I spent today at a seminar with a couple hundred people in long-term recovery.
As I rode to the venue this morning with a couple friends, I wondered, from the back seat, what this experience would be like. Under normal circumstances, gatherings like this are like Disneyland for an extrovert like me. I flit from one familiar face to the other drinking in all the wonderful energy that’s buzzing around the room. But today, while I expected to see a lot of people I really enjoy talking with…several whom I haven’t seen in a LONG time…I knew that the only talking I’d be doing would be with the help of my whiteboard. I brushed off the “why me” thoughts that started to emerge and just listened to my two friends in the front seat discuss what route to take. During that trip, I realized that other people are capable of reaching a destination without me giving directions. That was a mini-awakening!
When we arrived at the event, I was just finishing my first set of vocal exercises. My whiteboard in one hand and my ‘exercise equipment’ in the other, I walked up to the registration table and showed them my e-ticket. Of course, they couldn’t see my last name on my iPhone (too small), so I did have to lean over and quietly tell them my name. Once inside, I began to encounter friends I haven’t seen in awhile: there was Jim, Gail, Derek, Sam and his wife, Kathy, Jim, Patrick, Wes, Heather, Theresa, Andrea, Danny…and others. Each time I’d greet someone, I would show them the note on the back of my whiteboard that says, “I’m temporarily unable to talk…blah, blah, blah,” and as I gave each person a hug, I could quietly say something into his/her ear. If they wanted to converse, I wrote a note on my board. I must admit, I’m proud of myself for keeping my talking in check. It sure wasn’t easy.
One young guy approached me thinking I was someone else. When I wrote him a note on my whiteboard with my name and asked what his name was, he actually said, “do you want me to write it on the board?” To which I involuntarily responded by blurting out loud, “No, I can hear.” Hilarious! Another friend caught herself talking to me in very hushed tones. And another caught herself talking FOR me. There were some pretty comical moments throughout the day.
I find with some people, it’s pretty easy to converse by me writing and them responding verbally. Seriously, with certain people, if I can write fast enough, the conversation flows seamlessly despite the two different methods of communication being used. One such conversation got me laughing harder than I’ve laughed in months…and I laughed with NO SOUND! Now that’s a silent success story!
About every 40 minutes, I would get up from my seat and walk into the empty coatroom to do my vocal exercises. It was the perfect quiet spot to do a vocal workout in private. During one of my last workouts of the day, something on the floor caught my attention. It was a penny! My sponsor reminded me years ago that on every penny are the words “In God we Trust.” So, when I find a penny, I think of that, and I find comfort in knowing that God’s got me covered. I just have to trust Him. Very grateful for THAT reminder today!
The seminar was awesome. I learned a lot today. In fact, I answered one friend who asked how much longer I would need to keep silent, and he said, “Wow! What kind of lesson are YOU getting through all this?” Well, if I could talk, I would have bent his ear for an hour or two about the lessons this silent retreat has brought. My journey began back on the night of February 1st, when I gave a talk to a group of people despite knowing I had the beginnings of laryngitis. That is likely the last straw that caused me to not recover my full voice. Trust me, since that night, there have been plenty of lessons learned, and I’m certain there are plenty more on the way. Stay tuned!
Day #20 was full of friends and fellowship. I didn’t overdo it, I managed my vocal budget well, and I didn’t stress about performing my vocal exercises perfectly for the maximum number of minutes. It seems as if I was able to practice being flexible. Another success!