Make Room For The Stuttering

Posts Tagged ‘perfectionism

I read a post on a stuttering forum about a woman who has been asked to record a training video for her job.

She was asked to make this promotional video because she is good at her job and has a great attitude.

She posted that she really wanted to make the video but is afraid of “messing up” since her speech has been “really bad” lately. She said she wouldn’t want to do the video and have it turn out less than perfect.

Several people replied, encouraging her to take the chance and do it. Several other people wished her good luck and that they hoped she has good speech on the day of the recording.

I replied as well, encouraging her to do it and to be happy with her efforts no matter how her speech is on that given day. I said that imperfect people will probably be encouraged by seeing someone who isn’t perfect either.

None of us are perfect. Perfect doesn’t exist. Especially when it comes to the speech of people who stutter.

It has taken me a long time to believe this, for I grew up under the burden of trying to be a perfectionist in order to compensate for my speech. I thought if I was perfect at everything else, my stuttered speech wouldn’t be noticed and judged.

I was afraid of the judgement. If I didn’t sound perfect, I feared people would judge me negatively. Some did, as evidenced by the teasing and mimicking I tolerated growing up. Hell, I’ve been teased and mocked as an adult.

But I’ve slowly learned to shed the drive to be perfect. I think I am in recovery.

We can use all the tools and techniques we have to shape our speech into fluent speech. But if we stutter, we’re going to stutter. That’s all there is to it.

I hope the woman asked to do the video does it and stutters well. She doesn’t have to be perfect.

There is no perfect.

I remember back in 2003 when Luther Vandross released the song, “Dance With My Father”. Vandross wrote the song as a loving tribute for a love lost, as his father died when Vandross was 7 years old. It was one of Vandross’ s biggest hits, obvious from the heartfelt tone and joyous lyrics of the song. I heard that song over and over that year. It reduced me to tears every time.  It was a haunting reminder of the love I felt was lost with my own father.

My father didn’t die – he is alive, but our relationship is not. Has not been for a long time. I heard this song recently and memories came flooding back. Being afraid of my father all the time. Trying to stay out of his way, but at the same time, taking care of things so he woudn’t explode. Fixing dinner, keeping the other kids quiet, feeling tight and tense all of the time.

I remember hiding down in the cellar. We had a crawl space under the stairs. I was familiar with that space. My mother would take all of us down there whenever it stormed. My mother was afraid of storms. She was afraid of a lot of things. Including my father. We would hide there from the thunder and lightening, all of us kids and my mother. Even when the sun was shining, I would go down there and hide.

My father was a thunderous man. He was always yelling. Having six kids at such a young age took a toll on him, I think, and my mother. He tried to rule with an iron fist like his own father had. I don’t remember loving moments with my father. I don’t remember any pictures of me and my father when I was a baby. There were pictures of me and my mother, and her parents, but none of daddy with his first child. 

I remember feeling afraid when daddy was always yelling. Like I had done something wrong. Like I wasn’t good enough. I must have been  bad. That’s what he noticed. He only seemed to notice things he didn’t like. We were too loud, too messy, too many, I always thought.

And his kids had to be perfect. I wasn’t. I got out of the gate well. I was very smart. Talking well before 2, reading by 3. I remember reading out loud at that age, actually remember that. I don’t remember if anyone listened. I remember going down to the cellar and pressing up against the heater by the crawl space where we used to hide. It was warm there. I went there to get warm. It was my safe little space. ( I refer to  this in an earlier post on emotions . Funny how these emotions just keep coming!)

I don’t remember the actual stuttering when it started. I am told it didn’t start until I was 5, well after I had been talking for three years. I do remember my father yelling at me for stuttering. “Don’t talk like that. Stop that, damn it. Shut up, I said. If you can’t talk without doing that, then don’t say anything. Are you listening to me? Jesus Christ, shut up.”  He was always loud, and his face red. I remember thinking this little vein on his forehead was going to pop out one day, he was always so mad. 

I was afraid, so it didn’t take me long to stop talking. And to stay quiet most of the time. I became afraid to talk.  I became afraid to stutter. I was afraid of stuttering. I was afraid of what would happen if I stuttered. I was afraid of my father. I WAS SO AFRAID.

In 2003, when this Vandross song came out, not only did it make me cry, it made me nostalgic for that lost childhood. I remember buying the CD with the song “Dance With My Father ” on it. I recorded a copy of that song onto a blank CD, nothing else, just that one song. I bought a Father’s Day card and put the CD into the envelope with the card. I called my father’s house that day – his wife told me he wasn’t home yet, and that when he did get home, his young daughters were taking him on a picnic.

I stopped over there anyway. No one was home. I left the card on the front porch. He never acknowledged it. I don’t really know if he got it, but I think he did.

I wonder what it would have been like to dance with my father.

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© Pamela A Mertz and Make Room For The Stuttering, 2009 - 2021. 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 2021.
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