The little Mermaid & a woman's voice
When I was young, I was a real bookworm (well, I still am today actually) and my absolute favourite thing to read were fairy tales. From Grimm’s fairy tales to Hand Christian Anderson, Czech and Russian fairy tales, I could not get enough.
They were so wonderful, scary and wise. You learn a lot about how to be a good human or how painful and beautiful being human is by reading fairy tales. The one that I have remembered often lately is Hans Christian Anderson’s “The little Mermaid”, not the Disney version, but the real one, the one without the happy ending. Or at least the version I remember reading, had no happy ending from my childhood level of understanding.
A young mermaid falls in love with a prince. When his ship capsizes in a storm, she rescues him and sings to him with the most beautiful voice he’s ever heard. As he wakes, he finds himself on a rock by the shore, alone, but clearly remembers being rescued by a beautiful woman with the most angelic voice. The mermaid, in love with the prince, goes to the sea witch and trades her voice for human legs, so she can be with him. She has 3 weeks to get the prince to fall in love with her, otherwise her voice will remain the property of the sea witch and she will become foam in the sea.
The prince remembers the voice, but he was unconscious when he was rescued and has no idea what the mermaid looks like. He finds her on the sea shore, a young beautiful woman who seems to know little about his human ways. He is intrigued and takes her in. Every step she takes hurts and it feels like walking on nails, but this is a price she was willing to pay for a chance to get the prince to fall in love with her. With no voice, however, this becomes tricky, especially as he tries to find the girl whose voice he remembers from the night of the storm. The prince and the mermaid become friends, and despite the fact that she cannot speak, she conquers his heart.
The sea witch, fearing that she might lose her bargain, turns herself into a pretty young woman and uses the mermaid’s voice. She bedazzles the prince, who forgets his little mute friend and is blinded by the deception. He agrees to marry the witch instead of the mermaid. The day of the wedding is the day the mermaid’s time runs out and as the prince marries the witch, the mermaid becomes foam on the waves and her voice rings out over the ocean. The sea witch has won.
I remember being so angry at the mermaid for selling her voice and wasting her life so carelessly for the love of a man, I remember crying my eyes out when she becomes foam on the sea, I remember being so very disappointed in the prince for not seeing the truth and for being so easily deceived. This is a fairy tale I really did not like as a child. It was one of the saddest stories. There was such deep sorrow within it. But it also teaches you about love not being reasonable, about the danger of not looking behind the illusion or deception, about the fact that the truth is not in the obvious, but hidden away behind a smoke screen of lies.
When I lost my voice due to laryngeal papillomatosis (wart like growths on the vocal cords), I got to experience what it is like to live without a voice. As Joni Mitchell so correctly sang in her song Big Yellow Taxi “You don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone”. Suddenly, you have to communicate with your body, your eyes, your heart and all you can do is hope others get it. (Or you write in a notepad or on notes in your iphone, things have improved since little mermaid days, I suppose). And eventually, you realise that most of your day has turned into silence.
Working through my throat chakra issues over the past two years have really brought be a lot of clarity and awareness.
I realised how like so many women over the past 2000 years, I had lost my voice long before I had actually lost it physically. I cannot count the times, I kept quiet, I let men overshadow me or tell outright lies to gain an advantage without me protesting. I saw what was happening, but like all the other women around me, I kept quiet.
I remember the rage inside me, when I was about 19 and I did a work placement with a German TV station in Berlin. There was this total show off, mid 30s bloke, who would talk utter rubbish all day, arrive late, drink coffee or have lunch with the boss, never do any work, but tell the department boss all day how busy he was and how nothing would work without him. While he was doing this, the women arrived early, worked really hard all day and then left at 5 to be mums to their children. He would stay on “late” and show the boss how much he worked and how he was always the last one to leave (never mentioning that he was also the last one to arrive, of course). Most documents he sent, would be prepared by the female team, yet he would show them off as his. Eventually, when a new department boss was needed, it was him who got promoted. I suppose promoting the women would have meant chaos, after all: who would do the work?
Back then, I learned that the 1990s were still very much a man’s world. As a woman, you had to either be quiet or be like a man (in other words be tough, talk tough, use your elbows, say goodbye to any family ambitions and forget your softer feminine side). I wanted no part in this. So I turned my back, kept my rage unexpressed and went self-employed very quickly. (Luckily a lot has changed since then, even though the journey is far from over and we still have a bit to go before true equality between all humans is achieved.)
Similar scenarios played out in my private life. I had grown up with a mother whose standard sentence was “Don’t say anything, it’s not worth it. Just keep quiet and keep the peace.” So again, instead of expressing my utter rage at my father’s behaviour or at male friends’ total disrespect towards women (especially when they’d had a drink and somehow seemed to think your bum or boobs were there to be groped at), I swallowed my emotions and kept my mouth shut.
When I became a wife and mother, without being aware of it, I started mimicking the same pattern I had learned from my mother. Keep quiet, don’t rock the boat, keep the peace in the house or at work and swallow your anger. I hadn’t even noticed I was doing it, until I lost my voice.
In a holistic approach to healing and health, we look at the emotions behind an illness. Working with the chakra system helps to bring clarity. The voice box and vocal cords sit in the throat chakra area, which is all about expressing yourself and speaking your truth. Matter or a physical manifestation of an illness always follows the energy, i.e. there has to be an energetic imbalance in the throat chakra area (a person not expressing themselves/ not speaking their truth) before a physical symptom of that imbalance manifests in your actual throat area (voice issues, thyroid issues, throat issues).
Working on all sorts of aspects of the throat chakra, of “where in my life I hadn’t been speaking my truth or expressing myself”, I had to face the fact that I had pretty much from childhood onwards learned to “keep quiet”. Being a good girl meant being a quiet girl. I didn’t always say what I thought, I more often than not simply behaved in the way that was expected of me. That way, everyone liked me, so I got what every child needs: love, safety and a sense of belonging. The prize I paid was my ability to express what I really felt.
Don’t get me wrong: my friends valued me for my honesty and for being outspoken. In an environment where I felt safe, I would definitely express myself. But whenever I had “something to lose”, I would chose silence over confrontation, quiet over disharmony. No wonder that after 40 years of this, my voice disappeared. It was almost like it said “Oh well, if you’re not using me, I might as well go.”
It’s been a long journey of healing to get to where I am today. I knew that before I could heal the voice, I needed to heal my endometriosis. After months and months of only whispering for very short periods of time, my voice slowly returned as my body and soul healed. Patience is definitely a virtue! Even today, February 2022, my voice is still hoarse, but I can speak without pain or time limit.
Whenever a new aspect of not expressing myself shows up, I look at it, I take my learning from it, I let it go. This way, I have cleared all sorts of limiting beliefs I was holding, I learned to distinguish between the many masks that I believed were me and my true self. Healing this way is not easy, but it is the only true healing. 5 operations of my voice did not help me heal one little bit. In fact, every one of them made my voice worse after very short periods of improvement. Doing the deeper work on myself, I heal every day. I recognize the stages of healing from my endometriosis journey and I enjoy watching the process in all its ups and downs. I know my voice is healing, I have not the slightest doubt. I can honestly say, that I am the happiest, most fulfilled, most joyful, most positive and most authentic ME I have ever been.
"The only way out is in" is a sentence often used to describe that journey of self discovery. From my own experience I can say: it is so true. Nothing you will ever need to truly be happy will be found outside of you, everything is within you, waiting to be seen.