Make Room For The Stuttering

Posts Tagged ‘acceptance

There are so many things we think we can’t do, so we don’t.

I always wanted to teach, but thought I couldn’t, so I didn’t try.

I always wanted to travel, but thought I couldn’t, so I didn’t try.

I always wanted to speak up, but thought I couldn’t, so I didn’t try.

I always wanted to be athletic, but wasn’t, so I didn’t try.

I always wanted to be emotional, but was afraid, so I didn’t try.

I always wanted lots of friends, but that meant talking, so I didn’t try.

I always wanted to say what I really felt, but I was embarrassed, so I didn’t try.

I always wanted to feel accepted for who I was, but felt I would never be, so I didn’t try.

But then something changed.

I started trying.

I am not a teacher, but I teach someone something every day.

I wanted to travel, so I did it. I have been to some great places.

I wanted to speak up, so I tried it, and now you can’t shut me up.

I wanted to stick to a fitness goal, so I started walking. I entered two races and I did them.

I wanted to be more comfortable with my emotions, so I have been trying, and its been OK.

I wanted more friends in my life, so I learned how to be a friend, and it worked.

I wanted to say the things I really felt, so I tried and it felt good.

I wanted to be accepted for who I was, so I started working on accepting myself. And its working.

If we never try, nothing ever changes.

I did it!

I like the sound of those three words.

Remember playing this game as a kid? I never liked it. I didn’t see the point, and it always seemed I got rope burn trying to pull so hard. And as the game goes, the harder you pull, the more effort the other side expends so they can win.

Speaking of rope burn, I also remember as a kid sliding down some huge slide sitting on a burlap sack. I can’t remember where , but the memory just came roaring back. That experience was like a tug-of-war too. I remember feeling gloriously free careening down the slide, caressed and stung  by the wind and having no worries during that fast and furious moment.

And then the moment at the bottom when I realized the ride was over and my butt had slid off the burlap sack and I had rope burn all up and down my legs. The price I paid for that exhilarating run. I wish someone had told me to wear pants!

I have discovered that you can also play tug-of-war with feelings. Someone reminded me that if I expect those close to me to know what I want and need without telling them directly, I will be disappointed. This is akin to mind-reading, which most of us don’t do very well.

I know this intellectually, but emotionally it is still often hard for me to be direct about my feelings and even identify what it is that I am feeling. There must be a way to strike a balance between the desire to show my feelings and pressing my autopilot button to conceal my truest self, which I did for a long time. It was my survival tactic.

Simply put, as I was gently reminded, I am not used to anyone showing care and tenderness toward me. I don’t know how to react, or how to let it in. I want to, but the feelings that rush up overwhelm me. They are a bittersweet mix of joy and sadness. Mourning, if you will, for not having felt genuine tenderness enough to know how to deal with it.

Feeling for real, and expressing how I feel, is still so foreign that I don’t trust it. I grew up thinking that if I let people know my true self, somehow they would get the upper hand, which everyone already seemed to have anyway. I have been told that this is common for children of alcoholics.  There were no emotions expressed – everything real was repressed and avoided. That’s how I got so good at covering up my stuttering.

So this tug-of-war with feelings is vexing me now. It is not as easy to hide anymore. As I heal and continue uncovering and exposing my true self, people are coming in. I have been so used to holding people and feelings at arm’s length, that usually I don’t even notice I am doing it.

Maybe I can have that glorious feeling of careening freedom again, right smack into life instead of down a slide on my butt on a burlap sack . Maybe I will figure out how to avoid the rope burns. Or maybe I’ll just figure out how to stop pulling so hard.

I will be leaving today for my 3rd Friends convention, held this year in Chicago, IL. If you have a child that stutters, Friends is a wonderful support organization that focuses on acceptance of self as is. There is nothing better than to see kids, teen and young adults spend time together, laughing and loving each other and themselves.

This is a parent driven organization and it is clearly evident when you participate in a Friends event. The convention details are handled by families from the host city, and attendees feel welcome and supported the minute you walk in the door.

Parents are the backbone of this organization,  under the guidance of Director Lee Caggiano. Lee is the mother of a son who stutters, and the whole Caggiano family is deeply involved in Friends. Dad Tom helps with all kinds of logistical things, including chief photographer during events. Daughter Jessie, herself a Social Worker, works with the kids and runs a siblings group every year.

People ask me how come I attend both conferences, NSA and Friends. They are so close – within two weeks of each other. It can be expensive. My response is always: how can I not.

When I first met Lee four years ago, her unconditional love, support and respect for people who stutter came shining through. She made me feel that my stuttering has purpose, value – before her, no one had made me feel that way about stuttering.

I went to the Friends conference in New Orleans in 2008, and was warmly embraced. Literally. When I walked in to the Friends area in the hotel, a parent of two kids who stutter, Gloria, warmly embraced me and made me feel so welcome. I will never forget that. I have been hooked since.

Countless times I wonder what my life would have been like if I had something like this when I was little girl, feeling so alone and scared with my stuttering. If I had known other kids my age who sounded like me – I know things would have been very different for me. I would not have felt like I had to fight the demons all by my self.

If you stutter, even as a adult, or know someone who stutters, take an opportunity to check out Friends. You will see why it is such a special place for kids and thier families. There, they are not kids who stutter. They are just kids. And we adults become kids at heart.

Visit Friends today. You will be happy you did!

Episode 11 features Anita Blom, who hails from Sweden, by way of Holland. I first met Anita two years ago. She attended a National Stuttering Association (NSA) conference, where she gave one of the keynote addresses.

I remember feeling inspired by her active involvement in the world-wide stuttering community. I also remember that she came to the Open Mic session that I hosted on the last day of the conference. I spoke to her afterward, and felt instant connection. Since then, I have “run into” her at the on-line ISAD conferences. We now keep up through social media.

I do hope I get to see Anita in person again sometime. It did feel completely right and comfortable chatting with each other via skype and webcam. Turns out, we both were wearing similar jams!

Anita is busy! She has a large family, is an adult education teacher, does IT support, helps with the family company AND plays in a marching band. She also does a bit of volunteer work – she is Chair of her local stuttering chapter, Chair of the Swedish National Stuttering Association, is Vice Chair of the European League of Stuttering Associations and sits on several committees. It tired me out just typing this!

We chat about acceptance, turning points, “lost and found” and even why Anita once wanted to be a boy. Anita has a wonderful name badge that she wears everywhere. It says, “S-s-sure, I s-s-stutter! What are you good at?”

Listen in on a great conversation, and feel free to leave comments for Anita (and me too!). Your feedback is always welcome, and helps me know that I am getting this right.

Musical credit for “I’m Gonna Go” goes to Dano Songs.

Episode 9 features Beth Bienvenu, from Olney, Maryland, located outside of Washington, DC. Beth works for the US Department of Labor Office of Disability Employment Policy.

As a woman who stutters, Beth has  used her personal journey as a stutterer to raise awareness at the federal government level. She offers advice about reasonable accommodations that one can ask for to make stuttering in the workplace a non-issue.

Beth has been involved with the National Stuttering Association for six years and attributes self-help and support to helping her move toward acceptance of her own stuttering.

In our chat, Beth shares valuable information and resources for career success. She has been very instrumental in facilitating a Career Track at the upcoming NSA conference in Cleveland in July. For more information on accommodations in the workplace, visit the Job Accommodation Network.

Musical credit for the intro and out-tro of  the song “I’m Gonna Go” goes to Dano Songs.

As always, your feedback and support is appreciated. Feel free to leave comments or ask Beth some questions.

Episode 6 welcomes Gloria Klumb from Madison, Wisconsin. Gloria is a NSA and Face book friend. She is leader of the Madison NSA Chapter.

She often reads my posts on this blog and takes the time to comment. So it was a no-brainer that she and I would eventually chat and put our great minds together.

We talk about different things. Her friend Bernie pestered her for a year to attend her first NSA conference. That conference was so life-changing that Gloria wound up moving from one city to another in Wisconsin so that she could be close to a NSA group, and then wound up being chapter leader. Another friend Bob “conned” her into eventually co-leading a stuttering workshop.

Gloria also tells about why she couldn’t tell her own children where she went or why when she attended NSA events.  And she talks about her “freedom trail”, work and even Botox.

These conversations with women are turning into exactly what I had hoped for.  We don’t need “famous” people to inspire us with their stuttering stories. Ordinary people lead amazing lives every single day, and it is important to listen to these stories.  Gloria’s “tell” is wonderful!

Musical credit for the intro and out-tro of  the song “I’m Gonna Go” goes to Dano Songs.

Feel free to leave comments and feedback for Gloria. (And me too!)

Episode 5 welcomes NSA friend Stacey Fitzenrider, who hails from Seattle, Washington. I e-met Stacey several years ago through various stuttering groups and met her in person last year at the NSA Scottsdale conference.

She and 5-year-old daughter Ava came to the Open Mic session that I hosted at 8:30 am on Thursday, as a favor to a good friend who asked me to fill in for him at the last minute.

Always the good sport, I was at the ready at 8:30am. Not too many other people were (!), so I had the chance to chat it up with Stacey and Ava. We chatted as if we had known each other for ever. And Ava did a good deal of the chatting. It was a treat getting to know them.

Really cool fact – Stacey’s “handle” is chattygirl. Don’t ya love it? And you will love Stacey’s gut honesty as we chat about all kinds of things, including choices, parents that stutter, feeling whole, and living life.

Musical credit for the intro song “Today Then Tomorrow” goes to Dano Songs.

Feel free to leave comments. As a matter of fact, I encourage it. Let Stacey know your thoughts.

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© Pamela A Mertz and Make Room For The Stuttering, 2009 - 2020. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Pamela A Mertz and Make Room For The Stuttering with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. Same protection applies to the podcasts linked to this blog, "Women Who Stutter: Our Stories" and "He Stutters: She Asks Him." Please give credit to owner/author Pamela A Mertz 2020.
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