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?

Talking myself into this

Regarding this conference — it’ll probably require that I talk to people. And as someone who stutters, I really haven’t been a fan of that.

Most of my stuttering life, I’ve shut out things like conferences and social meet-ups because I talk my way through what might happen, decide I don’t need it, and then that’s it. Like for this conference, because of that hard-wired response, it went like this:

So you’ll go there, and you’ll meet someone who stutters. And then what? You’ll talk to each other, realize you’ve been through the same things and then …? What are they going to tell you that you don’t already know? You know there’s no cure, so … what, you’re going to get therapy and solve all your problems in 4 days?

But this is exactly the mentality I need to break out of. The point of this blog. The point of going to an intimidating conference and facing down the fear of talking to strangers spontaneously. And what better conference to make my first? Nobody is going to judge me! Nobody is going to laugh at me when I [can barely] introduce myself! People will laugh knowingly when I get stuck on my name and then point sheepishly to my nametag. They’ll be patient with me!

Alright, this is good. The mental state is changing. Now to clear it with the family and get permission from the boss …

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