Make Room For The Stuttering

Bittersweet Stuttering Moments

Posted on: May 25, 2009

Stuttering sure has its moments! There are times when I feel really comfortable with stuttering freely, and feel like it is right to be authentic and let this part of me have free reign. (Not to be confused with Rainn – which is what I have named my stutter.  Hear more about that on stuttering is cool.) Anyway, as I have previously mentioned, there are times when I feel pressure not to stutter. I am sure we have all felt that way. And I stutter more on the phone. A shared phenomenon with many stutterers.

I feel pressure to sound smooth and measured when on the phone conducting Toastmaster business. Being President of my club means that my contact info is listed on our local club’s web page and people looking to visit can call me to get more information. I am pretty sure that when people call they don’t expect to hear a stutterer on the other end, promoting Toastmasters. I know this may sound contradictory since I talk about “me doing me”, but I can’t deny I still find myself wishing I was “more fluent” (whatever that really is for me) on the phone. This is me being honest. It’s not always hunky-dory in  my stuttering world.

Today, a nice guy named Jim called about Toastmasters. He had a lot of questions, including what makes my Toastmasters club unique. My first instinct was to say, “well, the President stutters”, but I curbed that urge. I patiently answered his questions and told him how cool our club is. I was stuttering really WELL.  He didn’t say anything, but I sensed a question in his voice. My self-talk started kicking in. I was self-conscious. I invited him to visit our club next week. I hope he does.

When I got off the phone, I sighed and took a deep breath. I had expended a lot of energy on that call. I felt tired. Maybe it was from fighting the pressure not to stutter. Maybe it was because I was actually stuttering more than I had all day. Maybe it was because this whole conversation took place within ear-shot of a colleague.

Yeah, stuttering can be so bittersweet. I can feel good and not so good about stuttering openly in the same instant. Its funny when that happens. So unpredictable. Competing feelings yelling for my attention. I have invited Rainn into my life and she’s there to stay. This much I know is true. She is not going anywhere. But sometimes I wish she wouldn’t be so “in your face” in my professional moments.

How much longer will it take? It’s the journey, not the destination. But how will I know when we have fully arrived?

Will that be a bittersweet moment too? What do you think? Please share your thoughts. We learn from each other.

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3 Responses to "Bittersweet Stuttering Moments"

In my experience, when dealing with something I find painful or shameful, I don’t realize I’ve fully “arrived” for a while. Like sunrise or the warming of a room (to paraphrase CS Lewis) you don’t notice the process until it’s already been going on for some time.

At some point, you’ll lift up your head to realize the uncertainty hasn’t happened for a long time, and you’ll be a little off-balance by that realization. Part of acceptance of any painful thing is losing your acute consciousness of the thing.

And yes, that’s a bittersweet off-balance moment too because we realize we’ve left a part of ourselves behind, even when it’s a positive thing to leave it behind.

I think we never arrive. As we reach the peak of one hill, we feel achievement. We sit down, build a camp, get comfortable, then one day we look around and realize there’s a higher hill. Do we continue to build the first camp? Do we continue to celebrate? Or do we drop all that and prepare for the next ascent?

Let them overlap and mix. At husband’s dojo, the senior instructors (4th level black belts) still wear their very 1st black belts, faded and tattered, to class. Many of us keep baby and wedding photos.

I’m the phone contact for another group. I hate it. It’s so hard to be just the right level of encouraging.

As for your first thought, “Well, the president stutters.” I like it! It shows that you’ve learned confidence, and how to communicate despite the stutter, rather than “the president is still so nervous about talking on the phone that she stutters — real (not) effective group”. (We know that’s not true, but I assume he’s one of the not-yet-informed.)

Ah, such good reflections. My wise friend thinks I should have a funeral for that part of me that has died. May be appropriate, yes?

As for “well, the President stutters”, I plan to weave that somehow into a speech I am doing tonight at Toastmasters, about communication in general. I think its important to share something like that with my group.

Thanks to both of you for the tremendous insight you share with me.

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