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.

Reading to an Audience

IMG_0583I know I’m up on the second anniversary of the blog, so I’m cooking something up for that. In the meantime, I’ve had a chance to read at my daughter’s school. I talked about this a couple of weeks ago.

Things at work have slowed down enough that I had a chance to go in today and read to her class. She’s in pre-k, so that means a bunch of 4- and 5-year olds. I want to say that “I haven’t had time before” to go in and read because work has been so busy, but I think subconsciously I was afraid of reading in front of others — even if they are just kids.

The book that I read was Rosie Revere Engineer. I’ve read it at home to her a bunch of times. I don’t stutter at home when I read it. At all.

I wasn’t sure what the protocol was for reading to the class. I suppose I could have e-mailed her teacher, but my daughter said I could just come in. Right. So I did that. I took the kids to school and walked her to her classroom, book in hand. The teachers had been notified that I’d be there. We got there at 7:50, and she said I could read to them first thing, just after 8.

I didn’t really flip through the book the night before or have a practice reading in the morning, either. I had read it a bunch of times. I was feeling fine about it. I was happy to be doing it, and my daughter was really fired up about me being there. But when I got to the school and had to stand around for a few minutes, I flipped through some of the pages. I saw some words that … instantly triggered feelings for me. Things that started with l. Or w. I took a deep breath. This would be fine. I’d breathe, I’d play with my voice, I’d project to the back of the room. Maybe I’d stumble or stutter a bit, but no big deal.

It really felt like when you were a kid and could finally go on the big roller coaster at the park. You just say, “yeah, of course I do!” and you stand there in line with the adults. And you get closer and closer. And then you think, no, wait. Maybe this wasn’t such a good idea.

Stuttering is messed up because as I sat there waiting, the thought of abandoning the effort did cross my mind. But what would I say? Would it really matter? I could just leave. My daughter would be devastated, though. And really, it’s a quick reading, first thing in the morning. If you stutter a little, you won’t die.

Alright, I’m up. My daughter takes me by my hand and leads me to the chair in front of the room, There are about two dozen little kids, and half a dozen adults. I dove in, enthusiastically.

I got through a few words and then … stuttering. I got stuck on some words, but not for long. I got stuck on a w-word for a really long time, and heard a little murmur run through the crowd. As I was dragging out some other words and then taking a big pause to collect myself, the teacher remarked, “this is a pretty long book; do you want some water?” I said no, and pushed on.

(A word about this book. So … it’s probably a little bit above the audience that I read to. As a book, the message is really, really good. But it is a little confusing how it’s laid out. So even a somewhat astute kid might not “get it” the first few times. All that being said, it’s also a good message for someone who stutters — Rosie fails and is laughed at. She fails again, is laughed at, but then encouraged to keep trying.)

I got through the book. I was sweating a little, but otherwise in good shape. I did stutter. A lot more than if I was just reading quietly to all of my kids. I tried to remember to breathe and find my right pace. I did inflect my voice and make sure I was looking at the kids occasionally.

I think that I would do it again. Maybe not to her class this year, but next year or whatever. I think that with some practice I could certainly get better at it. Did not reading it in the morning hurt my fluency? Maybe, maybe not. But I think it might have made me even more apprehensive about signing up, seeing all the words that I think I’d stutter on.

 

Peppered with confidence

Was just chatting with someone casually — he was doing most of the talking. But I noticed that, occasionally, for clarification, I’d have to blurt out a word here and there. Or ask a question, “who’s that?” and the like. I didn’t think about the stuttering or not, just the need for information.

Then when I realized what I was doing (and not stuttering on) I tried to blurt out a few more things here and there. I didn’t need clarification, I was just curious if I could say something without stuttering. And I thought about what I wanted to say (quickly, since it was in-line with the conversation and I was basically interrupting each time), made sure I took a breath, and then spit it out. Worked pretty well.

I know this isn’t a way to communicate, but it certainly gave me a little boost of confidence with the day overall. Speech felt smooth, confident, without any hesitation. Loud and booming at times, and more spontaneous.

It’s these things that I try to focus on — with regards to the Stuttering Happy — and build on every day.

Trying to Advertise

I’ve talked about advertising a bunch before, and it’s something I still struggle with. I get into a comfortable groove — with work, friends, family, and well, there’s no need to upset the apple cart.

So I had to take a phone call the other day — one where I’d be giving a lot of information to the listener — and I thought, ok, look, I need to advertise. I’m going to be a little nervous, probably, and well, it’s important that I don’t stutter much. I planned how to do it, even! I would say, look, before we really get into this, I want to let you know …

And what happened? Lots of talking on their end. A few quick questions with short answers from me about something we’ve been working on. (So no stuttering on my side). And then when I had to explain something, I was already feeling loose and confident, so … didn’t advertise. And I barely stuttered anyway. The phone quality wasn’t the greatest either, so maybe they thought any stutter was a lousy connection.

I think advertising must be an art. I think it probably needs a lot of practice, and a bit more confidence than I can muster on a regular basis. I’ve done it once or twice — but I know I need to get out there more, just own up to it, and blurt it out. The problem is timing, really. I mean, I’m already thinking way too hard about breathing and pacing during a conversation. Where to fit in word, phrases, a sentence here and there. And then of course there’s the fact that I almost always stutter on the word “stutter.” Maybe that helps with the advertising? I suppose so.

My own reading voice

Another thing that I noticed while reading a full-on book to my daughter is that I have a fixed reading pace that’s neither slow nor fast. One that reduces the stuttering, lets me have fun with the words, and is sustainable. I really did try a few different speeds.

Too slow, and I was thinking too much about the words. It didn’t feel natural. I could breathe a little better, but that didn’t necessarily translate to fluent speech for some reason.

Too fast, and I ran all the words together (of course). I couldn’t breathe, and my daughter didn’t like it much either. I felt too much pressure and stuttered even more.

So I ended up somewhere in the middle, maybe slightly toward the slower side only to make sure I was getting enough air. Not only did this help with being fluent while reading, but also to help reprogram me when I’m speaking to actually … breathe.

I think a lot of the time we are subconsciously hurrying our speech. It’s what we see in the media and hear from friends telling great stories. And the opposite is that we’re told to slow down (which is crap) but we quietly think, ok, let me try that (because it’s not hard to do) and of course that doesn’t work out either.

So I’m content with my own pace. I know there is one. I know I can practice it, and I can have fun with my voice going at that pace.

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