08 November 2009

The literal sotto voce: behind the scenes of an introvert's voice

It wasn't an argument, but the back and forth of their speech was rapid, sometimes overlapping, their volumes slightly raised, as each tried to make another point. I had been listening patiently for a while and had something to interject. I said a few words but was steamrolled over before I finished my first sentence. I tried again, raising my voice to their level, using my delivery to insist I be heard as part of the conversation.

I felt my adrenaline rise as I rattled off my thought, and they heard it. I'm not sure it was worth it though. As I spoke with heightened urgency, I felt my energy surge forth with my words: the same energy I'd been using to avoid developing a sore throat or cold which I felt lurking on the periphery of my physical awareness. If this strength/life force/stamina--whatever you might choose to call it--was part of a reserve tank, it was gushing out of me unhindered while I spoke.

The sensation reminded me of an episode of The L Word I'd recently seen that portrayed so well to me the effort that oral communication takes by showing deaf actress Marlee Matlin at a dinner party with Bette's hearing friends without an interpreter. The appeal of sign language to me may well be in communicating without one's voice. In sign, being heard is not about being loud.

But I do like my voice, so how then do I command attention without spiking my adrenaline, raising my blood pressure, and getting loud: without expending energy my body needs elsewhere? I'm working on it but I don't think there's one definitive approach. With some people (cough-my bro-cough), it may not work at all.

If I were feeling closer to 100% healthy, I wouldn't have noticed the energy drop so readily, but I am more in tune with the physical correlations to my introversion now. Perhaps my reclusive nature has reduced my speaking stamina or amplified my reaction to vocal conversations. Not long ago, I had a week to myself during which I rarely spoke to anyone. It was lovely. This is not to say I refrained from communication because there was email, twitter, and the like, just not much speech.

This past week, I have refrained from talking a fair amount to conserve my strength for other tasks. Though I really am tired of it, I need to remember that the drainage will ease up, the weather if not consistent will at least even out its temperatures somewhat so my sinuses will behave, and I will feel like singing again. And talking, if I have something to say.

For now, I'll just hum sporadic arpeggios.

A year ago on TTaT: And for some things random...

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