Below is Whisper #15 from my latest book, 48 WHISPERS, which is a collection of photographs and personal meditations created across a decade of travel to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation and the surrounding northern plains.
I once had a dream in which an angel offered to take me back in time fifteen years and start again. “No! No!” I said to the apparition. “If we go that far back in time, I might not get my voice disorder again.” I was adamant. I was unwilling to risk not acquiring spasmodic dysphonia (SD).
SD is a rare neurological disorder that only affects one’s speech. In the years that followed onset the condition left me frequently unable to fully express myself verbally. I’ve since recovered substantially, but the healing journey spanned a decade. Ultimately my voice condition brought me more benefits than liabilities. I came to see it as a welcome gift. It was an invitation for me to change and give others a voice.
I came to realize that there are many ways for people to lose a piece of their voice. As it turns out, lots of people don’t feel authentically and fully heard. Without SD I never would have become sensitized to this reality. Helping others to strengthen their voice is now a passion of mine, whether it is the simple act of listening at Pine Ridge or creating a work culture back home where leadership is shared. Developing the cultural conditions through which others might feel more fully heard is an act that requires everyone’s participation.
There’s a never-to-be-repeated voice that dwells within us all. Bringing it forth is every soul’s quest. Supporting this fundamental right is also every soul’s responsibility.