Howdy, neighbor

Still at home, working away. These days I’d say I spend the majority of the working day on phone calls. That’s right, the guy who used to hate the phone now is on it for nearly 7 hours a day.

Ok, not exactly the phone, but Webex. You get it. Sometimes I turn the video on, sometimes not. Sometimes I have run the meeting, sometimes I just listen in. Including this week, my average weekly meeting total is about 32. That’s a lot of listening and talking.

I’m doing pretty well with it all, I’d say. There are so many familiar faces and voices, so I feel comfortable speaking up whenever I need to.

Early on during COVID I did have to set up some get-to-know meetings when I was given more plants to cover for engineering. I had three of these, and I advertised during all three of them. Within the first two minutes I told them that I was someone who stutters. None of them had any issues with it, and they all thanked me for letting them know. Those kinds of wins have been helping me greatly on the phone as well.

Yesterday I was outside on my driveway faffing about with my cargo bike and saw my neighbor. We’d not met formally yet. He was looking at the bike from afar and then came closer. We started up a chat, and before too long I was also telling him (and his wife who also was outside) that I stuttered.

Advertising is definitely one of those huge barriers that seems insurmountable at first. But the more you do it, the more you want to do it. The better it makes you feel in the moment, and the better it makes your speech and stress as the conversation goes on.

Once the restrictions are lifted, I know I’ll have to travel more to visit my new plants. I am definitely looking forward to practicing even more advertising then. Stay tuned.

2020 Q1 Goals Update

Well, here it is. Something I’m not quite excited about doing as I should be. A goals update. As a reminder, here’s what I wanted to achieve this year:

  1. Reduce body fat by 7%
  2. Read 6 fiction and 6 nonfiction books
  3. 25 blog posts
  4. 30,000 meters of rowing per month
  5. Run a November 5k in under 30 minutes
  6. Keep library fines to under $30 annually
  7. Reduce ten items per month from the house

Let’s go through them one by one. I’m not going to lie and say I have beautiful data. I have some good guesses. But I’ll be brutally honest at the end at least.

  1. Reduce body fat by 7% – Nope, and not on track. No change this first quarter. No fundamental changes to diet or exercise.
  2. Read 6 fiction and 6 nonfiction books – Yes! I did complete two of each. While that leaves me slightly behind, I can easily make this up. I’ll put together a list of the books at my next update.
  3. 25 blog posts – Q1 had 9 posts. So I’m on track to beat this goal.
  4. 30,000 meters of rowing per month – Big no on that one.
  5. Run a November 5k in under 30 minutes – It’s not November yet! Although I did move at the end of March and still haven’t put the treadmill back together.
  6. Keep library fines to under $30 annually – Yes! But only because the library is closed. I think I had $23 in Q1 (I know, I know).
  7. Reduce ten items per month from the house – Maybe? I moved, and definitely threw a lot of crap out.

So let’s see … 7 goals, 3.5 on track, 3.5 not on track. I’d give myself a solid C for 2020 Q1.

Here comes the best part though — the list of excuses! That’s right. I have … reasons … for my shortcomings. Mainly they’re around the stress of COVID, being at home all the time and constantly on work calls through the day. I also got promoted in early March, so the past few weeks have been even busier. Then of course there was the house move in the background all the time. And if that would even happen — we ended up closing in the parking lot behind the title company’s office.

Progress on the “mental” goals more than the physical. But with warmer months coming up, I should be able to tighten things up. I am considering getting some sort of online trainer set up so I have more accountability. Working through the finances of that first.

Stuttering and COVID-19

Just a few weeks ago I was writing about attending a trade show and what that felt like. Don’t worry, I’ll finish up that short series this month. But first, of course, the pandemic. I count myself very lucky to be working in the food industry at this time. We’ve been tasked with producing as much as possible for the next few months, so there’s plenty to keep me busy. And as a corporate engineer, I’m able to work from home. I’m on calls pretty much all day with some breaks — enough to go for a walk or check in on the kids. The kids will start online school next week, so that’ll give them something to focus on for a few hours a day.

What I wanted to address today is how being someone who stutters is helping me deal with the pandemic mentally. None of these three reasons is earth-shattering or new — you can find them on memes or motivational posters or whatever. But I wanted to tie my experiences to each of them.

I will certainly say that it’s taken me years to get to this point. I had to do a lot of work and go through a lot of pain and heartache. It’s still not easy every day, but it’s certainly better than it was five or ten years ago.

1. I can only control so much in my life. For everything else, I must accept what happens

Ever since I was a kid, I’ve stuttered. This will never change, and that’s something I’ve come to accept. There are some days that are a lot better than others, and that randomness is part of the angst of stuttering. I have no idea what the day will hold for me when I wake up. There are some things I can control — my breathing (using my techniques) and techniques like advertising to get the attention focused on my message versus my delivery.

With Covid, I can control my comings and goings, who I go to see (nobody) and wearing a mask if I have to go in public. I can make a grocery list and hurry through the grocery store, making sure to socially distance myself from everybody. I’ve come to accept that this will go on for months. I can’t control that or what others do. I have to focus on doing my part and maintaining control for myself and my children.

In many ways this ties into the item below:

2. My response to stress is up to me

When I’m stressed out and having to speak, it’s always a disaster. This used to happen if I was upset and yelling. Or if I had to give answers on the spot about something I wasn’t prepared for. If I had a lot to do in a short period of time at work and was asked about other things. I’ve learned in these instances that I’m stressed not because of a singular event, but because I’m carrying the burden of several things. And this additional stress has put me over the edge. After many years I realized what I was doing and learned to compartmentalize my stresses. Then dealing with a smaller stress became easier because I could use familiar tools — take a long pause and try to slow my breathing. Calm myself down. Think clearly, and prepare just a few words.

In dealing with Covid, it’s an ongoing stress that wasn’t there even a month ago. It permeates everything — tv, work, friends, family. The uncertainty of it means that everybody is always on edge. It’s hard to prepare and plan for anything because the news changes every 12 hours. Some news is inherently more stressful than others — and not only does the pandemic create stress, but there’s the daily stresses of work and family to pile on as well.

Occasionally I feel the stress of Covid on top of family, friends and work will go past my breaking point. I want to get upset, I want to rant on about how terrible everything is. But I’ve learned that that response won’t do anything for me. So I slow down and focus on just one stress at a time. When I do that, I calm down a lot faster. I don’t “stack” stresses up. If Covid has got me upset and my kid forgets to put away the dishes, I won’t lash out.

3. Focus on the positives, and don’t dwell on the negatives

Stuttering is inherently filled with perceived negatives. Not being fluent. Getting flummoxed. Not wanting to say anything at all. Not being able to make a joke fast enough. Not getting through on the phone. Every day, every hour, you can find something negative about stuttering. Rarely do we focus on the positives. Over the past few years, I’ve been trying to change that.

The news these days is mostly negative as well. How fast the pandemic is traveling, how many are infected, what more is to come, and how long we must stay isolated to get ahead of the virus. It can be hard to even think of something positive, but I know that by doing so I can get through the days, weeks and months ahead. I think about how fortunate I am to still have my job and something to do all day to keep me occupied. I think about lunchtime walks and being able to get some exercise and sun. I think about the tools we do have to connect with one another — texting, calling, e-mailing — that make it more bearable. I think about being able to spend more time with the kids — seeing them between conference calls and having more meals with them.

I know that Covid won’t go away for many months, but I’m also counting myself fortunate that I’ll be able to blog more and talk about all the conference calls I have to do and the ways I’m getting through them.

 

 

 

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