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The Gift of Silence

On November 6, I had my tonsils out. It was (oh I hope!) the end of a multi-month health saga. The doctor warned me that as a “mature” patient, recovery would be “brutal” (his word choices).

I dispute the first, and confirm the second. The past three weeks have been brutal.

All efforts to speak in the first two weeks were paid back in spades of pain. Shooting, throbbing, worse-than-giving-childbirth pain. It still took several extremely painful episodes for me to learn to choose silence. Close my mouth. Hold my tongue. Save my breath.

Improve my charade skills.

And while texting and writing were options, the heavy-duty pain medicine made both less than effective. Hilarious to my husband and sister but grammar failures, remarkable typos, and missing context were not effective.

So, I was silent. And silence, it turns out, really is a gift.

Silence enriches listening

I have been working globally & virtually for nearly 10 years. My 'fro-leagues' from all over the world have become true friends. We have shared joys and heartache, sometimes even though we’ve never met or perhaps only once or twice. These people and these relationships are precious to me. Numerous reviews and personal conversations have repetitively confirmed that building virtual relationship is a strength of mine: I can listen with my ears and my heart; people feel that I care. (spoiler: I do.)

Yet, three weeks of mostly silence have shown me that my skill of listening with my eyes has weakened. Our local community supported us with meals and babysitting. Since I was unable to speak, these friends did. And, I realized that these people who love me & whom I love, they don’t always choose the word for their mouth that their eyes have already chosen.

Joy and pride are tempered, as are heartbreak and concern. Listening with my eyes and my heart is a skill I’ll be working on.

Silence can reveal

My daughter is an awesome storyteller. I love her rambling, extended stories. Nothing can break her flow. My son tends to answer with short sentences. No details. Drives me nuts.

Turns out I am driving myself nuts. Silence revealed to me that he answers in short sentences because I interrupt him with follow-up questions, comments, and well-meant encouragement. And, since he is seven, I distract him from what he wants to tell me, what matters to him. While silent, he could tell his stories – his view of the world – at his speed.

His speed is different than my speed.

And he isn’t the only one. Silence permitted visiting friends to take their stories in their direction, with their details, at their pace. I loved every minute. When I listen – really listen – it is awing what is revealed.

Silence takes practice

In 2014, Andreas Mohr coached me into the practice of meditation and mindfulness. Four years of practice has fundamentally enriched my life, both professionally and personally. It has offered me glimpses of awareness into the power of quiet, stillness, silence.

The past three weeks have deepened my awareness into wonder. As I write this, I’m facing another week of treatment and mostly silence. I am eager for my voice to return and to return to health. I am eager to pay forward the support we were given. I am eager to return to work and my team. And I return to all of it with a welcomed reminder: silence is a gift.

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