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Like a conniving Green Grinch, COVID-19 stole this past Christmas from us.
I know it happened for so many others.
We had traveled over 2,000 miles only to be able to stand at the end of my parents’ driveway, them in the garage, waving hellos and goodbyes in one fell swoop, as we left their gift at the end of the garage.
Living so far from our families and not being able to see them for so long was a dramatically devastating time for both my adult self and inner child. So I was over-the-moon happy to have a redo and visit with family again this past week! It was a week of enjoyment, catching up with aunts, uncles, cousins, old friends, and spending delightful quality time.
And, of course, we revisit childhood memories whenever we revisit childhood homes. I perceive it natural and normal for chaos, both happy and angry, to unfold. We are all one another’s mirror, and through events, and usually, conversation, we learn and grow. It’s part of traveling with family!
Three days into our perfectly imperfect trip, I lost my voice. It was to the point where I didn’t even want to speak; aside from being uncomfortable, I couldn’t muster up the energy or extra breath required to fuel the words. For one 24-hour period, I said maybe three sentences.
While I have experienced going hoarse and losing my voice, I don’t think I have ever been entirely unable to speak.
It was a learned week for me, and there are five lessons I am taking with me:
1. Presence is the most precious gift we can give.
I can write a whole piece on this one (maybe I will). In having no voice, I was really able to observe what presence is and what it means to be present for someone. My dad is an excellent example of this; he never fills space but holds it. He won’t speak poorly of others but instead asks about life. He engages (even when I had no voice he found a way). He doesn’t talk meaningless words but listens patiently for embodied sentences to reflect. Again, even when I had no voice, he was able to do that beautifully. I returned from this past trip committing to being more present for those I love—no phone, listening more, releasing assumptions, and allowing for pause.
2. Boundaries are really, really important.
I recognized that when I was restrained from responding, and saved my words and breath, just how powerful it is to set boundaries, and how much I take being able to do so for granted. I am not a boundary expert. The opposite may be true as I journeyed through many years with fuzzy boundaries, tolerating the intolerable. It was easier to be a people-pleasing, “nice” girl who abided. But I learned that trying is better than doing nothing at all. I have written about this prior and have shared my boundary scripts here.
3. Noise is not only avoidance; it’s really hard on our nervous system.
We tend to fill space with pointless noise. It can be actual noise like music, electronics, and the most draining to me, gossip. Or there is active noise like cooking, cleaning, and keeping busy. I recently shared “20 Mr. Rogers Quotes to Feed your Inner Child Each Day,” and number 16 wraps this one up perfectly:
“Our society is much more interested in information than wonder, in noise rather than silence…And I feel that we need a lot more wonder and a lot more silence in our lives.”
I get it Mr. Rogers, and I am all for being your neighbor on this one!
One day, it got to a point where I had to sit on the floor, holding on to my obsidian crystal for dear life, hoping it would bring the calm I was seeking.
4. Pauses can provide space—and a different perspective.
We can quickly become uncomfortable with a pause in our busy, overscheduled lives. I noticed my mind responding to situations, comments, and conversations; then of course, in having no voice, my words couldn’t follow. Some of the comments that shrieked through my ears were triggering to me, but I just didn’t have the energy to respond. So I let it go. I was amazed to notice how having no voice, and forced pause, gave me the time and space to walk away and let go. I imagine it also prevented heated conversations from escalating. It gave me a chance to let go of expectations and remember that having some comment or feedback may not make a difference any way.
5. Talking less and listening more is more effective than talking.
We all know this; listening is kinder than speaking. I noticed I learned more about others’ points of view and even their wounds. I was also able to give myself space to develop a different perspective, which is a miracle in itself. To the above point, more listening also prevented me from saying something I might later regret.
These are my five lessons, and I am taking them with me. I am committing to:
1. Being more present
2. Using my words to set firm boundaries
3. Being more silent
4. Pausing more
5. Listening way more
Can you benefit from these, or maybe commit to one or five with me?
I would love to hear! Please do share!