Make Room For The Stuttering

Posts Tagged ‘taking chances in life

Today’s post doesn’t have a lot to do with stuttering. Or maybe it does in some way.

Yesterday I had a conversation with someone who challenged me to find a way to make my voice heard. That was hard to hear, as I like to think my voice is loud and clear.

I am open with my stuttering, and have a voice in that community. I let my voice be heard in the Toastmasters community and my voice is certainly heard through this blog and various social media platforms.

But this was not a challenge about my literal voice. He was pushing me to find a way to have my figurative voice be present in a tough environment with a lot of pushback. We talked about the different meanings of voice, which did not include stuttering at all.

For the first time in a long time, I am considering stepping away from a tough situation, instead of “shaking it off and stepping up.” I’ve prided myself on doing that and encouraging others to do the same.

I mustered up the courage to say I think I need to bow out gracefully from a tough work situation. After much self talk, I had arrived at the decision that self-preservation and being happy was more important than the daily grind. That life is too short to be miserable every day.

But this individual would not let me off the hook! He pushed back and debated with me. He is convinced that I am supposed to be right in the thick of things and that my leadership and voice will strengthen and that I will be better for sticking it out. And that the work is important and worth it.

He challenged me to find new ways to collaborate, communicate and problem solve.

My insides are screaming that I’ve had enough, that as long as I can save face, it’s OK to bow out and still stand tall.

But I’ll admit I’m struck by this individual’s confidence in me that I can stay the course and emerge better, stronger and with new skills.

Having your voice heard means being active, not passive, which I am trying to convince myself is OK at this stage in my life and career.

My white flag was not accepted. So I have to figure out how to raise my voice another octave. And do that with grace.

Have you ever worn shoes that don’t fit right? So tight, it hurts to walk? Or even to stand still? I’ve bought shoes sometimes that are too tight, hoping either they would loosen or my feet would shrink.

Especially leather shoes. I’ve hoped that the leather would soften with wear and conform to my foot. I have stubbornly endured foot pain for days. And blisters. Sometimes it worked. The shoe did soften up and became comfortable. Other times, I realized I wasted my money.

What about shoes that are too big? Have you ever fell in love with a certain pair that didn’t come in your size and you bought the next size up? I have, thinking I could  wear fluffier socks or even two pair.

I remember one time wearing shoes that were so wide, I feared falling out of them. And I did! One of the shoes FELL OFF as I climbed stairs!

So what do you do when shoes don’t fit? You don’t wear them! You get rid of them, ideally passing them on to someone who can use them.

But sometimes that’s hard to do. Even when we should get rid of something that doesn’t fit or we don’t even wear anymore, it’s hard to give up what we know.

I remember years ago when a brand of shoes called “Docksiders” was all the rage. I just had to have a pair. They were leather boat shoes, flat, like moccasins. They had sturdy hard cords as laces. I wore those shoes to death. They became scuffed and the cords broke. I couldn’t find the exact replacement laces, so I tied the broken cord together and still wore them!

I outgrew those shoes, but had a hard time getting rid of them. I kept them in my closet for years, finally parting with them when packing up to move.

I had a conversation with my mentor the other day. I was complaining about how dizzying my life seemed lately. I lost a job that I loved, had a serious bike accident, had to move suddenly due to flooding, and had a temporary job that also ended abruptly. All in the course of 4 months.

I was moaning (crying) about how all of this was way too much to handle and it wasn’t fair. When would I catch a break?

He just looked at me very calmly and said, “Pam, stop. This doesn’t fit you anymore. You know better than most how to navigate changes in life. You’re an expert at it. It doesn’t fit you anymore to bemoan change.”

He stopped me dead in my tracks. Of course he was right. Whining and complaining does nothing to change any of the “drama” that has gone on in my life. I can’t hold on to the old ways of reacting and panicking. That’s not me any more.

Like shoes that don’t fit, we have to get rid of strategies that don’t work or we outgrow. My mentor calmly said, “That’s it. I give you permission to stop carrying all this and just let it go. Can you give your self permission?”

I thought about this long and hard. I want to gently acknowledge all of these things going on in my life and let them go. But it is so hard. I still find myself fighting it, as tough as that is to admit.

When something doesn’t fit, we need to get rid of it and make room for newer things that fit better.

Like stuttering, loss, change and pain – we have to take control, not let “things” control us.

What do you think? Do you still have a pair of old shoes in your closet (like me) that you can’t part with? Why is it so hard?

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.

So much has changed in the last 10 years. Our way of life has changed significantly. My life changed significantly.

Like most Americans, I can remember where I was and what I was doing on that September morning. I was working at Job Corps and a student came in to my office telling me she had just heard about the planes that crashed into the towers.

She was from New York City, as were many of our students. As word spread throughout our Center, many students wanted to call home and check on family. It was tough. We did not allow students to use cell phones during the school day, and many didn’t have them anyway. The phone lines were jammed.

It was a Tuesday and we were expecting new enrolling students from NYC that afternoon. It was my job to drive to the bus station and pick them up. I remember feeling really panicked about going to the bus station. In the morning, we did not really comprehend what was going on.

We still didn’t understand by afternoon. I remember asking if someone would go with me to the bus station. I was afraid to go alone. I remember looking up at the sky, feeling that surreal terror that I know everyone was feeling, but I didn’t know that then.

I felt alone that day, very alone. I know that now because I was not living life the way I should have been.

So much has changed since that September day.

Fear of change and the unknown prevented me from doing a lot of things. I learned about fear and the unknown just like everybody else that day, and forever after.

I no longer work in the same place. I am no longer in an abusive relationship that sucked the life out of me. My grandmother died, my father survived a brain tumor, and my step-father died.

I tried some speech therapy for my stuttering for the first time, and also some psychological therapy, to start working on childhood demons. I am still dealing with fear and uncertainty every day, just like everyone does, but I feel more empowered to move forward instead of staying stuck.

So many people lost their lives that day. Children have grown up not knowing parents who were lost. I have parents that I don’t know well.

Life is too short to not live it. I don’t live life perfectly, as much as I tried to and thought I had to for so long.

These days, I am more open and honest with myself and more willing to confront pain and attempt to find ways to continue growing.

My father’s brain tumor is back. There are things I wish I could say to him, but I have not figured out if I really need to or is it just guilt.

So much has changed, hasn’t it?

“The fact is, that to do anything in the world worth doing, we must not stand back shivering and thinking of the cold and danger, but jump in and scramble through as well as we can.” —Robert Cushing.

I love this saying. My friend Steve put this on our agenda for a discussion workshop we did recently with adults who stutter. We discussed fear and shame, and how we manage our stuttering in our daily lives.

Anything worth having  is worth working for. I tell my students that all the time. Sometimes we have to make ourselves vulnerable and do things we think we cannot do, in order to achieve a goal. Then when we achieve the goal, it is often sweeter because we faced up to something we might not have dared to do.

Stuttering fits in this realm. There are lots of things people who stutter avoid out of fear or shame. For some, it might be public speaking. For others, it might be answering the telephone or placing an order through a drive-through. For still others, it might be speaking up at a meeting or answering an impromptu question.

Life is full of those moments when we have to decide what is most important. Sometimes we have to dive right in and just face our fears, so that we can feel in control, rather than our stutter controlling us.

Reminds me of an upcoming event I have scheduled. Next Wednesday is our high school awards night and our Honor Society induction ceremony.

I am the one who gets to be on stage, using a microphone, explaining the functions and what the different candles we will light actually mean. Then I will call each student’s name for their award. This is always challenging!

Even though it will be my fourth year leading this ceremony, I always feel that anticipatory anxiety. I stutter more when I am reading names.

When I read each student’s name, I repeat on the first and last name, without fail. I worry because I don’t want parents thinking I am mis-pronouncing their child’s name. Getting names right are important, especially when parents will be in the audience.

This is definitely an area that I might stand at the edge and think about the danger and cold, and wish I did not have to do this. But I will. Despite my boss having made negative comments about my performance after the first time I did it. (Not sure I will ever forget that!)

I could ask someone else to do it, but I won’t. It’s my job. It invokes anxiety for me, but I am going to do it anyway. It’s worth it to me to scramble through and do my best, for myself and my students. Even if I am not perfect.

Perfection is not the goal. Just doing it is! Right? Often, the victory is in the doing.

Can you relate? Have there been things you’d rather not do, but have done anyway? Why?


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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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