Change can be heartbreaking and devastating and difficult, and it can also be wonderful. Often when we are in the change, there are no words to express the day-to-day. We process our emotions or thoughts with loved ones, but expressing ourselves is too overwhelming.
Who am I?
Lately, I’ve been going through change. On the outside, lots of things look similar. I have my stable job, my roommate, similar friends, and my dog. I’ve been going to a church for months now, and I’ve been involved with the National Stuttering Association (NSA) for most of this year. I have been changing. I am changing. I will change. My friends are changing who they are, and it is lovely or horrible to watch. My understanding of what Church means or should mean is ever changing, but I find much peace in the true answers that I am seeing.
Last night at my chapter meeting, which is our once a month local NSA meetings, my friend Tim asked two questions that I’ve been thinking about nonstop. They were incredibly simple, but often simple things are what throw me into a whirlwind of reflection.
What are you grateful for?
I rolled my eyes when Tim used this for the introduction question and even verbalized, “Real creative, Tim.” Tim ignored me, mostly, and answered what he was thankful for — which was the group. Oops. I spoke last, a habit that I do not naturally have, and talked about how thankful I am for the last two months.
October and November are usually horrible months every year. If you know me, you may know why. If you don’t, I’ll just tell you that anniversaries of events in my life come back to me each year. Even when I try to ignore what happened in the past, I find myself led back to the same miserable emotions. As November ends and the worst dates passed, I realized that I felt been the happiest I have felt in years. A few days a week, I realize that I am smiling as I walk to or from my car without a specific reason.
It started off in October with our regional conference for stuttering, which you can read about on Stuttering Story, and the high of being around such a good community has not really worn off. No longer feeling alone has circled me as I do my life alone in San Diego. But it wasn’t just the conference. Since then, I have been challenging myself to grow in different areas of life. I have been eating better, spending less money, and working through emotional subjects that are difficult for me. I have cried a few times, but the crying does not feel hopeless.
Each week that I am at Sojourn Grace Collective, the church in San Diego that I have been attending, I find myself learning more about God and also about who I am. I finally got to do a scheduled dinner with a group of people from the church, and I ended up throwing up at the pastors’ home six times instead of chatting with everyone at the table as much as I could. It was horrifying, but somehow I ended up feeling a lot of peace about it. I had a moment with each of the pastors that led me feeling a new kind of comfort that also challenged me to begin to work through some issues I have.
Growth, for me, is how I stay whole. I am thankful for growth.
What could you tell your 10 year-old self regarding your speech?
This question, ripped off from a Stutter Social google hangout that Tim had recently been in, came a few days after a writing prompt we were given at Sojourn. I’ll get to that after I tell you how I answered, so hold on. I said that I would tell myself, “You’re going to have that stutter forever. Get over it. It’s not going anywhere. And you know what? It’s OK. It’s OK that you’re stuttering. It’s not going to stop you. You can stop you, but your stutter won’t stop you.”
I don’t think that was a terrible answer, but I think it could be better.
Sojourn asked us to write to our past, present, and future selves using the given prompts for each. The past self was “I am proud of you for…”, the present self was “I encourage you to…”, and the future self was “I imagine…”
I thought “past” was beautiful, (it all was) as we often find ourselves telling our past self to do this, or do that. I told myself to get over my stutter, because I wish I had found acceptance earlier on. I forget that if I had found that earlier, perhaps I would not have met my chapter group the way that I had. I say it because I want to protect my past self from all the resentment that I carried around at myself. Don’t we all?
At Sojourn, I told my past self that I was proud of myself for never giving up, for always fighting.
Doesn’t that contradict what I told myself regarding my speaking habits? I fought, wrongly perhaps, for fluency. I fought against techniques. But most importantly, I fought against complete silence. I found a new outlet: I wrote and I wrote and I wrote. Whenever someone would really let me speak, I would not stop speaking. I formed strong opinions about everything (I still do) and fought for my opinions.
My stutter led me to hate myself in a lot of ways and develop a lot of anxiety regarding minor social situations. It also taught me how to fight. When acceptance found me, I was too angry to keep moving. I accepted that my stutter would not go anywhere. For a moment, I felt hopeless. Then I saw everyone else who was with me. I realized that I was fighting the wrong battle. I was wasting all my time fighting against myself, against the way my voice sounds, when who I am needs to rise and celebrate.
Accepting this piece of me always felt like giving up, but I see now that it is not the same thing. It is not defeat. I am not defeated.
So dear past me,
I am proud of you for the strength that you have in finding laughter when the days hurt. I am proud of you for going to doctors appointments, counseling therapies, class, work, church, hang outs with friends. I am proud of you even when you slept instead of going to class, because I know that your body was so tired from all the fighting you did just to stay afloat. I am proud of you for self-care and for care of others. I am proud of you when you worked two jobs to make ends meet, and when you didn’t work at all to enjoy a summer and help out with junior highers.
I am proud of you even when you did not chase your dreams because you felt limited. I have learned from you, I hope, so that I do not do the same. But I am still proud of you, because you were doing the best that you knew how to do. My heart aches for you because you did not think your passions and abilities lined up, but I have learned from you, and I am proud of who you were.
My dear readers… it has been too long since I have heard from any of you. Please comment answering one of the following:
What are you truly thankful for?
or, if you prefer…
Fill in the blank: “Dear past me, I am proud of you for ______”