I have to confess that my speech therapist concluding that my voice was getting soft due to Parkinson’s just scared the beejeezus out of me. Why? I love to talk and tell tales. But even more, I love to sing. I’ve sang since the kids’ choir in church in second grade to my current gig, a community chorus for, um, singers of a “certain age “, hence the cute name “SilverSounds”. Our slogan is “You’re never too old to rock and roll”. Among this year’s songs is “R-E-S-P-E-C-T”..Yes, yes, yes, I HAD to do that Aretha Franklin solo. So you see now why I’m scared I won’t be able to belt it out — All I want is a little respect!
So I am working on building up my breathing muscles with the EMST150 — Expiratory Muscle Strength Training device. Here’s the routine: you inhale, then wrap your lips around the tube and rapidly huff so that you hear the exhalation. And that’s it. Hmmm…as easy as breathing, you might say. But for starters, you have to breathe five times a session, five sessions a day, five days a week for (you guessed it) five weeks. And then each week, the device is cranked up to have more resistance. I went through the first two levels without much problem, but now I have gone through the third week, and am really having trouble with the third level. There are two more weeks and two more levels to go — oh, oh.
I have always had trouble generating much air. If I were forced to blow up balloons, I could never do it. And I also have trouble (mentally) with the breathing process. True Confessions: All those years and years of excellent choir directors taking the choir through breathing exercises — I never could figure out what they were talking about. I had only a vague idea where my diaphragm lived, and there was certainly no muscle action happening there. And you know those meditation exercises where you concentrate on your breathing? I would almost immediately get lost and mix up my inhaling and exhaling — hardly contemplative. Only recently have I learned that inhaling does not go in, but out.
The good news is that I’m starting to get a feel for filling my chest with air then sucking in that diaphragm with a rapid exhale. The bad news is I can’t seem to translate this movement to successful exhalation into the device. I hope I get some pointers from the speech therapist — Aretha is counting on me!