brother, moved from Alabama and said goodbye to many dear friends.  I also left the wonderful preschool where I had served as music director for 11 years, as well as three of my four children who were now living independent lives.  I arrived at our new home, emotionally exhausted and with my voice at its worst.  I was vulnerable, and grief washed over me like a tsunami.

A number of factors working together brought me through that difficult time.  A friend sent me the right book dealing with grief, someone else recommended an excellent doctor trained in the treatment I needed, I found some part-time work, and I was beginning to use some of my talents again.  In group settings I was no longer tearing up as those around me sang.  Life was getting good again.

When people ask about my voice, especially after the spasms have returned and I need another treatment, I can tell them with confidence that I'll soon be speaking somewhat normally again.  But the injections will not give me the ability to sing.  That only comes from God.

Today I sang as in my dreams.  Only I wasn't dreaming, and for an afternoon I sang to the One who stilled the tremors long enough  that I might praise Him.  I don't know how tomorrow will be.  I have no guarantees that what I had today will be a part of any of my tomorrows.  But I know that today He gave me what only He could give. He let me sing.
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