Family sharing

I should probably have mentioned that after the NSA Conference, the trip to France and then a return to Saudi, I worked for a week and then … went on vacation again. It was the end of Ramadan and thus the Eid holidays. So we went as a family to Qatar. And yes, of course I stuttered there, but I’ll save that for later.

This year for the conference, my brother came along. He didn’t go to too many workshops, but it was nice having him around for lunches and dinners. I came to find out what I discovered before with my son — while my own brother acknowledges and knows and appreciates that I stutter, it’s still my deal at the end of the day. And unless he’s submersed in it (he’s not an SLP) there’s not going to be that strong connection.

And I shouldn’t expect that there would be.

That being said, I did take a strongly selfish approach to the week and talk about my stuttering with him as much as I could. Captive audience! You’re my brother, you’re obligated to listen!

So while that was good, it did take some time away from meeting new people at the conference. But since I rarely see my brother (being overseas and all that) I’ll take that compromise.

When I went home to see my parents for a few hours during my time home, I talked about the conference again with them. (Last year, when I went for the first time, their reaction was simply, “did you learn any techniques?”) This year, I pushed things a little more, and I talked a lot more. Selfish! (It’s my theme when I go stateside — it’s all about me). The more I talked to them, the more I think they learned. And I learned something very interesting, too. Not only do I have a cousin who stutters on my dad’s side, but my dad said that his own brother “stuttered a little bit.”

Why, that sounds like he stuttered, then! And was probably covert. And was probably pretty good at being covert. And as I learned during the conference, just further evidence that I was blessed with stuttering before I could even figure out what was going on.

I’m a little sad that I didn’t find out about my (biological) stuttering family sooner. It would have been interesting to talk to them as I was growing up. Just another reason why it’s important to be out there about this to family — they may not care on a day-to-day basis, but they will listen, and they will at least be very curious.

Stuttering Cousins

I had been told this before, but had completely forgotten — I’m not the only one in my family who stutters. My cousin on my dad’s side stutters, and well, he just so happens to live an hour away from us here in Kingdom. I’m pretty bad (horrible) with keeping up with my cousins (they’re all over the place, and I’ve got a lot of them!)

Anyway, this cousin of mine came to visit us the other day. (I only found out that he’s here in Kingdom this past week) I’m sure I’d met him before, but had never talked to him before. We had other family over, so the issue of stuttering never came up. So this brings up a point I made a few days ago about calling people out. And I realized how complicated stuttering really is and the feelings associated with it. He could probably quickly tell that I stuttered. I did it openly. But I never asked him about his, or being covert, or how things are with speaking at work.

This cousin is slightly older than me, and I could see what he was doing/saying/not saying. Covert! So sneaky. He didn’t “stutter” in the more “well-known” public sense. And of course I didn’t know if he was avoiding (he probably was). I could see the pauses, the starts/stops. He did repeat a few words here and there as well.

It made me think back to how my life used to be. Before the NSA Conference, before this blog, before making the transition (partially) from covert to overt. All the tricks, the quiet, the easier words.

I think I really need to make a goal of talking more to this cousin in depth about his stuttering. I’m curious how things were back in Pakistan before he moved to the Kingdom, and how the people at work see him or talk to him. And how they react to the stuttering (if he ever breaks out of his covert shell). He’s also bilingual.

Before that I need to sit down and think of some decent questions. Questions that I wouldn’t mind answering myself. And at least get back into that old frame of mind. Obviously I know how personal this is, so I need to tread carefully.

Listening to my Stutter

What would make all the feelings go away — fear, loathing, shame, embarrassment — if the stuttering never goes away? A perfect listener? What would I want?

The important thing to remember is that it’d have to be a blanket deal. I mean, everybody at once would have to do this, and I’d have to know that everybody is on board. So what would I want?

Patience. Don’t finish my sentence, no matter who you are. Don’t look at the person standing in line behind me. Don’t look away like I don’t know what I’m talking about. Don’t start on some weirdo-smile and try to stifle laughter. Don’t sigh heavily and look down at the ground.

Like I said yesterday, I know, deep down, that this isn’t “special treatment.” Because it’s how I treat everybody who I talk with. So I’d just want the same thing.

If I know that people are never going to react negatively to my stutter, then I create a positive feedback loop. The stuttering happens, I don’t feel bad, they don’t say anything, and I get my message across. That will give me the comfort and confidence to engage people in the future on speaking occasions.

Will we ever spend interaction after interaction with our perfect listener? Nope. If you can string two in a row, that’s quite an achievement. So we’re left with educating. Advertising. Sending links.

A few months ago the ice bucket challenge was going around. It was to raise awareness for ALS. Did you know anything about ALS before the ice bucket challenge? I didn’t know a thing. A cycling buddy explained it all to me on a ride during the height of the challenge. Do we need to do something similar with stuttering? Maybe. Maybe not. The King’s Speech certainly helped when it came out, but we have to keep on reminding people. Because we have to keep on talking. Every day.

Even though the world won’t wake up tomorrow and become perfect listeners, we can work toward surrounding ourselves with them. We can slowly make inroads to our family, friends, and coworkers. Our instances of embarrassment and fear will lessen. We can come out more if we’ve been covert. We can brush off a stumble here and there.

Mushrooms and Olives

When I was in my teens, the family would order pizza about once every week or two. I don’t know if my parents wanted to save money or what, but we’d order the pizza, wait about ten minutes, then go pick it up ourselves. We never had it delivered.

Invariably this led to my dad assigning the task to me. I haven’t asked, so I don’t know — but maybe he gave this phone call assignment to me so I could build up some confidence (but we never talked about my stuttering, so …) It didn’t work. It was always something I dreaded. (although I suppose the pizza sort of made up for it.)

So, it’d go down like this. We’d decide that yes, this evening there shall be pizza. Then we’d decide on one of two places. Then whether or not we could find coupons for one of the places. That was always worse because the coupons would allow us to get pizza with toppings and not just plain. Most of the time we’d agree on mushrooms and olives. Mushrooms with that wonderful, drag-it-out-til-next-week ‘m’ sound and olives with an ‘o’ that may or may not come out at all. Fantastic.

First thing I’d do is take the cordless phone and walk into the dining room where my parents or brother couldn’t see me. I hate talking on the phone when others are watching me. I’d stay standing and move to the window and look outside. Maybe this would distract me? Was I far enough away that nobody would hear me?

I’d call them up. They’d always pick up after a ring or two, and this was always a surprise to me. So then my speech would be thrown off. How was I supposed to start this again? Oh, right, with a hello. Then, “I need to order a pizza.” They’d ask my name. What I did early on was try to say my last name which is often as tough to utter as my first. But then I got smarter and just spelled it out. When they’d say it, I’d repeat it a split second later (for some reason this is easy). A little confidence was built up at this point. Unfortunately, it was never enough.

What has always messed me up is having the other person dictate the pace of the conversation. And the feeling that yes, I should also be in a hurry, and I should know this information without hesitation. Whatdoyouneed? “I need two large, one with mushrooms, and one with olives.” Oh, that m on mushrooms. Every time. Then they’d throw in whether it’s green olives or black. What? Black! But then to say that as well. Things would just jam up completely on the b. They’d always ask again. I’d squeak out a reply. During this entire conversation, I’m also trying not to talk too loud, and while I usually don’t wave my arms or anything while talking, I might do it a little when nobody’s watching. Because of the pizzeria’s hurried interrogation, I’m not even thinking about breathing. I’m just dreading the questions. I’m dreading having to say that I have a coupon before they hang up on me. Oh, did I mention they ask for the phone number, too? Don’t they have caller ID? C’mon, people.

Finally, over. Sweating a little. Did I order the right thing? Probably. It’s over. I stay in the dining room for a little while. Finally take a deep breath. Then walk back and announce it’s over. Maybe go to the bathroom. Why am I afraid of my family? They never say anything about it.

After a few minutes, we’d leave to go get the pizza. I’d be sent in to the pizzeria and then have to say my name again to get our order …

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