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Isidra Mencos: The Sound of Silence

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 (Photo Courtesy of Isidra Mencos)

Isidra Mencos reflects on a period of forced silence that proved frustrating at first, but ultimately turned into a lifelong lesson on the serenity of listening. 

The past few weeks I suffered from laryngitis. For five days I could hardly speak at all.

At the beginning the forced silence frustrated me. I tried whispering, but I found out that whispers irritate the vocal cords further. My doctor couldn’t find anything wrong: no infection, no polyps, no treatment: “Drink a lot of liquids and rest your voice,” she said.

As the days ticked by, I listened to my husband and my son without interrupting them or planning how to respond while they were talking.

I listened to my body, noticing when I was hungry—as opposed to craving a snack out of boredom or exhaustion. In my silence, I knew when I needed a nap, and when I felt calm or nervous.


During virtual meetings, I let others shine, instead of seeking an opportunity to jump in with my opinion.

As I worked, planes roared. Birds chirped. The heater in my home office hummed.

Being quiet and attentive brought me into the present moment. The world around me grew richer even though it hadn’t changed at all.

We live bombarded by never ending streams of words and information. As I stopped adding to the cacophony, an annoying health issue transformed into a teacher. A space of serenity opened up.

It felt as though I was living inside a Mary Oliver’s poem, Praying: “Just pay attention,” she says, “then patch / a few words together and don’t try / to make them elaborate, this isn’t / a contest but the doorway / into thanks, and a silence in which / another voice may speak.”

Now that I have recovered my voice, I hope to cling to the lessons learned. But just in case my talkative self takes over, I’m already researching silent retreats!

With a perspective, I’m Isidra Mencos.

Isidra Mencos is the author of Promenade of Desire, A Barcelona Memoir. She lives in Concord.

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