Fluency as a curse word

Today’s ISAD 2016 paper that I’m going to comment on is

Is Fluency a Curse Word? (Frank Stechel)

“Nonetheless, when I challenge myself and use fluency enhancing techniques to be able to say a word fluently, where I previously anticipated problems, I prefer to think of my success as achieving or approximating fluency rather than stuttering more easily or differently. Why does it make a difference? Because – and this is simply my own feeling – when I’m speaking essentially fluently, even with some repetitions or prolongations, I feel in control and can feel the flow of my speech, which is not my experience when I’m stuttering with more tense blockages.”

This article makes me think of fluency as “control.” There are definitely times when I’m stuttering and my speech is just all over the place. My breathing is totally off, my pacing isn’t right, my thoughts are quickly going off track, and there’s no control in sight. Other times when I’m stuttering — maybe at a work meeting, or with friends, where I’m getting through the dialogue, but it’s not exactly smooth. But I’m getting the message across, and I’m using the words I want. I’m slowing myself down enough to remember to breath and pace my speech, and thus achieving more fluency.

Walking and talking

The other day was my daughter’s birthday. In order to continue brainwashing her regarding her love for bicycles, I thought I ought to get her a little basket for her bike. That way she can tote around … stuff.

Anyway, there’s a larger bike store here in town, and when I searched them up online to find out their hours, I found out they had a store right in the city. Within walking distance of my office. (The main store is a longer drive away and near where we live. Well, sort of.)

On their site, they show products and what store they are available in. The cute little basket showed availability in both the farther away and city store. I had a sneaking suspicion though that I’d be disappointed — they probably didn’t have it downtown. So, I could have called them and asked them. But here’s the thing — I needed the exercise. The store is a little over a mile walk away.

Is this avoiding? I don’t think so. I was going to walk there even if they didn’t have it just to see what it was all about. And it was such a nice day anyway.

Am I adding this to my pile of uncalled people, restaurants and other businesses? No. Not at all. I’ll write about that more tomorrow — sucking it up and making a call without completely freaking out about it.

So in the end I did walk downtown to the bike shop for my daughter’s basket. And … they didn’t have it.

Online Stuttering Conference

International Stuttering Awareness Day Online Conference, 2016 has kicked off. Usually what I do for this is say that I’m going to read and comment and articles and then … don’t. This year will be different! And to get things started, I’ll start at the top of the articles list:

The first article is
Detained But Not Held Back (Kylah Simmons)

I worked overseas for more than five years, and I can honestly say that going through customs and immigration was stressful every single time. I wasn’t doing anything dishonest or shady, but I always thought, well, if I start stuttering, they’re going to suspect something is up, and it’s going to be a very long airport stay. And unfortunately, this is what happened to Kylah.

I have been notoriously bad at advertising, so I have never told an immigration official up front. But I’d like to think if things started going downhill, I’d come forth quite quickly.

What adds to the stress is that line. It’s like when you’re in sixth grade and they’re going around the room, each kid has a spelling word from the list. So they have to say it, spell it out, and then use it in a sentence. And you count the kids, and you count the words, and you’re like … yeah, I’m going to stutter on that.

So you’re standing there in the long immigration line, and there’s a few officers up there. And you look them all over, trying to figure out who looks the nicest. And then start hoping you get “that one.” And then realizing how ridiculous that is. And then focus on other things like, ok, let me start trying to calm myself down. Let me breathe. Let me get my story straight (it’s short and easy). And then trying to remember what they asked last time but then forgetting and then having the stress take another spike.

I try to get back to calm when I approach the officer thought. A strong “hi,” or “hello.” Eye contact. Relaxing my shoulders. Patience. Having my passport ready to hand out quickly. Breathing. Trying to appreciate the space behind me — there’s nobody breathing down my neck waiting to go next. Answering the question to the point. Taking a breath and answering the question. No looking around or fidgeting.

I had an officer in London ask me how long I’d be in the country. I said 6 hours. He asked why. I said I had an 8-hour layover and that his city is beautiful, so I wanted to go see it. He laughed and said, “yeah, I’d do the same thing.”

Stuttering on the cargo bike

I wrote a long while ago about how I faced my stuttering with regards to bike riding. And connecting with people even though it scared me to do so.

It’s happened again.

So I’ve got this bike, a Larry Vs. Harry Bullitt. It’s a cargo bike. It’s plenty of fun here in Indianapolis — taking the kids around, running an errand or two. And just riding it around with my oldest kid. The other day he and I were out, and we saw someone else with a cargo bike. This guy was about 50 feet away at a restaurant next to the trail. He yelled and pointed to his cargo bike. We continued down the trail and …

…turned up a road. And ultimately turned all the way around, heading into the parking lot of the restaurant where he was. As I pulled up to where he had parked his bike, I asked myself, wait, what on earth am I doing? What am I going to say? I’m going to have to make small talk or something with a total stranger. I don’t have to do this!

Too late! He walked up and said hello, introducing himself. I stumbled slightly on my first name. We made small talk! Then talked about our bikes and what we did. I was as calm as I could be, trying to breathe. Why rush? Why stress? It was a nice night out. I was out with my son. We were on a bike ride. No need to overthink it.

Our chat was good, and I met someone new in the community. He gave me his business card, and I’m sure I’ll connect with him again. More importantly, I learned again that talking to strangers won’t kill me, I won’t necessarily stutter a lot, and I can make my way through a conversation without any awkwardness.

New town, new faces. Getting there.

Getting through it

As I said in my last post a long, long time ago, we moved to the States. This involves a lot of time on the phone, apparently. You have to call a bunch of people and give them a bunch of information. Over and over and over again. And of course it’s the basic stuff.

Name? Telephone number? Social security number? Wife’s name? Wife’s telephone number? Address? Last four digits of your social? Previous address?

And then, with a few calls to the doctor’s office for the kids, it’s all the above … for three kids.

But I’m getting through it all. It’s a once and done thing, mostly. And those on the other end of the phone have been patient. What I haven’t been good about is simply having a planned thing to say before making the call. I usually just call the doctor’s office … oh, right, I need to ask about an appointment. New patient, sure, soon as possible, stutter here, stutter there.

We ordered some furniture online and after a few days, I checked its status. It was something very vague, and we were hoping to get the stuff before some guests showed up. Pick up the phone. Make the call. They didn’t pick up, but they said I could press one to leave a message for someone to call me back. Ummm … I’d rather not … but I need this stuff! Ok, fine. I pressed one, and they didn’t ask for a message! Hurray! But then they asked for my phone number instead. Boo … And yes, they called me back and then it’s having to say a 16-digit order number to get service. At least they asked the address and had me confirm instead of me giving the address.

But the majority of the calls are done now, I think. I may need to call the BMV (bureau of motor vehicles) to ask them about where my vehicle registration has gone. But otherwise the doctors are mostly set up, furniture is all here, cable is ordered, and the power is on.

As a whole moving back and having to make all these calls wasn’t something that I was afraid of, stuttering-wise …and that’s simply because I never thought of how much there actually would be. But then I took it one call at a time, deep breaths, didn’t let a bad call get to me, and let the necessity push me to pick up that phone again and again and again, making it easier and a lot less scary.

Moved back. And still stuttering.  

There have been a lot of big changes since I posted last. The biggest being that we moved from Saudi back to the States. I’m at the same company, but in a different office. It’s by my own choice. Work was slowing down in Saudi, and there was a nice opportunity to move to Indiana — into an office I’ve worked in before.

I also went to the NSA Conference for the third time, met up with some old friends and met some new people as well.I have been noticeably stuttering a lot more. A lot. I don’t mind it too much. It’s easy to see now how it’s due to so many changes. Not just the move, but the need to get on the phone more, talk to people about what’s going on more, and helping the kids get adjusted to life in the States. We’d been out of the country for more than five years, so it’s a big change to come back.

I’ve also started going to NSA chapter meetings here in Indy. For the first time ever. I’ve only gone to one meeting thus far, but I enjoyed the experience tremendously. It’s just nice to feel that continuation of the conference, really. A place where I can stutter openly, not have to avoid as much, and practice techniques.

I have every intention to keep this blog going as much as possible. I have a lot of stories to tell just from the past few weeks. I’ve been on the phone a ton. I’ve challenged myself a lot more. I’ve had friends challenge me. Work is good; nobody has said anything negative at all. I’m having to introduce myself a lot more as well which is rough but manageable.

Not now, Stutter

Most of the time, Stutter hangs out with me and makes me overthink everything. Every interaction, utterance, phone call, meeting, presentation, walk-by, doorbell ring, and toll booth hello.

The other night, though, I had to give him a hard shove and tell him I didn’t have time for his crap.

I had connected my cell phone to a charger in a taxi from Bahrain to Saudi, and when he dropped me off, he asked if I had everything. I was eager to get out and get going. I grabbed my two suitcases and jumped out of the taxi, feeling my wallet and car keys. I put my bags into the back of my car and patted myself down for my phone. Where’s my phone? I searched around in the back of the car. Where. Is. My. Phone. I closed my eyes and pounded my suitcases. I cursed. Loudly. A few times.

The taxi had come from Bahrain, and by now was probably on the Causeway and heading over. I resigned myself to a lost phone. No, no, no. Don’t give up. I looked up and saw a guy standing outside of a store. Saudi is a very friendly place — you can pretty much go up to anybody and start talking and not worry about them jumping down your throat or ignoring you. And every Saudi I’ve met has been insanely helpful in personal situations.

I didn’t think about my stutter. The seconds were ticking by. If the taxi got on the Causeway, sure I could get it, but it’d add hours to this nighttime adventure — it was already getting close to 10. I asked the guy if I could use his pho– oh, sorry, are you on your phone? Yes, but what? He hung up on his friend and I told him I forgot my phone in the taxi, and could I call my number? He said ok, what’s the number? I told him quickly, practically pushing the buttons myself — he was calmly putting them in.

The driver picked up, and I told him it was me. He quickly recognized what had happened. I then handed the phone back to the Saudi gentlemen and asked him to help out. They spoke in Arabic for a bit. The taxi said he was parked up right before the toll booth to the causeway, but to hurry on over, no problem.

I hailed another taxi and told him to go to the toll booth for Bahrain, but not to Bahrain. This was slightly confusing. I told him the nearby neighborhood, and he said ok. As we neared, I asked this taxi driver if he could call my phone to find out exactly where the other taxi driver was. He said he didn’t have a balance (pre-paid) on his phone, so we’d have to stop and get one. We went to the street near the toll booth, and he got the card for the pre-paid, and I called my phone again. The taxi driver, while not Saudi, spoke Arabic and sorted out quickly where the first taxi was waiting.

I happily got my phone and got back into the second taxi to go home.


Stuttering and boring others

I had a chance to go to a wedding the other day. And of course with a  roomful of strangers comes a night full of small talk.

I stuttered, yes (on the word “wedding” which was particularly annoying … and it was a very long, very hard stutter. Fortunately my tablemates didn’t say anything), but when I was able to make small talk with the people near me, I wondered, am I boring?

I think this has to do with the “canned” stories. The ones I don’t stutter on as much. The ones I know and have been telling people backwards and forwards for weeks. What I do, where I live, summary of children, etc.,

Is everybody else having a better and more interesting conversation with their tablemates?  Are we supposed to?

What got me really thinking about all of this is that I have a few, not many, stories of the bride that others may not know. Is that what I’m supposed to be entertaining everybody with? Are we supposed to be exchanging cookie recipes, or times when the bride and I went through the possessions of my deadbeat tenants?

I suppose my hesitance to share these was due to stuttering. I mean, I’ve not told many of them, and I’m really not sure how entertaining they really are. I didn’t want to fall flat with regards to entertainment value. Instead, I’ll just interject here and there and leave it at that.

Memorial Day Stuttering

Thought I’d check in and let everybody know what I’m stuttering on lately this Memorial Day weekend. I’m home in the States for some business/personal things. So that means a lot more trips to Starbucks, and a lot more having to tell them my name.

I’ve been changing up my drink, doing from the mocha, to the Americano, to the iced coffee, to the Americano on ice. It’s been hard to say “no whip,” but slightly easier to say, “no cream.” And aren’t they always supposed to ask your name? Some have, some haven’t. I’ve been doing a mashup of the Saudi way to say my name and the American with some success. I bumble through the first part of the name and then immediately jump into spelling it so they don’t have to ask again.

Is it avoiding if I’m pre-empting a known stutter even though I just said what I was afraid to say?

I went to the local library to sign up for a card and noticed they had meeting rooms available. I wanted to know about this, so I confidently asked. No stuttering, and I got the answers I needed. Nice win.

I misplaced one of my credit cards and didn’t do anything about it for a few days. I kept an eye on the app to see if any purchases went through. I wasn’t looking forward to having to call them to ask for another card. Eventually I did and of course it was fully automated. Figures.

Last night I went on a social bike ride for the first time in my home town. It’s a “slow ride.” I knew exactly one other person (who I hadn’t seen in person for maybe 17 years) and wanted to catch up with her. I need to look up the definition of social anxiety disorder, but I had no interest in just going up to people and chatting them up despite our like mindedness of wanting to go on this bike ride and it being a lovely night. The thought of that terrified me. What on earth was I supposed to say? I did manage to find my friend and talk and ride for a good long while, so I was happy about that. And she knew others who she introduced me to — although I didn’t end up talking to those people at all which was fine for now. I think if I keep going on these rides, maybe things will open up a little more.

Was that Avoiding?

I had a chance to think differently about what avoiding really means. I know that those of us who stutter substitute like crazy. Words we can say for words we can’t. Looking ahead in our speech to find a different way to say something. But what if I said something fluently that’s not exactly what everybody else says? It’s just because I didn’t know it?

What happened was that in an effort to cut back on sugar, I’ve stopped ordering mochas from Starbucks. I’ve moved on to Americanos. It’s good enough for me. I don’t add any sugar. Sometimes I’ll add milk. I ordered one the other day, and the barista asked if I wanted milk in it. I said, yeah, sure. He shouted back, “white Americano!”

Ah. Did not know that. I could have just said that in the first place.

But. That “w” on white is tough for me. I can see how I would have just asked for an “Americano with milk.” Another “w.” Anyway. I’d have figured something out. But the idea of saying ‘white Americano’ does scare me. I know I’ll stutter on it every time. (well, I know, I know. Just work through it. But you get the idea.)

So this brings up what you call it — couch or sofa? Soda or Coke? Pepsi or Coke (knowing full well what they have … but if you can’t say ‘Coke,’ asking for a Pepsi and having them correct you.

I guess at the end of the day it is avoiding. Because we do know better. We can be clearer in many instances. And with something like, “sub” vs. “hoagie,” your childhood friends and family are going to look at you funny if you use the wrong one.

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