Make Room For The Stuttering

Posts Tagged ‘taking risks

This is not directly about stuttering, but in a way, it is. This guy showed on a big stage how nerves and anxiety can get the best of any of us. The news shows are describing Mr. Bay’s performance as a “melt down” and “embarrassing stage fright.”

I took this a different way. I think he did us all a favor. He showed us that he’s human and felt anxious and vulnerable, like we all do from time to time.

How many of us, fluent or not, can relate to what happened here?

One of the hardest things about being human is owning when we are part of the problem, instead of the solution.

My guard has been up recently and I have been reacting quite defensively to things around me, and to people too. I’m taking things personally that maybe I shouldn’t.

Instead of communicating my feelings and my needs, I have been stubborn. I’ve helped shut down lines of communication, instead of keeping them open. I know that’s not going to help the situation, but I find myself doing it anyway. Can you relate?

I’m pissing myself off a lot these days, as I know that I should be proactive rather than reactive. But I can’t seem to help it.

Someone suggested I do some soul-searching. I am taking stock of what works and what doesn’t. I want to ditch the stuff that is not working. And own it.

It’s hard admitting when you’ve screwed up. Admitting it to both self and others.

But that’s what owning our stuff is all about. It’s hard and very much a part of the human condition.

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.

I have been in Toastmasters for five years. To say it has been a great experience would be an understatement. Toastmasters values and supports individual growth and thereby fosters courage and confidence. I am proof of that!

Having a safe environment to practice different speaking situations and know that people actually want you to succeed is priceless. We don’t  find this everywhere.

Workplaces can be intimidating. They may encourage you to “speak up” but sometimes an employee is fearful of the consequences of doing so. In our communities, it can be tough to be heard as well, especially if you are the “new kid on the block” or you are not a social butterfly!

And if you stutter, all of these situations can be even scarier. But Toastmasters welcomes and encourages every member to build on strengths we already have and work towards personal and professional goals. It is a non-threatening environment where members simply support each another. Sometimes, we “nudge” each other a bit as well!

I have not done any planned speeches since last summer. I have been focusing on other things and mentoring a new member. That’s also part of Toastmasters – paying it forward and passing along what has helped us to the next person. I take meeting roles and enthusiastically participate whenever I can.

At this week’s meeting, a person was to be Toastmaster of the meeting for the first time. She was a little nervous, had spent a week emailing members, getting bios together and planning. She really wanted to do well. (I suspect she is a bit of a perfectionist like me!) There were two planned speakers on the agenda. Both backed out at the last minute.

While we were waiting for the meeting to start, I mentioned that some Toastmasters talk about have “back-pocket” speeches that they can do anytime. I half-jokingly mentioned that maybe we might have to do that at our meeting. Well, our Toastmaster Annette called my bluff and asked if I would give an impromptu speech. How could I say no!

So, with only seconds to prepare, I rose to the challenge, walked up to the lectern and delivered a 7 minute speech called, “When It Rains, Get Wet”. I talked about living life to its fullest and shared the personal experience of having participated in my first team 5K walk last week. Something I never thought I could do. Something way out of my comfort zone!

Unbelievably, it seemed like one of my better speeches. I was comfortable, relaxed, animated. People commented on that in the written feedback slips we give to each other after anyone speaks. And when I finished, another member volunteered to give his second ever speech, off the cuff. Talk about risk-taking.

I share this for a reason. I was always afraid to take risks, especially speaking risks. I always feared that I would be judged as incompetent, just because I stutter. But I have learned that sometimes the best lessons are taught when we just let go and do it.

I have to share some of the feedback I got after my impromptu speech. It was so gratifying and affirming. I allowed these comments in and gave myself permission to feel good!

“Smooth, fun story, nice build-up, happy ending, a lot of fun.”

“Amazing speech! I felt your joy when you crossed the finish line. You inspired me to take a risk!”

“Great! Wonderful personal story! Engaging topic, excellent delivery.”

“Pam, you are the ultimate risk-taker! Are you sure this wasn’t planned? I wish I could be as confident as you. You did an awesome job. Great body movement and non-verbal cues. You totally rock!”

Normally, I would be adverse to share compliments like this. I often feel embarrassed. I know why – I used to feel I didn’t deserve to be told I do/did a good job!

But taking this huge risk felt great and proved that good things happen when we go way outside our comfort zone. People keep telling me to share these really good things, so I just did!

I was looking through some old papers amidst some clutter that I keep saying I will get to and organize. I hate to throw anything away. I always think I will need it for something else. And I like to save things and reflect back occasionally on things I’ve done and people I’ve met.

I came across the outline and notes for the first workshop that I did at an NSA conference back in 2008. My friend Mary and I co-facilitated a presentation called “Being Real: Letting It All Hang Out”. It was based on the story of the Velveteen Rabbit and how he “became real” through the processes we all go through in life when we find ourselves.

In this workshop, we spoke about how we had both moved to places in our lives where we were ready to be real with our stuttering. We drew parallels from other areas of life where we felt it was OK to be genuine.

We discussed things like generosity, emotions and courage. It was a very moving presentation. Mary and I shared honestly from our hearts about our struggles, our covert  journeys and the price we paid along the way for when we had hidden our true selves.

One of the other themes we discussed was also that “Real Is No Regrets”. We need to do the things we want and live our lives to the fullest. That includes even taking huge risks. It means never not doing the things we love so that we will never have to look back and say, “Damn, I wish I had done that”.

We know where “should haves” leave us. Feeling unfulfilled, feeling we missed out on opportunities, feeling like we don’t matter.

For a long time, I didn’t do things I really wanted to, because I didn’t feel I was worthy. Now, I seem to be making up for lost time. I don’t want to look back and regret that I didn’t do this or try that.

We shouldn’t let our past, our circumstances, or our stuttering keep us from getting wet when it rains.

Recently, I had two moments that really illustrate this. One involved me directly, the other involved a friend who told me about a challenge she confronted.

I had a hard time as a kid. One of the most influential people in my life was a high school teacher who really took an interest in me, and knew that things were hard at home. After high school, without fail, she sent me birthday and Christmas cards every year. I usually reciprocated.

Then life got in the way, and I stopped sending them to her. But her cards came faithfully, until a few years ago. My address changed and the forwarding ended before her annual card. I actually didn’t even notice.

Then last year, she crossed my mind several times, fondly. I remembered things she had said that encouraged me. And then I realized I had not received her annual card. I felt guilty, wishing I had stayed in touch.

I felt like I had somehow betrayed her for not reconnecting. I sent her a Christmas card and included my phone number and a note apologizing for drifting away. A card from her came a few weeks later, with her phone number and a note to call whenever I wanted so we could connect.

It took me four months to call her. I was afraid what she would think of me. I finally got up the nerve and we met for coffee this week. It was so wonderful. We both caught up, talked and shared. It made me wonder, “what was I so afraid of?”  I’m guessing it was me!

I am so glad I called Eleanor. We promised to do it again soon. I will make sure it happens.

Last week, a friend emailed me to let me know she finally found the courage to have a tough conversation with her husband. Ann and I had been talking about her attending her first stuttering conference. She shared that she was afraid to ask her husband. I asked her why did she have to ask. Ann felt she didn’t deserve to spend money on something that would only benefit her.

She intimated that her fear of honestly letting her husband know how important something was to her brought her back to the days of when she was a child and felt intimidated by her parents. Ann had stifled her own needs for a long time, just like I had!

I was elated when Ann emailed me and told me she talked to her husband. It didn’t quite go as she hoped, but she had opened a door. A week later, she emailed me that she spoke with him again and that they had reached a compromise and they were going to go together. She only needed to register!

Ann emailed me again, saying her registration was accepted and she had reserved a room. I was so happy and proud of her. We will meet in person for the first time at the conference this summer. I am confident that Ann will not regret her decision. And that we will have a long and joyful hug!

I was doing some cleaning up and ran across this printed piece that a student gave me years ago. She had told me that she was a really good “excuse maker”. As I read this over and reflected back (I was covert then about my stuttering), I think, “so was I “. But not ready to admit it.

I read this today and realize that I still make excuses. We all do. Take a look!

I was thinking about it but . . .  I was going to but . . . I want to but . . . I wish I could but . . .  These are the excuses we give for sitting on our butts. We tell ourselves we are waiting for something to happen. We tell ourselves something is missing. We tell other people we will do it, whatever it may be, but we never do. If you think what you need is not there, find it. If you cannot find it, make it. If you cannot make it, find someone who can. If you do not have the money to pay them to make it, get it done on credit.  If you have no one to borrow from, ask someone else to borrow it for you. If you do not have credit, get some. If you cannot get credit, go out and do something that someone will pay will pay you for so you can pay for what you need. There are not “buts” so big they cannot be moved. Once you move the “butt”, everything else will follow.

Hmmm . . . I recall this student being 17 or 18 at the time. I thought she was so insightful for her age, having that and sharing it with an adult. Funny how its one of the things I saved and that I just happened upon today while in a reflective mood.

We cannot keep waiting for things to happen. We have to make them happen, or life will pass us by. Right? What is passing you by?

When you get involved in the stuttering community, you meet so many really special people. As we know, stuttering is random and visits people from all over. Its so much fun getting to know people, hearing their stories and making new friends. Technology is amazing – phones, webcams,skype, video – everything makes our world smaller and allows us to share.

I have been tweeting with a guy who stutters from stutterblog, and also joined his community over there. (Check it out!)  He has recently taken some steps to welcome stuttering into his life and work towards acceptance. Part of this process is talking with other people who stutter, of course, whenever you can. We learn from other!

Thad invited me to chat with him about stuttering. We agreed we would record our chat, so he could post it on his site. And I couldn’t resist putting them here too, and giving a shout-out to Thad. I will admit that he is MUCH better with technology than I am, as he was able to put our two videos together side by side. The videos came out great. So take a few minutes to listen in, as we discuss some honest issues about stuttering. Thad took some risks, and has moved one huge step closer to acceptance by speaking out like this.

I was really honored to chat with him, and look forward to more honest dialogue about stuttering – which makes us unique and special.

Part 1 – Thad and Pam

Part 2 – Thad and Pam


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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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