Make Room For The Stuttering

Is “It” A Gift?

Posted on: June 8, 2009

I knew I would eventually get around to trying to answer this question. It’s been asked before.

There is a whole community of people who think stuttering is a gift. The guys over at Stuttertalk talk about it a lot, with guests and listeners. Russ Hicks wrote a great paper about it and regularly talks about his gift of stuttering. Anita Blom ponders whether it might be a gift or poison. When asked about it myself, I have repeatedly said no, my stuttering is not a gift. My ability to communicate effectively is the gift.

I may be re-thinking this a bit. I may have been using a  “Cop -Out.”  Maybe by saying it this way, “effective communication is the gift”, I had really just been trying to avoid relating stuttering to something good. Because for most of my life, I had considered stuttering to be something bad. And I was really good at avoiding. Avoiding is easier than dealing with something difficult. But why would considering my stuttering to be a gift be difficult?

Someone at work recently asked me, “So, do you think your stuttering is a blessing?” Instead of answering straight out, of course I asked her why she asked. (A piece of me was incredulous that someone would think that about my stuttering). She said because my stuttering seems to give me “strength and confidence, and that it creates such a presence.”

Whoa, I could hardly believe that. Presence? Stuttering? Me? I had never thought about it like this. But Heather’s question made me think about those I have met who truly do believe that stuttering is a gift. (Eric, Russ, Peter, Joe, Greg – hmmm, mostly guys!) They all have  presence. Am I finally ready to believe this about my stuttering?

I began thinking of what “gift” means, and how I have felt when given a gift. To me, a gift has always been something unexpected that has made me happy or feel special. I have always felt partial towards the non-material aspect of gifts – like someone giving the gift of time, or their wisdom, or just giving something of themselves, saying the right things at the right time. Those gifts have always had meaning.

Dictionary.com defines gift as “a special ability or capacity; natural endowment; talent.” And “something given voluntarily without payment in return; present.” Heather told me that my stuttering enables me to reach people and leave them with something.

That sounds kind of heady! But I have felt really good and special when I talk to people about stuttering and what effect it has had on my life, and how accepting a challenge makes a person stronger. It feels good when I know that I have connected with people. When I am really honest and get emotional, I can feel that connection with others, because sometimes I see the same reaction.

Like when I told my childhood stuttering story to a parents group, and I got choked up at the end. When I glanced up, I saw a couple people with tears in their eyes. Moments like that let me know that maybe “being willing to share my stuttering experience” is the gift that I can give to others.

That still sounds like a cop-out to me. A couple of people have commented or emailed about this blog that some of my honest writing (and sharing) has brought them to tears. Me too. When I write about the real stuff, it moves me to tears, because I know that by sharing part of me, I am touching lives. Some that I’ll never even know.  And that is pretty special.

So, that must be it. Sharing is the gift. The definition says gift is giving something voluntarily, without expecting payment in return.  But I still haven’t answered the question. Is stuttering a gift? Why is that so difficult for me to answer?

I will leave it to you. What do you think? Is stuttering a gift?  I remember CrickettB commented on an earlier post that maybe I am a gift, and stuttering is the wrapping. I knew I wanted to come back to that. Can our differences be the wrapping on the gift of ourselves?

Copyright © 2009

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7 Responses to "Is “It” A Gift?"

Cricket was def right when she said that you’re a gift. You truly are!! My life has been affected a lot from knowing you. I find myself needing some “Pam time” more and more often… 😀

Heather has a very good point. You (and the guys you mentioned) all have great presence. You are such wonderful people who manage to engage people when you speak. No matter what the speech is about.

I do think you kinda didn’t answer your own question though, but I get that it’s a hard one to answer. There are a lot of factors involved here in order to actually truly mean what you say. If you’re gonna say that you see stuttering as a gift, you should mean it with your heart.

But, all the great things the fact that you stutter has lead to, might be easier to see as a gift. All the people you’ve met, the great community you’re a part of (all your wonderful “team mates” as Steven would say), all the things you’ve done, the kind of person it has helped shape you into and so on.

Maybe the “would you take a pill” question would be easier to answer?

Your gift of sharing with us, your gift of writing the way you do, and the gift I have gotten from knowing you are priceless. I am so grateful for everything you do Pam. You have a way of affecting people in a good way. You make us think of the things that matter. And I love you very much for that.

Thank you!

Wow, what a wonderful response. Brought tears to my eyes. You are right, I didn’t totally answer the question, because I still am not sure, I suppose. If I had to choose btw taking a pill to “cure” stuttering or still stutter, I would opt to stutter. It is a part of me, that I can’t and won’t deny anymore.
And it has shaped the person I am today. I think I had to go through the bad, the shame and fear and isolation and land on my feet to better apprepciate where I am now and how it has impacted my life.
But I really don’t think I can answer the question – whether its phrased as a gift or blessing.
I think it does have to do with other’s perceptions.
Thanks for being part of my life.

Sometimes I wonder myself if stuttering is a gift. I was on a quiz team once and was attempting to answer the last question which would have made my team the winner but unfortunatley I did not finish answering the question in time and so there was a debate over whether we should get the points. We did because they concluded that I had no control over my stuttering and we were declared the winners.

Another time I was doing a group presentation for a Management course I was doing and when it came time for me to make my contribution, I was stuttering like crazy. My fellow group members appealed to the lecturer on my behalf and we got an A. tis is not so bad I thought, this could actually work for me.

On the flip side however, I was a part of a workshop at one of my jobs and was asked to read from a text for the whole class to hear. I asked to excused from doing it for the reason that I stutter. The host looked at me with scorn and asked, what is that, what is that? I felt so embarassed in front my fellow colleagues. At that time I honestly thought stuttering was indeed a curse.

I was also told recently by one of my friends that she thought I was proud and full of myself, all because I often do not talk much because of my stuttering.

Sometimes I honestly have mixed feelings about my stuttering.

I have never thought of stuttering as an advantage, although the curse part, yes, I can relate to that.
Lat week, when I was speaking on stage in front of a large audience using a microphone, I had to say “college”. It came out “ca-ca-ca-ca-ca-ca-ca-ca-college”. It seemed like forever, and I felt locked in that moment. I did not look out at the audience, I just looked sat the back wall until “it” loosened and I was able to go on.
At that moment, I was cursing such a long block, but to anybody else, it was probably only a few seconds.

Pam

I think like many things in life, stuttering is both a blessing and a curse.

I don’t think anyone if we had a choice in the matter, would choose in the beginning to go thru life as a person who stutters. We all know the embarassement, shame, guilty, limitations, lonliness, etc. that we have had to go through because of stuttering.

On the other hand, I am the person I am because I stutter, I have had life-experiences that I wouldn’t not have had if I didn’t stutter. I think in many ways I am a better person because I stutter.

I’m with you, if there was a magic pill that could cure stuttering, I don’t know if I would take it or not at this point in my life.

Matt

I am a stutterer and I don’t think its a gift. Every time I have to speak I feel like i am in a battle, some times I win some times I loose. Well its always good to have positive attitude but hiding from the fact is also harmful. Whenever I have to speak in public, I do preparations and give my best shot. I believe that I am trying at my level best to overcome the problem. My personal experience is that this is the world of professionals and here you have to be a great communicator to achieve your dreams, so you can’t just hide from the problem but you have to face it and have to defeat it. I have just finished my graduation and during my college days I had to be the part of presentations, group discussions and interviews. The most crucial moment was the time I was appearing for a job interview. In all those activities I feel I was excellent whenever I was cool and was pathetic the other time. I will appreciate if you have suggestions for me.

Parry,
Thanks for writing and for the feedback. As you can see, I too haven’t determined that my stuttering is a gift. I view the sharing of self as a gift, and that can be done stuttering or not.

I can’t really give advice – all I can do is share my experiences. And thats what you can do. Be open about who you are, tell listeners you stutter, and if need be , educate thme on what stuttering is. Then, just be yourself. People genuinely respect honesty and when we are true to our selves.

Sometimes you will not defeat a problem or challenge – sometimes you just have to live through the pain and allow it to transform you!

Pam

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