Make Room For The Stuttering

Make The Elephant Dance

Posted on: April 17, 2009

dance-elephantSometimes we have issues that need to be talked about, but don’t get talked about. The issue gets attention by not getting attention. It may sound confusing, but is not really.

I once wrote a speech about this for Toastmasters and delivered it with a good dose of passion. I can always talk passionately about what I know best. Because it comes from the heart.

I have firsthand knowledge of “the elephant in the room”. On several counts. As a kid, it was my stuttering. No one ever talked about it-it was taboo. Almost like if we didn’t talk about it, it didn’t exist. We all danced around that for years.

The same with my mom’s alcoholism. We never talked about that either. For so long, we thought it was normal – this chaos, uncertainty, fear – but it wasn’t. The elephant was screaming to be talked about. He was every color – pink, blue, white – always there, always on the surface, always ignored.

And the same with other stuff going on in the childhood home, that one day will be written about and embraced. The elephant walked a tightrope in our backyard, inside the confines of the eight foot fence that kept us in and towered over us. No one could look in and see what was going on.

I have seen elephants at work too. The place that I worked at for so long was a toxic environment. Morale was bad, communication was poor, and management often managed by intimidation. The elephant in the room was whispered about in the lunch room, in the break room and the smoking area. No one dared ever speak up and talk about the real issues, out of fear. Fear of humiliation, fear of job loss, fear of retaliation. Even though those things shouldn’t occur in progressive, enlightened workplaces, they do and we know it.

It was probably the best thing that ever happened to me, getting fired from that place. The elephant danced and I started a new chapter of my life.

Sometimes the elephant is there between just two people, larger than life, so painfully obvious. It is there between me and my dad, taking up so much space, that we can’t talk. The elephant shows up sometimes between me and my mom too, although this elephant is actually more of a baby elephant. We can push it away sometimes and have a real talk.

The elephant exists within a relationship I have right now. Years ago, I was not honest about my true feelings about someone, and neither was he. The elephant has grown bigger and bigger. Neither of us knows enough to slay this elephant. We need to get it to dance. When the elephant dances, you shake up the unspeakable issue and gradually make it speakable.

My stuttering became speakable. As I noted in a previous post, it has become stutter-eze.

I know I can dance gracefully with an elephant. We’ve done it before, the stuttering elephant and I. We have danced the two-step, the jig, the electric slide and the waltz.

The elephant was in the room a couple of nights ago when I spoke at Toastmasters. I was stuttering and some folks had not heard that before and looked puzzled. I should have introduced my stuttering and had the elephant do a little jig right then and there. Pink tutu too!

Make the elephant dance. It can be surprisingly light on the feet and light on the heart.

4 Responses to "Make The Elephant Dance"

Great post, Pam. It’s all about stopping the conspiracy of silence. Keep up the great work. 🙂


Oh avoiding the Elephant Dance.. I too have often sat out on a particular song because I was struggling or even fighting with my thoughts and emotions on a particular issue. It’s as if sometimes we think of a situation as completely black and white—with no gray area in between. Sometimes I think I avoid the elephant dance because I don’t want to make someone else uncomfortable or force them into discussing an issue if they don’t want to—however then the issue as you said just becomes BIGGER and BIGGER and you feel as if you can not escape it. Now I try to be willing to look where I know I need to look first *at myself* and feel those emotions no matter how truly uncomfortable they make me, because I know that only then can I do my dance and force myself to look at the experiences that are causing me turmoil/frustration, etc. I try to tackle those issues head on because when I think of how much energy is consumed and thoughts wasted- It’s these moments that I have regret because I didn’t seize the moment to get something off my chest. Now I’ve finally come to realize that at the end of the day I can’t worry about everyone else and how they perceive me or even change this. I just have to take an act of power and have the courage to make the conscious choice to DANCE!!

Oh, wow, thanks for sharing that. I think the biggest realization that I have had, of many, is that stutter or not, we all share core experiences. It is when we hold back due to fear or shame, that we miss out on the opportunity to fully engage with the world.
I like your analogy of the elephant dancing – which is different than what my original thought is/was. What I want to make dance is the previously unspeakable issue itself, not just the elephant. Making stuttering real, making alcoholism real, making abuse real -instead of pretending they don’t exist.
When I pretended those things didn’t exist, that pretense held such power over me. Now that those issues are out in the open (almost!), I have more power, and a different kind of power.
I am so happy that you are experiencing this with me – is is intensely moving for me to share these previously feared parts of my life, and to know they have value.

[…] stutterrockstar put an intriguing blog post on Make The Elephant Dance « Make Room For The StutteringHere’s a quick excerptI have firsthand knowledge of “the elephant in the room”. On several counts. As a kid, it was my stuttering. No one ever talked about it-it was taboo. Almost like if we didn’t talk about it, it didn’t exist. We all danced around that … […]

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