Looking back – 3, 6 and 9 months

I thought I’d take a quick look back at what was going on with my stuttering 3, 6 and 9 months ago.

Three months ago:

Stuttering Life Changes

What I can say is that based on some “lessons learned,” the first few weeks are going to be fraught with some fear and uncertainty. Meeting new people, learning a new process, and navigating a new city will all take me out of my comfort zone.

Yep, definitely lived up to the hype. But I’m trying to be more even-keeled about it since I know it’s happening. I’ve already noticed slight improvements in some meetings with my speech (and lousy speech in others, still).

Six months ago:

Your Stuttering Theories

Before the stutter, we imagine what horrible things are going to happen to us if we stutter and if we are found out. But that’s just a theory. And theories should be tested.

Ah yes, my talk with Dr. Weidig. I remember it well. And am still trying to live by his straightforward advice — you have a life-ending vision of what your stutter will do? Well, let’s find out if it’s really going to be that bad!

Nine months ago:

Tales of the Stuttering Ambush

The meeting gets started, and it’s just another staff meeting. Going through what work is happening now, and what work is coming up. Then the boss remembers, and …
“Oh, I almost forgot, we have a visitor from one of our offices. He’ll be here for two weeks doing …”

Ah yes, the ambush. Work, lunch, social events. Hasn’t happened to me at lunch recently, but it did happen during a meeting. I got put on the spot to explain some things on a presentation. I was a bit of a mess (understatement). I got through it though. I need to be better prepared, really.

Stacking and Stuttering

When I lived in Omaha, there was a used bookstore downtown that I used to go to all the time. I bought a book there — Next Man Up

It’s about a season with the Baltimore Ravens. Even if you’re not a Ravens fan (I’m definitely not) the book is a great glimpse into life in the NFL. One thing that really stood out to me was this (from a review):

Head Coach Brian Billick is one of the more interesting subjects. Blunt and hotheaded, he is also given to using pop psychology in his daily operations. He’s as comfortable using terms such as “stacking”—meaning letting one stressor pile on top of another until the whole stack just blows…

When I talked about ambushes last week, there’s really two parts of it. The first is that we should all try to slow things down and respond on our own terms. Yes, the whole room needs to hear your name. Yes, there’s a new person at lunch. Yes, there’s a new neighbor standing on your lawn. But the more we get ambushed, the better we get at it. We have to stop and think. We have to stop and breathe. Will we still stutter? Yeah, probably. But that’s where the second part — this stacking concept — comes in.

(Before I continue, let me just say that no, I’m not perfect at this. I’m trying hard just like everybody else who stutters. It’s not easy, and I don’t always remember to relax. Or breathe. But I have to keep trying.)

The way it works is this: Even if I go to a meeting and get ambushed, I can’t let that dictate my mood for the rest of the meeting. I have to push it aside as quickly as possible. Shutting down and being miserable isn’t going to make anything better. I need to forget it happened and move on. I need to tell myself that yes, I can talk to these people. I’m comfortable with all of them (except that one new guy) and if I’m asked a question, I can take my time to answer it. If I let my stutter continue to bother me, then every question I’m asked or comment I need to make will become a much bigger deal than it should be.

On the other hand, in the larger picture, maybe the rest of the meeting doesn’t go as well. Maybe I do stutter on some questions and comments. But then again, that shouldn’t affect my outlook at lunch. Or what I do when I get home.

Maybe before when I was ambushed I was not only bothered by the stutter, but by the fact that my covert stuttering “cover” was blown. Well, move on. The words have left your mouth (no matter how long it took) and so they know. But how you conduct yourself after that is still up to you.

Do I let my stutter get to me at times? Absolutely. Does it ruin a whole morning or day for me? Not as much. Maybe a morning or an afternoon, but the day can usually be saved. But keep in mind it took me a long time to get to this point.

I’m more aware now of what’s going on with my speech, and how it can be fluent and halting and totally unpredictable.

And the next morning, it all gets reset anyway, right?

Stuttering Ambush on the front lawn

Here’s the final ambush story of the week. Then tomorrow I’ll talk about what it all means.

After a rough day of work — getting ambushed during a meeting and then at lunch — you’d think the home would be somewhere safe to run to. Having to say your name twice in one day is stressful enough.
Once, several months after moving into our house, I headed out to get the mail. We lived on a cul-de-sac, so instead of individual mailboxes, they put them all in one location. As I was walking over there, I saw someone who I thought was maybe out for a walk (from another part of the neighborhood) or doing something with the lawn service company nearby. I said a quick hi thinking that’s all it would take.

No.

He stopped and introduced himself. He told me he also lived in the cul-de-sac. (When you stutter, you don’t bother introducing yourself to your neighbors unless you absolutely have to. Because, you know, it involves introducing yourself.)

Outside of my own house. Near my own lawn. Ambushed.

Sometimes when I’m taken off guard by a request for my name, I can say my name without stuttering. It’s rare though. And of course often when that does happen, I say it, they don’t quite hear it, and then I have to repeat it. Which never turns out well.

Anyway, so I’m shaking this guy’s hand, and I’m really trying to say my name. And he’s just waiting. And I’m still struggling. And finally yes, it does come out. He points to where he lives, we talk about how long he’s been there, I say how long we’ve been here, then go our separate ways.

What was his name again? This always happens. I’m so focused on my own anxiety and subsequent stutter that any chance of listening and remembering is thrown out.

Right, what was I doing out here? Oh yeah, getting the mail.

More tales of the Stuttering Ambush – Lunch

Yesterday I talked about getting ambushed at work. Today let’s just continue into lunch.

These days I’m going to the same place almost every day. Sometimes by myself. When I go by myself, sometimes I’ll meet someone else there, and we’ll sit and have lunch. Things are nice. He probably knows I stutter, and he doesn’t make a big deal out of it. I don’t have to introduce myself to him.

But sometimes disaster strikes.

It works like this. I’ll get to the restaurant (Subway) early, order up my food, and then sit down at a table. At about this time, my buddy comes in and starts ordering. I nod and wave. Then I notice that he’s brought along somebody new.

Great. Ambushed again.

So what are my choices — eat quickly, and then run out? Say I’ve got a meeting? Maybe not make eye contact and hope they’ll forget that I’m here? Hope that someone in front of them will take the chairs that are empty at my table thus leaving them nowhere to sit? Should I call someone up and have a long conversation over the phone? Spill my drink all over the place and take a lot of time cleaning it up?

The dynamics get me all worked up as well. I glance to see that my buddy is first in line, and the guest is second. Ok, so maybe he’ll introduce me, that’s good. But then something gets held up, and they switch places. No, no, no! Make it stop. They switch again. My buddy has paid, and he’s coming this way. He puts down his tray and shakes my hand, saying hello. Yeah, things are good. The tension ratchets up as he then leaves to fill up his drink, passing his guest who’s paying. He instructs his guest to sit with me at my table.

Well. Here we go, I guess.

Since there’s only one guy, I have to see what happens — yeah, he’s introducing himself. I don’t catch his name at all. I try to read his ID badge, but that’s pointless as well. I can’t think straight, and I’m certainly not breathing either.

Stutter, stutter, stutter, drag my name out. By now my buddy is done filling his drink and is walking back. This guy (who’s still waiting for me to say my name) is awkwardly standing with his tray on the table, waiting to leave to fill his own drink. I’m still trying to get my name out. Ok, finally that’s done.

New Guy goes to get his drink, and my buddy comes to sit down again. New Guy comes back, and there’s a good bit of silence.

What was his name again?

Tales of the Stuttering Ambush

Today I want to talk about getting ambushed. Maybe it’s too strong a term, but really, I don’t know how else to describe the feeling.

Here’s one example. I’ll write up a bunch for this week.

You walk into a meeting with your own people. These are coworkers who have been there a long time. They know your name, you know theirs. Maybe some of them have heard you stutter. Nobody says anything about, and life goes on nicely. After everybody sits down, you notice someone new. How did you miss this? There’s only like a dozen people in here. Who is this? Have I seen them before? What are they here for? To talk to us? You notice they’re chatting and laughing with one of your coworkers. How nice. The new person has made friends already. No, seriously, who is this?

The meeting gets started, and it’s just another staff meeting. Going through what work is happening now, and what work is coming up. Then the boss remembers, and …

“Oh, I almost forgot, we have a visitor from one of our offices. He’ll be here for two weeks doing …”

Ambushed.

You don’t hear the rest, because you know he’s about to say …

“So if we could go around the room and uh, just introduce yourself, what department you’re from. That kind of thing. Let’s start on this side.”

No, no, no. I was having a good morning. I had recounted some mundane activities from last night to a coworker this morning without stuttering much. I didn’t have any conference calls to join today that could have made me nervous. It’s almost the weekend. Heck, it’s almost lunch. And I was going to go my favorite place and order the same thing — heck, I don’t even have to say anything there! They already know my order!

And now this. Wow, are they going around the room fast. Why did I sit so far from the door? Do I have my cell phone? Maybe someone will call! Yeah, then I can jump up and … drat. Left my phone in my office.

Can everybody hear how hard my heart is pounding right now? Cause seriously, it’s really, really loud. I think it’s going to tear open my shirt. This is crazy. Think happy thoughts. Think happy thoughts. You know these people. Smile? Breathe? Yeah, breathe some more. Not helping? Wow, can my heart actually be picking up speed?

And now it’s my turn. All eyes on me.

Surely they can hear my heart now. It’s so quiet in here now.

…and I can’t say my name. Let me try again.

Nope.

Again? Again? Now it’s just dragging out. Still dragging.

Ah, there it is. Breathe. Remember you were supposed to do that earlier. Did you forget again?

I try to mumble out my title and department. That’s done. That’s enough for now. I’m silent. Yeah, next person now.

Unfortunately the cloud has formed over me, and I forget to pay attention to anything the new guy says. Well, whatever, I can figure that out later.

Long sigh.

I look at my watch. Only an hour til lunch. Glad I don’t have to say anything there.

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