Make Room For The Stuttering

Posts Tagged ‘being real with stuttering

I was at the NSA Conference in Cleveland Ohio last week, and as always it was an exciting, magical and inspirational weekend. I plan to write about some of the best moments and provide a summary of a couple of really great workshops I attended, plus one I gave!

In the meantime,  Mike Bauer put together a fantastic video that was played during the closing ceremonies. It really summarizes how wonderful the conference was, and the magic feeling you get being around so many courageous people who stutter.

Mike also presented at the Toastmaster Demo workshop and gave his icebreaker speech, and did a fantastic job. I think this was only Mike’s second conference, so kudos to him for stepping up with a presentation so soon.

I feel honored to be able to share this video here! Mike did a great job. He may have found a new volunteer job with the NSA.

Right now, I am at the National Stuttering Association (NSA) 2010 conference in Cleveland, Ohio. By the time you read this, I will have been here for 2 full days. It is a great time to stutter freely and openly, meet new people and catch up with many friends I have made on this wonderful journey.

I made a promise to myself that I would not spend time during the conference blogging, tweeting or updating on Face book. That takes away from the real purpose of being here – which is to connect with others who share the same experience, worries and fears. There is nothing more powerful than the support of people who get it, even if you don’t know them, yet!

I feel that wave of support when I walk into one of the rooms at a NSA conference. I don’t have to explain myself or what I just did. I don’t have to worry about any of the looks, or feel self-conscious. We can talk, and listen, and share, and take as much time as we need.

I will be writing about some of the best moments of the NSA conference upon my return. It will be hard to do, as I know there will be many to choose from. I am facilitating one workshop on my own, helping with the Toastmasters demo meeting, and doing something special with teens on Saturday morning.

I am also looking forward to meeting some friends in person – Danny, Sarah, Gloria, Mandy, Cheryl – and meeting some of the folks who will be experiencing the fellowship of self-help for the first time.

Look for updates here soon!

Patrice, Pam, Bob, Steve and Joe

Getting together with other people who stutter never has to be formal with a set agenda. My friend Steve and I decided to launch a monthly social gathering for people who stutter in our area to just get together over food, drinks and good conversation.

We might talk about stuttering or we might not. What’s important is that we are getting together and feel comfortable to talk and laugh about anything.

We are calling our social gathering “Chat & Chew Too”. We have adopted the name from good friend Russ Hicks, who hosts similar social gatherings in Dallas.

So far we have met twice, and have our time and place scheduled for next month. We plan to alternate the times, days and places in an effort to keep it flexible and reach as many people as possible who want to connect in a very informal setting.

We had a great time talking a little bit about this and a little bit about that. It was nice to meet someone new and catch up with old friends as well. I would recommend fun, regular, social gatherings for anyone but particularly for people who stutter. We love to talk!

Last night, I had a great talk with a very special person.  It wasn’t until I got off the phone with her that I realized how insightful our conversation had been. She is aware that I recently stopped attending a regular stuttering group that I had been part of for several years. (That itself is a long story!).

We both acknowledged that I now had a void in my life, but maybe it was an intentional opening to fill it with other things. We talked about how sometimes you don’t realize how something is really supportive until you “feel” how good it feels.

Just talking with other people who stutter, or someone who really gets stuttering, is support. Whether it be online, over the phone, or in person, just feeling that feeling that the other person gets you, understands and is not judgmental, is so powerful.

Support doesn’t need to come in the form of an organized meeting, at a certain time at a certain place. It doesn’t have to be therapy based, or a workshop, or with one person filling a certain role.

Nope, it can be as simple as just talking with another person who really and truly gets it. And we can create those personal networks all over for ourselves. I don’t have to wait for a certain time to attend a certain meeting. My support comes from all of the connections I have made, and each of us can do that for ourselves.

Meeting people through FRIENDS and the NSA has created many support opportunities for me. And it has extended through social media, other people’s blogs and podcasts, Skype and the phone.

Thanks so much, Lee, for reminding me of that.

I got through the awards ceremony at school on Wednesday night, as I knew I would. It went well, considering the people element and human nature. What do I mean?

I had instructed the students who were to participate in the induction ceremony to arrive by 4:15, so we could rehearse. I figured most would arrive by 4:30. When 5 of the 15 were a half-hour late, I had to kick in with Plan B. Re-assign some of the student roles.

This would be our only rehearsal, as the students were coming from three different programs with different schedules. By show time, the last two eased in and took their seats. I asked the students to fill-in the late comers.

I went up on stage to the podium, took a deep breath, smiled and opened the proceedings. As soon as I began speaking the scripted lines, I noticed I was stuttering more than usual. My heart was beating a little faster, but I just kept breathing and moved forward. I stuttered on the first sound of many of the scripted words, which I could not substitute, and had some stuttered moments during multisyllabic words.

The candle lighting ceremony went well, considering we only had 5 minutes practice. Only one student fumbled with the switch on the fake candles. (Not allowed to use flames in a public building).

As I called the names of each student to come and get their certificates, I stuttered on most of the names. I could see out of the corner of my eye one student begin to rise and then sit again until I had finished his whole name.

Towards the end, after three students had each read a piece on courage, achievement and not limiting themselves (which I had thoughtfully selected and conned them into doing),  I decided to be bold and make a comment about my stuttering. I started by saying that it takes courage to come up on stage and speak to a large audience.

And that I was proud of the student’s courage. And that I was showing courage myself, by not allowing stuttering to hold me back from what I needed to do.

After the ceremony, our Assistant Superintendent came up to me and congratulated me on a job well done. He commented, “you were pretty nervous, huh?” I said “no, I was just stuttering.” He looked surprised and said he never noticed that I stutter.

Then he asked a couple of questions, like had I done any work on my speech. And then he commented, “Oh, now that we are talking about it, I pick it up”. I think my face flushed at that. He concluded with telling me that he was glad that I do not let stuttering holding me back.

The following morning he sent me this note via email: “Just a quick note to again say ‘Fantastic Job’ last evening. I was very impressed with your advance preparation and presentation throughout the Induction Ceremony. We are lucky to have you working here!

The school psychologist came to me as well and said that she was impressed how I chose to mention my stuttering and tie it into the student’s theme of courage. She said it made a lot of sense to be upfront, put it out there and not leave anyone wondering.

This was the first time I had occasion to mention stuttering with these two people. It made me feel good!

With risk comes growth, right? And more and more acceptance.

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.

I am always surprised when I hear myself express the need to be validated because I still don’t do it directly. I don’t come right out and ask someone, “Hey, can you validate me?’ I will dance around whatever it is that I need, until I hear either directly or indirectly that I am a good person or am loved.

We all need to hear that, right? This may be one of the most basic of human needs, yet for me, one of the hardest. I always believed I wasn’t good enough, or didn’t measure up, or didn’t even count enough to deserve good things said or felt about me.

A lot went into that: the ingrained belief I had that I was no good, that I didn’t matter and that my feelings weren’t valid. And of course, the fact that I stuttered. Putting that all together left me feeling I had no choice but to close myself off from the world.

Now I have opened myself to the world and allowed feelings to be felt. I let things seep in that I had always pushed away. I am beginning to see how good it feels when people affirm me, tell me I am good, and that I matter. Sometimes I still feel uncomfortable or embarrassed, maybe like I don’t deserve it, and other times it makes me feel warm and glowing inside.

I have almost reached a point when I can tell when I need that. And I will dance around the issue with a good friend or loved one, until they tell me something that makes me feel good.

I wish I could be direct enough to just let someone know, “hey, I need someone to tell me I have done a good job. Will you do that for me?”  I guess I also wish that I really didn’t need to hear that at all – that I just know it, that it comes from within.

But we are human. And need to hear others affirm us. We need to be validated. It feels good.


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© Pamela A Mertz and Make Room For The Stuttering, 2009 - 2019. 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 2019.
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