The end of 2020

There’s been so much written about this year. It was a Dumpster fire, it was terrible, let’s move on. I suppose I would have a lot to say about it, but I wanted to focus on my stuttering. Since this is supposed to be a stuttering blog. And how stuttering affected me this year, and how I was able to navigate this pandemic because of it.

I can’t recall making a huge stuttering mess out of anything this year. There’s not a time that I can look back and say, wow, I had a really hard time, and that was really embarrassing. That’s got as much to do with my attitude toward stuttering as using my techniques more and more.

I didn’t finish a lot of things on this blog. I was going to measure some goals, and that lasted a few months. I’m not even sure where they are right now. I know I lost some weight. I gained some back. I got rid of some possessions, and I added many more. I moved out of my apartment, bought a new house, and got married again. We traveled very little, posted on social media a lot, and read when I could.

Work consumed me a lot more than I thought it would. Working at a food company means having to keep the plants open and safe. When you’re doing projects, that means making sure the contractors coming in are following the rules. It also means deciding what’s really important for the plant and what can wait. And the goalposts moved every few days as areas became more and less restrictive.

I definitely talked a lot more this year than any other year of my life. Of that I am certain. At one point I was participating in 30 or more conference calls per week. And in most of them I had to either lead or heavily contribute. More than anything, that intensity helped me build up acceptance of my stuttering. I literally didn’t have time to dwell on a word that was getting stuck.

So what’s next for 2021? I think more writing. Here and a newsletter I’m thinking about. I’m not sure if a stuttering newsletter is necessarily in the cards, but I’d consider it. I wanted to do something for young engineers — passing on all the fun things I’ve learned over the years. I think there is a lot out there about software engineering, but not a ton about field engineering. What’s done out in factories. What that life is actually like, the kinds of things you should know, and what mistakes I made — so others don’t have to repeat them.

I know following this blog hasn’t always been easy with the sporadic publishing schedule, but I do appreciate everybody who has read in the last year, the last half-decade. I see the numbers (they are small) but hopefully someone out there is getting something positive out of this.

Secrets to Fulfilled Life, Part 3

Another post about the Secrets to a Fulfilled Life … inspired by this article from Oliver Burkeman.

One of his secrets is simply:

The capacity to tolerate minor discomfort is a superpower.

He says, “It’s shocking to realise how readily we set aside even our greatest ambitions in life, merely to avoid easily tolerable levels of unpleasantness.”

My, my. Doesn’t that just sum up stuttering and being covert perfectly? I think back occasionally to a lot of things I wish I had done. Or decisions I had made solely based on stuttering. It’s impacted so many formative years for me. And why? Because I didn’t want to be laughed at, made uncomfortable. Or didn’t want to feel so small.

Things now are very different. Advertising my stutter. Putting my disfluency out there all the time — conference calls, meetings, inquiries at Home Depot. And what have I learned?

As he puts it, “You already know it won’t kill you to endure the mild agitation of getting back to work on an important creative project; initiating a difficult conversation with a colleague; asking someone out; or checking your bank balance – but you can waste years in avoidance nonetheless.”

So yes, I will continue to quote his entire paragraph on the matter. He then adds (which, again, is something I’ve been able to do over many, many years…)

It’s possible, instead, to make a game of gradually increasing your capacity for discomfort, like weight training at the gym. When you expect that an action will be accompanied by feelings of irritability, anxiety or boredom, it’s usually possible to let that feeling arise and fade, while doing the action anyway. The rewards come so quickly, in terms of what you’ll accomplish, that it soon becomes the more appealing way to live.

I really wish I had read this while a teenager, but I also wish I had someone to explain it to me simply. I probably wouldn’t have been able to make the connection to stuttering like I do so easily now. I think it would have been very helpful during my formative years to have a mentor or coach to help me with my stuttering journey. Someone who could ask and probe. Suggest a new way, a slightly uncomfortable way, but a way that would yield a lot of results.

The way my life is now is certainly more appealing. Even comparing it to 5 or 10 years ago. I no longer measure in weeks and months. I’m old enough now to realize change takes a lot longer than that.

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